Think about that a minute. Have you met people that you wanted to have a relationship with? Someone you wanted to share your heart with? Someone who would enjoy the same things you do? Someone would be there for you in the good times and bad times? Now for those who have children, isn’t that exactly what you want to have with your children? You want a relationship, to share their victories and to help comfort them through their defeats. You want to create memories with them, make sure they know that you will always be there for them, that you love them no matter what, even when they make wrong decisions. You want to be there to walk through life together and create that bond of love that can’t be broken. “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.” (Isaiah 63:9) “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” (Hebrews 13:5)
Isn’t that exactly what God wants for you and me? That’s why Jesus had to come as an infant, experience the things we experience, became our sin, was crucified, was buried and was raised from the grave by the Father. He made the way for us to repent of our sins and receive Him as our Lord and Savior. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 emphasis mine) “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17) When we are disobedient we can get seriously hurt or hurt others, or even die. A parent expects their child to be obedient, why wouldn’t God, our Father, expect obedience from us if we are truly His heirs? Parenting doesn’t come with a “manual” (in truth the Bible is our parenting manual as well but it is not acknowledged as such) but the life of a believer does come with a manual and that is the Holy Scriptures. Need a little reminder to show God’s love anf faithfulness in both of these areas? “and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD,NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.’ It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:5-11)
Everything we need to know about God is found in these holy writings. We aren’t left alone trying to figure things out on our own, He gave us the Holy Spirit to live in us, to guide us, to comfort us, to reveal His words of life and instruction to us! “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17) Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:23-26) “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7) “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:13-15 emphasis mine)
Because of the grace of God, the Apostle John was taken up spiritually into the third heaven to record what was to come so that we would be equipped to live a life honoring to the Lord. The Lord Jesus was gracious to write letters to seven churches that were a universal picture of churches that would (unfortunately) always exist and deal with these specific issues. So He addressed these apostasies and sinful practices to warn us that these were areas that if allowed to continue would affect our eternity. These were not “new” teachings of the Lord, but reminders of what was already given. The Lord wasn’t just randomly selecting churches or problems, these issues in each of the churches were universal issues and had deep roots that had to be removed in order to protect His true believers. Isn’t that what a true shepherd does? “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:9-11) The Lord had revealed this same thing to the Apostle Paul also when he was taken up into the third heaven and taught personally by our Lord. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:29-32)
So will you take heed and actually respond to His warnings? Or are you going to continue to go to churches that teach apostasy, practice contemplative prayer and allow (or worse yet, endorse) yoga, meditation, false prophets and apostles? Are you going to continue to go to churches that tell you to pray to the saints? There is nothing in Scripture that tells us to pray to the saints. Actually, Scripture tells us NOT to worship or praise them. Just look in the book of Revelation, the angel continuously tells John that he is a fellow servant and not to be worshipped! Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he *said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10) Are you willing to allow the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the truth of what your church may actually be involved in? These questions are soul searching questions. How serious are we to set ourselves apart from the lies? Are you equipped to try to talk with your pastors or leaders and express your concerns? That is not easy, most do not even want to consider these warnings because you may be right, after all, THEY ARE THE PASTOR, not you! This is one of the issues Jesus was exposing and addressing in this particular church.
