Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Darris McNeely] The Bible closes with a final revelation from Christ Himself. At one point in His message, He addresses His church in one particular city and tells them, "I know your works and where you dwell," where Satan's throne is. What does this mean? Does Satan have a throne on earth today?
I'm the son of a World War II veteran. My father was drafted into the United States Army and he was sent to Europe to fight the Nazi regime of Adolph Hitler. My father was a young man drafted off the farm in Missouri, and he was caught up in the largest war in all of human history. Landing on Omaha Beach on D-day, he fought his way into Germany as part of this vast effort to destroy the Nazi war machine. Now dad returned home after the war and he raised a family. I was part of that family, but he was really never the same for all that he had done and for all that he had seen.
He was part of a massive global effort to turn back the power and the might of the Biblical beast that is shown in the Book of Revelation, in the Book of Daniel in the Bible. A power that rose from the turbulence of a great sea that was seeking dominance of the world. This dreadfully strong and terrible beast devoured lives, trampled parts of the earth under its feet. World War II saw more than 50 million lives killed in battles that stretched across the globe. It reshaped the world and we still deal with its consequences today. Historians still write books about that Great War, trying to explain it and all that I've read and all that you study, no one really sees the Biblical answer to why.
Hitler's terror was more than just another dictator seizing power like others have done in history. It was a modern revival of a series of beast-like powers that have manifested itself through time. Hitler's power and authority came from Satan the devil. It was Satan's latest effort to rule the world through human government. You see, war is Satan's instrument to rule the kingdoms of this world. My father and those like him never understood the cause of such a war, but to understand the true cause of such a conflict we have to look to the Book of Revelation.
We're going to have to take a look today to a message that Christ gave to His church in the ancient city of Pergamos. We're doing a series, going through each of the messages to the churches in the Book of Revelation chapters two and three, and we've come in this series to the message that Christ gives to the church in the city of Pergamos. And in this message, we will see why the world suffers from the evil that it does. Christ told His church that they were living in the heart of the beast.
Now before we take a look at what the Bible says in that message, I want to take a moment to show our audience here and those watching at home, the study guide that accompanies this particular program. We have a different study guide for each of the programs that we are doing in these seven messages. Each one is carefully chosen to fit the theme that Christ focuses on during and for that particular congregation. The book that we're offering for this one, "Is There Really a Devil?" is what we've chosen for the message to the church in the city of Pergamos. This study guide will take you through a very thorough study on what the Bible says about the topic of Satan. It shows you that there is a real devil, the adversary of mankind. Jesus knew Satan was real. When you look into the Bible, Christ encountered him, He rebuked him. Skeptics, however, dismiss his existence. But the Bible has a lot to say about Satan and how he works against the purpose and the people of God. Now you can get a free copy of this by writing to our number that is on your screen. Or you can go to beyondtoday.tv to begin downloading a copy. There's no cost, it's a free publication and it's going to really help you to understand a very important topic, regarding this source of evil and this being called Satan the devil.
Now one of the things that the Bible does tell us about Satan is that he has a dominion. He has a kingdom. He is called, as well, the god of this world. In the gospel accounts, we see where Christ was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. It says there that when the tempter came to Christ, after He had gone through a period of fasting, he put three temptations before Him. The first was, he said “If you’re the Son of God command that these stones become bread.” To which Jesus replied, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."
The next temptation Satan put before Christ was to take Him up into the holy city where Satan sat Him on the pinnacle of the temple. And he said, "If you're the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it's written, 'He shall give His angels charge over you." Again, Jesus quoted scripture saying, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God."
The final temptation, the third, was to take Jesus up on an exceedingly high mountain and there Satan showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said, "All these things I will give you if you will fall down and worship me." Clearly from the scripture, we see Satan does have a dominion on this earth. He offered to Jesus, in return for His worship, that dominion. You see, above all things Satan desires to be worshiped. That's what we learn in this statement. Now Christ's final answer to him was this strong command: "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and Him only you shall serve."
