Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Even if it feels like everyone around you is buying into worldly thinking, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth encourages you to stand firm.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: It's like, you can say "no" to the things the world offers you if you know that just ahead, you have something held out to you that the world can't possibly give to you, and that is the riches that are found in Jesus Christ.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Surrender: The Heart God Controls, for Friday, September 8, 2017.

This week, Nancy's honesty has been refreshing, not always easy to hear, but refreshing. When unbiblical ideas pop up all around you, the truth is attractive. In our current series, "Compromising Truth," Nancy's touched on how to handle doctrinal error and unrepentant sin. She's going to wrap this series up with a whole lot of hope.

Nancy:
If you've not been with us over the past several sessions, I want to encourage you to go to ReviveOurHearts.com and pull up the transcripts from the last several sessions because we're jumping into the middle of a tough passage here, and I don't want to have to repeat all that we've said to reset us. If you have been with us over these last several sessions, you may be wondering when you can breathe. What's going to happen here? It has felt negative and heavy because it's a heavy passage.

We're dealing with the letter that Jesus sent to the church in Pergamum, the third of the seven churches in the book of Revelation, and it's a heavy message. It's a hard message, and it's been real quiet in this room as we've been talking about encroaching worldliness and spiritual adultery and where that comes from and the jealousy of God and the righteous wrath of God. Today we're going to, well, we're not only going to breathe, we're going to have great joy as we see how this letter to the church wraps up with a great promise of reward for those who are faithful.

Just by way of recap, Revelation chapter 2, you remember the message to the church in Pergamum comes from Him who has the sharp, two-edged sword. He says,

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.

But I have a few things against you: [Jesus said] you have some there [not all, maybe not most, but some, at least a minority in this church who hold, instead of holding to the name of Christ, they] hold to 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. So also, you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans (vv. 13–15).

Apparently, there were some in the church at Pergamum who taught that as long as you had the right doctrinal statement, your conduct and your lifestyle didn't matter. You could be engaged with the world and worldly affairs, could do worldly things. You could look like the world, act like the world, and still call yourself a Christian. You could be a member of God's covenant community but live as if you were a part of the world.

The message that Jesus sends to this church is, we cannot, we must not tolerate within the church those who lower the standard of truth and its application. God cares about right teaching and right living. If we have wrong teaching, we will have wrong living. Both must be holy and according to the truth of God's Word. If we don't deal with these issues in the church, if we stand by and just let these things happen and turn the other way, then Christ says that He Himself will come and deal with these issues.

Verse 16:

Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them [that is those who are promoting these teachings] with the sword of my mouth.

Jesus is saying you better deal with this and deal with it in love and deal with it through the steps of church discipline: going first one person, then taking another with you and going through the whole progression in Matthew chapter 18. But if as a result of that progression they refuse to repent, then ultimately, you must purge out the evil from among you.

You must disfellowship them. They cannot continue to be members of the church in good standing if they are persisting in a lifestyle or a way of teaching or living that is contrary to God's Word.

Now, verse 17, Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” I want to just reiterate that what Jesus said to the churches in the first century, He is still saying to the churches in the twenty-first century. I have lived in these passages for months now, and I'm just so struck at how relevant and contemporary these passages are and how desperately we need these messages in our churches today.

Hear what the Spirit says to the churches. [Then He says, and this is the word of hope.] To the one who conquers [That is, the one who doesn't give in to the world, the one who doesn't accommodate to the world, the one who doesn't give in to worldly teaching in the church] To the one who conquers [who stays faithful to My covenant], I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.

Now, as we've said, these letters in Revelation are written to the corporate church bodies, but I love the fact that there's an individual, personal dimension to these letters. I see that in a couple of ways. First of all, we see that each, individual believer is urged and expected to listen to the message and to take it personally, to act on the message, regardless of whether anyone else does or not. I think that's what it means when it says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Even if the whole church doesn't hear, you hear. To hear in the Scripture means not only to hear with your physical ears, it means to hear and heed, to do something about it. The implication there is that if every professing Christian in your church or your city or in the whole world is seduced by the world's standards and falls prey to worldliness and compromise, you and I must still purpose to be faithful to the truth and the holiness of God's Word. Even if everybody else falls away, and by the way, they haven't. There still are many who have not bowed the knee to Baal, but we must still purpose to be faithful even if all those around us are falling prey to worldliness and compromise.