So now we can look at both issues that Jesus is addressing to this church. I’m not going to address these in the order they are given in the Scripture and I believe you will understand why by the time we have finished. ‘So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.’ (Revelation 2:15) The Nicolaitans believed that they were the “teachers” and no one could receive insight and revelation unless it came through them. It was a hierarchy, the top person considered himself the authority and everyone had to come to him to receive instruction. They used manipulation to keep the people “in line”. Reminds me of the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin. But wait, when Jesus hung on that cross and spoke these pivotal words, “It is finished” and breathed His last breath, “And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.” (Matthew 27:51) The veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the common worshipper was removed and now all who believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Messiah sent to bring redemption had access to the Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit! “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)
What comes to your mind today when you think of this practice? I think of control, of cults and false religions. Each one has a way of controlling a person’s mind to accept the deception which they teach. They have their “secrets”. I am not going to write of these deceptive religions, there are many sites which you can go to for understanding but a few you may want to learn why they fall into this category would be the Catholic church, the Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons. These are the mainstream that each of us most likely have encountered. I have met many wonderful people who are in each of these assemblies and my heart aches for the deception that they are embraced as truth. When given the opportunity to learn what the true Scriptures teach they often are afraid to even listen because they have been warned not to listen. But are you going to listen to man or to Jesus? Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6 emphasis mine) No human being can absolve you of your sins. Sin can only be forgiven by the Father above! “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”
(1 John 2:27)
In this third church we are studying this week I see a very strong likeness to churches today. Jesus specifically addresses two areas of sin that must be overcome to receive their reward. As we’ve seen in the first two letters, He begins by commending them for what they are doing right. It seems that they had endured much persecution and one of their faithful ones who was very highly regarded had been killed for his faith. The believers did not go into hiding or close down the church and meet in secret. ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.’ (Revelation 2:13) “And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:17-18) “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
They were hated and feared at the same time. “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) Why were they feared? The power of Jesus Christ was greater than the power of Satan. “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 emphasis mine) But Satan had his seat of power in each of these cities and when Satan’s deception is exposed, Satan doesn’t take it kindly, he kills in retaliation! “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
These churches were not social clubs with breakfast meetings and social gatherings to build each other up. They didn’t get together to tear apart the written Word and debate it and to dismantle it until it was palatable to them, NO, they read it and believed EVERY WORD was written by God. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (2 Timothy 3:16 emphasis mine) To be labeled a believer in Jesus Christ put a price tag on their head and meant almost certain death. But they didn’t count the cost to be too great for a life of eternity with the Lord. “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” (1 Peter 3:14-17)
This is very unlike most of the churches we find today in the United States. Satan has invaded our churches and made himself look like “light” and has weakened the message of the gospel to such an extent that he does not need to destroy the church, the leaders have fallen asleep and allowed so much deception that there is very little power of the gospel seen today. “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.” (2 Timothy 3:5) The Apostle Paul speaks of Satan being in the churches in his second letter to the church of Corinth, “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15) The Pastor of the church may seem very loving and friendly but if he is teaching false doctrine he is one of the counterfeits of the enemy. He looks good on he outside but anyone teaching false doctrine is an emissary of Satan. Many of these pastors may not even be aware of the power that is leading them but when confronted will most likely not listen because of pride. Keep them in prayer that the light may break through the darkness of their souls!
We see in the Church of Pergamum there were some who were tares that had entered the fellowship and instead of rebuking them and exposing their false teachings, they tolerated them. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.” (Galatians 5:9) They also tolerated a group that divided the believers instead of bringing unity which is Satan’s plan. The Apostle Paul had to deal with this problem in the church of Ephesus, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3 emphasis mine) Notice that he extols them to bring correction in love in the Spirit in the bond of peace so that there may be correction, conviction, repentance and renewal to the hurting and a binding together of the entire body of believers.
I know that I have said this before but we should be so thankful to the Lord for writings these letters for our benefit each and every day. He warns us continuously of the dangers that are lurking that will pull us away from firm biblical teaching and set us on shaky ground. Do you have ears to hear? Some of you may respond that you are not a leader or pastor so this doesn’t apply to you but you are so wrong! It applies personally to each of us to allow the Lord to test us and see if we have fallen prey to any of these apostasies. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:17-18)
I am reminded of a verse that can be quite sobering regarding a believers responsibility to his fellow man. “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:20-25)
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war 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, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’” (Revelation 2:12-17)
Look again at our opening Scripture. Jesus has the two edged sword which exposes sin and illuminates righteousness. His words cut through all deception and reveal the truth which brings life. He only is the truth, the way and the life (John 14:6). If He is our foundation we will have revelation and insight into what the Word is teaching us today. We will desire to have the Holy Spirit to search us and make sure we are not participating in anything that is opposed to His Word.
“But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.” When I read this statement I thought of a verse that Jesus spoke to the disciples that is recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” (Matthew 5:37) Did you ever wonder about this verse? There is so much wisdom in these simple words and they have really made those wise in their own eyes be revealed for the foolishness of their ways and their words to those who are spiritually alert.
