3rd of the 8th month 2015/2016
Shabbat Shalom all,
Yoḥanan/John 17:14-17 “I have given them Your Word, and the world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. 15 “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the wicked one. 16 “They are not of the world, as I am not of the world. 17 “Set them apart in Your truth – Your Word is truth.”
This chapter 17 of Yoḥanan could best be described as “The Master’s prayer”, and in these clear words of our Master we take note of something very vital for us to understand, and that is that we are not of this world yet are called to be in this world, in order to live set-apart lives according to the Word of Elohim, being completely set-apart in the Truth of Elohim!
With the Feast of Sukkoth having come and gone so quickly and everyone back into their daily routines for a little over a week or so, we are quickly reminded how set-apart we are to be living amidst a wicked and perverse generation. Many of us would love to have stayed in the mind-set of Sukkoth, being nestled away in the mountains and vineyards and continue enjoying the great rejoicing rest of our Master without any of the typical daily pressures that we face each and every day. The reality is that we cannot stay at Sukkoth camp and we need to get back to living our daily lives, yet what we can and must do, is continue to live set-apart lives, even while living in the midst of others who are not. We may not be of this world yet we are called to be in this world and are called to shine the light of the Truth as we make taught ones of all the nations, teaching them to guard the commands of Elohim, as we remain faithful ambassadors of the reign of our Master that is coming. Sha’ul writes to us in his letter to the Romans and tells us not to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and in his letter to the Ephesians he reminds us that we were dead in our trespasses and sins when we walked according to the course of this world and the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience, yet by His great compassion and love for us, Elohim made us alive together with Messiah, for it is by favour we have been saved. We are now no longer foreigners of strangers but fellow citizens with the set-apart ones and members of the household of Elohim! In a message tonight called, “IN BUT NOT OF!” I want us to be reminded that we are to be faithful sojourners and ambassadors of Messiah, here amidst a wicked world that we are in but not of! To help us gain a better understanding of this I would like us to look at the message that was given to the assembly in Pergamos. Please turn with me to Ḥazon/Revelation 2:12-17 (read).
Πέργαμος Pergamos – Strong’s G4010 means, ‘height, elevation’ and comes from the root word meaning, ‘tower’.
Pergamos was a city that was located inland about 32 km from Smyrna. Like Ephesos and Smyrna it was a very wealthy city, however it was extremely wicked. People, in their various pagan cults, worshiped false deities such as Athena, Dionysus, Asclepius and Zeus. It was also very famous for its university which boasted a library that contained 200,000 volumes and was the second largest in the ancient world after Alexandria. Parchment was developed in Pergamos after relations with Mitsrayim/Egypt soured and papyrus became difficult to obtain, resulting in the manufacturing of paper that was called ‘pergamena’.
This city was also called ‘the greatest city of Asia Minor’, and Pergamos had the first temple dedicated to Caesar, and was a rabid promoter of the imperial cult. There was also a temple dedicated to Asclepius, who was seen as their deity of healing, and it was believed by the people of Pergamos that sick people could come to his temple and rest and so be healed while they slept and dreamt of themselves being healed by the intervention of Asclepius, waking up the next morning in good health. The lame would walk, blind would see, and many people experienced miraculous healing; and in gratitude they donated gold or silver images of the limbs that were healed, while many simply brought offerings to the temple.
Those who were healed would inscribe their name, and the ailment from which they’d been cured, on a large, white stone as a testimony to Asclepius.
Pergamos, which is now called Bergama, is known for its cotton, gold and fine carpets, and this ancient city which was known for its architecture, had many huge temples that were dedicated to various pagan mighty ones, and the ancient ruins of these temples continue to attract considerable tourists to this day.
There were many false mighty ones that were worshipped here. In Greek mythology Demeter is the female mighty one of the harvest who presided over grains and fertility of the earth, and a large shrine was built to her, and it was believed by many that she would forgive the sins of her followers who immersed themselves in bulls’ blood. The people of Pergamos worshipped Caesar Augustus at the Athena temple that they had built and declared him to be their divine master and king.
There was also a temple built to Dionysus who, in Greek mythology, was believed to be the son of Zeus and a human mother; and it was also believed that he offered his followers life after death as well as meaningful life on earth through the indulgence of raw meat and wine. According to the teaching of the Dionysus cult, followers who drank wine to excess literally became one with Dionysus. So, worshipers would gather around the altar, gorge on raw meat that had been offered to Dionysus and drink until they became intoxicated. During their festivals, women would drink wine and run through the hills screaming, dancing, and committing sexual immorality. Dionysus worship was so wild that it was outlawed in
The reason I am mentioning this to you is to make it clear to you that from a worldly perspective this city had it all! It had every type of counterfeit worship you could think of, and pretty much describes what the world looks like today!