Then I see another aspect of the personal, the individual dimension of these letters, and that is that each individual believer who conquers, or as some of your translations say, “who overcomes,” each one will receive his own reward. “To the one who conquers,” it says, “I will give some of the hidden manna.”

Each of these letters promises a specific reward to those who are faithful to Christ all the way to the finish line. These rewards—they're in each of the seven letters—they symbolize the blessings that God has in store for those who love Him and steadfastly hold to Him. He holds these blessings out to us.

We're living, as the people in Pergamum did, in a place where Satan dwells, in the place where there are strong, anti-God forces. It's hard to live a holy life in this world. I know that, and it may be very, very hard for you to live a holy life in your home, in your marriage, in your workplace, in your school. It's difficult. It's challenging. You have to constantly be going against the flow.

If you keep your eyes on the reward,it will help you to deal with the allure and the enticement of the world.

Jesus knows that, but He holds out to us these amazing promises to encourage us to be faithful even when it's hard. He says, “Keep your eyes on the finish line.” If you keep your eyes on the reward, the promises of God, it will help you to deal with the allure and the enticement of the world. It's like, you can say no to the things the world offers you if you know that just ahead you have something held out to you that the world can't possibly give to you, and that is the riches that are found in Jesus Christ.

Now, two things are promised to the faithful believers in Pergamum, and that's what I want to look at today. He promises something called hidden manna, and then He promises a white stone engraved with a name that no one knows but the one who receives it. The manna draws on Old Testament history, as we'll see in a moment, and the white stone is a symbol that's drawn from their current situation in the Roman era.

Let's look at these two in order. First, the hidden manna—you remember that God fed His people with manna in the wilderness. Psalm 78 says, “He rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance” (vv. 24–25).

This manna in the Old Testament was supernatural. It was a gift of God. It came down from heaven. It was not something that man could make or supply, and it was satisfying. It was the bread of angels, and it was sufficient. It was in abundance.

There was a daily supply of this manna, always-sufficient supply, to meet everyone's need. God fed the Israelites with physical manna, and He has promised to feed His people with spiritual manna. In the New Testament, we read that the manna in the Old Testament is a picture of manna from heaven and a symbol for Christ, the bread of life who was sent by God from heaven and who satisfies our hunger.

Let me read to you several verses out of John chapter 6, just a wonderful passage where Jesus makes this point. He says, 

Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he [it's a person] who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (vv. 31–33).

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst (v. 35).

I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died (vv. 48–49).

It was just physical food. It only sustained them temporarily, but,

This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread [that] I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (vv. 50–51).

As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever (vv. 57–58).

Now, that passage, and I just read portions of it, is rather repetitive. Jesus keeps saying again and again because He wants us to get it, “I am the bread from heaven. I am the bread of life. I am the gift of God, and I'm not just like the manna they had in the Old Testament that satisfies you physically for a day and then you've got to get more and ultimately you die. But He says, “I'm the bread of heaven that, if you eat of me, you will have eternal life. You will never die.”

The manna in the wilderness kept the children of Israel alive. It provided physical sustenance, but it's a picture of Christ who gives us life and provides spiritual sustenance. So when Jesus says, “I will give to you who overcome some of the hidden manna,” He's talking about communion with Himself, intimate fellowship with Himself. If you turn down communion with the world, you are going to have communion eternally with Christ.

Jesus is saying in effect, those who believe on Him, who feast on Him, who practice His Word, they will live. But those who believe and feast on and practice the teaching of Balaam, compromise with the world; they will ultimately perish. Remember, we saw that in the last session. If they don't repent, "I will come with the sword of my mouth, and I will destroy them."

You want to live? Jesus says, “Hold out for the heavenly manna. Don't compromise with the world. There's some better fellowship waiting for you.”

Now, why is it called hidden manna? It makes me think of that passage in John 4 where Jesus said to His disciples when they tried to get Him to eat. It was lunchtime, and everybody was hungry. Jesus said, “I have food to eat that you do not know about” (v. 32).

