Here is an oxymoron to think about: The devil is an unbelievable liar! The devil is so good at lying that many of God�s glorious angels did not detect his deceit nor understand his manipulative schemes. The devil is a genius and among created beings he has no equal in the universe. When people in positions of trust and respect promote his lies as truth, they especially honor Lucifer. Because Satan�s subtle lies gained the stature of truth in some of the seven churches of Revelation, they are the subject for this month�s study.
Lucifer was the first liar and with his lies he deceived one-third of Heaven�s angels. (Revelation 12:4) This was an incredible accomplishment! The dullest angel is brighter than the smartest human being and yet, Lucifer was able to deceive a minimum of 200 million angels* while living in God�s house! The Bible also says that Lucifer convinced angels to wage war against Almighty God! (Revelation 12:7-9) It would take a very convincing liar to persuade intelligent angels to rebel against Almighty God! If you think this was an amazing accomplishment, the Bible indicates the devil will again convince created beings � mere mortals this time � to wage war against Jesus at the Second Coming. (Revelation 17:14) So, do not be fooled. The devil�s lies can be so subtle that they are almost impossible to detect.
(* I conclude the devil deceived"a minimum of 200 hundred million angels" because the Bible indicates his demons number 200 million. See Revelation 9:16.)
The Knowledge of Good and Evil
We can be sure that God�s heart was very sad the day He forced His angelic children out of His house. God cast Lucifer and his followers from Heaven because the King of the universe does not tolerate liars or defiance. Surprisingly, God did not destroy Lucifer and his followers when they sinned. Instead, God allowed them to live even though He foreknew Lucifer would ultimately ruin Earth with sin. Because God allowed the devil and his angels to live, the universe has knowledge that only God previously knew. This knowledge is the knowledge of good and evil . (Genesis 2:9; 3:5) The price of this knowledge has been very costly to God and to man, but God allowed Lucifer and his angels to live so that evil might completely mature. God took advantage of sin�s presence to show the entire universe what sin was all about. Evil can masquerade as "truth" or something "good and exciting" for a while, but over time, sin�s ugly facts and horrible consequences will appear. It just takes time. Because God did not destroy the devil and his angels, the knowledge of good and evil will prevent the rise of sin from rising a second time.
Of course, "D-Day" is coming. (Destruction Day) God will annihilate the devil and his angelic followers (now called demons) at the end of the millennium with fire and brimstone from heaven. (Revelation 20:9-10) This coming event will make God very sad, for He loved Lucifer and all the angels that followed him from the beginning. The devil deceived Eve with a lie (Genesis 3:4) and through Eve, Adam and Eve lost their beautiful home in the Garden of Eden. No wonder Jesus called the devil the "father of lies." (John 8:44) Because of sin, God will annihilate billions of defiant people in the fire and brimstone that falls at the end of the 1,000 years. (Revelation 20:9,14,15) Wow! What a profound outcome and it all began with a single lie. When we survey the history of sin and the annihilation of angels and human beings at the end of the age, the question that haunts many people is this, "Is it fair for God to destroy people who sincerely believed the devil�s lies?"
This question demands a profound response: God will not annihilate anyone for sincerely believing a lie; however, God will annihilate everyone who defiantly refuses to accept the truth. God determines our love for Him by observing our response to truth. (1 John 5:3) When Lucifer first began to stray away from the law of love, we can be sure that Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father tenderly confronted Lucifer about his wayward actions. Ultimately, the Father plainly told Lucifer that he was in error. The Holy Spirit did everything short of violating Lucifer�s will in an effort to overcome Lucifer�s stubbornness. Jesus did everything He could to renew Lucifer�s affection, but Lucifer refused to submit to the plainest statements of the Father because the truth exposed his selfish ambition to usurp Christ�s authority. (Isaiah 14:13) This is how Lucifer became God�s adversary. (The Greek word for devil is diabolos which means accuser or adversary.) Lucifer, the highest of created beings, that glorious covering cherub who stood next to God�s throne, committed the unpardonable sin by rejecting the Holy Spirit. So Lucifer became Christ�s adversary � the first anti-Christ. Everyone who defies the Holy Spirit and the Word of God eventually becomes a devil ( diabolos ).
