I wrote this several years ago while I was working on a study of the book of Revelation with our adult Sunday School class and I find that it is even more applicable today.
It is interesting to observe the 7 churches that the book was written to and to identify the things for which five of the seven churches were condemned. If I were to follow current hermeneutical practices (I know, “Herman who?”) I would have to overlook Christ’s words to these churches. Notice these verses of condemnation:
To the church in Pergamum-
Revelation 2:14-16 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. (15) So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. (16) Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.
To the church in Thyatira-
Revelation 2:20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.
To the church in Sardis-
Revelation 3:2-3 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. (3) Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
To the church in Philadelphia-
Revelation 3:9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie–behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you.
To the church in Laodicea-
Revelation 3:15-17 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! (16) So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (17) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
In these passages Christ offers commendation but as you can see He also strongly condemns certain things going on in the churches. He condemns Pergamum, Sardis, and Thyatira for the false teachings, sin, and heresy that they allowed to continue in their churches. In the year 2013 with our current cultural context I can see these same things as ongoing problems in the Church at large.
We have Christians supporting pagan practices like making prayer circles, searching out the New Age for truths that can be “reclaimed”, and joining Masonic Lodges. So-called Christians are calling for using rituals taken from Hinduism and Buddhism like contemplative prayer or meditation techniques that supposedly bring us into closer contact with God. Homosexual relationships are encouraged when throughout history homosexuality throughout the world has been a pillar of paganism. Many churches have dumbed down their services and brought in things from the pagan culture to make people feel more at home or to minister only to their “felt” needs. Just to be clear, a pagan culture does not readily realize its need for repentance before a Holy and Just God. It is the Church’s job to preach the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins faithfully to the culture.
I write this as an article came across my desk from The Telegraph titled “Church of England creating ‘pagan church’ to recruit members.” The article explains that the Church of England is seeking to recruit pagans to keep their congregation numbers up. The article claims that the “church is training ministers to create ‘a pagan church where Christianity is very much in the centre’ to attract spiritual believers.” This type of thing has been happening blatantly in America for the last 60 years.
Call me crazy but it would appear that in Revelation Christ is condemning these churches for doing something similar. Another attempt at this in Scripture would be Aaron’s attempt at making the worship of the golden calf a “seeker sensitive” service of YHWH for the Israelites…
Exodus 32:2-5 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” (3) So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. (4) And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (5) When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.”
This desire to appeal to pagans leads to self-professed “Christians” like Tony Jones calling for a redefining of the atonement. The term Christian now is an empty term. It no longer carries the theological distinctive that it once did. This appeal to pagans is also born out in every day life as Rick Warren promotes his mentor’s (Peter Drucker) plan for a peaceful society through his P.E.A.C.E. plan or trains Roman Catholics to use the Purpose Driven program to call Catholics (and Protestants) to the Cahtolic Church.
Things are said like “using words is a poor way to communicate” or “it’s bad enough that we only have words by which to communicate.”
YHWH repeatedly used terms like “whoredom” and “adultery” to describe Israel’s departure from the ways of the one, true God. When God is detailing His judgment on Israel through the prophet Isaiah he specifically mentions them accepting and taking part in paganism:
Isaiah 2:6 For you have rejected your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of things from the east and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with the children of foreigners (some translations say pagans.)
As Christians, when we use the term “pagan” it has very religious connotations. It implies someone separated from the true God. It implies that they have yet to acknowledge their sin, repent, and place their faith and trust in Christ alone and rely on His work on the cross as their sole hope for eternity in Heaven with their Creator. We too were pagan and separate from God at one time but we were washed and regenerated by our loving Savior.
Let us give heed to the words of Christ. Let us worship Him and Him alone with no extra pagan trappings. Let us not be condemned for committing spiritual whoredom but let us rather fall at the feet of the One who deserves all honor, glory, and praise.