Sermon preached on July 24, 2011 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.
Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
In the early 90's we visited our friends in Northern Ireland. We stayed with them about a week and then we went off on our own for a few days—we were going to just explore the countryside and see some sights. It's extremely beautiful over there—so lush and green, with narrow country roads and rolling hills, stone fences, beautiful farms—we were really enjoying ourselves. But all that changed when we came around a corner and we were stopped suddenly by an army roadblock. There several soldiers with a couple of vehicles and two or three of them were on the road. What was unnerving about the soldiers was that they were waving very seriously and they had machine guns at the ready. They were motioning for us to stop. I'm not sure what would have happened if we didn't stop. I didn't even think about not stopping. When there are a bunch of soldiers in front of you on the road and they all have machine guns and they're telling you to do something—you should pay attention. They were not friendly at all. They were looking for bad guys and until they determined that we were not bad guys they were going to look at us in an threatening way.
I became very alert almost instantly. I knew it was a very serious situation and I wanted to make sure that I didn't do anything suspicious. Deadly force, ready to be used, should get your attention.
We have a picture in our text like that. Jesus has a message to the church in Pergamum. We read,
"To the angel of the church
in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him
who has the sharp,
In verse 16 Jesus said,
Otherwise, I will soon come to you
and will fight against them
with the sword of my mouth."
This should command our attention. Jesus, our Lord, shows Himself as Warrior holding a weapon. These verses call to mind the vision of Jesus that John had in chapter 1:15-16. It described Jesus this way,
"His feet were like
bronze glowing in a furnace,
and his voice was like
the sound of rushing waters.
In his right hand he held seven stars,
and out of his mouth
came a sharp double-edged sword.
His face was like the sun
shining in all its brilliance."
John responded to the vision in chapter 1 by falling at Jesus' feet as dead. Jesus' words to Pergamum were to have the effect of getting them to repent. If you see someone with a sword drawn in front of you, threatening you and urging you to do what is right—you had better do it.
The double-edged sword shows that Jesus is the Great Warrior Judge who will come against anyone who opposes His Word—both friend and foe. The church at Pergamum received a message from Jesus and in that message Jesus pictured Himself and an frightening figure. He described Himself as One who holds 'a double-edged sword'. He tells the Christians at Pergamum that He has some things against them. He tells them that they need to repent. They were tolerating sinful practices and Jesus told them that they needed to repent of that and that if they did not, He would come and fight against 'them' —the false teachers in the church, those who held to the practices of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. But it is also implied that Jesus will come against those who tolerated those false teachers and their practices. The church at Pergamum should have exercised church disciple and because they didn't—Jesus stood before them with a sword. G. K. Beale writes, (Revelation: p. 245-246)
"Christ standing over the church as a threatening judge because of the church's sin is the thought pervading the entire epistle to Pergamum…"
There are many lessons for us here.
you should always keep in mind that Jesus is our awesome Lord and that He is a great Warrior who comes in judgment to accomplish His purposes—so you'd better listen to what He says.
Many places in Revelation picture Jesus as an awesome Judge.
We have a similar picture in Revelation 19. It doesn't mention a double-edged sword, (perhaps because there He's coming in judgment against His enemies) but it does mention a sword that comes out of Jesus' mouth. We read, (verses 11–21)
"I saw heaven standing open
and there before me was a white horse,
whose rider is called Faithful and True.
With justice he judges and makes war.
His eyes are like blazing fire,
and on his head are many crowns.
He has a name written on him
that no one knows but he himself.
He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood,
and his name is the Word of God.
The armies of heaven were following him,
riding on white horses and dressed
in fine linen, white and clean.
Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword
with which to strike down the nations.
'He will rule them with an iron scepter.'
He treads the winepress of the fury
of the wrath of God Almighty.
On his robe and on his thigh
he has this name written:
king of kings and lord of lords.
And I saw an angel standing in the sun,
who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair,
'Come, gather together for the great supper of God,
so that you may eat the flesh of kings,
generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders,
and the flesh of all people,
free and slave, small and great.'
Then I saw the beast and the kings
of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war
against the rider on the horse and his army.
But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet
who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf.
With these signs he had deluded
those who had received the mark
of the beast and worshiped his image.
The two of them were thrown alive
into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
The rest of them were killed
with the sword that came out
of the mouth of the rider on the horse,
and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh."
You'll also remember that in Revelation 5ff it is Jesus who opens the scroll that is sealed with seven seals. Most of the seven seals relate to horrible judgments that are inflicted upon unrepentant sinners. The first seal reveals a rider on a white horse and the rider was bent on conquest. When Jesus opened the second seal, John saw a fiery red horse, and its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay one another. He was given a large sword. The third seal revealed a black horse and revealed economic distress on the earth—famine and hunger. The fourth horse was a pale horse and its rider was named Death, and Hades followed closely behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth—to kill by sword, famine and plague and by the wild beasts of the earth. The fifth seal reveals the cry of the martyrs and shows that many Christians have died because of their faithfulness to Jesus. The sixth seal shows that all people on earth and the whole cosmos experience God's judgment. Revelation 6:15ff describes seven groups of people, depicting complete judgment. It describes the ungodly and how they,
"called to the mountains and the rocks,
'Fall on us and hide us
from the face of him who sits on the throne
and from the wrath of the Lamb!
