The Apocalypse is important and vivid book, but we must remember that we cannot give exhaustive answers to the questions that spiritual life poses to us only on its basis. The evidence of the Apocalypse is not the only one, and it is necessary to understand the Revelation of John the Theologian in the context of the entire Christian teaching. This determines the importance of the presented module, especially since this book is the most difficult to understand of the entire corpus of the New Testament.
Just as the epistles of the apostle Paul, although addressed to specific churches, in fact, are intended to the entire Church, so these seven epistles are relevant today in similar situations. Indeed, there were many other churches at that time – larger than those mentioned in Revelation, for example, the church in Colosse, but the Lord did not turn to them through John. Upon careful examination of the content of these Epistles, we see that, firstly, they really were intended for specific churches of that time. However, secondly, even today they sound like an appeal to churches in similar conditions. Thirdly, all these appeals and admonitions, being addressed to individuals or groups of that time, leave no doubt that they were originally addressed to modern people (and groups) as well – in an individual, so to speak, order.
The Organization in which the developed module will be implemented is Manifestation Church (www.seeitmanifest.org). It is a church located in Cedar Hill, TX. The church has six core values which are Personal relationship with God, Family, Finances, Health, Intellect and Emotional Well Being. Members and Guests of the Church represent the audience for training.
Curriculum, Learning Environment, Instructional Materials, and Learning Strategies
The congregants need the training being provided because we all are challenged in areas of our lives to compromise. It can be seen and affected in the areas of our core values. The book of Revelation shows that the compromise with worldly ideas about morality and with pagan teaching increasingly determined the face of the Pergamon church, and this happened as Christianity spread. We see this unfortunate phenomenon of the spread of hypocrisy and a culture of compromise among Christians today. On the one hand, the transfer of corporate management practices (servant leadership) to church management practices has significantly increased the efficiency of management and organization in the church. Moreover, it contributed to raise in the the interest and participation of parishioners in the life of the church community, flexibility, and adaptability. On the other hand, the philosophy of Agile has led to the ingraining of a secular “corporate” philosophy of utilitarianism, far from the true essence of Christianity.
Corporate social responsibility and corporate citizenship can be compared with the practices of church charity and social participation in form only. Intrinsic motivation is fundamentally different: for business, it is the way that ultimately should lead to increased profits and winning more market share, while for Christians, it is a way to please Christ. The module is aimed, in particular, at teaching Christians to distinguish between internal and external, to understand the nature and permissibility of compromises in various situations of worldly and spiritual life.
The training module is based on interpersonal interaction – integration of all levels to gain knowledge about and relating to others. The application of problem learning theory is assumed. Problem-based learning – an alternative to mechanistically reproductive programmed learning – is a way of organizing active interaction of subjects of the educational process (students) with a probabilistic, ambiguous learning content.
The core concept is a problem situation with the help of which the conditions of research activity are modeled. The realization of the impossibility of resolving it is experienced by a person as an intellectual difficulty and leads to the emergence of a need for new knowledge. He has to put forward and test hypotheses regarding unknown parameters of a problem situation and ways to resolve it. Having received in the process of this new knowledge for himself, the student transforms the problem situation into a task form and begins to solve it. This is no longer a task proposed by the teacher, but the learner’s own one, and its solution is of personal meaning and interest to him/her.
The teaching was implemented during Bible Study. To construct the training, the Kolb theory principle was used. This is a learning model based on the principle of the gradual formation of the student’s mental actions. The fundamental difference between this model is that it was developed specifically for teaching adults who already have personal experience in studying objects and at the same time have a more stable and pronounced motivation for learning. The learning process is a cycle or a kind of spiral. This is a kind of cycle of accumulation of personal experience, in the future – deliberation and reflection, and vice versa – action. According to the author of the model, David Kolb, the learning process is a kind of spiral, the main stages of which are the accumulation of personal experience, its reflection, and the subsequent action, which is the result (Bilyk, 2013).
The Kolb cycle involves the following learning stages:
- Concrete experience. This stage assumes that a person has some personal, specific experience in the aspect that he plans to study.
- Mental observation. This stage involves thinking, analyzing the initial knowledge that a person has.
- Abstract conceptualization. At this stage, the information received is generalized and a specific model is built. Namely in this period of training, new ideas are generated, relationships between phenomena are built and information is added about patterns in the topic under study.
- Active experimentation. This is the final stage, during which the created model or concept is tested in practice, the student checks its effectiveness and practicality.
The success of the Kolb model is based on the fact that it is comfortable, suitable for almost any person. Also, Kolb’s model is based on a person’s experience, which means that training will be as effective as possible. The Kolb cycle takes into account that adult learning has its own characteristics:
- An adult learner is an independent person who already has some experience, which will be useful not only to him in learning, but also to those who will learn with him.
- Often he has a strong motivation to learn, due to the desire to solve some issues, problems.
Narrative of the Details Explaining How the Module Was Implemented
Below is one of the most common training schemes based on Kolb’s model and used in the design of training. It was applied in the presented training to ensure its scientific basis and maximum effectiveness.
- Motivation of participants, updating a new topic (10% of the total training time). This stage is necessary to interest the training participants, focus their attention on the topic under study, present the benefits or need for this material. This stage directly affects the effectiveness of the assimilation of new material by trainees.
At trainings, for motivation, cases of problematization, exercise-challenges, showing the participants’ lack of experience or skills necessary to solve urgent problems for them, can be used. For example, in this training session, it might be an exercise preaching on some topic to a coach, during which the coach can clearly show that the trainee lacks some required skill.