Let me ask you a question that may bring insight into this verse. Have you ever been asked a question and instead of just answering the question you went into a long explanation with details that were not asked? By the time the conversation was finished you most likely felt totally drained and wished that you had just answered the question and kept the rest of the information to yourself because what could have been a very simple conversation turned into a mass misunderstanding or major problem. Listen to the words of the Preacher, “For there are many words which increase futility. What then is the advantage to a man?” (Ecclesiastes 6:11) “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19) What has all of this to do with Balaam? Between his disobedience and pride and his many words he did much damage to the people of Israel. “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 3:5-6)
Balaam was a diviner which is one who is involved in witchcraft, they connect with another dimension, most often with the dead but also with gods, which are demonic. This does not make them incapable of hearing from the One True Living God, but they are not in right alignment with the Almighty God even if they do say they believe in the Lord God. “Even demons believe in God. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19) Today we would call them fortune tellers, mediums or witches. I think this is important to see in this illustration because Balaam is used as a representative to speak the words of the Lord. This initially was not God’s plan but because of Balaam’s pride and greediness he did not accept God’s “no” when he inquired whether he should go speak with Balak. God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” (Numbers 22:12 emphasis mine) That should have been the end of it but it wasn’t. When more men came a second time asking him to come curse the Israelites, Balaam’s response is very interesting. Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the LORD my God. Now please, you also stay here tonight, and I will find out what else the LORD will speak to me.” (Numbers 22:18-19) Here is a religious spirit and it is dangerous! Shall I put it into words we might use today? “You are offering me many gifts but he could offer me his house of gold and silver but, of course, I’d never accept it unless... However, stay here tonight and I will go ask the Lord again, maybe I didn’t hear Him correctly the first time!” Sounds righteous doesn’t it? But if you are listening carefully you note that he has let them know he can be bought but he’d never actually say that.
We have addressed false prophets in many devotionals but this is a good place for us to stop and be reminded of what a false prophet can look like and what the Lord has to say in His word regarding false prophets as a great majority of our charismatic churches have embraced these false prophets. ‘But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ (Deuteronomy 18:20)
This next portion breaks my heart as well. This is exactly where so many of our pastors are today regarding the land of Israel. These pastors teach partial Scripture, enough to sound good and bring the people in, then they select specific scriptures and take them out of context and teach that God has cursed Israel and the land is not theirs and the Gentiles (you and me, Christians) have replaced the Israelites as God’s chosen people. “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33 emphasis mine) What is not clear about what God has spoken? Remember, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)That applies to EVERY word of prophecy. We cannot ignore the words the word of the Lord spoken through Isaiah, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a torch that is burning. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you will be called by a new name which the mouth of the LORD will designate. You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,” nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”; But you will be called, “My delight is in her,” And your land, “Married”; for the LORD delights in you, and to Him your land will be married.” (Isaiah 62:1-4 emphasis mine) Remember that the Old Testament (Old Covenant) is prophetic and the New Testament (New Covenant) is the Old Covenant’s fulfillment. “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17)
You cannot love God and hate the Israelites or deny that God gave them the land. Scripture clearly teaches that Jerusalem is His and He will return to Zion to set up the New Heavens and New Earth. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,” (Revelation 21:1-3) “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.” (Revelation 21:10-12 emphasis mine) “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.” (Revelation 14:1) These are 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel! “And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:” (Revelation 7:4 emphasis mine)
Balak feared the Israelites because God went before them and defeated every king who had gone up against them in battle. God’s reputation as a mighty, Sovereign God was known throughout the land. They knew they couldn’t win. The spirit of rebellion drove the king to seek out every possible way of defeating the Israelites. He didn’t know that God had made a covenant with Abraham and had given them this land. The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17) He said, “O Lord GOD, how may I know that I will possess it? So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away. Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.” (Genesis 15:8-21 emphasis mine) “And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." (Genesis 12:3)That covenant was made by God and cannot be broken, no matter how devious man’s ploys are! “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) “but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,” (1 Corinthians 1:27)
There are three very important lessons for us that we must understand in why the Lord’s anger was against this church regarding the teachings of Balaam. The first is acceptance of the teaching against the land of Israel and its people. God Himself spoke these words to Balaam and it is no mistake exactly where He spoke them and to whom so that we understand God’s heart. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19 emphasis mine) We MUST take all of Scripture into account! The second lesson is obedience. Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry...” (1 Samuel 15:22-23) The third lesson is the words of our mouth which we looked at above, they truly reveal the content of our hearts. “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6) “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.” (James 3:8-12)
The Apostle James, who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem and the half-brother of Jesus has summed it all up and given us good insight when he penned the following words given to him through the Holy Spirit, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13-18) This is an excellent question and reminder for us, have we gotten caught up in either of these sins that the Lord has addressed? Or, are we in a church that is manifesting either or both of these sins? If so, what are you going to do about it? Once you have learned the truth you cannot ignore it. How will you respond when standing before the Lord at the judgment seat? You will not have a response and there will be a judgment made against you because you did not repent and turn away and leave that sin behind but continued to participate in it. Why do you think that the Lord continues to state in His letters, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes,...” You have been given a great gift today in having received great enlightenment into the heart of our Lord and Savior. What are you going to do with it?
