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Missions 101

Satan's Two Attacks

Feb. 10, 2012By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

The Letter to Pergamum reads:

 12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has ethe sharp two-edged sword.

13 “‘I know where you dwell, fwhere Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith2 even in the days of Antipas hmy faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 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. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers 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.’ 

I believe there are two primary ways Satan attacks the church – by killing the saints and through false teaching.   The letter to Pergamum in the book of Revelation plays this out. 

 First, we find Antipas, the faithful witness, killed.  This is the work of the first beast in Revelation 13.  He attacks the saints of God through persecution and at times, death.  Even this week, Newsweek’s current cover-story is “The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World.”  Are you surprised?

A few years ago ago Italian journalist Antonio Socci presented his work during a conference on "Anti-Christian Persecution in the 20th Century" held at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.  "I handed in the draft of the book in January; since then the martyrdom of Christians has had no letup," the author noted.  Socci´s map of the current persecution highlights countries where Christians are dying for their faith and it includes the Molucca Islands of Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, East Timor, Cuba, the former Soviet republics, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries, Vietnam, China and others.  According to the author, the two currents that fuel the persecution of Christians today are Communism and Muslim fundamentalism.

In two millennia of Christian history, about 70 million faithful have given their lives for the faith, and of these, 45.5 million -- fully 65% -- were in the last century, according to "The New Persecuted"

This is attack can be pretty easy to see. It is slightly complicated by tribalism (not necessarily direct persecution of faith, but tribal warfare), but the bottom line is still the same.  Persecution that causes economic and physical hardship is easy to identify.

The second attack comes through false teaching being introduced into the church. This is the work of the second beast of Revelation 13 who looks like a lamb but speaks like a dragon.  You can’t tell the work of the beast by how he looks, but by what he says.  False teachers never wear a sign announcing themselves.  You have to discern who they are by the content of their words. 

In Pergamum false teachers were syncretizing the Christian faith and with it came some sort of moral compromise (like most false teaching!).  The church of Ephesus had tested every teacher who had come into their fellowship (Rev 2:2) and identified those who were false.  Pergamum has failed in this regard.  It is amazing to think that while physical persecution was taking place, Jesus still challenges them.  You think Jesus would just pat them on the back and encourage them.  Instead, He threatens!  

So here is the question: Which one is harder to deal with?

Satan’s attack of phyiscal persecution is easy to see and agree with others that is happening.  It typically unifies the church and rallies brothers and sisters in Christ of a wide theological spectrum together.  I am not saying that physical persecution is not hard, but at least we can agree on what it is when we see it.  Plus, when a Christian dies, they ultimate defeat Satan.

False teaching causes all sorts of problems.  One, Christians can’t even agree on what false teaching is, sometimes when it concerns the most basic of doctrines.  A cursory reading of the New Testament finds that false teaching is the primary cause of problems in the early church.  Sure, Stephen was stoned and countless others were killed, but that only caused the roots of Christian faith to sink deeper and spread farther.  Someone once said “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”  That is not always true, but most times it captures what happens during physical persecution.

False teaching splits churches, confuses saints, ruins ministries and inhibits evangelism. Has martyrdom ever done that? Maybe at some level, yes, but false teaching does more harm.  No wonder a significant portion of the New Testament is focused on right belief!

 

Tags:  false teaching
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