Each counterfeit cult claimed something that only the True Living Elohim can provide, and therefore each cult did their best to dishonour or take away the proper praise and esteem that is due to the Only Name above all Names!
Zeus was acclaimed here as king of kings and master of masters. Dionysus was reputed to provide joy, eternal life, and meaning; and was said to be able to change water into wine. It was believed that Demeter would provide daily bread, resurrection, and eternal life through the blood of animals. Asclepius was reputed to provide good health, healing from disease, and eternal life. To top it all off, emperor worship caused many to believe that the roman emperor was master of all and the supreme source of truth in the earth! With all this false worship going on here we are able to understand more clearly the very sharp words of our Master and Elohim, יהושע Messiah.
In the message given to the assembly in Pergamos, our Master is recorded as, “He who has the sharp two-edged sword”!
This introduction held special significance for people of Pergamos. The provincial governor in that city had what was known as ‘the right of the sword’ – and this was Rome’s authority to decide which prisoners or accused persons would live or die (including believers who refused to honour the ‘divine’ emperor Caesar Augustus).
What was being made very clear here in the opening introduction to the assembly in Pergamos is that it is only יהושע Messiah alone that has the power over life and death, and not the governor of Pergamos! This would bring great encouragement to a remnant assembly who were under the threat of being put to death, as many had already been killed due to their refusal to bow to the mandated emperor worship. They would have been reminded of the words of our Master and who it is they are to fear, in:
Mattithyahu/Matthew 10:28 “And do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the being. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both being and body in Gehenna.”
We also take not of the words of our Master being given to the remnant assembly in Pergamos, when He says that He knows where the throne of Satan is! I have briefly mentioned the various cults and things that were worshipped here, and all of the abominable worship could be collectively categorised as the throne of Satan
In Pergamos, as in our culture today, Satan wanted people to lose sight of the True Living Elohim and His Mighty power. All the false deities who took the credit and esteem that was due to Elohim, for providing life and giving it meaning and significance, made Pergamum the city ‘where Satan lived.’ Satan wanted people to think that everything they needed for life – even eternal life – could be found through their own efforts or through the world around them, and so easily set up his throne through false worship in various forms!
There are many opinions as to exactly what Yoḥanan referred to when he wrote these phrases in Ḥazon/Revelation 2:13: ‘where the throne of Satan is’ and ‘where Satan dwells’. While many may debate what our Master and Elohim referred to, and if He had in mind a specific temple or pagan practice, I firmly believe that the sum of the evil activities in Pergamos made this city the home and throne of Satan. In a sense, all of the pagan centres could be identified as strongholds of Satan.
With this background of Pergamos in mind, the place where Satan dwells and has his throne, we can better understand our Master’s closing words to the assembly of Pergamos:
“And I shall give him a white stone, and on the stone a renewed Name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
Elohim strategically sent out and placed the early believers into an evil world in order to stand as powerful witnesses and testimonies of His power and work in their lives. As living stones for Elohim, the true believers were clearly different from the white stones on which people, healed by Asclepius, had written their names. The world needed to see the believers as living stones on which new names had been written, and the believers needed to speak the truth of Elohim to a spiritually hungry world. Likewise, believers today need to praise Elohim for all that he has done and tell people about it. This promise of being given a white stone with a renewed name would have been an extremely powerful encouragement to the assembly in Pergamos to endure and overcome.
Today there are many ancient ruins that can be found in Pergamos, modern day Bergama, of the false worship that was done and among these there are white stone pillars that have names inscribed on them. Names that are written in the earth for they forsook יהוה, the fountain of living waters! These are dead stones that are mere ruins of depravity, while the promise that is given to those who overcome is that they will be given life and a name that will continue forever!
Pergamos is a very clear picture of the depravity of false worship that is seen throughout the world today, and the length that many will go to establish this state of depravity. It is no coincidence that the name of Pergamos means ‘height, elevation’ and comes from the root word meaning, ‘tower’, as it symbolises for us everything that exalts itself against Elohim!