- Consolidation and repetition of what has already been passed (20% of the training time). This stage of training is necessary, first of all, for the formation of a consistent logical structure of methods and skills among its participants from scattered knowledge.
- Learning new material (50% of the time) – the main stage of the training, at which the participants acquire new skills, knowledge, techniques necessary to solve the problems presented at the initial stage of the training.
- Assessment (10% of the time) – this stage allows evaluating how the participants of the training learned the new material. Assessment must be visual, fair and unbiased in order to be an incentive to continue learning. The assessment can be set by the team, the coach, as well as independently by each participant.
- Summing up, debriefing (10% of the total training time) – this stage includes feedback from the trainer: participants note that they liked it, that they did not attend the training, leave comments. The trainer, in turn, should motivate the participants to further study the material on their own.
Before training, we devote some time to conversations with people, trying to understand what exactly motivates them in their life, how the task should be formulated and what should happen in order for them to really get carried away with something. I took a look at the church organization as a whole, and began to reflect on the real values that underlie culture and the behavior that always reflects these values. As for the concrete results in this situation, they were encouraging and the situation with the involvement of people in training was reversed. As for the topic of engagement and motivation, as a basis, some of the conclusions were confirmed by practice, something did not work as I planned in advance, and this again became the basis for new thinking and realization. The coach’ task is to organize the educational process so that the students become “co-authors” of their own teaching. In real life, there is no section of “Answers,” as in a school problem book, and often the correct answer is the one, which made it possible to solve a specific problem. If for the traditional training system the plane “right – wrong” is typical, then another one arises here: “good – bad,” which allows finding more options for solving the problem and conducting an examination of the decision. In practice, there are often cases when the correct (in accordance with the rules or algorithms) decision is absolutely wrong (in terms of the requirements of a real situation), ethics, and so on.
Conclusions and Implications
The training provided good results – the expected results were achieved. During the training, related discussions were initiated on the topic of the Apocalypse and the Epistles of the Apostles. The participants of the training, thanks to following Kolb’s model, independently identified interesting connections between the chapters and verses of the Apocalypse and the chapters and verses of the Epistles of the Apostles. Thus, it can be argued that we got even better results than expected. I learned we all face challenges, however some manifest in different ways. The group had the possibility to discuss some of these challenges, and it contributed much to their comprehension of Bible and its live connection with their lives. They learned better to think in integral manner when making decisions on how to act as Christians in difficult situations. My own thinking also has been elevated to incorporate all levels of maturity in the Word and in delivering the lesson. It caused me to think about the choices I make that do not align to the Word of God.
The learners were given an evaluation of the facilitator. Based on the responses, the learners were very receptive to the teaching and could relate to it. Based on the teaching and the objectives used to structure the curriculum, the learners are now able to identify their challenges and prayerfully contribute them to the greater society. The knowledge and practice observed in our Church after training can be applied all over other churches and communities, contributing to sustainable communities and society.
Thus, the goals of application of Kolb cycle method reached its goal of fixing strong “soft skills” in the Church members. Any training is effective only if an adult, firstly, independently strives to learn something and he really needs it for something and, secondly, if new knowledge and reflections are integrated into real everyday experience to get feedback. The course allowed to combine successfully experience of listeners and their striving to be better Christians. Of course, we are talking about the actual assimilation of new knowledge so that it integrates with previous experience and becomes, in the end, a sustainable skill.
Bilyk, B. (2013). Reflective essay: Kolb’s ‘Experiential Learning Cycle.’ GRIN Verlag.
Evans, R. (2014). A history of Pergamum: Beyond hellenistic kingship. Bloomsbury Academic.
Longenecker, B. W. (2016). The lost letters of Pergamum: A story from the New Testament world. Baker Academic.
The Module Contents
Part I. Lecture
The main part of the Revelation about the Church of Pergamon (2: 13-16) contains the following: 1) the disclosure of the merits of the Pergamon Church (2:13), 2) its shortcomings (2: 14-15) and 3) an admonition to repentance, combined with the threat of punishment in case of unrepentance (2:16).
The church, to which Christ is referring in this case, was located in Pergamum, situated about 32 km from Smyrna (inland). This rich city was once the capital of Media and even the Kingdom of Pergamon. Paganism had strong roots here – in this city, Athena, Aesculapius, Dionysus and Zeus were worshiped.
Pergamum was famous for its university and its library, which contained 200 thousand books. The city was also famous for the manufacture of special durable paper, called parchment.
The atmosphere prevailing in Parchment was extremely unfavorable for the spread of Christian teaching.
Christ is presented to the Pergamonians as having a sharp sword on both sides (he is mentioned in 1:16; 2:16; 19: 15,21). This image symbolizes the “double-edged” power of the Word of God, which, on the one hand, separates believers from the world, and on the other, denounces the world for its sin, preparing it a well-deserved punishment. It is thus a sword of salvation and a sword of destruction at the same time.
Rev 2:13. As in the first two letters, the Lord first gives praise. Christ knows the difficult circumstances of the Pergamon people:… “you live where Satan’s throne is.” Perhaps these words referred to the temple of the ancient Greek god-healer Aesculapius, whose symbol was a living snake which was worshiped in his temple. Needless to say, how disgusting this cult was to Christians, who associated Satan with the image of the snake. In the same verse, it is emphasized a second time that with the people of Pergam lives where there is Satan.
The throne of Satan refers to the multitude of altars of false worship (Zeus, Athena, Dionysus, Asclepius, worship of the emperor and magicians), as well as the demonic spirit of persecution, plus the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans, who were strongly present in this church. The combination of all these factors made Pergamon a city under satanic oppression.
