“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.’
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
The church in Pergamum was located in a place where idol worshiping was rampant and also where Satan’s throne was located.
I explained that Satan’s throne refers to the place where Satan sits.
There were temples to worship idols and emperors; the city of Pergamum was a Satan-dominated city.
Since the church was located in such a city as Pergamum, it was not easy to keep faith, but still they didn’t forsake their faith.
They held on to the name of the Lord, and achieved victory.
And the person who stood in the forefront was Antipas mentioned in tonight’s scripture.
In the scripture, the Lord calls Antipas ‘my witness, my faithful one’, the Lord’s faithful witness.
When you have heard such words from the Lord about Antipas, we can well understand the faith that he had.
If the Lord recognizes him as a faithful witness, it means that his faithfulness was not an outward, fleshly faithfulness, but spiritual faithfulness.
It means that he cast off evil, humbled himself, and resembled the heart of the Lord. At the same time he was faithful to his duty of testifying to the Lord as a witness in a difficult situation.
That is to say, in a place that was like Satan’s lair, where life was full of wide-spread idolatry and every kind of sin and evil, he faithfully spread the gospel of the Lord
Then finally he died martyrdom.
There is a story about Antipas’s martyrdom.
A Roman officer put Antipas in front of the idol, and said, “Antipas, bow down before this idol of the Emperor of Rome.”
Then Antipas replied like this. “There is only one King of the kings, and Lord of the Lords, (he is) Jesus Christ. I’ll not bow down before any other.”
The officer became furious, and shouted out, “Antipas, don’t you know that you’re against the whole world?”
Then, Antipas replied, ” Against the whole world, then, I acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Lord of the lords.”
Then out of his anger, the officer put Antipas in a blazing brass furnace, and killed him.
But in these terrible persecutions and hardships, the members of the Pergamum Church kept their faith.
If one has faith, the more severe the persecutions and hardships become, those with faith hold on to their faith in the name of the Lord even more steadfastly.
Among people who attend church but do not know the Truth, there are some who may not understand this.
“They believed in God, and they were faithful. So, why were they persecuted and why did they have to die in martyrdom?” “If God is truly alive, how could He leave them alone?” They may be disheartened and leave the church.
But once they realize the will and providence of God, their misunderstanding will be cleared up.
There were many martyred deaths not only in the early church such as in the church in Pergamum where Antipas died as a martyr, but also everywhere that Christians and Christianity settled down initially.
Even in Korea, when Christianity was introduced during the late Chosun Dynasty, there were many persecutions and tribulations, and there were many martyrs.
In the beginning, the worldly people ridiculed and despised the Christian martyrs. They even enjoyed their martyrdom.
The citizens of Rome watched as many Christians were dying as martyrs in the Coliseum. They regarded them to be very foolish.
But soon, they started to think it strange.
“How could they have smiles on their face while dying?” “What made them like that?” “Who is Jesus that they believe?”
Thoughts like these arose.
Then they became interested in Christianity, and then more and more people wanted to know about Christianity.
Many people ended up believing in the Lord, and later, Constantine I (“C. the Great”) the Emperor, approved Christianity. And he even established Christianity as a state religion.
This is the God’s providence that human beings cannot understand.
Without this, Christianity could not have been spread throughout Europe and the whole world so quickly.
Also in Korea, because there were many forefathers of faith who died as martyrs, Christianity was able to grow as strong as it is today in as short a period as 100 years.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
Do you think a person who lives a Christian life as he sees fit can keep the faith when faced with the pain of martyrdom and the fear of death?
If he can keep his faith until he dies a martyr by the help of the Holy Spirit, it will be good. But the fact is that it’s not easy for a man to keep faith in the face of a threat against his life.
Chances are greater that he will forsake his faith when faced an extreme situation or a threat of life because he hasn’t cast off evil in his heart.
Only those who are faithful with unchanging hearts can keep faith even facing threat of life, and they can die a martyr for their faith as much as they cast off evil and reach sanctification.
Antipas was such a man.
His martyrdom became a driving force for the members of the church in Pergamum to hold on to the name of the Lord and run the race of faith.
Witnessing Antipas’ martyrdom, they neither feared death nor hid from it. They rather held onto the name of the Lord all the more, and achieved victory by faith.
