Author: Terry Dashner, Sr. Pastor, Faith Fellowship Church in Broken Arrow, OK 74012
Someone once said that compromise is simply changing the question to fit the answer. Imagine if the State of Oklahoma had to save money by having only one major state university. So OU and OSU were merged together as one school on one campus. The compromise is then carried out by renaming the two schools: The OKLAHOMA COWBOYS and their uniforms become orange tops and red bottoms. Do you think the compromise would work? If you’re from Oklahoma, you know that would never ever work.
Now in all fairness, I must say that compromise is not always a bad idea. We live in a pluralistic society in America, and our government was birthed through compromise; therefore in order to accommodate the will of the people, political compromise is imperative.
Nevertheless, the church must never compromise its principles of faith to accommodate the world’s view of what religion should be.
I want to share with you two dangers facing the church of Pergamum. We begin with the first danger: The proximity to the “seat of Satan.”
The church of Pergamum
Pergamum was warned by our Lord not to compromise with the surrounding idolatry. Christ introduced himself to the church in Pergamum as one who has the sharp, double-edged sword (2:12). This was another reference taken from the "One like a Son of Man" image in chapter one (1:16). The sword is symbolic of the penetrating word of God (Hebrews 4:12-13). More precisely, it is the discerning aspect of the word that "judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart," and from which nothing in creation is hidden. This would have had great meaning in reference to where the members of the Pergamum church lived – in a city filled with the splendor and power of false religion. http://www.gci.org/bible/rev/pergamum
“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne…
I want to call your attention to the words: “I know where you live—where Satan has his throne” One of the best studies for this topic is from Gordon Robertson of CBN. I’ve enclosed the link to the video teaching at the conclusion of this study.
The Seat of Satan: Nazi Germany
By Gordon Robertson
The 700 Club
Where the Law of God is not taught, there Satan dwells.
- Jewish proverb
Ancient Pergamum was the center of pagan worship in Asia Minor, was once known as the "place where Satan dwells."
In the first century, it was a thriving city, but after countless wars and natural disasters, the temples of Pergamum lay in ruins. By the mid-19th century, the once-great city of Pergamum was barely a memory.
Locals used this site as a quarry, looting the marble for new buildings, until 1864, when a German engineer paid a visit to Pergamum. Carl Humann was shocked by the destruction of the priceless artifacts, so he got permission to excavate the ancient city himself. What he found was one of the greatest monuments in ancient history: the Altar of Zeus.
Stone by stone, the altar was excavated and taken to Berlin, where it was reassembled and placed in its own museum. The Pergamum Museum opened in 1930, with the altar as its centerpiece.
Eventually, the altar caught the eye of a young man named Albert Speer, the new chief architect for the Nazi Party. Germany’s new chancellor, Adolf Hitler, had commissioned him to design the parade grounds for the party rallies in Nuremberg.
For inspiration, Speer turned to the Pergamum Altar.
“If you read the German written by Speer, he gives all the credit to Hitler,” says Dr. Anthony R. Santoro, the Distinguished Professor of History & President Emeritus of Christopher Newport University. “I think he's like a good interior decorator that someone hires, and that client already has the ideas of what he wants to do, and the decorator agrees with him. So that's what Speer did.”
Using the altar as his model, Speer created a colossal grandstand at the rally grounds in Nuremberg. It became known as the Zeppelin tribune. After the war, only a small part of it was left standing.
“If you look at the kinds of ceremonies that were on display at Zeppelin field with the reconstructed temple there patterned on the Pergamum Altar, you'll see photographs of Hitler, descending down the steps, like a tribune of the people from old Roman times,” says Santoro.
In the middle of the grandstand, where the bronze Altar of Zeus stood in ancient Pergamum, Albert Speer built Hitler’s podium. Hitler wanted to create what he called a "mass experience," and Speer came up with the perfect idea.
Most of the Nuremberg rallies were held at night, so Speer surrounded the grandstand with 150 searchlights. The columns of light extended for miles in the sky, creating the mystical effect Hitler wanted:
"The concluding meeting in Nuremberg must be exactly as solemnly and ceremonially performed as a service of the Catholic Church."
This effect was known as the "Cathedral of Light,” and it became a hallmark of Hitler’s events. It was even used in the closing ceremonies of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.
