Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 1 * BOOK 59
WINKING AT EVIL? WAKE UP!
REVELATION 2:11 – 3:22
I’ve never asked the studio audience how many different denominations and groups are represented but I imagine it’s quite a few. We find that in our seminars as we travel it’s the same way; we get people from so many different backgrounds and some from none, but we can probably instigate some hunger for the Word of God, and after all, that’s all we want to do is just whet people’s appetites to study on their own.
I don’t want people to just say, “Well, that’s what Les says.” I want folks to be able to just get in here and study it and see how everything fits so beautifully, if you just simply watch what it says. So anyway, we’re going to just jump right in where we left off in our last program, which was in Revelation chapter 2, verse 12.
Now again, I’ve got to stop a moment and remind myself that we’re gaining new listeners every day. I mean it’s just shocking how our database in those computers is growing something ferocious every month, so that means we’ve got a lot of new listeners who have not heard much of our teaching before, so bear with me as I keep repeating.
In fact, Monday night at our class up at Tahlequah, a gentleman who has been coming for several years came up and said, ‘Les keep repeating! Tonight’s the first time I got it!’ And it was something that I’d probably taught ten or twelve times since he’s been coming, but that’s typical. It just takes so long before all of a sudden this opens up and we can say, “Finally, there it is.” So, I’m going to repeat some of these things for the benefit of new listeners.
To begin with, these seven letters, as we normally refer to them, were not churches per se. They were Jewish congregations, more than likely called synagogues as we had back in James chapter 2, verse 2, and these were not written to be just one individual letter to a congregation but it was to be a composite. All seven of these letters were to be put into one book and then a copy of the book was to be sent to each one of these seven Jewish congregations. And they are Jewish. Now there may have been a Gentile or two in amongst them, but I doubt it. I think it was basically Jewish coming all the way out of Christ’s earthly ministry and the congregation there at Jerusalem, which was scattered because of Saul’s persecution.
You want to remember now that the destruction of the temple is just a few years into the future. But they have no idea that anything different from the Old Testament prophecy was coming down the pike and that was that they were ready to go into the Tribulation. They were expecting those final years of wrath and vexation and then Christ would return and bring in the 1000 year earthly kingdom promised to Israel.
And so these seven letters are written as a composite of the whole, just like Paul’s letters are written to us in this Age of Grace. In fact, I was thinking about it again last night, how every one of us are so aware that Paul wrote all the letters between Romans and Philemon and primarily the seven church letters as we call them, which do not include Timothy and Titus, but we use all of them. We use Corinthians and we use Galatians. We use Romans and we use Thessalonians. Well, if you look at these letters in that light, this is what those Jewish believers could do with these letters. They were getting them ready for the 7 years of Tribulation they presumed were right out in front of them.
Now, you know when I teach, especially Paul’s prison epistles – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon – they are like personal mail to you and I today. They were just written to the Grace Age believer in particular. And consequently, there was almost no background in the Old Testament. So consequently, these were all new revelations that were given to Paul for us the Gentile believers.
Well, I think you can look at these little letters to these Jewish churches in the same way. It was like personal mail to these Jewish believers that certainly had no real status with the Gentile believers out there under Paul. And before the next program, I’m going to put my timeline back on the board, and we’re going to see how all of these things came out of the Old Testament prophecies and brought about the Jerusalem Jewish church. It, in turn, was scattered by the intense persecution of Saul of Tarsus, and those Jews were scattered and have predominately now gathered in Western Turkey where these seven little cities are located. We pointed out in our last taping, since the temple is almost within earshot of being destroyed in just a few more years, that God has now moved the authority from the temple, it seems, to the area of these seven congregations. And if we look at it in that light it just makes all the difference in the world.
He had already given up on Jerusalem and the temple. It’s doomed. It’s going to be gone before long. So, He’s closing His dealing with the Jewish believers, of the Kingdom economy now, who had believed for salvation that Jesus was the Promised Messiah, still under the Law but here they are gathered in these seven cites in Western Turkey (or Asia Minor as the Scripture calls it). Remember now, that they are all to be digested between the various congregations. All right, maybe that’s enough introduction for now.
