GETTING THE MESSAGE/Be watchful for Satan’s devices

GETTING THE MESSAGE/Be watchful for Satan’s devices


The church in Pergamum gets a mixed evaluation from the Lord in his letter to them (Revelation 2:12-17). The Lord knows the gloomy circumstances that they were in. The city is described as a place “where Satan’s throne is,” and where “Satan dwells.” It’s important to note that the Lord takes into account our circumstances when he makes an assessment of our faithfulness.

The church is commended for holding fast to the name of Christ even though a faithful servant, Antipas, had been put to death in the city. We don’t know how he died, whether by mob attack or by civil authorities, but once again Satan is identified as the real enemy of believers behind the scene.

The devil’s prominence in the city was evidenced by the immoral, idolatrous paganism practiced there. There were altars to Zeus and the god of healing, whose emblem was a serpent. Emperor worship was zealously practiced, and Christians would be outcasts for not worshipping Caesar as Lord.

Thomas Brooks, in his book, Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices, says, “Satan has a greater influence on men than they think, and Christians are to be watchful for his devices. He sails with the wind, and suits temptations to our condition and inclinations.

 “If you are bold-spirited, he tempts to presumption and pride, if nervous to despair, if the conscience is tender to a weight of guilt; in adversity to distrust God; in prosperity to forget God.” The point is that we must examine ourselves and be aware of our own propensities to sin, while at the same time being watchful for Satan’s devices. 

The remedy is holding fast to Christ’s name. Christ makes himself known by his name. He is the Lord of glory and the salvation of his people. We have a continual dependence upon the name of Christ. We find refuge in his name of the Lord.

All creatures have their refuge and hope in something. At Babel, men built a tower to make themselves secure. In Proverbs 18 we read, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Nothing else can keep us but the name of Christ. We would fall if we depended on our own strength or will. Therefore, call upon the name of Christ in temptation.

The church in Pergamum, after being commended, is warned by the Lord that he has some things against them (verse 14). Some in Pergamum were teaching that it was permitted for Christians to engage in idolatry and sexual immorality, two sins explicitly forbidden in the Lord’s word.

Our sinful nature is prone to both, so it makes the temptation all the stronger if there is teaching that gives license to it. In the ancient world, sexual laxity was not a serious sin to the Romans and Greeks. Pagan temples with prostitutes abounded. We also live in an idolatrous, sexually permissive land. 

Cultural trends can penetrate the church and be at odds with God’s truth. Men may say we can’t know the truth (skepticism) or that people can establish for themselves what they think is right (relativism), but this is not permitted for the Christian. God’s word clearly forbids idolatry and sexual immorality (any sex other that between a man and woman in marriage).

The apostle Paul writes in several epistles that no one who practices sexual immorality or idolatry will inherit the kingdom of God. Christians who fall into these sins, must repent or turn from them, which is what the Lord call his people to do in verse 16. Failing to repent, the offenders will find that the Lord is against them.

The Lord gives promises to those who repent and remain faithful. They will receive the hidden manna and a white stone with a new name written upon it (verse 17). The promises are connected to the love of Christ. Manna points to Christ being the bread from heaven, enriching the soul with knowing the love of God.

God gives his people better desires than sinful desires. Manna is hidden in that it is spiritual and unseen, but it also means that here on earth we have tastes of Christ’s love that will become much greater when we leave this world.

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