The Christians of Pergamon are commended for being faithful to the Lord even when Antipas was killed in their city (according to one version, he took the place of the Pergamon bishop; in about 93 he was burned alive inside a red-hot bull). Although the Pergamon Christians remained faithful to the Lord through trials, they nevertheless deserved His reproaches, as is evident from the next two verses.
BLAIM (2: 14-15)
Rev 2: 14-15. The believers in Pergamum have come to terms with the false teaching that has penetrated into their midst: you have there holding the teachings of Balaam… and holding the teachings of the Nicolaitans. Balaam is famous for teaching the pagan king Balak to lead the Israelites into the sin of “mixed marriages”; converging with pagan women, they followed them to worship idols (Num. 22-25; 31: 15-16). Such marriages of believers with pagans, apparently, represented a special problem among the Pergamon Christians, since any contact with the world around them presupposed serving idols. Presumably, the meat sold on the market in Pergamum was previously “offered” to the pagan gods (compare 1 Cor. 8).
Christ rebuked the Pergamians for the fact that they were in their midst adhering to the teachings of the Nicolaitans. First, He praised the Ephesian church for rejecting the “deeds of the Nicholas,” in fact, for the rejection of the moral licentiousness (2:6), which He hated. It should be noted that gradually a compromise with worldly ideas about morality and with pagan doctrine increasingly more determined the face of the Pergamon church, and this happened as Christianity spread; in the third century it was the unfortunate phenomenon reached its climax. So the apparent growth of the church in Pergamum was accompanied by its decay from within.
Verse 13. “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, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city where Satan lives,” – indicates the special conditions under which the Church of Pergamum spent its life. In the following words, these conditions are revealed with greater clarity: the place where there is throne of Satan. What does Satan’s stay in Pergamum mean, and in what sense should this city be recognized as the seat of Satan’s throne? In Pergamum, there was a temple to Aesculapius (Pergameus deus); the healer god attracted worshipers and the sick not only from all over Asia Minor, but also from distant Rome; not somewhere else, namely Pergamum, the emperor Caracalla turned to for healing from his illness. Whole families of priests and temple attendants found their sustenance from the bounty of the doctor god.
Since the time of the famous Galen, an extensive scientific and religious institution was formed at the temple of Aesculapius, reminiscent of the current clinics, where the right to heal was assigned exclusively to the priests of Aesculapius. Aesculapius, the patron saint of doctors and medicine, was therefore called σωτήρ, θεός σωτήρ; he was depicted sitting on a throne with a wand in his hand, a snake coiled around the wand, a symbol of magical and mysterious healing power (the emblem of medicine). This image was minted on Pergamon coins; sometimes even a single serpent or dragon was depicted, which served as a symbol of Aesculapius himself. The service to Aesculapius included washing with water from a spring dedicated to this god; besides religious significance, healing power was also attributed to these ablutions. Together with Aesculapius, Hygeia (the goddess of health) was honored in Pergamon. After Augustus, Pergamum became for the whole of Asia Minor the center of the outrageous and superstitious cult of the Caesars, which combined in itself the whole essence of paganism, that did not suppose a separation between the state and religion.
Thus, in this city, one might say, the entire religious and political force of paganism was concentrated, and in this respect, Pergamon should be placed significantly higher than even the famous political metropolis of all Asia – Ephesus. Therefore, it is quite natural that namely in Pergamum Jesus Christ indicates the throne of Satan. Perhaps, in the entire space of the Roman Empire, there would be another city that would surpass Pergamum both in the development of gross superstitions and the fanaticism of the inhabitants, but it must be remembered that we have before us a comparative description of seven cities of proconsular Asia, and of these cities, the name of the throne is Satan is most befitting of Pergamum.
It is remarkable that the temple of Aesculapius, together with its institutions, was called καθέδρα. That is, the καθέδρα of Aesculapius, or the dragon, under whose symbol Aesculapius was depicted, may be equal to του σατανά (“the throne of Satan”) (compare 12: 9, where the devil, or Satan, is called the great dragon and the ancient serpent; 1 Cor. Ch. 10) (Evans, 2014). The city of Pergamum could also be called the cathedral of Aesculapius.
“did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death” – speaking about mention of Antipas, it should be noted that there are many interpreters who look for a mysterious meaning in every word of the Apocalypse and understand the name of Antipas symbolically. So, Άντίπας was decomposed into αντί – “against” and πας – “all”; in this case Antipas is “the enemy of everything,” that is, the world, which embraces everything; and the adversary to a world hostile to God is obviously an ally, a friend and a venerer of the true God. Some of the old Protestant interpreters managed to translate this name into the words “the enemy of the Pope”: αντί – “against” and πάπας – “father.” These speculations are refuted by the fact that Άντίπας is undoubtedly a contraction of the name ‘Αντίπατρος. However, in Άντίπας – ‘Αντίπατρος, from αντί – “instead of” and πατήρ – “father”, meaning “instead of the father,” “replacing the father,” almost the same as ίσόπατρος, “equal to the father,” and the latter is equivalent to the term όμοούσιος; therefore, in Antipas, it is necessary to see a zealous supporter of the consubstantiation of the Son with the Father, a confessor of Orthodoxy against Arianism; but since the most remarkable fighter against the Arians was Athanasius of Alexandria, then according to Witringa, the city of Alexandria is mystically depicted under the name of Pergamum (Longenecker, 2016). It would be superfluous to refute these conclusions: we have cited them only as facts characterizing the method of interpretation of the Apocalypse in a relatively recent period.