“And to the angel (or the minister or the leader) of the church (assembly) in Pergamus write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;” Now remember that’s a definitive description of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who speaks the Word and it’s the Word that is the two edged sword through Scripture.
Everything that Christ ever did with regard to creation or anything else was by the spoken Word. He didn’t have to bring the dust together and formulate something. He spoke the Wordand Adam appeared. And so throughout all the Old Testament Scriptures, He could speak the Word and things happened. Take the Red Sea, one of the primary miracles of the Old Testament, He didn’t go down there and do anything physically. He spoke the Word and the waters parted and the power of God is evident. All right, so the same Christ, God the Son, is now dealing with these Jewish believers, and He’s telling them – and I’m going to keep hammering it home and hopefully it’ll finally sink in:
“I know thy works,…” Now what do works entail? What you can do. To look at that, let’s go all the way back and see how this fits the Jewish picture. Go all the way back to Exodus 19. We’ve used this time and time again. And always remember, Paul never uses that kind of language for us.
Certainly he teaches that as a believer we are to do good works for rewards, (I Corinthians 3:9-15) But for salvation through Paul writings we find in many places there can be no works in this Grace Age. Paul never emphasizes the works element like Christ does with these Jews. All through these seven letters in Revelations it’s: “I know thy works,” see? All right, here’s why, back in Exodus 19 they were still under this same law that began back there at Sinai. Let’s drop all the way down to verse 8.
“And all the people (that is the nation of Israel now gathered around Sinai) answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will (believe? What?) do….’” And so right from day one we see that Judaism or the legalism of Moses’ law and the temple worship was a “works” religion. Of course, faith was the basis of it all, but nevertheless it’s that constant emphasis on works.
All right, back to Revelation 2. Verse 13 again,
“I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is:….” In other words, physically. He knew their geographical area. He knew the politics that was involved in that geographical area and what was it? “Satan’s throne.” Now, don’t just glibly read over that. There’s a reason for Christ calling Pergamos the place of “Satan’s throne.” Now, we don’t ordinarily think of Satan having a throne here on earth do we, but evidently he did. I think it started down at the Tower of Babel. I think it began at the Tower of Babel when Nimrod gathered all of the then living people and they instituted the pagan idolatrous worship of Babel and from there it just continued on.
All right, now I’m going to give reference to a good book on this subject and it’s no longer in print but certainly a good library would have it and the name of the book is “Two Babylons”. I’ve read excerpts from it, I’ve never read the whole book, but “Two Babylons” and the author’s name is Hislop, and he’s done a tremendous work on this a long, long time ago. That’s why I think the book is long out of print. But anyway, he established this very thing, that the appearance of idolatry and all of the pagan mythological gods and goddesses began down there at Babylon and the Tower of Babel.
Then, over a period of time, those high priests of mystic eastern religions moved their headquarters to Pergamus. And evidently that’s why it’s referred to then as the “throne of Satan.”All of these priests and priestesses of the pagan religions had seemingly moved away from Babylon up to this little city of Pergamus in Western Turkey. So, the Lord knows that they’re right in the midst of all this satanic power and activity.
“…and thou holdest fast my name,…” They had not denied their faith in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Now, let’s be sure that we keep connecting this with the Jewish element. Come back a moment to Acts chapter 3, because you see, that was the whole critical mass of Judaism after Christ’s first advent, that they were to believe who Jesus of Nazareth really was. That was the idea. That was the heart of the gospel of the Kingdom, but not the Gospel of Grace we’re in today. Today it’s that finished work of the cross that we put our faith in for salvation.
