Revelation 2: 8-17
‘To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
‘To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live – where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city – where Satan lives.
Nevertheless, 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. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
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.
Jesus loves His church, it’s His bride, His body. He reaches the world through His church, we advance His Kingdom, we carry His light to illuminate the darkness, we proclaim the Gospel of what He has done through His life, death and resurrection.
Therefore it should come as no surprise that Satan hates the church. We’ll see that later when we get to Revelation chapter 12. But it’s essentially like this – if you can’t defeat your greatest enemy, attack the one’s they love.
Satan has been once and for all defeated by Jesus when he died and rose again. He has been defeated but he has yet to be destroyed. He knows his days are numbered. But he’s not going down without a fight. In these last days – and by last days I mean the period between Jesus' first and second coming – he will do everything he can to attack, discourage, weaken, accuse, confuse, divide, and paralyse the church.
As Christians we need to remember that we’re in a war, we’re on the winning side, but we are in a battle with the enemy of our souls. And he fights dirty.
Some of His tactics are more obvious and blatant and recognisable than others. The obvious tends to come from the outside, in the form of persecution of the church – we see that, 2:10:
“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days.”
It’s easy to recognise persecution as an enemy attack. It’s in our faces.
But more often, rather than attacking from the outside, the enemy will use much more subtle ways and seek to destroy and divide the church from the inside. We see this in 3 main ways in these letters to the churches: (i) False Teaching, (ii) Self-appointed Leadership and, (iii) Lukewarmness. We'll look at the first one today and the remaining two over the next few days.
(i) False Teaching
“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. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore!” (2: 14-16)
No one really knows what this false teaching of Balaam or the teaching of the Nicolatians actually involved. But we know that the fruit of their teaching was that God’s people began to live lives which didn’t reflect God’s call to holiness and purity. They were just blending in with everyone else, they weren’t being impacting the culture around them.
Wrong teaching leads to wrong living. You either become legalistic or casual about sin or just plain weird.
Faithful, biblical teaching leads to right living. It’s the truth which sets us free, it’s the Word that brings life.
We need to be a people who stick to the Bible. Quite honestly, more and more, some of the stuff I’m hearing out there and on Christian TV might sound exciting and dramatic – but’s not in here and it’s not helpful. Ultimately it’s used by Satan to destroy churches.
The way to counter attack is to be saturated in the truth of the Word. Those who are trained identifying counterfeit currency begin by spending many hours studying genuine money. They become so familiar with the genuine, that as soon as they handle fake banknotes, they immediately recognise it for what it is. Similarly, those who have spent consistent, regular time in the truths of the Bible are less likely to be misled or influenced by false teaching or fake Christianity.