Antipas was a real historical person: he was the most courageous martyr in Pergamum. According to the martyrologists of the Eastern and Western Churches, Antipas was the bishop of Pergamum and for his zealous confession of the Christian faith he was burned in the insides of a red-hot copper bull. According to the testimony of George Kedrin (XI century), this copper bull was transported to Constantinople under Theodosius the Great. The acts of martyrdom of Antipas in their original form owe their origin to one of the inhabitants of Pergamum: they, for example, say that “when we gather together, we give thanks to God,” that “the place where the torment took place shines with miracles to this day,” etc. It is believed that Antipas was martyred in 93, which is consistent with other data regarding the time of the writing of Revelation (Longenecker, 2016). The memory of the holy martyr Antipas is celebrated in the Orthodox Church on April 11.
The chain of thought in verse 13 can be as follows: in a few words, first the unfavorable conditions of life of the Pergamon Church are indicated; the darkness surrounding the throne of Satan constitute the best background against which the bright sides of Christian society emerge with all clarity and the light spread by the ‘lamp’ of the Church of Pergamon becomes more visible and bright; further, the courageous firmness of its members is depicted, and the thought passes from the general to the particular and stops at the fact of Antipas’ martyrdom. In conclusion, for a greater expression of praise, Jesus Christ seems to say that all this took place in Pergamum, where Satan lives – due to the repetition of the initial words, speech thus gets roundness and completeness.
Verse 14 begins with a description of the opposite, bad qualities of the Pergamon Christians, which ends in verse 15. “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality” (see Numbers ch. 22-25; 31:16; Deut. 25: 5 and others, 2 Pet. 2: 15-16). Balaam, son of Veors (according to 2 Pet. – Vozorov), originally from Pefor on the Euphrates, a famous soothsayer, was invited by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the Israelite people, who threatened the safety of the Moabites, but instead of cursing by the will of God, he had to pronounce a prophetic blessing. After that Balaam, according to the general opinion of the interpreters, based on Num. 31:16, gave advice to persuade the Israelites to commit fornication and eat what was offered to idols, which was carried out (Num. 25: 1-3) with the knowledge and permission of Balak. Subsequently, Balaam was found killed among the Midianites who had fallen by the sword of Israel (Num. 31: 8). Later works of Hebrew writing put Balaam on the list of the most dangerous enemies of the Israeli people, who have no right to participate in the bliss of the future life.
Verse 15. Tako imashi and you who hold the doctrine of Nikolaitsko, I hate him too. The comparison concerns the Israelite people and the Pergamon Church: as in Israel there were people who succumbed to the temptation of the pagans, so in Pergamum there were followers of the false teaching of the Nicolaites. Some interpret the preceding words of the sacrifice of the idols and anything to do as applied to the Nicolaites in a figurative and improper sense: eating something sacrificed to idols and fornication should, in this case, denote all vices, lusts, false teachings, etc. However, as far as it is known, the life and teachings of the Nicolaitans from ancient historical evidence, their theory and practice had as their essential points the actual eating of what was sacrificed to idols and fornication in the name of misunderstood Christian love and freedom. The first concern of the apostles regarding the internal life of the Church was to protect believers from precisely these dangerous deviations into paganism (see Acts ch. 15); the disclosure of their pernicious significance for the Christian Church, the Apostle Paul devotes a significant part of 1 Epistle to the Corinthians (see from the 5th chapter onwards). Therefore, Jesus Christ also directs strict reproofs against the destructive sect and points to its prototype in the Old Testament. There, as Moses narrates, God’s anger flared up against Israel, and Jehovah commanded to defeat the apostates, and all those who died from defeat were 24,000 (Num. 25: 9; according to 1 Cor. 10: 8 – 23,000), and then only Jehovah turned away His wrath from the sons of Israel… and He did not destroy the children of Israel in His zeal (Num.25: 11). This formidable manifestation of the wrath of God was to serve as an instructive example for the Christians of Pergamon and to warn them against deviating into the Nicolaitic sect.
In resolving this issue, interpreters are divided into two groups. Some are looking for an object, designated the symbol of manna, in real life: according to Andrew and Arefa, “the hidden manna is the bread of heavenly life, which came down from heaven for us and made us eatable”, that is, Christ, Whose believers partake in the sacrament of the Eucharist. According to Bernard of Clairvaux, manna means inexpressible sweetness, which is combined with the mystical contemplation of the Divine being and the works of God; according to S. a Lapide, this is a sweet sensation of peace of the soul, given to believers from above for consolation in the sorrows of real life; on others – grace that saves the elect, the Word of God. Another part of the interpreters rightfully and thoroughly attributes the reward to the future blissful life. In this case, manna means either the sweetness of the eternal bliss of the righteous in general, or Christ Himself as the source of life and bliss.
The latter explanation deserves preference in many ways. Spiritual manna, which sustains the life of the spirit among believers during their earthly wanderings and constitutes the guarantee of eternal life (John 6:51), is the Eucharist, in which believers, under the guise of bread and wine, taste the true Body and true Blood of Christ with faith and hope for sincere communion. Christ in the non-evening day of His Kingdom. The earthly communion of Christ due to the bodily condition of the members of the Church is hidden under the sensual and material images of bread and wine, which elevate the mind to a different, higher and spiritual sincere communion, expected in eternal life.
