The Book of Revelation and Church Leadership, PXIII

Church of Pergamum bThe Church of Pergamum

Read Revelation 2: 12-17

“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.” Revelation 2: 12-13

What would happen if your church became a place of contention and hurt? Why is it so important that our churches be safe havens of rest and comfort so that people can worship and mature in Christ and be secure in Him and in companionship with others?

John in this passage is reminding them and us who Christ is and what He has done. He is depicted here as the One in authority who can look into ourselves, pierce us, and who knows who we are and what we want. Then, Jesus calls us to Him and away from ourselves and selfishness. Just as a sword is sharp and piercing, so are our wayward ways when we seek to make life and run His church by our own means, apart from His ways and commands. Such thoughts and actions separate us from God and others, just as our judgment for sin, without receiving His grace, will separate us for eternity. God doesn’t want us separated, but He will do this to protect His other children, just as He will separate those who seek to harm us. This is His protection, and it is our choice to draw to Him or draw to our inclinations and sin.

Double-edged sword, refers to a small offensive “Thracian” dagger. For the Romans, this sword was the image of power, control, and used to enforce its laws and for capital punishment. In Scripture, the sword also symbolizes war and refers to God’s ability and right to make war on those who seek to fight against Him. It symbolizes God’s ability and right to perform judgment (Isa 49:2; Heb 4:12; Rev. 2:12; 6:4, 8; 13:10, 14; 19:15, 21). (Rev. 1:16; 2:16; 19:13).

Satan has his throne. This referred to either its pagan practices or the seat of the Roman throne for Asia. Pergamum worshiped the god Asclepius, who was Apollo’s son, the god of medicine. In addition, this city was the official center of emperor worship and Rome’s representation in Asia. They also had a huge100 foot+ altar for Zeus. Perhaps Jesus referred to this as Satan’s throne because they worshipped what was false. All its citizens were expected to worship these false gods, including worshiping the emperor. If they refused, they were persecuted by not being allowed to participate in the city life, festivals, and trade. This escalated to the Christians being executed for disloyalty to the emperor. And, this trend was exported to the other providences. Perhaps it was here in Pergamum that martyrdom started in Asia.

Who was Antipas? He was the first martyr in Asia. According to the Early Church Fathers, he was slowly roasted alive in a bronze kettle during the time of Domitian.

So what does this come down to?

The church at Pergamum was tolerating false doctrines and people who were scheming against others, causing them to follow sin, trends, compromise their faith, and not reverence or trust in Christ.

Even though they were faithful in persecution, their steadfastness was wavering to those who were deceptive. They were being what we now call “politically correct,” that is, tolerating other ideas that were wrong or contrary just to be what they thought was mature and wise. Thus, they were in danger of being judged harshly if they did not repent. We have to see that we can be tolerant to a point, as long as it does not counter our character or the Word.

Reflection

Instead of tolerating false doctrines and people who were scheming we are called to be a Faithful witness.

This is also a name for Jesus, referring that Jesus is reliable. We are to be reliable with His Word and plan. It also refers that Antipas was faithful to Christ in character and disposition, as we are all called to be as we lead others to Him (Psalm 2:7; 89:27; Prov. 14:5, 25; Isa. 8:2; Acts 13:33; Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:20-23; Col. 1:15-18; 1 Tim. 6:13; Rev. 1:5; 2:10-13; 3:14).

Consider this, Jesus knows us intimately; He knows our situation, our struggles and our opportunities. He wants us to take hold of His grace and love so we can focus upon Him and lean on Him both in our jubilations and also in our struggles. The key in this passage is to stay faithful in our Christian identity and our leadership of others, and to remain loyal to Christ. We are not to allow our doubts, fears, or state of affairs to occupy His place in our hearts and minds.

Jesus knows our situation, our struggles, and our opportunities. He wants us to take hold of His grace and love and succeed in our faith and life. How can this help you to inspire others when times are tough?

 

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The Book of Revelation and Church Leadership, PIII

Why do you suppose most people see Revelation as an ominous apocalypse of chaos and catastrophe and not what it is really about? How do you see it?

