“Antipas … who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth” (Rev. 2:13).
Who could have predicted on January 1, 2020, that a tiny virus invisible to the human eye would change life for nearly every human on planet Earth and kill more than a million people? The virus was hard to contain and created confusion for epidemiologists from its uncanny persistence and mobility.
The political and economic debates over mandated masks, lockdowns, church closures and fines for churches that would not comply, raised the eyebrows of evangelicals, Catholics, Jews, and American patriots. It looked like the progressive Left had found an ally—a virus. Churches were forced to close down because they were “unessential,” while protests, riots and anti-Trump rallies were considered “constitutional.”
The spring of 2020 still had its blossoms, but no one was smelling the roses. Some were angry, some were depressed. If America thought things couldn’t get any worse, however, May 25 saw another conflagration begin when 46-year-old George Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer pinned the African-American to the ground during an arrest. Derek Chauvin’s knee stayed on the neck of a handcuffed Floyd for almost nine minutes, as onlookers and other officers milled around. Floyd was having trouble breathing and soon expired. Neighborhoods burned as Americans again shouted at one another over matters of racial injustice. Despite the growing violence there were those who wanted to defund the police. Patrol cars were torched and protesters carried signs stating “Good Cops Are Dead Cops.”
While the “progressive” Left grew in number, so did those who supported President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign. Trump’s plain-speaking was lauded as creating a tone of moral clarity for conservatives who were scandalized by America’s sharp turn to the Left and the growing support for “transgender rights” and the LGBTQ+ movement. America was more clearly polarized as President Trump’s strongly pro-life position and support for the Jewish State collided with the views of those who see abortion as “essential health care” and Israel as the oppressor of the Palestinian people. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California publicly tore up a copy of Trump’s State of the Union Address after he delivered it to a joint session of Congress, making Pelosi a goddess of virtue to some, and a foul spirit to others.
More Than What Meets the Eye
I cannot escape the fact that there is a manifestly spiritual dimension to the afflictions that have fallen upon our country. The madness is inexplicable unless we realize that malevolent spirits are piloting our nation into stormy waters.
How about the new politically correct prayer offered by Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO) who offered the opening prayer for the 117th Congress. The prayer was offered in “the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma and ‘god’ known by many names by many different faiths.” And it concluded with “Amen and A-woman.”
House Democrats were even more PC and framed a rule that gendered terms, such as “father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law … will be removed.”
Many evangelicals have been caught up in the madness. Consider how they have changed the meaning of “justice.” The Bible supports “justice,” but not “social justice,” which involves “deconstructing traditional systems and structures deemed to be oppressive, and redistributing power and resources from oppressors to their victims in the pursuit of equality of outcome” (Why Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice, Scott D. Allen).
However, the purpose of this essay is not to catalog the current insanity, but rather to draw the readers’ attention to a scripture that, I believe, offers us some guidance in dealing biblically with the contemporary scene. After all, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps. 11:3).
From the Lord’s words to the church at Pergamos (Rev. 2:12–17) we can see that the church there was in a hostile neighborhood. Jesus said, “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is” (vs. 13). The ancient city of Pergamos hosted Satan’s “throne,” the seat of his rule. The word “throne” was also used for a seat in a private residence where the owner of the house sat, and was comfortable in the company of his family and friends. Satan was obviously comfortable, and at home, in Pergamos.
Satan and his workers are territorial, hence the reference to Pergamos. Daniel 10:13 speaks of “the prince of the kingdom of Persia.” Verse 20 speaks of “the prince of Grecia.” In Mark 5:10, we read of the Gadarene demoniac. “And he [Legion] besought him [Jesus] much that he would not send them away out of the country.” When Satan and his cohorts find that conditions are favorable to their acceptance and activity, they move in and stay. It is in this way that they become territorial.
This leads me to ask a few questions. Is Satan at home in your city or town? Does he feel comfortable in your own home? Are conditions ripe in your sphere of authority where he finds his work easy because conditions are favorable for him to peddle his lies? Are you responsible for his success?
We Are Responsible For What We Tolerate
In verse 14 we see that the Lord Jesus Christ has a complaint against the church because of what they were tolerating. “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam.” Jesus’ complaint is that they have been tolerating a false teacher. The “doctrine of Balaam” is a reference to Balaam’s advice to King Balak of the Moabites (Num. 22–25). For King Balak, the Hebrews seemed invincible. God was on their side. No one could conquer them. Balak believed that waging war against the Israelites was futile. But Balaam suggested that the Hebrews could be beaten if they sinned and angered their God. So Balaam suggested that Balak tempt the Hebrew men with beautiful Moabite woman. Balaam taught Balak “to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication” (Rev. 2:14). The lesson is clear, and especially relevant in this time of encroaching evil and intense spiritual warfare: We must keep God on our side. He holds us responsible for what we tolerate.
During the Christmas holidays, I was driving and listening to Christian radio. A ministry was airing Christmas speeches by some of America’s presidents—Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, and Trump, and also the Apollo 8 transmission from space that gave a reading of Genesis 1. Each president gave a clear presentation of the Gospel. Truman called communism “godless.” Reagan spoke about how Christianity has brought peace and respect wherever it has been accepted. I realized that in just a few years our country has been hijacked by God-haters and historical revisionists. How could that happen? Because of what we have tolerated. We have tolerated socialist teachers in public schools. We have ignored the warnings that globalists are seeking to capture the hearts of our kids by turning them against America. I have been at Southwest Radio Church for 22 years. Even before that, on WHCB radio in the Tri-Cities of Tennessee I had sounded the warning repeatedly. And many other pastors and radio hosts had faithfully done the same thing. Now we are facing the downfall of the America we have always known. The lesson is shouting at us: “Be careful what you tolerate.” One Chinese asylum-seeker told me recently, “We thought China would become like America, but America is becoming like China!”
A Faithful Remnant In Pergamos
However, there were some in Pergamos who continued to be faithful despite the circumstances. “I know thy works … and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr” (vs. 13).
Jesus doesn’t say, “Antipas was a faithful martyr,” but rather “Antipas was my faithful martyr.” Biblical Christianity drives all potential followers away except those who are ready to face death for the cause. Are we those who have been driven away by fear? Have we lost our courage? Are even those supposedly fundamental pastors who rail at the evils of modern America nothing more than gutless entertainers whose convictions are not really convictions at all? Are these pastors infatuated by post-modernity where comfort and ease are worshipped? Being ready to take up our cross is not just a suggestion or just a possible lifestyle choice for “super-Christians,” but the command and call of our Lord (Matt. 16:24–26).
There are many stories about Antipas from antiquity. Though they are not in canonic Scripture, they are ancient. One of the stories says Antipas was martyred because he was casting out so many demons the pagans were in a rage. At any rate, his name Antipas literally means “against all.” He took an uncompromising stand for truth in a time of compromise. May we follow his example.
The controversy over the November 3 presidential election will continue. One side or the other is going to feel disenfranchised. If your candidate ultimately comes out on top, there will be protests, violence, and riots.
There are some things, however, that will not change whoever is president. The intensity of spiritual warfare will not change, nor will the urgency of preaching the Gospel change. Day by day, we will get closer to the heralded time when the trumpet will sound. Obedient, Spirit-filled living is always in order. “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21).