All of the false mighty ones that were worshipped here represent the twisted corruption and delusion that Satan brings to those who do not hold fast to the truth and so easily fall away to myths and vain traditions of falsehood. The battles that these early believers faced here at Pergamos are no different to what we face today, as Sha’ul reminds us in:
Qorintiyim Bět/2 Corinthians 10:3-6 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not fight according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons we fight with are not fleshly but mighty in Elohim for overthrowing strongholds, 5 overthrowing reasonings and every high matter that exalts itself against the knowledge of Elohim, taking captive every thought to make it obedient to the Messiah, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”
All reasoning that exalts itself against the knowledge of Elohim must be overthrown! What I find very interesting, especially when considering that Pergamos means height, is the words we find in Yirmeyahu in a call given to a backsliding Yisra’ĕl to return to יהוה, where we see the following:
Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 3:23 “Truly, delusion comes from the high hills, the noisy throng on the mountains. Truly, in יהוה our Elohim is the deliverance of Yisra’ĕl.”
Delusion comes from the high hills! What happened on the high hills? Abominable worship!!! This pictures for us, in many ways, the various things that are being placed higher than Elohim!
The believers in Pergamos had suffered much persecution, and one of their own had died for the faith, namely Antipas.
The name Ἀντίπας Antipas – Strong’s G493 means, ‘against all, against or opposite to the father’, as is contracted from two words: 1) – ἀντί anti – Strong’s G473 which is a primary preposition that means, ‘over against, opposite, instead of’ and 2) – πατήρ patēr – Strong’s G3962 which means, ‘father, parent’. This believer who was killed for the belief is a picture of those who have stood up against the lies and traditions of falsehood and would not bow to the delusion of the various teachings of deceptive worship practices. As true ambassadors of our Master, who are in the world but not of the world, we may often be labelled as one who is ‘against all’, as we do not fall prey to empty vanities and twisted practices of what is deemed acceptable by the world! How many times have you been told that you do not have to be against everything, when simply standing up for the Truth in all matters? The Trustworthy witnesses of the Master will be against all that is not of Elohim, and will not compromise their set-apartness in any way or form, always being on guard against the luring delusions of compromised worship! Our Master mentions the name of this trustworthy one as a reminder to the rest to hold fast to the truth, and even when it seems like you are against all, just stand firm in the Truth, always bearing about in the body the dying of the Master יהושע, that the life of יהושע might also be manifested in our body.
While there was a great witness of trustworthiness, our Master held a few matters against the believers here in Pergamos, and we would do well to take heed of these things lest we find the same being held against us today!
Some were adhering to the teaching of Bilʽam. The teaching of Bilʽam is a reference to that which teaches compromised worship as an acceptable standard, as Bilʽam was the one who taught Balaq how he could infiltrate the camp of Yisra’ĕl through whoring and defilement! Many today adhere to the teaching of Bilʽam as they readily accept the form of teaching that is not scripturally sound and condone lawlessness as being an acceptable living standard!
There were also some who adhered to the teaching of the Nikolaites. The word Νικολαΐτης Nikolaitēs – Strong’s G3531 means, ‘destruction of the people’, and they were a sect of people that were charged with adhering to the teaching of Bilʽam and causing the people of Elohim to stumble by ‘lording’ it over them what they wanted them to do. So many people today are following false traditions and teachings just because they have been told to do so, and the teaching of the Nikolaites is a reference to strict form of teaching that teaches people to follow man-made traditions without questioning the teacher of system!
The name Bilʽam – בִּלְעָם – Strong’s H1109 means, ‘not of the people’ which possibly stems from the two words: בַּל bal – Strong’s H1077 meaning, ‘not, cannot, never, fail’, which comes from the primitive root בָּלָה balah – Strong’s H1086 meaning, ‘to become old, wear out, consume, decaying, waste away’; and the second word עָם am – Strong’s H5971 meaning, ‘people, nation, citizens’, hence the construction of בִּלְעָם Bilʽam carrying the meaning of ‘not of the people’.
It is also believed to be derived from the root word בָּלַע bala – Strong’s H1104 which means, ‘to swallow up, engulf, brought to confusion, consume, destroy’.
From understanding the derivatives or roots of the name of Bilʽam we can further understand the picture being presented to us in order to warn us from that which is happening in our day! Bilʽam could best be expressed in having the meaning of “one who is not of the people that wears down the people”. We are warned in Scripture about the delusion of Bilʽam – that delusion that wears people down and this is a delusion brought by those who are not of the people of Elohim, yet claim to be and are simply false prophets!
Kěpha Bět/2 Peter 3:17 “You, then, beloved ones, being forewarned, watch, lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the delusion of the lawless”
Yehuḏah/Jude 1:11 “Woe to them! Because they have gone in the way of Qayin, and gave themselves to the delusion of Bilʽam for a reward, and perished in the rebellion of Qoraḥ.”
