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 Pergamum - The Commendations by Christ

John Hoole February 18, 2007


Do you remember the old E.F. Hutton TV commercials? The setting was typically a busy restaurant or other crowded public place. Two people would be talking about financial matters, and the first person would repeat something his broker had said concerning a certain investment. The second person would say, "Well, my broker is E.F. Hutton, and E.F. Hutton says…." At that point every single person in the bustling restaurant would stop dead in their tracks, turn, and listen to what the man was about to say. The bottom-line was their motto: "When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen."

What would happen if Jesus Christ gave His evaluation? What if I were to tell you that Christ has spoken? Would you want to know what He said? Would you be interested? Would you care to find out? Would you desire to hear his affirmations? Would you be willing to make changes in areas that He wasn't pleased with?

We have before us a situation like this in the letters to the seven churches of Revelation. Jesus observes each of the churches, and has the apostle John write His observations in a letter to them. He lists for them any commendations, but He also identifies their shortcomings. If He spoke the churches would listen - at least they should - and we should. When Jesus speaks, everyone of us should immediately turn to listen to what He says.

Today we continue our study of the 3rd church mentioned in the Book of Revelation. That is the church in the city of Pergamum. And in Revelation 2:13, Christ begins to enumerate his observations of this congregation. Let's read that Passage.

Revelation 2:13

13 I know your works, and where you live, 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 witness, who was killed among you, where Satan lives.

We have already studied and discussed part of this verse. We examined what it means when Christ identifies Pergamum as the place where Satan has his throne. We also took some time to evaluate the phrase, "I know where you live…" His knowledge of the churches depends on His presence among them. He knows where they live because He walks among them. Christ was aware that his people in Pergamum were surrounded by a non-Christian society, and were exposed on all sides to the pressures of this world's standards and values.

The statement by Jesus, "I know where you live," is true of His church in Renton, in the same way it was true at Pergamum. He walks among us. We are not "out of mind" because we are never "out of sight." He knows where you live. And He knows the environment in which you are located.

Yes, Jesus walked among His church in Pergamum. Jesus also walks among His church here at New Life Church in Renton. He was there and knew the dangers they faced. He is also here and sees the dangers faced by each individual here today. There is no place where you might live that Christ does not know it. He says, "I know where you live." He has written you on His heart. He knows your situation. He knows if you are in a tough marriage. He knows it when you face persecution or ridicule, whether that be at home, school or on the job.

Hebrews 4:15-16 NKJV

15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

He knows the pressures of the society around you and He cares. He is always ready to help. Later in the Book of Hebrews (13:5), God promises: "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Now, let's press on to examine the rest of Revelation 2:13. Let's read it once more. Revelation 2:13

13 "I know your works, and where you live, 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 witness, who was killed among you, where Satan lives.

I know your works

Among the letters to the seven churches of Revelation, there are a number of statements that are made to all seven churches.

o "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

o "To him who overcomes..."

The first phrase of Revelation 2:13 is also repeated. "I know your works."

Before we examine this phrase, I must say at the outset, while doing good deeds are important as a part of our Christian life, those good deeds do not attain or purchase our salvation. No amount of good deeds - even when done for the right reason, would gain for us our salvation and entrance into heaven.

Let's read a Passage that, for most of you, is very familiar.

Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-
9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Our salvation comes not by our deeds, but only through the deed of Christ, when He died on the cross to make it possible to have a relationship with God. The part we play is that we must accept his sacrifice, and put our trust in the saving power of Jesus Christ. We cannot boast in our good deeds at all.

But, verse 10 says the Christian has been created in Christ to do good works. The natural outgrowth of Christ living in us - the natural result of our salvation, is that we will want to do good works. And the last phrase says that God has prepared in advance not only the opportunity, but the ability in us to accomplish good works.

Now, let me reiterate some things I shared with you more than a year ago. I have always said that a person does not need to be an expert in Greek and Hebrews to have a good working knowledge of the Bible. However, there are times when it might broaden one's understanding. I don't think it was an accident that Greek was the language of most of the world in the first century. Like Hebrew, it is a very picturesque language.

In verse 13, Christ says, "I know...". The Greek words used here for "know" is the word OIDA. This is the word use in all 7 churches to describe Christ's knowledge of them. OIDA refers to complete and full knowledge.

In contrast, the Greek word GINOSKO refers to a progressive acquisition of knowledge. Our Lord knows everything there is to know about the church - both good and bad. Such perfect knowledge is evident in each letter as the Lord commends and corrects the churches in Revelation.

Let me give you a few biblical examples of each word, beginning with GINOSKO - partial knowledge.

John 17:3 NKJV

3 And this is eternal life, that they may know (Ginosko) You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Jesus is speaking (praying) specifically about his disciples, but also about us. We will never have full and complete knowledge of God through our own resources. But we can progressively know more about Him.