Verse 17. “To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” Speaking about what does this symbolic hidden manna mean, in resolving this issue, interpreters are divided into two groups. Some are looking for an object, designated the symbol of manna, in real life: according to Andrew and Arefa, “the hidden manna is the bread of heavenly life, which came down from heaven for us and made us eatable”, that is, Christ, Whom believers partake in the sacrament of the Eucharist; according to Bernard of Clairvaux, manna means inexpressible sweetness, which is combined with the mystical contemplation of the Divine being and the works of God; this is a sweet sensation of peace of the soul, given to believers from above for consolation in the sorrows of real life; on others – grace that saves the elect, the Word of God. Another part of the interpreters rightfully and thoroughly attributes the reward to the future blissful life. In this case, manna means either the sweetness of the eternal bliss of the righteous in general, or Christ Himself as the source of life and bliss.
The latter explanation deserves preference in many ways. Spiritual manna, which sustains the life of the spirit among believers during their earthly wanderings and constitutes the guarantee of eternal life (John 6:51), is the Eucharist, in which believers, under the guise of bread and wine, taste the true Body and true Blood of Christ with faith and hope for sincere communion. Christ in the non-evening day of His Kingdom. The earthly communion of Christ due to the bodily condition of the members of the Church is hidden under the sensual and material images of bread and wine, which elevate the mind to a different, higher and spiritual sincere communion, expected in eternal life. The heavenly eternal Eucharist is the mysterious hidden manna promised as a reward to believers. This will be a spiritual immediate saturation with Christ, the source of life (compare Rev. Ch. 21). Manna is called sacred, because before the revelation of the eternal kingdom, the ascended Christ, in whose spiritual tasting the eternal Eucharist will consist, is hidden in God. It is possible to compose a certain concept in what form the eating of the hidden manna will take place, from the words of the 16th psalm, which describes the bliss of the righteous in comparison with the gross sensual pleasures of the sinner: while the people of the world, for whom the highest good lies within the boundaries of earthly life, fill their womb, the righteous in righteousness beholds God and is satisfied with the image of God (Ps.16: 15). Another type of reward promised to the Christians of Pergamum sounds like this: “I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” Ψήφος λευκή (literally – “white stone”) among the ancients meant a happy lot, wherever it fell: in court, at games, at elections. The ancients celebrated happy days with a white stone, and they were given out to the winners at the games. They were also used in elections, during ballots. Of these three meanings, it is necessary to accept the interpretation of Arefa and see in ψήφος λευκή the prize lot of the winner at games, races, in the theater, etc. (Longenecker, 2016). In the pagan world, victory in any competition was put very high and was crowned with generous awards. Pergamum was famous for its gladiatorial games and animal baiting. The love of spectacles, no doubt, was not alien to many of the members of the Christian Church; maybe some of them themselves took part in competitions in the hope of receiving a victorious award. Be that as it may, participation in the immoral and bloody pagan spectacles was to serve as a net for Christians, which could again draw them into paganism; theatrical performances brought Christians closer to pagans, forced them to look more condescendingly at pagan vices, forced them to participate in their religious ceremonies and sacrifices, which were combined with spectacles, and this was a transitional step to Nicolaitism. Thus, the second award is borrowed from a sphere familiar to all the inhabitants of Pergamon, and has, like the first, the closest connection with the Nicolaitic movement, caused by some distinctive features of local life.
According to this explanation, a new name, known only to the recipient, should denote a certain kind and degree of bliss in the future life, which are different for each winner, according to different degrees of moral perfection and different kinds of deeds (1 Cor. 15:41). The name of each individual reward is a new name, because the heavenly reward has nothing to do with the vain, perishable and transient benefits that fall to the lot of the winners in pagan contests.
Practical module after lecture. Discussion of lecture – the main ‘message’ and morale of the Bible text under consideration.
A notion of compromise
The coach addresses the audience with posing a question on the admissibility of compromise in Christianity and Christian life. Compromises are often used in politics, in resolving conflicts. It is believed that compromises help in resolving difficult situations in communication between people, in family life, in business. Sometimes a compromise can even save millions of lives – for example, during the Cuban missile crisis, namely the compromise between Khrushchev and Kennedy prevented nuclear war.
However, can we use the principle of compromise in our Christian life, in our relationship with God, with the world, and with sins?
The audience express their opinions about the issue if compromise is possible for Christians and in what situations (10 minutes is given for this discussion).
Then the coach speaks about the essence of compromise and suggests examples from Bible and church history. By definition, a compromise is an agreement between opposing, different opinions, achieved through mutual concessions. Compromise includes concessions and sacrifices of our principles, this is, in part, the surrender of our position to the opposing side. In the life of Christians, compromise is often made with our enemies, Satan and his evil angels.
Joshua the Son of Nun, to whom God commanded to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan (Joshua 9:24), agreed to a compromise but the inhabitants of Gibeon deceived him and forced him to compromise, becoming their servants. Then God’s people were corrupted by the neighboring nations.
A compromise was also made by Saul, who was ordered by God to completely destroy the Amalekites and all their goods (1 Kings 15: 3). However, Saul compromised and hid something to sacrifice (15:15). For this unholy compromise, he was severely denounced by God, and later lost his kingdom. God said that obedience for him is much better than any sacrifice (15:22).
In recent times, Christians may compromise on the belief that the Bible alone is not enough for salvation and a happy Christian life. There can be compromises between the truths of the Bible and the latest “dubious discoveries” of scientists. Many Christians make compromises between a Christian life for God and a little for themselves, between a righteous life and a life of a little sin. Often times, the church can compromise with the world to achieve different goals.
To muffle reproaches of conscience, various “deals” with it have been worked out, for which they have even invented a suitable ennobling term – “compromises.” This is one of those conventional terms that we love to cover up the evil of modern life. Life began to be made up of compromises, concessions, and conventions. With their help, people try to reconcile the absolute principles with practical requirements, finding that it is unprofitable to follow the first, that the times of the ascetics and righteous are gone forever.
