Letter to the 7 churches..Pergamum and Thyatira
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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS – STUDY 4
Please look at the questions and discuss the answers. The case histories are designed to let you apply what theoretical knowledge you have gleaned from the study. There are intentionally many more questions and case histories than you can manage in one session but this is designed to cover the many and varied needs of the individuals in the church hence please pick and choose which ones to discuss as long as it gets people sharing and applying the Word to real life situations. Never feel obligated to finish all the questions The answers will be posted on the web the next day.
Pergamum is the city that is famous for its religious devotions with its plentiful temples to both Emperors and Deities. There was a large temple and altar to Zeus at the top of the mountain which was regarded as the throne of Zeus who was the chief deity. When Jesus refers to the
throne of Satan he is referring to this altar. Jesus commends the believers in Pergamum for resisting these demonic forces as represented
by Satans throne by holding fast to their faith and not denying Jesus which means they did not swear allegiance to Zeus or the Emperor deities.
Rev 2:13 Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
The price they paid is martyrdom . Antipas was historically though to have been roasted alive for his faith
Rev 2: 2 I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary
The Old Testament book Numbers 22-24 chronicles the story of the prophet Balaam who was initially hired by the King of Moab who was facing the wrath of the Israelite invasion. The people of God had defeated the nations surrounding the Moabites and were poised attack him so the King of Moab Balak decided to act in the spiritual realm as he realised his armies were no match for Israel. He hires the prophet Balaam who was given money to declare a prophecy to curse the people of God in order to for the King of Moab to triumph over his enemies. However each time Balaam attempted to do so the Lord intervened and he could only utter blessings not a curse which frustrated his benefactor to no end. So what resulted was three oracles of blessings in stead of curses. What Balaam should have done was let well enough alone but instead he advised the King of Moab that if he could not ask God to curse His own people he could instead tempt Israel to sin and then their own God would predictably destroy or punish His own people.
So in Numbers 25:1 1 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel
Numbers 25: 8b-9 (ESV) Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped. 9 Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand.
This dastardly plot was revealed later on when Moses led the people of God to victory over the Moabites and killed Balaam. He ordered the women not to be spared as they were the source of temptation.
Numbers 31: 15 Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? 16 Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD So the teaching of Balaam has to do with the sexual temptation of God’s people to sin against Him and incur the wrath of their own God.
The Nicolaitians are also mentioned in Jesus warning to the Pergamum church in Rev 2:14-15 and they are like their Old Testament counterparts in Number 25 :1-3 who lead Israel into sexual immorality and idolatry Historically according to the early church fathers Nicolas could have been the same Nicolas in Acts 6:5 who had converted from Judaism only to apostasize to a form of Gnosticism where the belief that what is done in the body is of no relevance to one’s spiritual well being hence the participation in sexual immorality or food offered to idols in temple sacrifice which would have included sex with the temple prostitutes which was a way of life with the contemporary society. The Ephesians to their credit has resisted when their Pergamum cousins had failed in this area
The compromise lines up with our own selfish desires.
We are still sinners and tempted to compromise and compromise always provides us an easier path to navigate the problems of life. We get jammed up with the police and the easier path is to dish out a a couple of ringgit but the harder path is to own up repent and pay the fine. Having trouble with the building permit and the easier path to success in the project and money in our pocket is to grease the wheels.
They have not taken the trouble to be grounded in the word.
1 Peter 3: 13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance. Our passions because of our fallen state come from our ignorance of the world. We need to be fully grounded in the revelation of our Lord in His word to guide us away from compromise.
Fear of being “labeled”
We live in a society that has really no patience to parse who we are and what we stand for. If we behave in a way that is unlike their own our neighbours will instantly cast us as unreasonable backward “fundamentalists”, Bigots, religious nuts or naive We loose credibility, we loose opportunity, we loose the ability to communicate with them. They are immediately biased against us as we stand out from the crown and we compromise to fit in.
Misguided attempt to be relevant
Culture affects all of us in subtle ways in the way we tear our jeans just because others tear their jeans to the places we hang out in. It affects the way we speak and we learn to adapt and go with the culture in order to stay relevant. Suppose we live ion a culture where the women are accustomed to very revealing attire or the men converse in very coarse vulgar language. Our natural instinct would be to adapt and conform in order to fit in. We might not believe in these cultural norms but it is too tiresome to buck the trend and we compromise without looking first the biblical principles that should be used to first examine culture and guide our behaviour. There is nothing wrong in fitting in the culture as long as the culture does not contradict Biblical principles. Wearing an intentionally torn jeans is adapting to the prevailing culture and if that is accepted in society as clothing that is modest sure it is fine. Wearing clothing that is sexually provocative is another thing.