“Well, it's a very inexpensive way of creating interest,” says Santoro. “Hitler is very much aware of German mythology; his favorite entertainment is German opera, certainly Wagner and all the mythological stories that go with Wagner. And certainly anytime you're looking at mythology and gods, you're looking skyward. So I don't think it's an accident that he says to Speer, ‘Let's create an environment of looking towards the heavens, and that's what it does.’”
Inside the rally grounds, thousands of Nazi Party members marched in torchlight parades.
“These events happen at night, which gives a contrasting effect of fear, of strength, of the unknown, of mystery, and that's all intended by Hitler,” says Santoro. “He's very theatrical. Torchlight and fire have always been part of German mythology. I think there's a quasi-mystical, semi-religious context to these torch parades; there are many of them in Nazi Germany.”
From his podium, Hitler mesmerized the crowds:
"Not every one of you sees me and I do not see every one of you. But I feel you... and you feel me!"
Then under the Cathedral of Light, thousands of Germans swore what they called a “holy oath."
"Blazing flames hold us together into eternity...
No one shall take this faith from those who are dedicated to Germany."
From 1933 to 1938, hundreds of thousands of people gathered at the Zeppelin field in Nuremberg every September for the Reichstparteitag, or Nazi Party Congress. But it was the 1934 rally that captured the attention of the world, thanks to what may be the greatest propaganda film of all time.
“The 1934 party film, Triumph of the Will, which was released in 1935, is the consummate picture of Hitler,” says Santoro.” No other film was ever made of Hitler, and he didn't want any other film made of him. Everything that he wanted people to know about the Nazis is in that film. It was shown continuously for 12 years in Germany.”
Triumph of the Will was directed by a young German actress named Leni Riefenstahl.
“She was a famous movie star. I would characterize her as the female Indiana Jones,” says Santoro. “She was pretty and shapely and popular and romantic. Hitler's a bit of a romantic, and so he liked her.”
The film portrayed Hitler as a godlike figure, the savior of the German people.
“Hitler's entrance in the film is from the sky, like a messiah who would be descending down through the heavens, through the clouds to the faithful waiting for him below,” says Santoro. “Anytime he appears, any people who are close to him have these starry-eyed looks – almost these glazed looks as if they're in the presence of an unearthly being. That's intentional.”
In his speeches, Hitler often borrowed Christian phrases, like in one scene with the Hitler Youth.
“After they sing their song to him, Hail Hitler to Thee, which is almost like a religious chant, he goes into his speech, and he says things like, ‘You are flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood.’ Well, he borrows that from the Roman Catholic ritual, with which he's very familiar. It's a very physical statement, and it resonates with that crowd.”
Hitler's popularity skyrocketed after the release of Triumph of the Will. The next year, more than a million Germans came to Nuremberg to hear his speech.
On the evening of September 15, 1935, Hitler announced the Nuremberg Laws.
“The law for the protection of German Blood and German Honor is intended to begin the marginalization process of the Jewish people,” says Santoro. “Hitler had a lot of popular support for much of his time in office. One doesn't get popular support by saying to the public we're going to put the Jewish people in gas chambers and incinerate them. What he did was gradually marginalize them.”
It was also in Nuremberg that Hitler used the phrase “Final Solution” for the first time in public.
“Bitter complaints have come in from countless places citing the provocative behavior of Jews. This law is an attempt to find a legislative solution. If this attempt fails, it will be necessary to transfer [the Jewish problem] ... to the National Socialist party for a final solution."
The Nuremberg Laws stripped the Jews of their rights as citizens.
“They couldn't teach in public universities, they couldn't practice medicine in public hospitals,” says Santoro. “They couldn't fly the national flag, but they could fly the Jewish flag. Then that was coupled with the Reich citizenship law, which said that Jewish people in Germany were subjects of the Reich, but not citizens.”
Hitler's "Final Solution" is now known as the Holocaust, a word that comes from a Greek word meaning "a wholly burnt animal sacrifice."
In AD 92, the faithful martyr Antipas died, a "wholly burnt sacrifice" on the altar of Zeus in Pergamum, the place the Book of Revelation calls "the Throne of Satan."
Centuries later in Nuremberg, in the center of a redesigned Pergamum Altar, the bronze bull was replaced by a podium. From there, Adolf Hitler announced his "Final Solution" to the world... and this time, the burnt sacrifice was six million Jews.
