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June 2014  •  Volume XV, Issue 2


Pergamos: A Church Dwelling Where Satan’s Throne Is (2)

In the last issue of the News, we saw one factor in the explanation of Pergamos as a city in which Satan had his dwelling and throne (Rev. 2:13), namely, the prominence of the worship of Asclepius who was especially associated with snakes. A second factor is that Pergamos was a centre of Caesar worship. That city had three temples for adoring the Roman emperor, including a great temple to Caesar Augustus built in 29 BC or 27 BC, making it the first city in Asia (SW Turkey) to erect such an edifice. Pergamos accorded divine honours to Augustus even before the Roman Senate decided to do so.

Let us take together the two most striking features of idolatry in Pergamos. What do you get? The worship of Asclepius is the worship of the devil and the worship of Caesar is the worship of a man, a man who rules a world empire. In short, this is the worship of Antichrist, as in Revelation 13:4: “And they worshipped the dragon [i.e., Satan] which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast [i.e., the man of sin].”

Thus, Pergamos was especially a place where the devil dwelt and reigned because he was more directly worshipped there (Asclepius) and the antichristian ruler (Caesar) was especially worshipped there. To put it slightly differently, Pergamos was the place of Satan’s abode and throne because there the antichristian kingdom of the beast was especially advanced for its time and more of the features of the devil’s masterpiece, the beast, were evident in Pergamos than other places in Asia.

Satan’s throne in Pergamos, established and manifested in the worship of Asclepius and Caesar, and foreshadowing the beast’s end-times kingdom, was promoted by two main things, the first being education. There was a great library at Pergamos, consisting of some 2,000 works and only excelled in its day by the famous library at Alexandria. Pergamos was also noted for its parchment; we even have an English word concerning parchment that is derived from Pergamos. That city also boasted a university.

Clearly, Satan chose the place of his throne well! Literature and learning were used to promote his reign. Likewise today, universities, educators, books, journalism, etc., propagate antichristian ideas which will bring in a worldwide kingdom of man and facilitate the persecution of believers.

In his rule from Pergamos, the devil not only used education but also the state. That city was the Roman capital of Asia. The Roman proconsul had a seat at Ephesus, to which he would go from time to time, but his abode was in Pergamos. The Roman state supported the worship of Asclepius and promoted Caesar worship. It marginalized and punished those who refused to honour the divine Caesar. Just as he does with God’s good gift of education, so the devil also perverts the divine institution of the state today. Thus we have ungodly laws which oppress the Lord’s people, for example, in the Islamic states, the communist countries and the humanistic West.

Which cities are contenders for places where Satan had his throne in the Old Testament? Babel with its tower stands out (Gen. 11:1-9). There we have man in rebellion against the Almighty; man getting a name for himself; man wanting to reach up into heaven by his own efforts. One also thinks of Bethel, with its golden calf erected by King Jeroboam. When Samaria became the capital of the Northern Kingdom, it was stuffed with pagan idols. In the latter days of the Southern Kingdom, when it was filled with idolatry and evil, so that it even persecuted the prophets, the devil may even be said to have ruled from Jerusalem itself!

There is one outstanding New Testament text in this regard. Speaking of the two witnesses, representing the church as it testifies to God’s truth, Revelation 11:8 states, “And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” “The great city” is the eschatological city at the heart of the end-times antichristian kingdom. Throughout the book of Revelation, it is referred to as “Babylon,” the centre of world idolatry and wickedness. Babylon is an amalgam of the sins of various places.

First, “the great city ... spiritually is called Sodom.” Sodom is infamous for its homosexuality among males: sodomy. Its sexual rebellion reached the stage where it took over the city, so that young and old men were together involved in the attempted homosexual gang rape of two visitors (Gen. 19:1-11). Second, Babylon partakes of the sins of “Egypt,” which oppressed and enslaved the people of God, and refused to let them go to worship Jehovah. Third, “the great city ... spiritually is called ... [Jerusalem] where also our Lord was crucified.” Jerusalem is the false church which departed from Jehovah and filled up the cup of its iniquity by killing Jesus Christ Himself. Yet, thereby, it unwittingly played a necessary role in the cross, where our Saviour died to grant us the forgiveness of sins and everlasting righteousness.