The delusion that was being taught by some at Pergamos was that it was ok to be faithful to Rome and worship the emperor and that there would be no harm in paying homage to Caesar and putting incense on his altar in order to get entrance into the marketplaces. Antipas refused to compromise and he was martyred, but others took the easy way and cooperated with
Mattithyahu/Matthew 16:25-26 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. 26 “For what is a man profited if he gains all the world, and loses his own life? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?”
Some of the believers at Pergamos were clearly being accused of compromise and were being called to repent or else they would face the sharp sword of the mouth of Elohim!
The English word compromise, according to the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is described as:
a) The settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions
b) Something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things
c) A concession to something derogatory or prejudicial 〈a compromise of principles〉
In everyday conflicts, compromise is often a reconciliation of interest that both unites and divides. Compromise that is in anyway dishonest is ethically unacceptable. We may often make compromises for others, husbands and wives e.g., however when it is done against the will and Word of Elohim it is wrong. The believers who were being accused of following false teachings were compromising the proper called for standard of set-apartness for a blending of practices and concede to a mixed worship that is deemed acceptable!
The Greek word for ‘repent’ is μετανοέω metanoeō – Strong’s G3340 which means, ‘to change one’s mind or purpose, to repent, relent’ and involves a complete change in one’s attitude and thought. The call for repentance was given to those who had been conformed to the pattern of the world, and a renewing of the mind was needed, lest they be found to be enemies of the Master!
Bilʽam was one who would do anything for money, and many in Pergamos were falling for the same delusion – compromising for money! So many are still doing it today! Some will claim that they have to work on a Shabbat or else they will lose their job and they live in fear of losing their income, when what is at stake is far more serious than their income, as their lives are at stake! In the Parable of the Sower we are clearly reminded how the deceit of riches chokes out the Word, leaving the thorny heart fruitless and we know that a fruitless tree is in danger of being cut off and thrown into the fire.
As we consider this message given to the assembly in Pergamos, we are able to clearly see how relevant and clear this message is to the body of Messiah still today! While we may not be of the world, we must live where our Master has put us, and by live I mean live as true trustworthy ambassadors of His coming reign, holding fast to the belief and not falling for the many delusions that are so easily causing many to be conformed to the pattern of this decaying world.
The tactics of the enemy is seen in various forms of delusion, from things that are very subtle and almost unnoticeable to the very obvious. If we do not receive a true love for the Truth and run in the way of the commands of our Elohim, hating every false way, then we may be in danger of falling prey to the lurking delusions that are continually seeking to devour and destroy true set-apartness, and the clear call that we find in this message to the believers in Pergamos is one of steadfastness and uncompromised commitment to the Truth! Even if it costs you your life!
As you consider your own life, when looking intently in to the mirror of the Word, what pressures are you facing in the Pergamos of today? We are in the word where Satan’s throne is and in the world where he dwells. We are in but not of!
Πέργαμος Pergamos – Strong’s G4010 means, ‘height, elevation’ and comes from the root word meaning, ‘tower’. Herein lays the clear choice – to be living stones of the Most High, being built up in Him, or follow the crowd and in pride build our own tower of destruction!
The Master knows our works – how do they measure up against the plumb line of His Truth? Have you been a trustworthy witness or have you found that the delusion of lawlessness and compromise has affected your walk.
It is time for the true set-apart believers to stand up and be counted worthy and be on guard against the many delusions that have captivated so many today, even if you are labelled as being one who is against all!
Yoḥanan/John 15:18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”
In a time when the delusion of lawlessness is growing stronger and gaining much momentum, in leading so many astray, take heed to this warning and hold fast to the truth and delight in righteousness, or else!
Tas’loniqim Bět/2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power and signs and wonders of falsehood, 10 and with all deceit of unrighteousness in those perishing, because they did not receive the love of the truth, in order for them to be saved. 11 And for this reason Elohim sends them a working of delusion, for them to believe the falsehood, 12 in order that all should be judged who did not believe the truth, but have delighted in the unrighteousness.”
As true called out and set-apart ones, we cannot settle for ‘whatever goes’, so to speak, as we must cling to what is good and shrink from what is wicked! We are living stones being built up a spiritual house and set-apart priesthood! Do not let the world build you… let the Word of Elohim cause you to be rooted in, and stand firm upon, the Rock, יהושע Messiah, as you are daily being built up in Him, established in the belief and overflowing with thanksgiving!
IN BUT NOT OF – that is a good thing – so hear what the Spirit says and be more than overcomers through Him who loved us.
יהוה bless you and guard you; יהוה make His face shine upon you and show you favour; יהוה lift up His face to you and give you Shalom!