And the Lord is commending the church in Pergamum for this.
Just like Antipas and other members of faith of the church in Pergamum, please, you too become a faithful witness of the Lord who can hold fast to the church without turning to the right or left even in situations of persecution and tribulation.
Even though the church in Pergamum was commended like this, the Lord starts to rebuke them severely.
In the verse 14, He says, “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.”
In the Pergamum church, there were Antipas who died a martyr, and others who kept faith following Antipas. But there were other people who couldn’t do so.
The Lord says that they hold the teaching of Balaam, and He severely rebuked their deeds.
And He also says there are some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans, and gives them harsh rebuke.
Then who are those who were holding to the teaching of Balaam and the teaching of the Nicolaitans?
To understand this, we have to take a look the incident between the Israelites and Balaam which is described in Numbers chapters 22~24.
Balaam was a son of Beor, and lived near the river Pethor. He could talk to God.
To be more specific, he knew how to communicate with God.
One day, Balak, the king of Moab asked him a favor.
Balak asked Balaam to curse the Israelites.
Balak, the king of Moab heard that God was with the Israelites, and when he knew that the Israelites were coming to his country, he was filled with dread, and asked Balaam for help.
When Balaam asked God what God’s will was, God said, “Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”
When Balaam got this answer from God, he refused the idea of Balak.
But the king of Moab sent more numerous and more distinguished princes with silver and gold to Balaam.
And he said in Numbers 22:17, “For I will indeed honor you richly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Please come then, curse this people for me.”
Balaam’s heart was shaken by the silver and gold.
Since he had greed and selfish desires for honor and money, his heart was seduced by the temptation of Satan.
This can come out in your daily believing life.
If you destroy the temptation by the word of God right away, you will not be tempted again. But if there is room to be shaken in your heart even a little bit, Satan will surely tempt you again.
Therefore you must be aware that the test may come again someday if you don’t pass it.
It’s like you give up pulling out a tree if it doesn’t move at all at the first try. But if it moves even a little bit, you will continue to pull it out.
When the serpent tempted Even, she showed room, the serpent kept on tempting her, and Eve was eventually deceived.
Also, even though you seemed to pass it outwardly, if you didn’t pass it from your heart completely, Satan may tempt you again.
Balaam, too, seemed to pass the first test. But since he had greed and selfish desire for honor and money, he was tempted the second time.
Even though 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,” his heart was already shaken.
Even though he knew the will of God, he said, “Now please, you also stay here tonight, and I will find out what else the Lord will speak to me.”
Then God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, rise up and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do.”
You must understand this scene carefully.
If you understand it in a fleshly way, you may think that Balaam went to Balak according to the will of God.
But God clearly told Balaam what His will was when Balaam first asked Him.
But the reason that God allowed Balaam to go to Balak when he asked God the second time was that God knew his heart.
If Balaam had been a clean hearted man, no matter what kind of honor and money was given, he wouldn’t have wanted to go and he would not have asked God again.
Moreover, he knew that God was with the Israelites, he wouldn’t have accepted their request to curse the Israelites.
But his heart was shaken, and God knew his heart. So God left it to his free will.
Even if God stopped him, Balaam’s heart would be shaken again when the servants of Balak tempt him again with more silver and gold.
Therefore, stopping him by force would have been against justice.
It’s like that even though God can force the people of the world not to commit sin, it is against justice.
So, Balaam came to go to Balak, andGod sent His angel to block the road, and opened the mouth of the donkey to show that his action was reckless.
The angel of God said to Balaam, “Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me.”
Then He said, “Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I tell you.”
The things went against what Balak, the King of Moan wanted, and God gave the Israelites words of blessing through the lips of Balaam.
And the incident seemed to conclude like this.
But, the New Testament records this incident like this in 2 Peter 2:15-16, “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.”
And Judea 1:11 says, “Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.”
Then, what did Balaam do so that words like this are attributed to him?
Tonight’s scripture says, “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.” This is written in Numbers 25:1-2.
It says, “While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods.”
It was Balaam who taught Balak such an evil scheme to deceive the Israelites.
Balaam knew not to tempt the Israelites so that they could make God angry, and he plotted such an evil scheme.
