Agonizomai: Rev 2:17 - Pergamum the Morally Compromised Church<br>Rewards for the Overcomers

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rev 2:17 - Pergamum the Morally Compromised Church
Rewards for the Overcomers

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Rev 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

If the church fails to do the job of keeping herself pure through separation, then Christ will do it for her. This can neither be good for us, nor for those false teachers and their adherents whom we tolerate, uncorrected, in our midst. Ecumenism is abhorrent to God as the scriptures delineate both in figure (from the Levitical laws) and directly in numerous places - forbidding the intermixing of that which is holy with that which is unholy.

Wearing garments of mixed cloth, intermarrying with Canaanites and so forth are antitypes of the principle that God is a holy God and that we ourselves must be holy - unalloyed with the world even as we walk in it. The church must be unworldly even as it testifies to the work of Christ. We walk amongst the world without judgment, without prejudice, without favor towards any - and above all without being of the world. We do not walk in the smug and superior thought that we are better than they, yet we strive to be holy and uphold holiness as the unalterable standard of God. A standard not to be arrived at by works, but received through faith and evidenced by works.

So we come to this statement. "Who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Not all can hear. It is, after all, the Holy Spirit speaking. It is the Spirit of Christ - for they are One God, with the Father. Who can hear, but the one whose ears have been opened? Who is it that in acted parables during His ministry actually opened the ears of the deaf and the eyes of the blind? It was Christ. Has anything changed? No! It still takes a gracious act of God for a person’s ears to be opened to the truth and to the leading of the Spirit.

The kingdom among and within is a kingdom of the spirit. It is inhabited only by the spiritually reborn. It exists as a domain in and among the believers even as they walk upon the earth. It is the kingdom of light and life in the midst of a dark and dead world. This is no mystical, secret, inward, higher learning, gnostic sort of thing. It is the life of Christ the King in the believer. Wherever the King is - there is His kingdom seen. He is in and among His children in a special way. No special rites or secret ceremonies or higher knowledge is needed. The knowledge of Christ is enough. He confers citizenship upon the lowliest. From beggars to brain surgeons, all qualify the same way - by grace through faith.

But when we come to the phrase, "To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna etc..." then many will at once collapse into a worldly understanding of the means of continuing in what they originally received as a gift. Though light and knowledge and salvation and understanding and faith and the desire to obey came by grace from God as a gift wrought for them by Christ "while they were yet sinners" many seek to go on from there conquering in their own strength. It is true that the plain language implies that we must now conquer - but by what means is this victory to be arrived at? Why, simply by faith in the finished work of Christ! Faith in the power of God at work in us.

To regard sanctification as "God has done His part by justifying me and now I must do my part by overcoming the world, the flesh and the devil" is so close to true that it hurts. But it is not the whole truth. We can no more "conquer" apart from Christ than we could be born again without Him. We must abide in Him for all things. We must come to Him for the light, the truth, the motivation, the will, the power to do anything in the kingdom whatsoever. If it isn’t wrought in Him it is of no avail to the purpose of conforming us to His image. He will undoubtedly use it for good somewhere, but we shall be left holding an empty bucket.

Does this mean we wait around until we have some supernatural gasoline poured into our motors, or until we see writing in the sky? No! It means that we strive in all things to abide in the realization that we need to be doing His will in His way and in His power. We desire to be walking in the Spirit yet, at the same time, we humbly take the posture that, apart from Him we cannot do it. We ask for help and light and then we proceed according to the best understanding we can muster. We know that we shall fail unless He is in us to do it. Yet we know we must go forth in our weakness, trusting that He will be gracious in us. We understand that in some ways God is the "hard master" of the parable, but we also see that He regards it as more commendable to be willing to be wrong, though sincerely seeking to honour Him, than it is to refuse to budge for fear of making a mistake. The worldly saying "damned if you do and damned if you don’t" has no real application to the true Christian. All things work together for his good - even His failures. And even chastisement for these is itself a sign of God’s love.

The reward of the hidden manna is probably a contrast with the food sacrificed to idols spoken of earlier. Obedience and faithfulness will be rewarded - though the true believer will surely give all the glory to Christ, even for his own obedience and faith. The real bread from heaven is indeed hidden from the world. It is hidden from the disobedient and the faithless. But the children dine at the table of the Master and feast on Christ, the true bread of heaven. To him who has more is given.

And the white stone is symbolic, and probably conformed to an ancient custom of awarding such a thing to a victor. There is a suggestion by some commentators that a diamond is contemplated - similar to one of the stones upon the sacred ephod, which covered the heart of the high priest. The name written on the stone, one hopes, is the Name of Christ. All overcomers are Christ’s, for it is in Him that they overcome.
I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. {Isa 56:5}

The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. {Isa 62:2}


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