The question must be asked, in the light of our text and the Old Testament examples and Revelation 11:8, what cities are contenders for Satan’s throne today? There is San Francisco, infamous for its homosexuality. The Vatican is the centre for worldwide Romanism. Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, is synonymous with communism, atheism, the idolatrous cult of the leader and the persecution of Christians. Mecca is the hub of Islam, with its repudiation of the Triune God, the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, His blood atonement and salvation by grace alone. The centres of world humanism are various but all idolatrously present man as the ultimate. Rev. Stewart

The Old Covenant Broken

Referring to Hosea 1:6, “I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away,” a reader asks, “What is that saying to us about God’s faithfulness to His covenant promise? Did God break His covenant with the ten tribes?”

This question was already answered in part by the last News for, if the old covenant had passed away and a totally new covenant had come to take its place, then indeed Jehovah broke the old covenant with the ten tribes. But I explained that, when the old covenant passed away, it was only the form of its administration that passed away, while the essence of the covenant remained. Since the essence of the covenant remained while the form of its administration changed, God did not break His covenant. I used an example from Scripture itself, which speaks of our old and new man. The very same person is both an old man and a new man—even at the same moment, although the old man will be destroyed in the grave and the new man will live forever with God. The old man belongs to the old covenant; the new man is taken into the new covenant.

The figure can be used of wise parents who teach their children the truths of the Bible through the means of the historical books in the Old Testament and with books of many pictures. But when these children are old and have the ability to read and to comprehend the truths of Scripture, these parents put away the picture books and tell the now-grown children to read books on Reformed doctrine. The form of teaching is radically altered but the essence of the teaching is the same. One could call that change a putting away of the old and a change to a new method of teaching.

Hosea 1, to which the questioner refers, makes that clear. It is true that Hosea’s child by Gomer must be called “Loruhamah” (which name means, “no mercy”) because God declares, “I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away” (v. 6). It is also true that Hosea and Gomer were instructed to name their next child “Loammi” (“not my people”) for, Jehovah says, “ye are not my people, and I will not be your God” (v. 9). But in the very next verse, God explains, “Yet [notice that powerful “Yet”] the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” (v. 10).

How can God say these two seemingly contradictory truths almost in the same breath: “Ye are not my people” and “Ye are the sons of the living God”? The first statement belongs to the old covenant. The second statement is the promise of the new covenant. The old covenant is the type, for Israel was a type of the church. The new covenant is established with a church that is gathered from every nation, tribe and tongue. The typical old covenant was essentially the same as the new covenant, but the form of its administration changed. In the old covenant, the covenant was administered under the law. Paul speaks of this most emphatically in Galatians 3. The law was never intended by God to save. It was not intended to save in the old dispensation, nor is it, as the premillennialists maintain, intended to save in some future millennium.

It is worth our while to point out the serious error of these premillennialists. God’s promise is stated explicitly in Hosea 1:10. The contents of the promise of a new covenant are not fulfilled in a millennial reign of the Jews in Palestine. I am thankful that Scripture tells us what Hosea 1:10 means and how it is fulfilled. You may find the explanation in Romans 9, where Paul identifies “the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory” (v. 23): “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith in Osee [i.e., Hosea], I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God” (vv. 24-26). The Gentiles were not God’s people in the old dispensation but the Most High now says of them that they are His people. And we are told that Hosea prophesied this!

It is necessary that God’s seemingly contradictory statements in Hosea 1:9-10 be explained in terms of the old covenant and the new covenant of which God spoke through Jeremiah (31:31-34) and which is quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12.

It is striking and important that covenant language in general is used. In Hosea 1:10, the Lord promises that “it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.” This is the language of many places in Scripture where God’s covenant people are defined. One such passage is II Corinthians 6:17-18: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” So also covenant language is used in Hebrews 8:10, in which both typical Israel and the new dispensation church are referred to: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.”

This language ought not to surprise us, for the establishment of the covenant with Abraham defined the covenant: “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen. 17:7). Lest there be any misunderstanding about to whom reference was being made, Jehovah made it clear that He was referring to the “new” covenant, the fulfilment of the old, which includes Gentiles. “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee” (vv. 4-5). This is why Paul could say, “For ye [i.e., believing, largely Gentile inhabitants of Galatia] are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:26-29).   Prof. Hanko

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