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Into All the World - The Book of Revelation
Weeky 30, 2016
This week we will cover the Lord’s charge to the church at Pergamos and His promise to those who overcome their trials.
“Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight 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 I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it” (Revelation 2:16-17 NKJV).
The church before this one—the one under the most intense persecution—was not called to repent. It seems the persecution kept them pure, but Pergamos was warned that if they did not repent, the Lord Himself with fight against them! He would do it with the “sword of His mouth”—His Word— and He did with great voices of conviction and truth challenging the direction of those turning the church toward alignment with the Roman Empire. To this day, this has been an almost continual challenge, and often a trap that subdues God’s people.
Because of this almost continual challenge for the church, how should we be the prophetic voice to nations and governments—the light and salt we are called to be—without wrongly uniting with them in a way that compromises our calling as the bride of Christ? Many have succumbed to marrying these governments in a way that betrays our calling as a chaste virgin for the Lord.
Almost every prophet in Scripture had to speak to kings or governments. Many, such as Isaiah, had close personal relationships with them. Some, like Daniel and Joseph, not only spoke to kings, but worked for them at the highest levels, becoming administrators over the government. As we see with Joseph and Daniel, one key characteristic of this type of prophet was their devotion to living pure before the Lord, even risking their lives and suffering great persecution to remain pure and faithful. Few are able to handle this kind of closeness to power without being corrupted.
I have visited churches in dozens of countries, and most of them stay far from politics. For most of these, I think this is right for them because they are not in democracies with a right and responsibility to be part of government. In democracies, or republics, where the government exists for the people and is responsible to them, this is different. Our calling to be salt and light should cause us to engage in the important issues of our countries, not necessarily as the church but as Christians.
The command to “go into all the world” was not just geographical. We are called to be salt and light in every field of influence, including government. However, government is the trickiest. Although we need special grace for every calling, I think we need an extra special grace to be called to government because of the dangers.
Of all the countries I’ve been in, I think Christians in the U.S. are the most engaged in their government. This is likely because America was a refuge for persecuted Christians from Europe, and Christians were a huge influence in the birth of the nation. They continued as a great influence in the country, much more than almost any other country since the dominance of the Roman and Orthodox churches in the Middle Ages.
During this period of the church at Pergamos (approximately A.D. 323-538), the church in general did not do too well moving from persecution to a place of influence in government. She did not stay chaste, but married the earthly government. Then she became a weapon against other Christians who resolved to stay pure virgins for their Lord. This has also happened to a degree in the United States. Christians have been split between the liberal and conservative parties about as equally as the people have been. When one group is in power, there has often been a persecution of the Christian brothers who are not. This persecution may not come with tortures and death, but it has come in many other forms.
Studying how this happened during the church period represented by the church at Pergamos can help those called to be in government or to have influence with them stay away from the traps. One of the biggest traps for the church was opened with the conversion of the Roman Emperor. I’m not debating whether his conversion was real or not, but the effect of his conversion on the church, and then the entire Western world, was very bad. The church may have influenced him some in ways that helped bring better behavior, but the Empire’s ways influenced the church much more and brought greater evil.
Maybe we need to ask why we want our civil government leaders to be devout Christians. The mandate on civil governments from God is different than the mandate on His church. We often get the two confused. Understanding what unfolded during the period represented by Pergamos can help us get this sorted out, and this is why we will continue with this church a bit more.
next week 31