Romans 11:34 NKJV

34 "For who has known (Ginosko) the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?"

Philippians 3:10 NKJV

10 That I may know (Ginosko) Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

Now lets look at some other examples of the word OIDA used of Christ's complete knowledge of each of the seven churches.

Matthew 6:8 NKJV

8 "Therefore do not be like them (the Hypocritical Pharisees), for your Father knows (OIDA) the things you have need of before you ask Him.

God has full knowledge of your needs. But is God the only one who can have full and complete knowledge? No! there are times when a human can as well. For instance, Christ heals a boy who was born blind.

John 9:20 KJV

20 His parents answered them and said, We know (Oida) that this is our son, and that he was born blind:

These parents could say with complete knowledge that this was their son, and that he was born blind. We can also know completely and without any doubt that we are God's child.

1 John 5:19-20 NKJV

19 We know(Oida) that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.
20 And we know (Oida) that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know (Ginosko) Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

This type of knowledge is what David wrote about in Psalm 139:1-3; 23-24.

1 O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.
3 You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties;
24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

The Lord knew these churches perfectly. And He knows you and me in the same manner. No act of service is too small to escape the Savior's notice.

Dr. M.R. DeHann once stated, "To come to Christ costs nothing, to follow Christ costs something, but to serve Christ costs everything." And God is aware of every act of service you do for the kingdom.

Jesus says, in Revelation 2:13, "I know your works." The Greek word for "works" is "ERGA". It can mean works, deeds or acts. It is often used in the New Testament in an ethical sense of human activity - good or bad. This Greek word - Erga - is used 177 in the New Testament original text.

John 3:19 says, "...Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds (erga) are evil."

Revelation 14:13 tells us that for those who die in the Lord, "their works (erga) will follow them."

Ephesians 2:9 says our salvation is "not of works (erga), lest anyone should boast."

The works that each of us do as individuals, and those we do as a congregation, never go unnoticed by God.

Hebrews 6:10 NKJV

10 For God is not unjust to forget your work (ERGA) and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

Back to verse 13, we have examined the word "works." It is a general, overarching word that speaks of all human activity. Because it is a general term, Erga here probably can apply to all that follows in Christ's commendation. (1) their staying true to His name, and (2) they had kept their faith in Christ, even in severe circumstances.

Let's look at each of these commendations. Let's see what Jesus found to brag on as He looked at this church.

Revelation 2:13

13 "I know your works, and where you live, 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 witness, who was killed among you, where Satan lives.

"You hold fast to My name"

WHAT DOES THAT PHRASE MEAN TO YOU?

Maybe it would help to see how the different Bible translations render this phrase.

"You hold fast my name." NASB, KJV, NKJV, ASV, RSV, Phillips

"You are clinging to and hold fast my name." Amplified

"You remain true to my name." NIV

"You never once denied my name." Message

"You have remained loyal to me." NLT

The Greek word translated "hold fast" is KRATEO. It means to "grasp powerfully." When Jesus describes himself in Revelation 2:1, he says: He "holds the seven stars in his hand." We determined in an earlier lesson that the stars referred to here are the pastors of these churches. The same word is used here. Christ holds these stars firmly in His grasp.

What the Pergamene congregation was being commended for was the fact that they firmly held on to the name of Jesus. Bearing the name of Jesus is a privilege. But it is also a great responsibility. The name of Jesus stands for all that He is.

When you mention someone's name, it immediately brings to your mind what you know about that person. There is something special about the name of Christ because there is something special about Christ Himself. Christ's name is a symbol of His person. To whom do you render service? To whom do you bow down? To whom are you loyal and true? Do you confess Him as Lord, or is your lord something or someone else? It could be your position, your possessions, your status, your education, etc..

This church in Pergamum was not ashamed of the name of Jesus.

Acts 4:12 NKJV

12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

The name of Jesus is the most divisive name in history. And yet, His name is the only name "by which we must be saved." If you attend our class and I don't talk about Jesus in every single lesson, you have the right to take me to task. I will tell you right here, not only for your benefit, but also for the devil's, in this class, we will make much of the name of Jesus. We will sing it, shout it, teach it and tell it. When folks come here, they ought to hear about Jesus. We cannot defeat Satan in our own strength. But we can go forward in the name of Jesus Christ.

The congregation at Pergamum lived in a city where Satan's throne was located. They lived face to face with the enemy of the church. They understood that Christ's name stood for Himself. To remain true to his name is therefore to hold firmly to our conviction that Christ is both Lord and Savior. They never let go of that name. We should do likewise.

"You did not deny my faith"

The second commendation by Christ to those in Pergamum was, "you did not deny my faith."

WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT PHRASE IS SAYING?

It means they held on to the fundamentals of the faith. And Jesus praises them for that. The majority of those in this congregation were faithful.