God does not condemn any person for sincerely believing a lie because God knows that our knowledge is limited to our education and experience. God winks at our ignorance. (Acts 17:30) Notice what Paul wrote about his own ignorance: "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." 1 Timothy 1:13,14; italics mine) Every person on Earth is either deceived or ignorant in one way or another because no person knows the whole truth about everything! God knows the opportunities we have had to hear His truth and He judges us on the basis of what we know or could have known. (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Romans 2:14-16; James 4:17) Occasionally, God puts a testing truth in our path to see if we really love Him. (Exodus 16:4; Romans 16:25-27; 2 Corinthians 2:9; 1 Timo-thy 2:4; Revelation 2:10; 3:10) The results of the test reveal to God and a watching universe how much we love Him.
Consider how testing truths will be used to judge the living. During the Great Tribulation, Jesus will present four great truths to the world�s inhabitants. (Revelation 14:6-12; 18:1-5) The 144,000 will powerfully proclaim these four truths through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Revelation 11:6) Signs and wonders will confirm the veracity of these four truths just as the gospel of Jesus was confirmed with signs and wonders during the days of the apostles. (Acts 2:43; 6:8; 14:3) This coming presentation of truth will separate the sheep from the goats. Those who love God will accept His four truths at the peril of their lives and be sealed like the 144,000. (Revelation 7:1-4) Others who do not love God and His truth will reject the truth and, like Lucifer and his angels, commit the unpardonable sin. Ultimately, the wicked will accept the mark of the beast because human means of survival will be impossible without possessing the mark. The people who are alive during the Great Tribulation will determine their own eternal destiny. God does not have to pass judgment on them. Their response to His four truths during the Great Tribulation will reveal their love or hatred for truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)
Lies Replace First Love
Some so-called "teachings of Jesus" that we hear today are the lies of Satan. To make matters worse, these lies are promoted by highly respected people. If you think my statement is an exaggeration, consider the seven messages Jesus sent to the seven churches just 65 years after He ascended to Heaven. The churches of Asia Minor were teaching and accepting doctrines that were plainly contrary to His teaching. Even though the church at Ephesus had detected and rejected the infiltration of Gnosticism, Ephesus had lost its first love. Jesus knew it was only a matter of time until that church would fall away from truth (become corrupt) because the affections of the heart are constantly changing. We are either loving God more each day or loving God less. God has two everlasting commandments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. �This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: �Love your neighbor as yourself.�" (Matthew 22:37-39) Any doctrine that alters this covenant or lessens its claim is a lie!
Jesus, Is That Really You?
When I study the messages sent to the seven churches, Jesus seems more like the God of the Old Testament than the Jesus we hear about today. There is a good reason for this. Jesus is the God of the Old Testament! I find that 90% of the references about God in the Old Testament actually refer to Jesus and the remaining 10% refer to the Holy Spirit and the Father. In other words, Jesus created Adam and Eve and He evicted them from the Garden of Eden after they sinned. Jesus sent the flood in Noah�s day and He destroyed the antediluvians. Jesus talked with Abraham and He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire. Jesus passed over Egypt and He killed the first born � both men and beasts. Jesus spoke to Moses at the burning bush and He descended on Mount Sinai in a powerful display of glory when He spoke the Ten Commandments. Jesus spoke to the prophets of old and He came to Earth to demonstrate the eternal principle of love.
Heaven�s highest law is the law of love. Because God exalts the principle of love above every principle, the Bible declares that God is love. God�s love is pure. Everything He does is for the benefit of His creation. There is no self-serving in God�s heart of love. Calvary proves that the Father would not violate the law of love. Man�s redemption required the death of a perfect substitute, so the Father gave up Jesus because He loved us. (John 3:16) Calvary proves that Jesus loved man more than He loved His own life. (John 15:13) What marvelous love! Now that we have reviewed God�s love and Satan�s lies, consider the message Jesus sent to the church at Pergamum. I have inserted some words into the text [marked by brackets] to expand certain statements that Jesus gave:
"To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the [deadly] sharp, double-edged sword [that comes from His mouth] . 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, 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: You have people there who hold to the [lies] teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the [lies] teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them [the clergy] with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." (Revelation 2:12-17)
When Jesus spoke these words, Pergamum was the cultural and religious center of Asia. Pergamum was an old, highly respected city. At one time, Pergamum had been the Roman capital of Asia. Worship of the Roman emperors began at Pergamum. The city had many pagan temples and Eastern Mysticism was very popular in Pergamum. Pergamum was a big city and had a large class of educated and wealthy people. In His message to the church at Pergamum, Jesus twice said that Satan had his throne in Pergamum because as a city, Pergamum was the undisputed queen of false religion. Pergamum was the ivory tower of false religion for Asia and it hated the true followers of Jesus. Jesus observed this hatred when He mentioned the death of faithful Antipas. The hatred of Christians explains in part, why some Christians in Pergamum were willing to make so many compromises with the devil.