He was saying that He had a source of sustenance within Him that was not physical. It was not material. It was dependence on His heavenly Father who gave Him strength. I think Jesus is saying, “There's a manna; there's a supply; there's a strength and a sustenance I can fill you with and I can give to you. It's Me in you, and it's something that others don't understand.”

It's something that they don't know about because you can't see it. It's unseen, but it's very real. This spiritual food is hidden from the eyes of the unbelieving world. They don't have eyes to see Christ. They don't get how He can satisfy us so deeply that we would not have to drink in the mud holes of the world.

Because, you see, to the world, those mud holes are beautiful. That's all they have. Why should we need to go after those other things when we have Christ?

Well, the world sees us pursuing Christ, and they think, You're nuts! Pursue after the things of the world, the baubles of the world, the sexual enticements of the world. These things are fun. These things are pleasures.

They say you need these things. You want these things, and we can say, “I have food that you don't know anything about. I have Christ.”

They don't understand how we can be so deeply and fully satisfied with Christ that we don't need to fill our bellies with the cornhusks of the world. So in this letter, Jesus challenges His believers. He encourages them to be faithful and to look forward to a heavenly feast, hidden manna, to practice self-denial. To those who do practice self-denial here in this world, who abstain from eating meat offered to idols on this earth, in heaven, they will eat the bread of God. They'll have a feast.

Those who say no to the lusts of their flesh and refuse to be seduced by worldly, illicit, sensual pleasures, those who are willing to forfeit temporal pleasures, He says to them, “You will gain eternal pleasures in the presence of God.

A lot of people look at Christians and think, I wouldn't want to be a Christian. Look at all the things you have to give up. 

I want to tell you ladies, I have not given up anything for Christ that He has not given me much, much more and much better in return. And, I have only begun to taste of all He has ahead for me for all of eternity. There is an eternal, heavenly manna that is rich. It is exquisite. It is delectable. It is beautiful. It is precious. It is desirable. It is filling. It is satisfying.

Why in the world would I settle for what the world offers when Christ offers me Himself? The heavenly manna.

Let me say that as we appeal to believers to turn away from worldliness, it's a mistake, I think, just to put out there for them a list of all the things you can't do.

"You shouldn't be doing this. You shouldn't do that. You shouldn't dress this way. You shouldn't watch that kind of stuff." There are some of those things that need to be said, but ultimately, we need to get to the point of Christ offers you Himself, and you'd be foolish to settle for anything or anyone less than Him.

Point people to Christ, who is love, who is deeply satisfying. "To those who overcome, those who conquer, I will give some of the hidden manna." Then He says, I will give them also, “a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” Now, it's tempting to skip over this phrase because the fact is, as many commentators and sermons as I've read on this passage, the fact is, no one knows what that means.

They've offered a lot of suggestions. There are a lot of interpretations, explanations. The fact is, we don't know what it means. However, a white stone was used in several different ways in the ancient world. This concept would have been familiar to the first century believers in Pergamum who received this letter, so I want to tell you just several of the different possibilities of what a white stone could mean. They all suggest something that is part of reward that could be intended by Jesus here.

For example, in those days, juries voted by casting stones into an urn. If the jury member thought that you were not guilty, they would throw in a white stone. If they thought you were guilty, they would throw in a black stone. Then they would pull the stones out of the urn, and if you had more white stones than black stones, you would be acquitted. If you had more black stones than white stones, you would be condemned.

Now, another explanation that I read for this is that when you were acquitted in a trial, you would be given a white stone, a symbol of your being released. Regardless, the point here may be that for those who remain faithful to Christ and demonstrate that they belong to Him, God will acquit them. In the final judgment, they will not be condemned. That could be what it means.

Here's another possibility. In those days, people commonly wore amulets that were sometimes made of white or precious stones. These were like good luck charms. They were supposed to keep a person safe. Sometimes they would have mystic writing on them. They were supposed to be doubly effective if only the person wearing it knew what that writing meant.

Sometimes these stones would be inscribed with the secret name of a pagan god. The ancient world believed that the names of the gods had mystical powers and that if you knew the name, the secret name of a god, it would give you special access to those powers. You could claim help and protection from that god.