Look at what Paul says in 1 Tim 2: 8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works The biblical focus in on the behaviour of the women not their apparrel. We often get bent out of shape with the minor issues of how high the hem line is to be or how low does the neck line plunge to but really the focus is on who are are in character which is godliness and working for the good of our office mates and our friends. Our clothing reflects us and we adapt to what our prevailing culture regards as respectable, modest and self controlled.
The slippery slope downhill is subtle so to help us recognise the gradual slide to compromise here are 5 steps taken from Pilgrim Benham from Calvary Chapel in 2018.
A. A failure to purpose in our hearts ahead of time to do the right thing.
B.. Underestimating evil (including the failure to recognize temptation).
D. A failure to consider the costly consequences.
E. A sudden, deliberate choice to give in to sin.
Do you agree or disagree with these steps? How does the understanding of these 5 steps place us in a better position to avoid spiritual compromise in our lives? Please share your experience with each of these steps
There are subtle differences between adapting our theology or faith with contemporary culture in toe society in which we live and witness. Failure to adapt will marginalise Christians and limit their ability to be the “salt and light” whilst compromise will destroy their witness. In each instance below please state whether this action is contextualising
our faith or compromising our faith and defend your answer.
A. Alvin is a church leader in the 5th Baptist church and he has always been good at interacting and welcoming new worshippers into the church. Of late a couple have joined the church worship and are participating in all there church activities and bible studies but they are not official church members. They are middle aged in their late thirties and are not married but live in the same address. They have recently indicated that they want to be involved in teaching Sunday School. Given the current climate of couples living together what does Alvin do? Does he ignore their marital and sexual status , after all it is just teaching Sunday school and not applying to be church membership which requires them to adhere to the churches statement of faith or does he bring the matter up and risk their indignation and wrath which may lead to them leaving? What do you think and why?
B. Henry was a young man who started working in a steel factory after his SPM exams and it turned out that his work mates were the usual round and tumble blue collar workers who would swear and curse with almost every breath. The “F**k word was natural with them and they were a little curious why Henry did not speak like them in fact they interpreted this reticence in using foul language as him being “too good” for them and a way of showing that he was better than them. Hence they began to give him a hard time and shun him. Should Henry adapt and follow them or resist? What can Henry do?
C. Just before the form 5 SPM exams a set of questions purportedly siphoned from the original question bank for the mathematics pater was being circulated and could be purchased for RM 100. Would you purchase it or not and why?
D. When preparing to send in your resume for a job you seek the help of someone more experienced in this process and he suggest that exaggerating your rather limited experience would be useful as well as adding elements of training and experience which you do not have in order to clinch the job. He says everybody does it and if you don’t do it you would be at a disadvantage. What do you do and why?
E. A 23 year old student from Alors Star got a place in Monash Uni in Sunway and in order to save money her boy friend offered to let her stay in his flat as there was a spare bedroom. She comes from a conservative Baptist church and he from a brethren church. They had been dating for 3 years.
F. You hire a foreign maid and there is an option for you to deny her one day of the week off in exchange for extra money which you can pay her so she can continue to work for your 7 days a week. Your reasoning is that you don’t want to give her the say off as you are afraid she might either run away or mix with unsavoury boyfriends. What would you do and why?
G. You love watching movies and you keep downloading them from the web and Bit Torrent even though they are copy righted and by doing this you avoid paying to view them. You rationalise that all your friends do it hence it must be right.
H. During the Covid 19 crisis there has been a virtual lock down of most shopping activities so many of your friends have turned to shopping on line as it is so easy and you can spend the whole day browsing through on line stores all over the world. Some how clicking on that item gives you a high and there is the excitement of receiving parcel after parcel. All your friends are doing it and you begin to compare your purchases with theirs but all this is quite part from the issue of whether these purchases are necessary or even useful but the retail therapy makes you happy. Is this adaptation or compromise?
J. You are a real estate agent and times are bad and some of the houses that you have to sells are in significant disrepair. As the prospective buyer comes to view the houses you eagerly point out the great features that are the major selling points but keep silent about some of the downsides of the house otherwise you cannot make the sale and earn your commission. You figure that it is the buyer’s own responsibility to look out for all the downsides and your job is just to sell a product.