So with that as a background, let's ask the question: Can we see evidence on this earth of such a dominion, of such rulership by Satan? I think we can. I think we can when we take a look at the message that Christ gives to the church located in the ancient city of Pergamos. It is in Revelation chapter two, and it begins in verse 12 there where it says this, "To the angel of the church in Pergamos write, 'These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword.' I know your works and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is, and you hold fast to my name and you did not deny my faith, even in the days when Antipas was my faithful martyr who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.'" Where Satan dwells. No other city mentioned here in Revelation has such a distinction as this message does. Christ says this is where Satan dwells, where his throne is located from which he rules.
Now let's look at the physical setting of this city in Pergamos. It was a significant city in the area of Asia, Western Asia called then Asia Minor in the ancient world. The city of Pergamon sat on a very large mountain, overlooking a vast plain. In fact as you approach the mountain on which a large part of the city sat, it looks like a giant throne. The main city stretched out on the plain below. On top of this mountain were constructed many temples with significant structures. Pergamos was the center of what was called the Attalid Empire which existed in the second century before Christ. That empire, the Attalid Empire, was absorbed into the Roman Empire and it became the governmental center for Asia for a period of time. And it was the seat of the Roman governor for a while. There, along with major temples to the gods Asclepius, Dionysius, Athena and Zeus, all of the chief gods of that ancient world, they were worshiped. In other words, Pergamos was a center in the ancient world for government, for religion, for medicine, and for learning.
Scholars reading Revelation interpret Satan's throne among all of these temples and ruins on this site. Let me describe a few of them. There was one to the particular god called Asclepius. Asclepius was the healing god. Now you have probably seen pictures of this. But if you've ever seen the modern symbol of the medical profession with a serpent entwined around a staff, that comes from the Greek god Asclepius. He had a temple and healing center there. And serpents, if you can imagine, were actually a part of the healing process that would slither over people as they came there and slept waiting for a healing and offered sacrifice.
There was a temple to the emperor. People were expected to offer sacrifice to the cult of the emperor as a god as well. And finally, there was one altar to the great god, Zeus, the chief of the Greek gods. It sat with a very distinct appearance there, looking like a throne perched on the very edge of the mountain, looking out over the rest of the city below and the plain beyond. Where you see those trees was where that temple or that altar of Zeus stood. It was decorated all around its base with scenes of a giant mythic battle between the gods of Olympus and the giants on earth who had serpents' tails instead of legs as you can see from some of the depictions here of the motif around this altar of Zeus. Lions' heads were also shown devouring its prey. And so here on this alter to Zeus, you have two significant symbols that the Bible uses to describe Satan; serpents and a lion.
Now it's not hard to imagine this scene on that altar to Zeus showing things in scripture to have occurred when Satan and his fallen angels attempted to seize control of God's creation. The Bible describes this. Satan was repulsed. He fell to earth where, as we have seen, he had a dominion. A same dominion, remember, that he offered to Jesus Christ. This altar of Zeus was removed in the late 1800s from the ancient side of Pergamon by German archeologists and it was taken to Berlin. There they built a museum to house this ancient structure. The Pergamon museum is there today in Berlin. It's an interesting connection there to prophecy that also helps us to understand something about where not only Satan dwelt in ancient times, but about events of the modern time. We'll return to this in just a moment here, but let's go a little bit further into the message that Christ gives to the church here in Pergamon.
The message mentioned someone called “Antipas, my faithful martyr,” we read about. Antipas, for all that we know, was martyred for his faith. In fact, Antipas is the only person in the entire book of Revelation mentioned by name. Some scholars feel that he was likely burned alive by being placed inside of a bronze bull and a fire lit beneath that bull while thousands looked on, watching him roast alive inside this brazen bull, cheering. Antipas was martyred because he would not offer the sacrifice, the expected sacrifice to the emperor cult.