All right, here’s where we have that same thing that Jesus is saying to the church at Pergamus. Here in Acts chapter 3, Peter is again appealing to the Jewish nation up there at Jerusalem, and they have just healed the lame man and the people are full of consternation. How did Peter, James, and John heal this fellow who had been lying at the temple gate for almost forty years? Even Jesus didn’t heal him. Purposely I’m sure, so that Peter, James, and John could do it here. But anyhow, they’ve just healed him and now you come down and to answer all of the questions of the Jews, Peter gives the reason that he was healed in verse 16:
“And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong,…”(or whole.) Not faith in his death, burial, and resurrection, but rather faith in his “name.” And so that becomes the crux of the matter all the way through Peter, James, and John’s preaching. Now, I’ll just show you another one on your way back to Revelation, stop at I John. It’s been several months now since we taught that chapter. Stop at I John, because if I don’t make any other point today, I want to make that, that at the heart of the gospel of the Kingdom for these believing Jews, was believing in the “name” of Jesus of Nazareth, as to who He was.
I John 5:1a
“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God:…” Now did you see that? “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ.” Well, what does that mean? Anybody who knows who Jesus of Nazareth is. What did His name imply? He’s the Son of God! He’s the Messiah of Israel! And that’s what they were to believe, and when they did, God considered them as a child of God, just like for us when we believe in our heart for salvation that Christ died and was buried and rose from the dead, but for the Jews, it was believing in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
All right, back to Revelation. So, here in the midst of all this satanic power, the very headquarters of Satan’s rule on the planet was evidently in this little city of Pergamus, these Jewish believers were holding tough to their faith. But, they suffered in spite of it. So, here goes the next part of the verse:
“…and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.” Antipas had died for his faith. And of course, that’s been true throughout human history. You’re seeing it more and more how that Christians are not only dying today for their faith, but they have all the way back even through the Old Testament economy. But here it was especially evident that in the very midst of these satanic powers we have this Antipas, who was martyred for the sake of the name of Christ and he says, again, “Who was slain among you..”
In other words, they probably, like we in the last few days, they witnessed the horrors of it with their own eyes. And then he emphasizes again, what’s the cause of it? You are “where Satan dwelleth.” The anti-God power itself was evident right there in Pergamus.
All right, then verse 14, in spite of all of that, they were surviving persecution, they were holding fast to their faith in who their Jesus was, but what?
“But I have a few things against thee,…” Oh, there was no doubt, like I think in so many congregations, there was a core of true Jewish believers who were willing to die for their faith, but there was also a rather large element and I don’t think it was limited to any one congregation, I think they were all seven guilty of many of these same things and that’s why as a composite you see, it would speak to each and every one of these seven assemblies.
“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there (that is in your congregations) them that hold the doctrine (or teaching) of Balaam….” Now again, where does that take you? Well, clear back to the book of Numbers. Now, I’m not going to take you back there today, but you know the story of King Balak who met the children of Israel coming out of their wilderness experience, and they wanted to go through Moab on their way up to the east side of Jordan to go into the Promised Land. When he saw those millions of Israelites and all their flocks and herds, he knew he couldn’t destroy them militarily. They were too far outnumbered for that.
So, you remember what old Balak did, he went out east and found a sorcerer, Balaam. A false prophet who was able to actually converse with God, but he was a false prophet. Well now, when he came to Moab and he looked out over those multitudes of Israelites, in fact, if you read Numbers, it’s evident that as far as the eye could see were the encampments of the children of Israel – Millions of them.
Don’t ever think, like I’ve said a hundred times on this program, don’t ever equate it with Cecile B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments. That little ragtag bunch of Jews going through the Red Sea in that movie is almost laughable. No. There were millions. And more and more, even Jewish scholars are coming around to the fact that there were six or seven million of them that came out of Egypt and were out there in the wilderness. Well now, can you imagine six to seven million out there on that flat open desert? Well, old Balak knew he didn’t stand a chance trying to defeat them any way but by using demonic powers. Put a curse on Israel, and that curse was going to cause the children of Israel to commit sexual immorality with the Moabites. And if he could get the Jews to do that, then his thinking was that God would have to destroy them because of their sin. But you see, what Balak and Balaam didn’t understand was God’s mercy. Because God promised that Israel’s sin would never take away His mercy for them.