K. Jacqueline has a 21 year old son called Tom who was an aggressive young man who somehow got on Tinder and after a couple of dates wound up sexually assaulting a young woman who reported him to the police. It was obvious that Tom was guilty but there came an opportunity for Jacqueline to pay a sum of money to someone to make the case go away. The person who approached Jacqueline with the offer said that since Tom was so young, putting him behind bars would ruin his entire life. Prison is no place for rehabilitation and in fact its where he will be even more influenced by the seedier elements of society and will come out worse than when he went in. There was no actual harm done after all the girl did not get pregnant and she was not a virgin anyway. Once the case is fixed Jacqueline can get all the professional counselling for her son Tom to rehabilitate him. How would you advise Jacqueline and why?
L. One of the young people attending the fellowship has begun to express support for the LGBTQ movement for marriage equality. She herself is not a practicing homosexual but is rather vociferous in her views. If you are a part of the church leadership how might you approach this issue with her of should you just leave well enough alone.
The sin of this church was toleration of false teaching and Jezebel was the vicious wife of King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom.
She married King Ahab son of Omri in 1 Kings 16:31 . Her father was Ethbaal of Tyre, king of the Phoenicians and they were direct descendants of the Caanites who occupied the promised land before the Israelites took over. The Phoenicians worshiped many idols chief of which was the fertility god Baal. Her father Ethbaal was according to historian Josephus in the Greek translation of the now-lost Annals of Tyre, served as a priest of Astarte, the primary Phoenician goddess and Jezebel was probably as priestess being his daughter. Due to her influence Ahab and the Northern kingdoms started to worship Baal and Asherah.
1 Kings 16: 30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. 31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD.
Ahab marriage to Jezebel was a political alliance as it provided protection from powerful enemies and opened up new trade routes to the north giving access to Phoenician ports and cities. Phoenicia gain in exchange access through the Kings highway through the central Israeli hill country to the TransJordan. Hence Jezebel and her idols were tolerated as there was much to gain financially and economically, it was expedient like many of our current bussiness ventures a “ win win “ proposition.
However once the worship of Baal gained a foot hold in the life of Israel, Jezebel consolidated power and the worship of Ball instead of being a fringe religion tolerated in Israel along side the worship of Yahweh began to exert itself and take over even to the extent to attempting to exterminate the dominant faith of the land in this verse.
1 Kings 18: 3 And Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly, 4 and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water.
Jezebels priests are defeated by Elijah in the climatic religious show down at Mount Carmel and she threatens Elijah who flees as he is exhausted and demoralised. She influences Ahab to illegally acquire land from Naboth by falsely accusing him of blaspheming God and king and commands that he be murdered.
Hence what Jesus is saying that the church is wrong in tolerating false teachers who subtly slip into their midst with doctrines what will ultimately draw people way to idol worship and to compromise with pagan religious practices.
Rev 2: 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works There is a warning that they do not tolerate the false prophetess Jezebel and warning that they
must repent and if they refuse then Jesus will cause them to be sick and go through much suffering and ultimately be killed. The pronoun used is “I will strike her children dead.”
A warning is like telling a child not to touch a boiling kettle because the extreme heat will burn his and and cause pain and suffering and the person issue it the warning is not the person causing the pain. He stands in an unbiased place and is not the cause of the suffering should the child touch the kettle and is warning out of benevolent concern. A threat is different in a sense that the cause of the subsequent consequence of suffering and pain comes directly from the person issuing the warning. In this case it a warning because it is given with the intent for them to repent and come back to godly beliefs and practices but it is also a threat because the consequences of non compliance will come directly from the one issuing the warning that is Jesus.
Jesus is given the place of judgement of all the world and the judgement is carried out with total justice and mercy and He is holy and hence the judgement is always impartial and correct and well deserved.
Jesus is described here as “The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze” in Rev 2:18
These symbols are those of judgement…the piercing flames that burn through all the false hood and done with purity as the feet of burnished bronze as symbols of purity. We are too used to only one aspect of Jesus person it is his love and we always see Him as the Lamb, gentle and slain which He is but in Rev 5 He is also the Lion.
What are the kinds of false teachings that are commonly found in our churches to which we need to be aware and actively seek to root out ?
It installs discipline to regularly witness
It teaches the skill to present the gospel clearly
It keeps the mission of witnessing as a priority
It puts evangelism in such a way that it might discourages some of us from stepping out in it. It makes evangelism unnatural and a duty rather than an act borne out of genuine love for Jesus and others.
Answers will be available on 22nd October 2020.