If the church of Pergamum had compromised its faith to the seat of Satan, the church community in Asia Minor would have become just another religion among many false religions. Compromise kills the soul because everything of virtue becomes replaced by anything goes. The church must stand against compromise with the devil.
The second danger is this: The church of Pergamum embraced the doctrines of compromise, which if continued, would make the church as powerless as the false religions surrounding it.
I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. (NIV Revelation 2:12-16)
This struggle between the world and the saints, pictured in Revelation, led one commentator to label the book as a "Tale of Two Cities." The religious climate at Pergamum was not conducive to the Christian life. That’s because "Satan’s throne" was in the city (2:12). While the phrase has received differing interpretations, it almost surely refers to Pergamum as a major center of pagan religion, especially the imperial cult. The city symbolized secular power and civil religion working in concert as Satan’s proxies.
While the church in Pergamum was assaulted from the outside, it also faced grave internal religious deception. This is described as the teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans (2:14-15). Revelation’s use of the Balaam typology underscores the book’s reliance on Old Testament symbols. Balaam’s story is found in Numbers 22-24. He was a prophet who manipulated Israel into falling under God’s curse. Balaam’s motive was personal gain (2 Peter 2:15; Jude 6). He had been offered riches and power by Balak, a gentile king, to destroy God’s people, Israel.
The prophet found a way to accomplish the king’s nefarious desire. Balaam devised a plan whereby he caused the men of Israel to commit sexual immorality with Moabite women and to sacrifice to their gods in a community meal during a festival (Numbers 25:1-2). Thus he led Israel into sin by causing the nation to accommodate itself to idolatrous pagan religion and its immortality. Balaam came to stand for an evil individual who seduces God’s people into sin.
But in what sense were members of the church committing sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols (2:14)? It is generally thought that this phrase refers to food eaten at festivals in which pagan gods were honored, as well as the sexual activities that may have gone on as part of such feasts. Both expressions could also be understood metaphorically. That is, they would refer to general religious infidelity engaged in by Christians who participated in pagan rites and festivities.
Both a literal and figurative meaning may be in view here in Revelation. Since sexual immorality was sometimes associated with worship in pagan religion, the Christian would be taking both sexual license as well as committing religious infidelity if he participated in the religious practices of the city.
The Balaamites may have been teaching the converts that participating in temple feasts or other activities in which the gods were invoked was not wrong because it served a good end. The unknown prophets or self-appointed teachers, metaphorically called "Balaam," were probably counseling accommodation with the pagan culture. Balaam and the Nicolaitans as well as another heretical group we encounter later – the followers of a prophetess named "Jezebel" – probably all taught generally the same thing. G.R. Beasley-Murray, in speaking of the Nicolaitans, wrote:
"They will have maintained that idols are nothing...Therefore Christians need not hesitate to take part in pagan feasts, whether among trade guilds or in temples.... Nor need they be over-scrupulous about acknowledging the divinity of Caesar, for they can do it in the same spirit as many pagans did – as a gesture of loyalty to Rome, without religious significance." (The New Century Bible Commentary, "Revelation," p. 86)
Of course, Revelation does not reveal the specific identity of the Nicolaitans nor does it rigorously define their beliefs. Irenaeus and other early church fathers claimed that the Nicolaitans practiced unrestrained indulgence (Against Heresies, 1.26.3). If they have not falsely defined their enemies – the Nicolaitans would have taught a life of loose morals, but no doubt under the guise of a deceptive theological rationale.
Following the teaching of the Balaamites and Nicolaitans, some church members in Pergamum had violated the freedom and grace they enjoyed in Christ. They had lapsed into a sinful accommodation with idolatry and immorality. The seriousness of the poor spiritual condition of some at Pergamum was underscored by Christ’s warning. He would fight against the heretics with the sword of his mouth (2:16). The mistakes of the Pergamum church are important lessons to all Christians who must struggle to keep their spiritual balance in a darkened world. http://www.gci.org/bible/rev/pergamum
When we stand against compromise—compromise that develops from the wickedness without and from the error within—standing faithful to Jesus Christ while the world dances with the devil, we impact our world for righteousness and justice. God rewards our faithfulness.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
Good sites to view: http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/churchhistory/pergamon/