Often, a compromise is made in order to save or acquire something more valuable by sacrificing little.
Today, the idea of mutual concessions in the field of faith is often promoted in the framework of the ecumenical movement for the unification of disparate Christian denominations. It is clear that compromises, as forms of distortion of the revealed teachings, even under a plausible pretext, are unacceptable: “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3: 10-11).
In the days of Nazi Germany, a movement of the Confessing Church rose up, which rebelled against the movement of the Reich Church, where the latter became the religious arm of the fascist National Socialist movement. Of the 18,000 German pastors during that period (from 1933 to 1945), less than 5,000 agreed with the Confessing Church. Thus, only the remnant adhered to the biblical position, and more than half of the churches compromised due to political and social pressure. Unfortunately, this shows that at a critical juncture, a huge percentage of pastors, churches, and so-called Christians are more likely to succumb to pressure and allow cultural norms to become their beliefs instead of Christianity.
Recall that in John 12: 42-43 we see that many of Jesus’ contemporaries believed in Him, but did not confess Him, because they loved praise from people more than praise from God.
Then, again discussion and opinions from audience. They can talk about their personal experience, their attitude to compromise, and historical cases.
The coach suggests the next topics for discussion based on Rev 2: 12-17 (Church of Pergamos):
- In the confessing church, Christ stands above culture. The compromising church adapts Christ to the culture. The confessing church believes that Jesus is the Lord of all creation. Therefore, it tries to manifest Christ in every area of culture. The compromising church is in a position of adaptation. Therefore, the Christ in whom it believes and preaches is shaped by the culture in which it lives.
- The confessing church changes its preaching methods. A compromising church changes the message it preaches. While it is wise and biblical for the body of Christ to be culturally relevant in preaching the gospel, it should never place relevance over fidelity. The compromising church places relevance over biblical fidelity. Therefore, it not only changes the method of preaching, but also the message itself.
- The confessing church is a remnant, a minority in the Church and the state. The compromising church wants to be mainstream in both the Church and the state. The confessing church experiences long periods of loneliness and alienation in its own society. The compromising church wants to be more in the mainstream of culture than to live in the divine flow of God’s favor and presence.
- The confessing church wants to glorify God. A compromising church wants to glorify people.
- The confessing church prophetically speaks the truth to the authorities. A church that compromises will bend under those in power. Because a compromising church enjoys the power and prestige bestowed on it by the elite, it is always sagging rather than opposing.
Each of the above-mentioned topics is discussed separately. Then, the coach offers the audience the ‘message’ for next part of lections and reflection following it.
At some point, we will all have to pass a higher test that will show whether we desire God more than we love our life, or whether we love our pleasures, comforts, and material things more than God. Indeed, if we confess Christ before men, He will confess us before the Heavenly Father. However, if we deny Him before people, and He will deny us before His Heavenly Father (Matthew 10: 32-33).
Of course, it is true that we, as responsible individuals, can make decisions on very many issues ourselves. However, even with this responsibility, we always ask what God wants from us. Possessing Christian freedom, we are at the same time constantly aware of our connection with Christ. Because of this, there are no neutral zones where we could act according to our own understanding, ignoring Christ.
Now we will talk about the clash of responsibilities. Does not it happen that God prevents us from keeping his commandments by imposing on us two mutually exclusive responsibilities at the same time? However, we came to the conclusion that a person, even if he is in many ways mistaken and guilty before God, cannot, however, find himself in situations where he must sin as a result of the clash of duties entrusted to him by God himself.
Even if we ourselves honor the law of God, we do not always succeed in fulfilling it openly, in front of people. The reason is not only that in our following the law we often, so to speak, do not reach the required level. This is also explained by the fact that the people around us prevent us from openly following the law of God. To what extent should we reckon with other people who prevent us from doing what we recognize as necessary and beneficial and to what extent should we coordinate our actions with them? This is where we come to the issue of compromise.
The word “compromise” comes from the Latin compromittere, meaning “to make concessions, to make an agreement. In the Christian church, the concept of “compromise” can be defined as follows: a compromise is a situation when someone is forced to accept less than what he/she is entitled to and should strive for on the basis of the law of God.
During the Second World War, we had to resist National Socialism. However, what should have been done by the one who at that time was the burgomaster and, in order to maintain his position, had to make many concessions to the invaders, while doing a lot of good to honest citizens? Should he have given up his duties as burgomaster?
Then, discussion and reflection take place.
After that, the following compromise features are presented by coach and discussed by the audience.
In this diverse world, where evil is so powerful, Christians have few opportunities to establish the principles of the gospel in the lives of their people. It should be noted right away that, unfortunately, they do not always succeed in doing this in the church. Let us recall, for example, the “hardness of heart” that Jesus pointed out. It took place among Israel, the people of God. Let us recall the definition of compromise just given. How often, in the church too, we must be content with less than what we should strive for on the basis of the law of God. Consider, for example, the problems that arise between members of the congregation and the minor differences between churches. Sometimes a purely external reconciliation takes place between members of the community, and neither of the parties pleads guilty that the relationship was damaged. It is also a compromise. In order to avoid a greater evil, the quarrel is consigned to oblivion, and no one enters the path of repentance and admission of their guilt.
We cannot come to terms with the idea that we cannot achieve more than is possible through a compromise. Of course, the maximum is unattainable for us, but we also do not need to be content with the minimum. Therefore, a constant effort should be made to create a society that would better listen to the law of God than we see now.
