The Persecuted and Compromised Church
This morning we will cover Jesus’ Revelation letters to Smyrna and Pergamos. To Smyrna: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich)…” [Revelation 2:9]
“In the world you will have tribulation,…” Jesus told His disciples this just before He went to the Cross [ref. John 16:33]. He would leave them, but not as orphans; He promised them the Holy Spirit who would guide and strengthen them. But He did not sugar-coat the reality of life in this fallen world. It is [and will continue to be] a life of trial, tribulation, and suffering.
Jesus knew their suffering and poverty in the Smyrna fellowship. “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty…” This “Persecuted Church” had worked unto their Lord in the midst of tribulation. Rather than be isolated into a pity party, they worked unto God in the midst of severe suffering. And Jesus commends them for it. It reveals that in Christ our best can come out in our most trying times. It is interesting, too, that this persecuted church received no rebuke; there was no correction. Persecution was a pure road to travel.
To Pergamos: “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword.’” [Revelation 2:12]
Pergamos is known as the Compromising church. They stayed the course in some areas but compromised in others. Compromise is perhaps the most effective weapon against the Christian because of her subtlety. “Do not stray into her paths.” [Prov 7:25] When we compromise we stray, and when we stray we can find ourselves on a road that is difficult to get off of. “For she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men.” [Prov 7:26]
The warning is clear, do not underestimate the power [and subtlety] of sin. “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; so shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.” It is true; even a little leaven leavens the whole lump.
The great weapon against compromise is God’s word, “He who has the sharp two-edged sword.” He, the Word, is Who cuts out compromise. And it is precisely the cutting out [pruning] that produces genuine Spiritual fruit. May we take heed to this warning. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” [Heb 4:12]