Let's turn back to Revelation and let's notice something else. Christ here also says that He has what He calls a sharp two-edged sword. Now this sword that He's talking about tells us something about Christ's role against that of the emperor. Roman emperors are often pictured with a short sword about 18 inches long, but that's not the sword that Christ has. Christ has a different sword. And the Greek word there describes a longer one, much like this one, with a two-foot long wooden handle and up to a three-foot long, slightly curved blade. It was held by two hands and it could cut an opponent's shield in two. It's a fearsome image that we have here of Christ who's saying that He carries with Him this sword wielding an instrument of judgment against any who engage in false idol worship, and also engaging in sexual immorality. It's the sword that also has a message to the church as much as to any enemy of the church.
Notice as we continue on, reading here in verse 14. He says, "But I have a few things against you. You have there, those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality." It goes on in verse 15 to say, "Thus you also have there those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate." Now here's a reference to the Old Testament story of Balaam, back in the Book of Numbers, a pagan priest at the time of Israel's passage through the kingdom of Balak, who was a king. Balak was concerned with being overwhelmed by the larger Israelite population that was with Moses at that time. Balaam, this pagan priest, shows Balak how to entice the Israelites into worshiping idols and engaging in immoral conduct. It weakens the people, and it brings judgment from God upon those people.
The reference to the Nicolaitans also here in this message should be understood as the same as those who hold this doctrine of Balaam. It's one group, one problem. False brethren, false teachers, encouraging people to compromise with the truth of the scripture and encouraging them in ways to participate in the pagan activity that was so prevalent there in the city of Pergamos and idol worship.
God's lesson, then and now is this: a holy people must live in a holy manner, free of false religion and sexual immorality. These sins afflict God's people throughout the Bible, showing that compromise destroys spiritual character. For a member in Pergamon to attend a banquet in a temple involving a sacrificial meal to an idol was equivalent to worshiping with and worshiping a demon, fellowshipping with a demon or Satan himself. The very thing Christ would not do Himself when He was tempted by Satan.
Now think about this. Our whole Christian world today is doing the same thing with its pagan-derived holidays. Every year beginning in October, we move from Halloween to Christmas to New Year's in a seamless dance with pagan occult worship like that seen in ancient Rome. We do it today in the name of Jesus and people do, but Christ says that He hates it. In fact, He says repent or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth, not a short sword, that long sword that I showed you there, that very powerful, long sword, a powerful sword of judgment. There is no escape. Christ says in verse 17 to the church, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the church. 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."
Many interpretations of this hidden manna and this white stone have been offered through the years by different scholars. The manna obviously refers to the form of bread provided to Israel during their wilderness warnings. A white stone with a new name indicates a permanent transformed relationship with God in all eternity. In the Bible where we see a change of name, it indicates an elevation to a new relationship with God. What God promises here to the church at Pergamos, and to all of His churches, is victory. Victory over this world, victory over sin. But there's one final passage that God's people today must travel through before that time when ultimate victory comes. And there's a lesson from this message to the church at Pergamos, that gives us a clue to see what is coming on the world in our time and into the future.
You see Satan is not finished in his goal to achieve the worship of the world. Will you be one who worships the power that Satan brings forth? A power that brings mankind to its knees and worship, according to what the Bible shows us? How can we understand? How can you understand and know what to expect? It does begin in understanding the answer to the question in our study guide "Is There Really a Devil?" and there is, there is a saying you know, regarding Satan. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. Don't let that be a trick pulled on you. Jesus knew Satan existed.
It's time that you studied this subject from the Bible. This booklet can help you gain that added dimension of understanding about why evil in this world operates as it does. Have you ever wondered about that? What's the source of evil, where does it come from? Well, you can understand what the Bible reveals about evil and its true source. "Is There Really a Devil?" You can get a free copy of this study guide by writing to us or calling the number on your screen. Go to beyondtoday.tv as well to download and begin reading that booklet. There's no cost; it's a free publication. It's going to help you to understand this very important topic.
Now I began this topic here tonight with a story of my father, who's drafted into the army, sent to Europe to fight the Nazi regime of Adolph Hitler. He was caught up in one of history's greatest events. While he came to know the full horror of war, he really never understood the larger spiritual forces which produced that world war. The Bible reveals war as a scourge that destroys lives, wastes resources, and turns history. In the Book of Revelation war is described by the fiery red horse of the first seal that takes peace from the earth. Too often war has been Satan's scourge that seeks to destroy humanity. Satan uses human governments and armies to wage war against the very purpose of God and Satan will mount one final effort through his kingdom to rule mankind with his system of evil. The Bible calls that Babylon. To understand what to look for, let's revisit another part of the story that we began with.