For the great day of their wrath has come,
and who can stand?'"
The opening of the seventh seal is surprising. When it happens we read simply, (Revelation 8:1)
"When he opened the seventh seal,
there was silence in heaven
for about half an hour."
Silence? Is this anti-climatic? No. Poythress, p. 120,
"Within a framework of biblical symbolism, the silence most naturally indicates the heaven stands in awe at the presence of God."
So should we. Our God is an awesome God. Hebrews 12:28-29 says,
"Therefore, since we are receiving
a kingdom that cannot be shaken,
let us be thankful,
and so worship God acceptably
with reverence and awe,
for our 'God is a consuming fire.'"
Christians, Jesus is our friend. There is no doubt about that. He loves us and is totally committed to us. We are told quite emphatically in 1 John 4:16,
"God is love."
But we must never forget that God has a purpose for us and for His church. He wants us and His church to be holy. If we or the church goes astray—Jesus, being the Good Shepherd, Jesus, being like a father to us—disciplines us. As Hebrews 12:6 says,
"because the Lord disciplines
those he loves, and he punishes
everyone he accepts as a son."
(The word that is translated 'punishes' there literally means 'to beat with a whip'.)
Christians, stand in awe of your Lord. Be diligent to obey His Word. It's worthy of note that the double-edged sword comes out of Jesus' mouth.
This shows us that there is a relationship between Jesus' Word and His judgments.
People are judged on their obedience to God's Word. This means that we need to be very careful that we live according to Christ's Word. You who not Christians need to repent and turn to Jesus. You need to obey the Word. Those of you who are Christians need to take it very seriously as well. Jesus commands you to be a light to the world. Jesus is deadly serious about this. You'll remember from the book of Acts that when the Word of God first began to spread, Ananias and Sapphira lacked a respect for God's Word. They lied to the church and to the Holy Spirit. God struck them dead. When that happened, (Acts 5:11)
"Great fear seized the whole church
and all who heard about these events."
We dare not take God's Word, His commandments, His desire for His people to be holy—we dare not take these commands lightly.
The other thing we should note from our passage is that
God's judgments do not all wait for the end of time. Some of them come here and now.
We sometimes fall into the habit of thinking that God is not going to judge us until the Day of Judgment. Of course we are going to be judged then. Then we will have to answer for everything that we have done.
But what we must never forget is that God watches us daily and some of His judgments come to us here and now. In verse 16 Jesus said to the church at Pergamum.
Otherwise, I will soon come to you
and will fight against them
with the sword of my mouth."
He was not going to wait until His second coming to judge the Nicolaitans. If they didn't repent, He was going to come against them, 'soon'. He was also going to come against those Christians who tolerated the Nicolaitans.
We see the same thing in 1 Corinthians 11:27–31. Some of the Christians at Corinth were abusing the Lord's Supper—God afflicted some of them with sickness, some with death.
"Therefore, whoever eats the bread
or drinks the cup of the Lord
in an unworthy manner will be guilty
of sinning against the body
and blood of the Lord.
A man ought to examine himself
before he eats of the bread
and drinks of the cup.
For anyone who eats and drinks
without recognizing the body of the Lord
eats and drinks judgment on himself.
That is why many among you
are weak and sick,
and a number of you have fallen asleep.
But if we judged ourselves,
we would not come under judgment."
God watches you. Proverbs 5:21
"For a man's ways
are in full view of the LORD,
and he examines all his paths."
Proverbs 15:3 says,
"The eyes of the LORD are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good."
He watches and He often judges and brings judgments your way.
For those of you who are not Christians this means that
you need to accept Jesus before it's too late.
It's noteworthy here that the words of Jesus to Pergamum are a warning. He is giving them time to repent. But the implication here is that He will not wait long.
You who are not Christians should realize that God is watching you. He is evaluating how you're living. Remember King Herod and how he died? In Acts 12:21–23 we read,
"On the appointed day Herod,
wearing his royal robes,
sat on his throne and delivered
a public address to the people.
'This is the voice of a god,
not of a man.'
Immediately, because Herod
did not give praise to God,
an angel of the Lord struck him down,
and he was eaten by worms and died."
You need to get your life in order right now. You need to repent and believe in Jesus. Tomorrow could be too late. In Luke 13:6–9 we read about Jesus.
"Then he told this parable:
'A man had a fig tree,
planted in his vineyard,
and he went to look for fruit on it,
but did not find any.
So he said to the man
who took care of the vineyard,
'For three years now I've been
coming to look for fruit on this fig tree
and haven't found any.
Cut it down!
Why should it use up the soil?'
'Sir,' the man replied,
'leave it alone for one more year,
and I'll dig around it and fertilize it.
If it bears fruit next year, fine!
If not, then cut it down.'"
Right now Jesus is offering you salvation. Now is the day of salvation. Tomorrow may be too late. It may be the day when God decides to cut you down. You don't know when that day will come, but if you do not repent it will surely come. The only way to be safe is to trust in Jesus now. May God give you grace to do so.