So, you see, this element carries all the way up through history. And you know what? It’s still here today. My, the more I’m reading and hearing from our television audience of what’s going on in so much of Christendom, nothing’s changed. We’ve still got that sexual immorality running rampant throughout the churches. Over and over people call to tell us how their pastor has gotten involved with women in the church. I’ve got books at home that say the same thing, so it’s always been this way. But this, of course, is dealing with the Jewish congregation in light of the soon coming Tribulation. And if they can survive those seven years, they’ll be ready to go into the promised glorious 1000 year kingdom, just like the Garden of Eden.
Now, we’ll come to that a little later this afternoon. All right, so here we have in this particular congregation, which was not limited to the one. Like I said, I think everything that’s written to one congregation had application to all six of the others. Just like when we read something in Romans, it’s something that Christians for the last 2000 years have been able to latch on to. All right, so to this particular group, but involved all the others he said, “You have those there that are embracing the doctrine of Balaam.” And Balaam’s doctrine was – sexual immorality.
In fact, if you know anything of the pagan religions, they raise sex to a high form of worship, and that’s why God hates it so intrinsically. Because they have so corrupted the things of God, and just like we’re seeing today, they call wrong things right, they call right things wrong, they call black things white, and white things black. It’s always been this way, the only thing now is that it’s compounding. Here they’re embracing the teachings of Balaam
“…who taught (or instructed) Balak (the king of the Moabites) to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel (which were the more attractive women of Moab and they were being almost, what should I say? Coaxed?) to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and commit fornication.” And then along with their idol worship what would they follow up with? Sexual immorality. It’s the way it always goes; always has and always will. And that’s what we’re seeing, I think, going across the whole spectrum of Christianity today. Nothing has changed. All right, so this is what he has against them. Now verse 15, you also have another problem.
“So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine (or the teaching) of the Nicolaitans, which I hate.” Which, again, I think is a reference to these followers of the ancient god Baal. And again, it’s “what God hated.”
I’ve always stressed that probably the one thing God hates more than anything else in the human race is unbelief. Remember that? I’m always stressing how God hates it. Well, if there’s a second thing that God hates it’s idolatry. Because, you know, one of the first commandments is what? “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” And Israel, of course, finally got cured of it with the seventy years of Babylonian captivity, but nevertheless God hates those two things I think preeminently more than anything else in the human experience – unbelief and idolatry. And the two go hand in hand.
Just as soon as you’re saturated in unbelief it is so easy to fall into false gods. The door is wide open, because if you can’t believe in the true One, you can rest assured it won’t be hard to believe the false ones. And so we have this constant reminder that He hates those who hold the doctrine of false worship, Nicolaitans, which would be Baal worship coming out of the Old Testament as well as the worship patterned after Balaam, who was going to cause the children of Israel to eat things sacrificed unto idols and also sexual immorality.
Now, I don’t think I have time, but maybe you can just think back with me to when the Apostle Paul covered this matter of eating meat offered to idols. Did he make this kind of a statement? No. Do you ever wonder why? Now see, here Jesus is so adamant that this is a false teaching; these Jews were to have nothing to do with meat that had been offered to idols. Well, I think the whole thing was they were so close to it, and they were so constantly tempted to go into idolatry, but Paul on the other hand, knows that the true believer is never tempted with something like that. Consequently did Paul have any compunction about eating meat offered to an idol?
He said, “No, that idol can’t hurt that meat.” He knew better. But for these Jews who were being bombarded by, probably fellow Jews, to go into the pagan practices of idolatry, it had to be stressed that they don’t even eat the meat offered to an idol let alone do it themselves. And so these are all things that we have to understand; that these Jewish congregations were confronted with things that Paul’s Gentile congregations had no problem with. All right, now I think we can take one more verse; we’ve got a minute left. So the only remedy is what? Change your mind. Turn around. Take a different direction.
“Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and I will fight against them with the sword (or the Word) of my mouth. 17. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; (Jewish assemblies) To him that overcometh (in other words, stays true to the Word of God) will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” Well, a white stone in antiquity was that which spoke of purity. It spoke of friendship; it spoke of total forgiveness. It spoke of innocence. In fact, a judge would give a white stone for acquittal and a black stone for the person that was guilty. And so, all these things have a particular place in the language of these letters.