We saw in the city of Pergamos, the majestic temples and the ruins of the altars that used to adorn in the summit of that mountain. All of those temples showed the great power of Greek and Roman government in the ancient world as part of what they were meant to do. Kings and emperors in the ancient world would use architecture to express their power and their dominion. The altar of Zeus is the most striking temple in antiquity for what it depicts. On its side, as I said, was depicted this cosmic battle between the Olympian gods led by Zeus and a race of giants on the earth believed to be descendants of Gaia, the goddess of earth and Uranus, the god of heaven. It's thought that that whole band around that altar was intended to portray the Olympian god's defense of the order of the cosmos against the giants who attempted to transform that order into chaos. But when you put together all the scriptures about Satan's rebellion, it's likely this whole picture that we see on that altar is designed as a deceptive account of Satan's effort to ascend into heaven and exalt his throne above that of God to be, as the scripture says, like the Most High. The altar of Zeus at Pergamos was more than an altar of sacrifice, or a monument to a battle of the past. It was a monument depicting Satan's dominion on earth and the chaos and the futility of all the conflict engendered by this evil prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience. Is this the throne of Satan the devil that sat in Pergamos in the ancient world?
I said earlier this altar was moved to Berlin in the late 1800s. You can see it today in the Pergamon museum there. Interestingly, it became an inspiration for Adolph Hitler as he built his Third Reich Empire in the 1930s. Like the Roman Empire, Hitler used architecture to express the power of his realm and perhaps the most prominent architectural piece was his Nazi party rally grounds in Nuremberg, Germany in Southern Germany. There Hitler erected an edifice modeled directly upon the altar of Zeus from Pergamon. For years, large rallies were staged in front of the stand from which Hitler would deliver fiery speeches meant to encourage his supporters. Here is a tangible expression of Satan's power through a political system. It's a modern imprint of the ancient seat of Satan from Pergamos.
The power behind Hitler was that of Satan. Hitler's regime was a revival of the Roman beast that John records in the Book of Revelation. Pergamon was a regal center of worship for the beast in John's day, and he was giving the church members at Pergamos warning to understand the real power worshiped in that city. And it's a warning for us today. The power still exists waiting to work one more time. Bible prophecy shows a final end of the age revival of this beast power that will arise out of the European Heartland. Its reach will be global. Its power to destroy the bodies and the souls of men will be even worse than that seen during World War II. That's what my father and soldiers like him did not understand, but you can know how this world works. “We wrestle, not against flesh and blood,” Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “we wrestle against spiritual wickedness in high places.” That spiritual wickedness is described in this study guide that we're offering today, "Is There Really a Devil?" A free copy waits for you, call the number on your screen or go to beyondtoday.tv to download it and to begin reading it right away. There's no cost; it's a free publication.
The message to the church in the ancient city of Pergamos gives us warning and understanding of how to watch and to be prepared for what is to come. May he who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the churches.
[Narrator] Please call for the booklet offered on today's program "Is There Really a Devil?" Everything is not as it seems in our world today. We look around and see human beings doing terrible things to each other, often defying all explanation. There is an evil force at work influencing mankind. Order now, call toll free 1-888-886-8632, or write to the address shown on your screen. We are not without a defense against Satan the devil. God's power is greater and you can rely on Him to resist the devil. When you order this free study aid, we'll also send you a couple elementary one-year subscription to Beyond Today Magazine. Beyond Today Magazine brings you understanding of today's world and hope for the future. Six times a year, you'll read about current world events in the light of Bible prophecy and Godly principles to guide you toward a life that leads to peace. Call today to receive your free booklet, "Is There Really a Devil?" and your free one-year subscription to Beyond Today Magazine. 1-888-886-8632 or go online to beyondtoday.tv.