The Christian church at Pergamum had members who saw nothing wrong with sexual immorality or eating food sacrificed to idols. These members were Gentile converts who brought their pagan ways into Christianity. Jesus referred to Balaam in His message to Pergamum because Balaam was an Old Testament prophet who agreed to put a curse on Israel for a sum of money. However, when Balaam spoke curses, Jesus put blessings in his mouth instead. Finally, the distraught prophet revealed to King Balak (the enemy who hired Balaam) that Israel could be defeated if enticed into sexual immorality. After learning this, King Balak gathered up several "truck-loads" of prostitutes and sent them into Israel. The Israelites fell into temptation. As a result, God became furious with His people and withdrew His protection. (See Numbers 22-25) The point is that the devil again brought "a truck-load of sexually immoral" people into the church at Pergamum to rob the church of its connec tion with Christ. The devil knows that once the connection is broken, the church will have no power. (1 Corinthians 5:11)
You may recall how the apostles had imposed four specific rules upon Gentile converts at the first general conference of the Christian Church in A.D. 49. At that meeting the apostle James said, "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood." (Acts 15:19,20) When Jesus spoke to the church at Pergamum, He affirmed this Spirit-led decision by threatening to destroy the sexually immoral unless they repented. The words of Jesus leave no wiggle room. Jesus forbade sexual immorality and eating food offered to idols. Eating food polluted by idols was a superstitious ritual which was supposed to give the consumer the powers of the god to whom the food was first offered. The devil merged this pagan practice with the words of Jesus to create a distortion of His words. When Jesus was on Earth He said, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." (John 6:54-58) Jesus made these remarks within the context of eating the Passover feast. The lamb (the flesh) eaten at the feast represented Jesus, the wine represented His blood, and the bread represented His broken body. (Luke 22:19) Some members of the Pergamum church, who had pagan backgrounds, ate food offered to idols. The devil used these people and their pagan background, distorting the words of Jesus to justify eating food offered to idols. Very clever.
Jesus also mentioned that some Christians in Pergamum had accepted the teachings of Nicholas. This should not come as a surprise because Pergamum was a center for Gnostic training. The gnostics treated Scripture as though it were "spiritual" or allegorical. In other words, the gnostics put a layer of fuzz between the Word of God and its obvious meaning so that ordinary people could not be confident about the meaning of God�s Word (that is, what is right and what is wrong). This has been (and continues to be) one of the devil�s best tools for leading Christians astray. How many times have you heard it said, "The Bible does not mean what it says?" Or even worse, how many times have your heard a Bible passage quoted out of context? When lay people begin to believe the lie that "ordinary people cannot understand God�s Word," the devil has gained control of the church. There is no substitute for "a plain thus saith the Lord." Jesus was furious with the clergy in Pergamum because they had accepted the lies of Nicholas. Leaders who had the respect and trust of the laymen were leading them astray. Jesus said, "Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them [the clergy] with the sword of my mouth."
In His closing remarks, Jesus offered a special reward to those who would overcome the devil�s deceptions. Jesus said, "To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." The hidden message for those who have ears to hear is that Jesus will give overcomers Heaven�s manna to eat. Currently, the food of angels is not available to us (hidden). Unlike ordinary food offered to meaningless idols, this manna will give God�s children all of the vitality that He wants them to have. The white stone Jesus promises will be a precious stone that will have the inscription of a secret God-given name on it. This secret name will serve as a password enabling the overcomer to enter into God�s throne room. Think about it. Every overcomer can enter into God�s presence to hear truth-full answers to his questions . Contrast this privilege with the gnostic�s pursuit of knowledge that leads to darkness and separation from God. The secret password will open doors of light and truth. I cannot think of anything better than having the privilege going before the Father to ask Him a few questions. Can you?
1. Why did Lucifer deceive one-third of the angels in Heaven?
2. What was Lucifer�s best tool for leading angels into rebellion against God?
3. Does God condemn a person for believing a lie?
4. What does our response to truth tell God?
5. What sins made Jesus angry at the church a Pergamum?
6. How does the hidden manna compare to food offered to idols?
7. How does the secret name written on a white stone compare to the secrets of the Gnostics?
8. What did Jesus mean in this verse: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life."
9. Why did Jesus say the devil had his throne in Peragmum?
10. Can you see through some of the devil�s lies that are widely accepted today?