Well, if that's what was meant here, then what Jesus is promising to these who believe Him and who hold faithful to the end, He's promising a stone with a name engraved, the name, not of some pagan deity, but the name of Christ, the name of Christ that is more powerful than any pagan god's—speaking to the power of Christ to protect those who put their trust in Him. Jesus is saying, in effect, you don't need a good luck charm to keep you safe. If you have my name written on your heart, you will be safe in this life and the next.

Another way that the white stone was used was that sometimes two friends would divide a white stone in half, and each one would carry half of that stone with him and would have the friend's name inscribed on his half. So I would carry the half of the stone that had your name inscribed on it, and you would carry the stone with my name on it. It would be a reminder of our loyalty and our friendship and the fact that we are united in friendship.

If that's what Jesus had in mind here, then the white stone is a picture of a believer's friendship with Christ, with my name written on His portion and His name written on mine.

The most common explanation I've seen for this white stone is that in these days, white stones were distributed by the Roman government as tickets to banquets or entertainment or games that the Romans would hold. If you had this white stone, you could get into the event. The point being that those who belong to Christ and who evidence it by declining the world's sinful pleasures, they will be granted entrance to that great banquet in heaven where they will feast. They will find their joy and their delight for all of eternity in Him.

There are those who say that the new name to be engraved is the name of Christ that's engraved on our stone. If that's the case, it suggests that we will one day know Him in a more clear, personal, intimate way than we have ever known Him before.

There are others who say, “No, it's not Christ's name that's on that stone. It's our name that's on that stone.” And you say, “Well, that's not a new name that no one knows.” Well, it's the new name of who we are as a new creature in Christ, fully transformed into the likeness of Christ and that that stone with the new name written on it symbolizes who He has made us by His grace.

“There's a new name written on the stone that no one knows,” Jesus says, “except the one who receives it.” I think that secret name, whatever it is, is a sign of intimacy with Christ, something that is only disclosed to the one who receives this reward. It's a picture of the intimate, self-revelation of Christ that is promised to those who hold fast to Him. It's a private, a personal love, an expression of Himself. Those who hold fast to the name of Christ and the truth of His Word will come to know Him in an even more personal, intimate, satisfying way in eternity and for all of eternity.

If we have conquered in this world, if we have said no to the defilements and the pleasures of this world that are sinful, if we've said no to idolatry and no to spiritual adultery, we've said yes to Christ, we've stayed faithful to His covenant by His grace, then we have Christ's promise that He will manifest Himself to us. He will completely satisfy our hearts, our minds, and our souls with Himself for ever and ever and ever and ever, and that's why we don't have to compromise.

We don't have to accommodate to the world because we have a feast coming. We have promised joys coming. We have hidden manna. We have that white stone that's going to give us entrance into that feast. All these promises are ours for all eternity if we will overcome now.

Leslie: When you swim against the stream of popular opinion, there is reward and rest ahead. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been encouraging you to stand firm for the truth no matter what other people around you are doing. 

Today's program wraps up the series, "Letters to the Churches in Revelation, Part 4: Compromising Truth." It's been based on the letter to the church in Pergamum that we read in the book of Revelation. There are seven churches altogether, and Nancy's devoting a series to each this year.

Words of truth and hope are valuable. We believe so strongly in connecting women to God's Word that we come to you every day on the radio and online. We're thankful to be able to connect with the women in various seasons of life, like the mother of eight who wrote us not too long ago.

She said that compared to all of her other Christian friends, she dressed pretty modestly, but she wrote, “It's been brought to my attention that I can't be the proper example to my nine-year-old daughter if I'm not dressing in a biblical way.” She wrote asking for advice and some of the resources we've developed on modesty.

Connections like these are made possible thanks to listeners who give. When you support the ministry with a donation of any amount, we'll send you the booklet Ears to Hear. It will help you explore the letters to the churches in Revelation through a series of follow up questions to use after you’ve read these biblical letters on your own. Ask for the booklet Ears to Hear when you donate by phone. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Please be back next week. We'll continue to call women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ, here on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you stay in the treasure of God's truth. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.