Sometimes compromise is respectfully called “the ability to be flexible,” in other cases it is associated with somewhat derogatory terms such as: “treason,” “unfaithfulness,” “delusion,” etc. For some church leaders, compromise may be acceptable in one area of church life and categorically rejected in other areas.
The problem of theological compromise can be seen from the earliest days of the Christian church, and also among its most influential leaders. In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul describes the apostle Peter’s compromise. The problem was that Peter, believing in salvation by grace, was not prepared to consistently demonstrate this position during his visit to the Antioch church (Gal. 2: 11-14). While he was alone, he ate freely at the same table with the pagans. After the Jewish believers came from Jerusalem, the Apostle Peter began to “hide and be removed, fearing the circumcised.” Paul disapproves of this incident. Another story of religious compromise is mentioned in the book of Revelation. In a letter to the Church of Thyatira, God rebukes its leader for deviating from true doctrine by allowing Jezebel, a false prophetess, to mislead believers (Rev. 2: 20-22).
Throughout the history of the Christian church, the problem of theological compromise has been the subject of research and controversy for many church leaders and scholars theologians. For centuries, Christians have tried to find out whether compromise on matters of biblical truth is generally acceptable? If so, under what circumstances? What areas of church doctrine and practice can be compromised? How far can compromise go? John H. Murray, in his book The Divided Evangelical Movement, describes the struggle between different approaches to the possibility of compromise that formed between certain groups of the evangelical fundamentalism movement in America in the 1930s and 1940s. This struggle became one of the main points of contradiction in this movement, which later resulted in division and open confrontation between them. In particular, Murray notes that during the early years of Billy Gramm’s ministry, a certain group of leaders of the fundamental evangelical movement refused to cooperate with this evangelist due to the high level of doctrinal tolerance that he allowed in matters of evangelistic cooperation. At that time, the question was expressed in the following form: is it permissible to cooperate with liberal churches in order to achieve great results in evangelistic ministry, or: Does the end result justify the means in Christian ministry? In other words, is it acceptable to compromise biblical truth or deviate somewhat from biblical principles in order to achieve greater results in the spread of the gospel?
The same problem faced the believers of the early church in a much more painful form – whether to agree to formally bow to the emperor (to express it verbally or simply bow the head to the emperor or his gods, especially if this was not required to be done publicly) and at the same time be able to complete the translation of the Bible. continue ministry in the church and preach the Gospel underground, raise children in a God-fearing atmosphere, etc. Or was it more important to stay true to the principles of Scripture and at the same time die leaving a lot of unfinished work, churches without pastors, nations without evangelists, families without fathers, etc. It must be admitted that there are no easy answers to such questions. Throughout the history of the church, every Christian, every pastor, every Christian leader answered this question personally for himself, which irresistibly influenced the overall theological picture of the churches and organizations directly involved in these processes, and gradually throughout the Christian world.
When, at the dawn of our era, the young Christian Church entered history, it immediately aroused sharp rejection from the ancient pagan world. The religiously pluralistic and tolerant Roman Empire reacted very painfully to the emergence of a new religion.
When, at the dawn of our era, the young Christian Church entered history, it immediately aroused sharp rejection from the ancient pagan world. The religiously pluralistic and tolerant Roman Empire reacted very painfully to the emergence of a new religion. First of all, the Romans were embarrassed by the intransigence of Christians themselves in matters of faith. After all, the pagan religious consciousness, open to accepting any, even the most exotic and “strange” gods, was ready to adapt including the Christian God. For some time the statue of the “Nazarene,” as one of the Palestinian “gods,” was in the Roman pantheon alongside and on a par with the idols of other deities. However, Christians did not want and did not recognize this equality. They insisted with a defiant stubbornness on the truth and oneness of only their God, declaring all the other so-called gods to be false. In addition, the Church resolutely rejected all attempts at reconciliation with paganism, undertaken in the Gnostic synthesis ‘dressed’ in Christian shell (the forerunner of Theosophy).
Christians, unlike, for example, the Jews, did not become isolated in their worship of God, but testified to everyone and everywhere about the possibility of salvation only in the Church founded by Christ. This testimony was regarded religiously by omnivorous pagans as a suspicious claim to exclusivity, as a dangerous “intolerance,” as an encroachment on the “holy of holies” of their syncretic faith. As a result, Christians, despite their state loyalty and political reliability, turned out to be real outcasts in the heterogeneous palette of ancient Roman society. The truth they served was beyond any possible compromise, even if the cost of confessing it was their own life. In spite of everything, the Church of Christ, even in purely historical terms, turned out to be the winner in this confrontation. “He who endures to the end will be saved” – the one who did not compromise, abandoning earthly goods (Longenecker, 2016).
Read the next few verses about Daniel and you will see it. It says that after his appointment, other members of the tsarist administration envied him and tried to find something bad in him that could be reported to the tsar. However, they had a big problem: “Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him Then these men said, “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God” (Daniel 6: 4-5).
Think about it. The enemies could not catch Daniel because he was a faithful man! Due to the fact that he had a high, or excellent, spirit, no matter what others did, in every situation he faithfully believed and obeyed God.
The theme of the church’s attitude towards LGBT people is quite remarkable in relation to compromises. The current debate about homosexuality has many dimensions, and the religious is only one of them. However, the religious dimension of the debate about homosexuality is also extremely diverse, even if we consider the debate exclusively in the context of Christianity. In fact, when we start talking about the “Christian view of homosexuality,” we are faced with an incorrect formulation, since, as it is known, “Christianity at all” does not exist, but there are many Christian confessions and denominations.
