|Volume 24 Number 3 March 2022
During this terrible pandemic, many are weeping in lament for the loss of friends, family, neighbors, fellow Christians or folks we don’t even know. I know it is a heart-wrenching situation, but we do not weep alone in our sorrow. Jesus hears every sigh and every moan of sorrow, and He sees every tear we shed for ourselves or for others.
John 11:35 records, “Jesus wept” (NKJV). If we read the entire account of Jesus about to restore Lazarus to life, we will notice the following. Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha were friends and followers of Christ. They sent for their friend Jesus to come to their brother in his hour of death. They believed that Jesus could have saved their brother from death.
Jesus, knowing that a mighty work was to be done in order that men could see the power of God, delayed His coming until Lazarus was certainly dead. On arrival, and learning that Lazarus was already entombed, He wept and commanded the tomb be opened. The rest is history.
On another occasion, recorded in Luke 19:41-44, we read:
Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Not only was He weeping for the anguish of His sorrow in heart that the house of the Lord would be destroyed but that the city of David would be destroyed, too. He wept also for the loss of the souls who did not even realize what a catastrophe would befall them. They, even they, had lost their focus on being what God had intended them to be.
Matthew 23:37-39 also records the tears of Jesus. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Once again, our Lord wept over the city of David where the House of the Lord God resides. Yet, He wept for much more. He wept for the souls that already believed and for all who will hear, receive and believe when the Word of the Lord would go forth from Jerusalem. Moreover, He wept in prayer for those within the city who were planning the horrible murder of the Son of God.
Yes, if He wept for and prayed even for them, then you can be sure that Jesus has wept and prayed for you. What greater blessing could come on any living soul past, present and future!
The Church at Pergamos:
Brian R. Kenyon
John, while on the isle of Patmos, wrote the Book of Revelation. In Chapters 2-3, there are recorded seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor. Although each letter was written to a specific congregation, each is also applicable to us (cf., “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches…” Revelation 2:17 NKJV). The third of these letters was written to the church at Pergamos. The subtitle, “Satan’s Stronghold,” is adapted from Ray Summers (Worthy Is the Lamb).
Background of the City
Pergamos was located fifteen miles inland from the Aegean Sea, north of Smyrna. Near the ancient city of Troy, it was situated between two rivers and a mountain range, thus making it a stronghold. The city was founded by Greek colonists but was given to Rome by its last king on his death bed in 133 B.C. It was well known for its library of about 200,000 volumes.
Religiously, Pergamos was considered to be the center of emperor worship. Asklepios, the god of healing, was also associated with the city. People came from miles around to seek healing from their ailments. The city also contained many pagan temples, including the temple to Zeus, the chief Greek god. This temple, along with its altar, was located 800 feet up the side of a mountain and resembled a chair (cf. ,“Satan’s seat,” Revelation 2:13 KJV). Historians say that fire and smoke could be seen from long distances as sacrifices were continually burned. The temple of Zeus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is against this background that Jesus through John wrote.
Relevance of the Writer
This letter was written by “He who has the sharp two-edged sword” (Revelation 2:12 NKJV; cf., 1:16). The “sword” shows that Christ has authority, not Rome, and that He is able to protect His own, even in the face of persecution (cf., Revelation 2:10). The “sword” also shows that Christ has the power of discerning judgment (Hebrews 4:12), as is evident by the insight He revealed about their situation.
In assessing this church, Jesus first said, “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells” (Revelation 2:13). The environment of Pergamos produced an oppressive atmosphere toward the church, which was ultimately attributed to Satan (cf., 1 Thessalonians 2:18). Despite this pressure, they held fast to Christ’s name. They did not deny “My faith.” Generally speaking, the Pergamites did not compromise the doctrine of Christ (Colossians 1:23; Jude 3). Their uncompromising stand, even in Satan’s stronghold, resulted in the death of some. Little is known about “Antipas,” except that he was “faithful until [“unto” KJV] death” (Revelation 2:10), which speaks volumes (Hebrews 11:4). Christ’s commendation shows us that a faithful church can exist in a wicked community. There are no outward circumstances that can keep us from being faithful, if being faithful is our goal (Matthew 28:20b; Acts 5:27-29; 2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Secondly, Jesus listed some things for which they needed to repent. “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” (Revelation 2:14-15). In the Old Testament, Balaam was willing to make material gain at the expense of spiritual loss (Numbers 22-24). A “stumbling block” literally refers to the part of a trap on which the bait is placed. Balaam, by his counsel, baited the trap for Israel. Balaam knew he could not curse the children of Israel (Numbers 22:7-14), but he figured if he could get them to participate in idolatry, God would curse them. Thus, Balaam lured Israel into committing “harlotry [whoredom, KJV] with the women of Moab” (Numbers 25:1; Numbers 31:16). Some in Pergamos were likewise willing to make spiritual compromise in exchange for material safety. Worshiping the emperor would relieve persecution, but at what price? Additionally, some in Pergamos were holding to the “doctrine of the Nicolaitans.” Little is known about the Nicolaitans. Some think they were a sect of Gnosticism. The Ephesians were commended for hating the “doctrine of the Nicolaitans” (Revelation 2:6), but some in Pergamos were tolerating it. To please God, however, we must not only love what the Lord loves, but we must also hate what the Lord hates (Psalm 45:7).
Christ’s Solution and
Christ gave only one solution to their dangerous condition. “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth” (Revelation 2:16). Jesus cannot tolerate the sin of compromise (Matthew 6:24). Unless they would repent, Jesus would slay them with the sword of God’s Word, just as God slew Balaam with the sword of those whom he sought to curse (Numbers 31:8).
Jesus offered two promises. “To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it” (Revelation 2:17). First, in contrast with eating “things sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:14), they were to eat “some of the hidden manna,” which is a reference to the sustenance that can only be found in Christ by those who look for it (John 6:33-35). Second, they were to receive a “white stone” upon which “a new name is written.” The color white represents holiness, purity and victory (Revelation 1:14; 4:4; 6:2, 11; 7:9, 13). In biblical times, a white stone was given as a sign of acquittal, as a token of freedom for former slaves, as a trophy for winning a race or as an award to a soldier returning from victory. All these are applicable to the one who overcomes. The name is “new” because it signifies a new relationship with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), a relationship that no worldly person can comprehend (“no one knows except him who receives it”). Both of these promises will be ours when we overcome.
The church at Pergamos teaches that we can be faithful to God no matter our surrounding environment. This is encouraging to know, especially given the culture in which we live. Let us not compromise the truth for material security but rather hold fast to all for which Christ stands.