We have heard Jesus refer to the synagogue of Satan and Satan’s throne so far in the letters to the churches. So what are we to learn from this? Each of these seven churches had some good points even though Jesus is illustrating the shortcomings of each church because He knew that these same things would continue to plague believers until the day of His return. Even in the most vibrant of churches, when apostasy or sin is allowed to reside a “void” or “space” is established for the enemy to get a stronghold. It will begin as a subtle “suggestion” but then grow in intensity until it has taken some believers into captivity. The first reference in the letter to the Church of Pergamum is the teachings of Balaam. Balaam is known for counseling Balak how to overcome the Israelites. Please read Numbers 22-25 so you are familiar with the whole account. Balaam was called to bless Israel three times which greatly angered Balak and Balak told him to return to his home and he wasn’t going to honor his offer to pay him. Balaam then invited him to come with him with these words, “And now, behold, I am going to my people; come, and I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the days to come.” (Numbers 24:14 emphasis mine) The rest of the chapter reveals Israel’s dominance. Notice however that this “extra” narrative by Balaam is what Balak and the other kings used to lure the Israelites into sin, adultery, idolatry, etc. Balaam’’s pride led him to tell Balak more than what God had authorized Balaam to speak. Notice what the Apostle Peter had to say regarding the disobedient actions of Balaam, “forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.” (2 Peter 2:15-16) And, of course, the words of Jesus to this church, ‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.’ (Revelation 2:14)
The words of Jesus sum up the judgment that will come to those who are against Israel and oppose the people and the land. He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come!” (Luke 17:1 emphasis mine) I believe this also applies to those who oppress a believer as the spirit of the Nicolaitans.
“Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.” Here again we see God’s grace! “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) Rejoice that the veil has been torn and you may enter the holy of holies and repent of your sins and be washed white as snow! “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” Just as the Lord God sustained the Israelites in the desert for 40 years with “manna” He will supply all of our needs when we submit our lives to Him, turn away from our wicked ways and follow after Him. “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin…” (2 Chronicles 7:14) “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
“and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” White represents purity. Will we ever be pure while here on earth? No. But if our heart’s desire is to please God and follow Him in ALL His Word, we will be continuously growing and changing and will be different, we will be set apart for the Lord and not look like the rest of the unsaved world. “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1 John 2:4-6) We will no longer want to be defiling our bodies with immoral sexual behaviors, tattoos, drinking, drugs and wild living. “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” (Hebrews 2:1-4) (1 Peter 2:1-3)
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,” (Revelation 21:1-3) “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.” (Revelation 21:10-12) Who are the inhabitants of this great city? “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he *said to me, “These are true words of God.” (Revelation 19:7-9) These are the ones who will have a new name given by the Lord.
Abba Father, how can we thank You for Your love and words of wisdom to direct our path? You have painted a magnificent picture that we cannot truly grasp it all! Lord, I ask You to use Your word today to draw hearts to You to seek Your truth and have it cut through the darkness in each of our lives! Forgive us for our stubbornness and lack of diligence in pursuing Your word so that we too might “clothe ourselves in fine linen, bright and clean” while here on earth! Today lead us to the fountain of life where we can be refreshed and renewed and begin to walk that narrow road that You call us to walk. We ask You, Father, to teach us how to love the lost and hurting without becoming a part of their world, but to shine the light of Your truth into their darkness. Thank You that You are faithful and true! We bow today before You and wait for You to meet us where each of us are today and lead us out of any darkness in which we may still have. Our desire is Your life and Your life alone! Cleanse us from all unrighteousness! You are our life! This we pray in the blessed name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, amen!