Each of the seven letters to the church dictated by Jesus and faithfully transcribed by John contain so much for us to absorb and take to heart. The letter to Pergamum is particularly fascinating.
The Lord Jesus identifies an astonishing reality with the words: “I know where you live – where Satan has his throne.” I mentioned in a previous article that Pergamum stood at the base of a large conical hill and that halfway up the slope of this hill was a massive altar to Zeus. From a distance, it looked like a giant throne constantly belching smoke from the daily sacrifices made on it. Yet the contents of the letter indicate something more subtle than this. The city also housed the temple of Æscalapius, the serpentine god of sexual license, drunkenness, and healing. This pagan deity was portrayed as huge snake … now why is this so familiar? Ah yes, our ancestors met him in the Garden of Eden when Satan enticed them into rebelling against God.
In His letter Jesus states that serpent Satan was ‘living’ in Pergamum, and the reality is that he still dwells in the earthly realm. In three places in the Gospel of John Jesus is recorded as referring to Satan as ‘the prince of this world’ (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11). In the first of these Jesus says, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out”. When the 72 disciples returned from their missions and reported that even demons had submitted to them, Jesus responded with: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy;” (Luke 10:18-19). If Satan has fallen from heaven and is referred to as the prince of this world, then where does he live? He lives right here in the spiritual dimension of our earthly habitation.
This revelation helps us to understand the essence of what we so blithely refer to as ‘spiritual warfare’. Satan is not at war with God, he is at war with us! He is not powerful enough to stand for even an instant against the might of the triune God, so he wages war against us. His objective is to stave off his final fiery destiny by attempting to prevent human beings, made in the image of God, from becoming spiritually regenerated and like Jesus.
Satan is not at war with God, he is at war with us!
The letter to the church in Pergamum reveals one of the weapons of the serpent’s warfare. Jesus mentions someone by the name of Balaam, ‘who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality’ (Revelation 2:14). Balak was a Moabite king who was so threatened by the ancient Israelites that he tried to commission the prophet Balaam to curse them (Numbers 22:4-6). Balaam refused to do this directly but he had no qualms about telling the king how he could indirectly curse the people of God. Numbers chapter 31, together with 2 Peter 2:14-15, tells the sorry tale of how Balaam probably suggested to Balak that he instruct his young woman to flirt with the Israelite men and allow themselves to be seduced. This tactic worked, the men took the women as mistresses and wives, who then moved in with their pagan idols and customs. This seriously compromised the people of God and weakened them considerably.
Illicit sex, substance abuse, and occult healing have been three key tactics of our enemy the devil for the last two thousand years. In my next post I will deal with substance abuse and occult healing but for now I will touch on just one major sex-related attack on the church – pornography.
An August 2014 article in the Christian Post quotes from the Barna Research findings that approximately two-thirds of U.S. men view pornography at least monthly and that the number of Christian men viewing pornography virtually mirrors the national average. It went on to report that, ‘18 percent of American men, approximately 21 million, think they are either addicted or are unsure if they are addicted to porn’.
Pornography has some very negative features. It demeans women and positions them as sex objects to be used rather than equals to be honored. It also dissociates the viewer from reality and separates the sexual act from an intimate and caring relationship leaving the user with an unsatisfying and empty substitute. The effect of this on relationships, and marriage relationships in particular, can be devastatingly destructive.
Pornography is also potentially addictive. Viewing pornography releases Dopamine into the brain and repeated infusions of this powerful chemical can cause addiction . A person enslaved to anything, alcohol, pills, or pornography, cannot fully relate to or serve God. But addiction has an even more sinister dimension because it opens the door to demonic oppression and this further incapacitates and blights a Christian’s life.
the best way to deal with pornography is not to indulge in it in the first place
Pornography is a powerful weapon in Satan’s arsenal but, ‘The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). Of course the best way to deal with pornography is not to indulge in it in the first place. But if it has already become a problem, then the Holy Spirit is more than able to help though the advice of godly people, deliverance, and inner strength. We are not defenseless!
In my next post I want to focus on the dark side of healing and compare the serpents counterfeit to the genuine gift of God.