Unfortunately, an adequate theological discussion of the topic of homosexuality is practically impossible, because the “political dimension” intervenes very quickly. This “political dimension” absorbs everything. To begin with, Christians are beginning to advocate the legislative restriction of homosexuals in civil rights. Naturally, when one side openly conducts actually “military actions” against the other, it is difficult to find a space for dialogue (while these Christians for some reason believe that they are not “attacking” but “defending”). We will not discuss here to what extent calls to discriminate against someone in principle correspond to the spirit of Christianity (from the point of view of the aforementioned Christians, they are unambiguously consistent), but we note that these debates once again demonstrate how Christianity (or rather, Christians) does not withstand the temptation of politics. In countries that have retained a “traditional morality” which condemns homosexuality, the church also strongly opposes this phenomenon. In countries of liberal democracies and prevailing tolerance, the church often, for the sake of politics, shows virtually complete tolerance for homosexuality.
However, in order to start negotiating, it is necessary to understand on which list of issues there is no agreement. Within a certain “limit,” two extreme positions can be distinguished. Conventionally, these positions are designated as “conservative” (or “fundamentalist,” which is certainly not the same thing) and “liberal” (or “progressive”). For example, conservatives believe that people who practice homosexual behavior should be limited in civil rights, while the position of liberals is that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unacceptable – homosexuals should have all the same rights as heterosexual people.
Then, discussion about Christian martyrs – were they right when breaking the hearts of their parents and husband or wife, and leaving their children orphans, going to death for the sake of confessing Christ.
Then, the next part of discussion goes: Unfortunately, an adequate theological discussion of the topic of homosexuality is practically impossible, because the political dimension intervenes very quickly; and this political dimension absorbs everything. To begin with, Christians begin to advocate a legislative restriction Is it a Christian nature to compromise? The overwhelming majority will categorically answer: “No.” Only very often the words of some people are at odds with the action. It is impossible to answer affirmatively to the question: “Will you compromise in such and other situation?” until you face such a situation. It is even more difficult to answer the question: “Will you refrain from compromise throughout your life?” until our life ends, and the results of our earthly existence are summed up in heaven.
Let us consider the simplest situations that do not require making fateful decisions, renouncing faith, etc.
For example: humanitarian aid for the church goes to a third world country. It is not allowed through customs. They find different reasons for stopping the load. The problem is solved by a box of Swiss gifts, which was intended for completely different purposes. And the customs are happy, and the kids (not only them) will receive gifts.
Another situation: the printing of Christian religious literature is prohibited in an Arab country. There is nowhere to buy ink for printing; and now a way has been found: the believers who work at the printing house steal the paint for a good cause. Subsequently, religious articles, testimonies, etc. are printed with this paint. The church is edified by reading magazines.
Another illustration: a church official violates traffic rules, but instead of paying a fine, he resolves the situation through his “connections.”
Another everyday example: electricity prices go up, there is no money to pay for services; and now a Christian found a way out: he calls an unofficial service, which, for a certain fee, will remove the seal from the counter, twist the data back, and re-seal.
All of the above four examples in printed form are given to the training participants. Each participant must give their informed opinion on any of the examples given. If they wish, they can also give other examples, including from their own life.
Then, the next shirt lecture is provided, with subsequent disccusion.
We see that believers, both in our country and in other countries, are faced with increasing pressure to give up their faith – not to talk about it and to make sure that manifestations of this faith do not disturb anyone. We need to ask the question – “What Christians do we need at this time?”
Returning again to Jesus’ message to the Church of Pergamon:
Jesus says, “I know that you live where Satan’s throne is” (Revelation 2:13). Today, as never before, there are many different religions, philosophies, and various teachings. In Christianity alone, there are several hundred different directions.
We need to be very careful not to compromise with any or any false doctrine. In 2 Corinthians 6: 17-18, God calls us to go out of the world, to separate ourselves and not to touch anything unclean with sin. Any big retreat starts with small compromises and small steps into forbidden territory. Spiritual strength leaves us and powerlessness comes. We are strong in God until we ourselves open the door to sin and false doctrine.
Revelation 2:17 says, “To him who overcomes I will give to eat the manna. If we win and do not give up, we will be able to know Chrised to increasingly more Christ – our bread of life (John 6: 30-58).” Christ will give us strength to reach the end.
“I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” White stone symbolizes justification, and black condemnation. Such stones were used when sentencing in courts.
Christians are justified thanks to their best advocate – Christ, who wrote our names in His blood in the book of life!
The relationship between the condemnation of compromise in the Apocalypse and current trends in church communities
The people of Pergamon proved that it is quite possible to remain Christians even in such conditions. They did not flinch even when they were threatened with martyrdom. We don’t know anything about Antipas. Tertullian has a legend that he was roasted alive in a bronze bull. There is an expression in the Greek text that is difficult to convey in another language, but which is very important. The Risen Christ calls Antipas “My faithful witness.” In Greek it is martus. In common Greek, martus means witness, and in the early Christian Church, being a martyr was the same as being a witness; to be a witness often meant a martyr’s death, and for this we are rebuked. Many are ready to manifest their Christianity in Christian circles, but they are also willing to belittle it where there is hostility towards Christianity.
If a person is not ready to be completely different from others, it is better for him not to enter the path of Christian life at all. In the New Testament, the most typical word for Christians is hagios, the root meaning of which is different from or separate. The temple is holy because it is different from other buildings; Saturday is holy because it is different from other days; God is supremely holy because He is completely different from people, and the Christian is holy because he is different from other people.
Concluding discussion, summing up the training results. Feedback from the audience and the trainer.