Revelation 1: 4-5,  “To the seven churches in the province of Asia…”

One of the main themes of Revelation is the call for us to stand firm and grow further in our collective faith as the Body of Christ. This is also the best, most effectual church growth plan. Why and how, God wants to grow the church under His stewardship and what God does not want to happen, stagnate with apathy and comfort! Does this surprise you? What did you expect to find from Revelation? It is a letter to churches to in peril to wake up and get it right! It is a Book not about end times, rather how we are to lead and mange His Church. Think not? Perhaps you should actually read it and presume. 

John is proclaiming an important fact we must all agree upon-that God is Sovereign and in control!

Jesus Chris is LORD and He gave us grace that we did not deserve and a precious plan that will unfold. We have hope both now and in the future. So then, this is the fuel and material in which we grow and lead our churches. This is an essential message God gives to us that we must have been transformed and renewed by Christ. Then, we live it out. Then, we proclaim it as our message to our people. Then we build our churches by these means. Not by pride and trends; rather, by being in Him as LORD.

Thus, as a church leader, minister or pastor, what we are doing? Point to the Glory of Christ, His Sovereignty and Lordship.

Let’s see what the Word has to say with these key words:

“Grace and peace” is an ancient greeting, as John sends his blessings. To know that we are blessed and have the duty to then bless others, blessed to be a blessing, not look to ‘me’ and be a ‘meme’ leaders; rather, a heart after Christ that humbles us the leader (Gen. 12:1-3; Rom. 12:1-2)

Seven churches.” The principle theme of the Book of Revelation is that it is a letter to real people, real churches with real issues, tough challenges, limited opportunity’s and vacant problems that God want to be there for it! Most people get Revelation wrong, by seeing this as all about the end times and miss the main point. The seven churches were real, just like our churches with our actual problems. These are not allegories; rather, they are relevant to your church now and symbolize the various ages of the Church in history and also represent how each individual church is, through all times and places, in its operation and faith. In fact, after over 25 years of church consultation and research all over the world, every church I have even encountered was like one of these seven, no exceptions (Phil. 2:15; Matt. 5:14-16; Rev. 1:1-3; 2:1-3:22; 22:7-21)!

“Him who is, and who was, and who is to come.” The Lord’s Supremacy echoes the words of God given to Moses in the burning bush. This is a Divine Name of Christ, meaning Eternal Deity and Authority. Thus we are called and empowered to take this seriously (Ex. 3:14-16).

“Seven spirits.” The word, seven, means its importance is compounded. This is a name for the Holy Spirit, referring to His Fullness, not a split personality. Some believe this is referring to the seven celestial beings (Rev. 8:2). However, context and word meaning attest of the Holy Spirit and His various roles as Counselor, Bearer of Wisdom, Fruit… (Isa. 11:2) etc., just as this passage gives several titles for Christ. It also testifies to the profundity (depth and reality) of the Trinity (Zech. 4:2-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:1-2; Rev. 4:5; 5:14).

Faithful witness, the firstborn… ruler means reliable.” What is this about? It sets Jesus as Divine and Lord over all the living and the dead.

That means he is LORD over your ministry and church! 

This also refers to the roles of Christ in His Church. As He is faithful to us, we are called to be faithful to Him, too (Psalm 2:7; 89:27; Prov. 14:5, 25; Isa. 8:2; Acts 13:33; Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:20-23; Col. 1:15-18; 1 Tim. 6:13; Rev. 2:10-13; 3:14).

“Him be glory…To him.” Christ is the quintessential subject and prominent theme of Revelation. This is a doxology of praise, used to wholeheartedly worship and praise Christ as exalted and worthy because of His Sovereignty and the redemption He gives us. Praise is also our frontline weapon against spiritual warfare (Rev. 4:8, 11; 5:9-14; 7:12; 11:15-17; 12:10-12; 15:3-4; 19:1-8).

What does this come down to? Our call is to be blessed so the character qualities we receive from the Holy Spirit come from the inward love we have for our Lord and we will desire to spill them upon others around us as leaders for Christ as we plant, lead, manage His Church (Psalm 1).