The Moabites worshiped the idols, and put out many sacrificial foods, and the Moabite women danced lewdly.
Instigated by Balaam, the king of Moab, Balak invited the Israelites to their worship.
The Israelites were so accustomed to the simple surroundings of a wild field. They were tired of the life in a wilderness.
But when they were invited to an idol-worshiping place, they were suddenly exposed to the worldly things.
It was not like these days when people circumcise the heart and cast off sin by the help of the Holy Spirit. They were just temperate not to commit sins. They couldn’t help falling into the worldly things.
Finally they ate the food sacrificed to idols, and they started committing adultery with the Moabite women.
By the teaching of Balaam, Balak the king of Moab led the Israelites to commit sin.
And the Israelites were punished as a result of committing this sin.
As said in Numbers 25:9, 24,000 of them died in the plague.
By the way, in 1 Corinthians 10:8, it records the number of the dead as 23,000.
Why is there a difference in numbers of the dead in Numbers and 1 Corinthians?
Is it a mistake?
No, it’s not. The Bible is always precise and correct.
The number of the dead in Numbers, 24,000, includes the Israelites and the Moabite women.
On the other hand, the number of the dead in 1 Corinthians, 23,000, is the number calculating only the Israelites.
Likewise, if we read the bible in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we can find how precise the bible is all the more.
Dear brothers and sisters.
What is the spiritual lesson that we have to learn from the incident of Balaam?
First, it warns about living a Christian life as a you think fit and compromising the truth with the world.
Just as Balaam went to the path of death even though he knew the will of God, there are many Christians try to live a Christian life compromising with the world.
It means that they love the world and the things in it more than God.
Especially today, just as 1 Timothy says in 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” many Christians commit sins because they love money more than God.
Because of greed for money, they violate the Lord’s Day or steal the tithe which is God’s.
Even though a servant of God must devote himself to prayer and to the ministry of the word, there are servants who are greedy for money and honor, or compromise with the authority of the world.
But, just as Matthew 6:24, which says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth,” not only servants of God but also children of God must love only God and follow only His will.
There must not be faith like Balaam’s who compromised with the world.
Then, please look back on yourself.
Didn’t you fall into temptation even for a short period of time like Balaam? Have you distanced yourself from the truth?
Do you have anything that you love more than God?
Or, do you love only God the Father with all your heart, with all your life, and with all your will?
Even if it is a trivial thing, if it is to leave the truth and to compromise with the world, you will eventually fall into it, and Satan will accuse you of it.
As small bit of yeast can spread to whole bread, if you take even one bit of Satan’s work, then two, and three, and four eventually your whole mind will be taken up by the works of Satan.
We can often see those who were used for the work of God become abandoned or depraved when they were stained with the flesh.
And there were people like that among the members of the church in Pergamum.
There were people who didn’t lose faith but kept it while witnessing the martyrdom of Antipas. On the other side, there were people who were following the teaching of Balaam and compromising with the world.
The Lord severely rebukes not only such people of the church in Pergamum but also those who follow the deeds of Balaam these days, and He tells them to repent.
We will continue to look into what we have to learn from the lesson of Balaam.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, it warns about the last days like this;
“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.”
Likewise, the bible warns what will happen in the last days. But still many people in the world are doing just as spoken.
But what is more pitiful is that more and more people who profess that they believe in the Lord are also doing so.
Even though they listen to the word of God, they keep it as mere knowledge, but they don’t try to live by it.
He holds to a form of godliness, but they deny its power.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
In the Pergamum church, there was a faithful witness like Antipas who died a martyr for the name of the Lord. On the other hand, there were also people who followed the deeds of Balaam, compromised with the world, and love the world.
Even though they lived in the same surroundings, and listened to the same word, the flesh and the spirit were clearly separated.
It is just the same as that even today.
The closer it is to the end, the more clearly the flesh is separated from the spirit.
I strongly urge you that there must be none who befriend the world and love the world in these last days just like some Pergamum church members who followed the deeds of Balaam.
I hope that you all become like Antipas, the faithful witness who held onto the name of the Lord even in the place of Satan’s throne.
May you be blessed to enjoy the praise, reward, and glory that the Lord gives to those who overcome, in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, I pray!