Enemy Lands

Revelation 2:13 I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.”

In a heightened political environment many people think they are going to turn our world into a good place if they can only elect the right leader. Some place their trust in a local hero, or some other person who promises change. The reality of it all is this world is not our home—-we live in enemy territory!

If we think a leader is going to bring us back to the days of old and then they cant, we become frustrated and angry with all the unrealized hope. I’m not saying we don’t push for godly leadership, I’m saying we can’t make that our end. Our ultimate call is to bring the light of Christ to a dying and hopeless generation…..our generation. If our singular focus is politics, we drive opposing parties away from us and lose the ultimate purpose of the church–evangelism.

2 Timothy 4:2 “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

Currently it feels like America has the next Ahab and Jezebel in office. Known as two of the most wicked and destitute people to hold office in Israeli history, the spirit of these idolaters lives today.

This world continues to grow darker and darker by the day. There are now over 73 million abortions performed worldwide. False religion is spreading at an alarming rate, with greater perversions of the christian faith as sinister as ever. There are trends of a growing atheistic culture, the proponents of relativism are inundating our students in public universities, the explosion of homosexuality and transgenderism is reaching mainstream, and people are becoming more focused on entertainment while touting apathy towards anything that resembles Truth.

We have seen the corruption of Hollywood expand across the globe, Hindu practices seep into the church through Yoga and beliefs in Karma, loss of our kids to a culture where promiscuity is considered normalcy before marriage, and pandemics make it harder to share the gospel with people too afraid to get near a stranger.

Hebrews 13:12-14 “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.”

The Faithful Martyr

This world offers nothing of redeeming value. In the days of Antipas, the seat of authority was Pergamum. Pergamum had a unique status that was different than any other city since it was the political center, says Rick Renner, the author of A Light in the Darkness, a study of the seven churches of Asia Minor. “It was from there that all the rulings were made that affected the whole of Asia Minor.”

The people of Pergamum were known as the “Temple-keepers of Asia.” The city had three temples dedicated to the worship of the Roman emperor, another for the goddess Athena, and the Great Altar of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods. Many scholars believe this altar is the “Throne of Satan” mentioned in the book of Revelation.

The people of Pergamum worshipped a myriad of Greek and Roman gods, but when Christianity arrived with the belief in just one God, the city’s pagan priests went on the attack and their most famous victim was a man named Antipas.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus called Antipas “my faithful martyr.” (Rev. 2:13) He was the bishop of Pergamum, ordained by the Apostle John, and his faith got the attention of the priests of Asklepios.

“He had cast out so many devils that the demons had been complaining to the pagan priests saying, ‘You’ve got to do something about this Antipas’,”

The pagan priests went to the Roman governor and complained that the prayers of Antipas were driving their spirits out of the city and hindering the worship of their gods.  As punishment, the governor ordered Antipas to offer a sacrifice of wine and incense to a statue of the Roman emperor and declare that the emperor was “lord and god.”

–Antipas refused.

“If you reject the divinity of the emperor, then it is the equivalent of rejecting the city of Rome,” was the common saying “and believers were killed for this.”

Antipas was sentenced to death on the Altar of Zeus. Most of that altar still survives today, and surrounding it are some of the world’s most famous marble friezes. They depict the Gigantomachy, or the battle between the Greek gods and the giants. At the top of the altar was a hollow bronze bull, designed for human sacrifice.

Renner describes the method of execution suffered by Antipas.          

“They would take the victim, place him inside the bull, and they would tie him in such a way that his head would go into the head of the bull. Then they would light a huge fire under the bull, and as the fire heated the bronze, the person inside of the bull would slowly begin to roast to death. As the victim would begin to moan and to cry out in pain, his cries would echo through the pipes in the head of the bull so it seemed to make the bull come alive.”

Even in the midst of the flames, the elderly bishop Antipas died praying for his church. The year was AD 92.

*What can we glean from the warnings of God in Revelations in respect to Pergamum?

The seat of Satan is represented by polytheism, false teaching, and blatant idolatry. You can bet that if a group of people exalt a false god into a position of prominence, Satan will be sitting there, taking in the glory of his deception.

Evil rulers will back up evil intentions. The Roman rulers in the days of Antipas were susceptible to coercion, because of their pagan worship of the emperor, they were manipulated in the same way we see corrupt rulers today with similar practices.

Christianity is considered a threat. In nearly every region controlled by darkness, christianity is singled out as divisive and considered a threat. The straight and narrow path that Jesus described as exclusive to truth is offensive to those who want their own path to follow.

Where do we see such elevation of deception?

Everywhere! Whether the drive towards controlling a people is accomplished through communism, Sharia law, or in western cultures, proclaiming any action as sin is considered a hate crime. Cultures across the world are becoming aggressively more hostile toward Bible believing christians.

*What can we glean from Antipas?

Prayer is effective!

James 5:13 “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”

When the people of God pray, the Lord hears those prayers. The same power Antipas had to overthrow the dark forces of his land is the same power we are given today as believers.

What can we expect when we pray?

The enemy must flee before the servants of the Lord. Our once hidden enemy has made himself manifest in increasing measure. We as servants of the King have authority over satanic dominion.

We can expect persecution for our faith. The more galvanized society becomes against christianity, the more we can expect laws being implemented that will restrict our ability to evangelize. We see this already happening in Asia, the Middle East, and parts of the Western culture.

True love for God is expressed until death. If we are living in the Spirit, we will love like Christ loved. The Lord promises to never leave us or forsake us so as people in God’s Kingdom we must not have anything to do with Satan’s kingdom, but we must be separate from the world.

John 17:11 “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.”

While we dwell in this land, we can still keep the tide of evil from progressing quickly but it will still grow darker. We can’t let our hope rest in our nations but in the Kingdom by which we’ve been called.

Jesus’ prayer for His people showed His concern for how they would dwell in a world of darkness. Knowledge of our strength in Christ is realized when we stay united in one faith and hope.

The world may oppose us every step of the way, but we have an advocate with the Father and it His Spirit that gives us power in a way that even the gates of Hell cannot endure.

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