In Jude 3, we find an admonition "to earnestly contend for the faith." Colossians 1:23 adds, "Continue in the faith firmly established."

This church was doctrinally pure. Christ commends them for sticking steadfastly to the Truth. They demonstrated that there were certain things that were non-negotiable. And they did not back down.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS WHICH ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE?

1. God exists eternally and is holy and righteous altogether.

2. Jesus is the eternal Son of God and came to earth in the flesh.

3. We humans have all sinned and are spiritually lost.

4. Only through the death of Jesus can we have fellowship with God. There is no other way.

5. Jesus died for our sins, was resurrected from the dead, and lives today at the right hand of the Father.

6. Personal salvation comes only by believing in the atoning work of Christ and making Him the Lord of my life.

These things, and I am sure there are others, are not up for debate in the Christian community. Let me make a very blunt statement. We cannot regard as a Christian any who deny anything on this list. In the apostle John's first letter, which was written probably to the congregation in Ephesus, he says that to deny that Jesus was God come in the flesh is antichrist.

There are some things that are negotiable. But God has also allowed for variation in some things. Let me give you one dear to my heart. I believe very strongly and teach that when we rise to meet the Lord in the air, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:16 & 17, that it will happen prior to the beginning of what the Bible calls the 7-year tribulation. But I also know there are some in this class that don't hold the same view as I. They are still my brothers and sisters in the Lord. Having a different view than mine does not negate their salvation by the blood of Christ. If, on the other hand, you don't believe Christ is coming back as He said in John 14, then I would probably think you are flat wrong.

There is room for differences of opinion about minor points of doctrine and ethics, but in areas like the list shown earlier, in these there must be unanimity and no compromise.

Actually, the two things Christ commends this church for are two parts of a whole. "You hold fast to my name," and "You have not denied my faith." These two things can never be separated. The faith of the gospel has Christ for its center, Christ for its circumference, and Christ for its substance. The name of Christ - that is His person, his character, his work and his teaching, is the faith of the gospel. We never hold the faith of Christ, except as we hold Jesus Christ Himself as the center of that faith.

Let's return to Revelation 2:13. There is another part of this verse I want to peruse today.

"Antipas, my faithful witness"

As a result living faithfully for Christ in an evil environment, there were those in Pergamum who were losing their lives. Jesus mentions one of their number by name - Antipas. Nothing is really known about Antipas other than what is written here. A tenth century legend has it that Antipas was place inside a brass bull and heated with fire until he roasted to death.

The name "Antipas" means "against all." I can imagine the leaders of Pergamum saying to Antipas, "the whole world is against you." And I can imagine Antipas replying, "the Antipas is against the world." But I find what Christ called him very interesting. He called Antipas "my faithful witness." This is a name Jesus calls himself in Revelation 1:5. So Jesus refers to Antipas and gives him nothing less than his own title.

There is another very interesting note to make with regard to Antipas being a "faithful witness."

WHAT IS THE GREEK WORD FOR WITNESS?

The Greek word is "MARTUS". It generally means "one who testifies," or "one who attests to something," "a witness." But it is from this Greek word - MARTUS - that we get our English word, Martyr. The word came to be applied not only to those who "testified" concerning the Word of God, but also those who died for it. The very history of this word shows us that to be a witness is often to be a martyr.

In Acts, chapter 1, just before Christ leaves this earth and returns to his Father, He makes a statement about them waiting until the Holy Spirit is sent from heaven.

Acts 1:8 NIV

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

One mandate given to the church is the Great Commission. In Mark 16:15, he tells us to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." And in our Passage in Acts, He tells us that the Holy Spirit is given to empower us to do just that. But, when Christ says, "and you will be my witnesses," He uses this word, martus. So, when Christ calls Antipas "my faithful witness," some Bible translations translate it as "my faithful martyr."

History has all but forgotten Antipas, but Jesus still knows his name. While our faithful service, which we perform out of love for Jesus, goes unnoticed, be assured that He knows everything we do and you will be rewarded.

Probably not many of us know personally someone who has lost her or his life for their faith. But many of us probably can think of someone who has sacrificed career or comfort so they could be a faithful witness. When I am faced with a difficult choice, shall I stand up for my faith and risk ridicule or worse.

Are you really willing to be a witness - a martyr - for Christ. Most of us will never lose our life because of our witness for Christ. Someone has said, Jesus isn't looking for people who will die for him nearly as much as He is in getting people to live for him.

Notice the entire passage in this regard. Yes, Christ took note that Antipas gave the ultimate sacrifice for his witness for Christ. But, He also said to those who remained, "I know where you live." And in your living for me, "you have held fast to my name and have not denied my faith." He said "you did these things even when Antipas, one of your own, was killed in front of you."

You probably won't lose your life for your faith, at least not in this country. But you could lose a friend or several or you could lose your job. The question is; what would you be willing to lose before you denied your faith in Christ?

   
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