160703 Revelation 2:12-17

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 July 2016 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Sermon Text: Revelation 2:12-17

Sermon Theme: From the Savior with Love: Pergamum

As we continue our look at the 7 letters written at the beginning of Revelation, each letter begins by making it clear who the author is. It is the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ. What is different in the letters that we have looked at so far is how the Savior identifies himself.

In his first letter to the Ephesians, the Lord reminded them that he is the one who walks with them each and every day; and he encouraged them to continue in that close, loving relationship with him.

In the second letter (which we looked at last week), the Savior reminded the Christians in Smyrna that he is the eternal God, "the First and the Last, who died and came to life again." It is this living Lord who wrote to them that because of his faithful love for them, because of the forgiveness of sins that he won for them, that they would receive "the crown of life" and live with him forever at his side in heaven.

Now we come to the third letter, and this time Jesus identifies himself as the one "who has the sharp, double-edge sword." This reminds us of what we read in Hebrews chapter 4, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword..." The double-edge sword of God's Word is his Law and Gospel. The Law cuts and causes pain as it shows us our sins and the need you and I have for a Savior. The healing cut of the Gospel is that through our one and only Savior, Jesus Christ, we enjoy the forgiveness of all of our sins. From the one who holds his Word in his hands, from the Savior with love, we read verses 12-17 of Revelation chapter 2:

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, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city--where Satan lives. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

At the time revelation was written, Satan was hard at work in the city of Pergamum. It was a center for worship of false gods. Not only were the streets filled with temples to many of the Greek gods, but the city was also where emperor worship began. For the Christians living in Pergamum, there was a great amount of pressure to go along with the majority in the city and worship the emperor and the other false gods. And those who refused faced persecution, perhaps even death, like a man by the name of Antipas who is mentioned here in this letter.

Rather than face any persecution or possible death, some in the congregation at Pergamum were giving into the pressure of their society, and participating in the worship of the emperor and the other false gods. We are told, "Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans." Balaam was a false prophet who lived at the time when the Children of Israel were coming up from Egypt into the Promised Land. Balaam told a king by the name of Balak that the way he could defeat the Israelites was by convincing them to worship the false gods around them; and sadly, many of the Israelites did. The Nicolaitans were people who taught that it didn't matter how you lived. As long as you claimed a relationship with God, as long as you felt everything was all right with your soul, you could live any way that you wanted to live.

It made the Lord angry that some in the congregation were giving into temptation; that they were making their relationships with their friends and neighbors more important than their relationship with God as they willingly lived a life that was contrary to the Word of God. The Lord of the Church was just as angry that the rest of the congregation wasn't doing anything about it. So, in love for all the believers in Pergamum, the Lord writes, "I know here you live...Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." In love for their eternal well-being, with the sword edge of the Law, the Lord calls on the people of Pergamum to repent.

And in love for their eternal well-being, with the sword edge of the Gospel, the Savior also writes, "I know where you live...To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." It was the practice of the day, that when a jury reached a verdict they would hand out one of two stones: a black stone meant that the individual on trial was guilty; a white stone meant they were not guilty. In great love for the Christians in Pergamum, Jesus makes them a promise: because God the Father made his one and only Son guilty for their sins as he hung on the cross, because Jesus was given the black stone from his Father in heaven, they will receive a white stone. They are declared not guilty. Because of Jesus, the believers are given a new name: rather than called enemies of God, they are called children of the Father in heaven. Because of Jesus, they could look forward to feasting at the banquet table in heaven.

As we as a nation celebrate the 4th of July this weekend, we can see how our own country is a place "where Satan has his throne". As a nation, we are getting farther and farther away from the Word of God. Putting sinful, human reason ahead of God's Word, decisions are being made day after day by leaders of our country that support the killing of unborn babies and encouraging sexual immorality. Congregations and even entire church bodies, that once held on tightly to the truth of God's Word, are today more concerned about becoming "politically correct" or are worried about the persecution they might face if they don't become more "politically correct." The Lord sees his once perfect world ruined by sin and it makes him angry!

Make no mistake about it, the Lord is angry anytime he sees you and me give in to these same temptations. It makes the Lord angry, anytime you give into "peer pressure" and do something you know is against his will, and then try to reason it away by thinking, "Well, everybody else is doing it!" It makes the Lord angry anytime you make your relationships with family members, or friends, or neighbors or co-workers more important than your relationship with the Lord and his Word. It makes the Lord angry anytime you fill up your schedule so much that you don't have time to come into God's house on a regular basis, to celebrate the Lord's Supper or to spend time in his Word. It makes the Lord angry, when you know that a fellow believer is doing something that goes against God's will, but instead of pointing it out to them, you reason it away by thinking, "Well, who am I to judge them?!" The Lord sees your sin and mine, and it makes him angry! So our holy and just Lord calls you and me to repentance as he writes: "I know where you live...Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

The sword edge of God's Law drives you and me to our knees and we cry out, "Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!" The Good News of the sword edge of the Gospel is that when we do come to our loving Savior-God with a humble and repentant heart, a heart that is truly sorry for our sins, a heart that trusts in Jesus as the one and only Savior, a heart that wants to turn away from evil and follow the Word of God, he says to you and me, "I know where you live...To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." By the grace of God, at the time of our Baptism, God the Holy Spirit placed a new name on you and me. Through the powerful Word of God we were made a son or a daughter of our Father in heaven. Because of Jesus, and the price he willingly paid, you and I are declared not guilty. Because of Jesus, you and I are able to look forward to joining him at the banquet feast in heaven.

This weekend, we here at St. Matthew's are saying farewell to three sons and a daughter of our congregation as they go out to serve in their various Calls. My encouragement for all of us is to offer them words of Christian love and support as they begin their full-time service in the new classrooms and congregations to which they have been called. Most importantly, keep them in your prayers. Pray that the Lord keeps them all faithful to his Word. Pray that the Lord blesses all their faithful efforts to preach and to teach his Word to others.

As we take a look at the sinful world around us, we see Satan working hard and having a lot of success in leading many people away from the Word of God. The temptation for you and me is to throw up our hands in despair and to give up. Today, you and I have been reminded that the one who defeated Satan, the one who holds in hands the double-edged sword of his Word, is still with us. It is Jesus, our loving Lord and Savior, who encourages you and me today when he writes, "These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live...He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it." Amen.

 

 

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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Oconomowoc, WI 53066
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