Living Where Satan’s Seat Is
August 6th, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
LIVING WHERE SATAN’S SEAT IS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-6-61 10:50 a.m.
For the years and the years we have been preaching through the Bible and are now in the second chapter of the Revelation. If you would like to turn to it, the text this morning is in Revelation 2:13: Living Where Satan’s Seat Is. It is a text out of the address of our Lord to the church at Pergamos. And this is the reading of the passage, Revelation 2:12 through 17:
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith He which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: And thou holdest fast My name, and hast not denied My faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught king Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, in eating things sacrificed unto idols, and commit fornication.
So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Turn, repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and I will give them a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it
And the text: "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is." And the title of the sermon, Living Where Satan’s Seat Is. The Authorized Version has toned down that text. When John wrote it, he wrote it like this: "dwelling where Satan’s thronos is." And the word is thronos, Satan’s "throne." The Authorized Version softened it, "Satan’s seat." But John wrote, "Satan’s throne." So let’s stand.
Satan has a throne. It’s in this earth. It’s in the city. Satan’s throne is in the city. When Lucifer fell from heaven, he dragged down with him one-third of all of the angelic hosts [Revelation 12:4]. And he built his kingdom in this planet. And with him are those multitudes of fallen angelic beings. They are evil spirits. And no man could ever convince me that I have not seen evil enter into the hearts of humanity. Evil spirits: sometimes the spirit of rejection, of unbelief, of blasphemy, of covetousness, of hatred, all kinds of evil, evil that hurts and destroys and wastes. That’s the part of the over-sowing of Satan in God’s earth.
When he fell, he kept his brilliance. He is as shrewd and astute and as ingenious this hour as he was when he was the covering, sheltering, reigning cherub. He presided over God’s heavenly hosts in glory. And fallen and ruined, an enemy of God, when he came down to this earth, he sat up his throne. And from the beginning, from the time there has been the congregation and the aggregation of people in this earth, his throne has been in the city.
In the letter previous, the Lord addresses Smyrna [Revelation 2:8-11]. And there the opposition to the church is in the "synagogue of Satan," in Smyrna. And in the period of ecclesiastical history represented by Smyrna, the opposition to the church was veiled under religion. But in Pergamos, the opposition to the church takes an altogether different turn. And in the glamour, and the glitter, and the glory, and the ebullience, and all of the things that mammon has to offer, worldly greatness and worldly glory, Satan invites the church and the people of God to share it with him. Yea, said Satan to our Lord Himself: "If Thou will fall down and worship me, the glories of the kingdoms of the earth will I give unto Thee" [Luke 4:5-7]. Share it, dwelling where Satan’s throne is.
So when I live in the city, I live where Satan’s seat is. There is evil out in the country. There is evil in rural areas. I grew up in a small village, and for the first ten years of my ministry, I was a country preacher. I know the evil that is in the country, and I know the evil that is in rural areas. But there is no evil and there is no vice like the iniquity that one finds in a city! There are sins gross that I never heard of until I came to live in the city. Somehow, in this great pressing metropolitan area, vice, and iniquity, and lewdness, and evil, and wickedness are much emphasized, and actuated, and implemented, and activated. It becomes a thousand times more virulent in the city than it is in any other part of the earth.
For example, the waste and the sacrifice of young life on the altar of Satan in the city must make God weep. These clear-brained, strong-bodied young men and women who come out of these rural areas and out of these villages, and their faces set toward the city, and here they are debauched and sold for a price, and sacrificed on the altar of white slavery, and liquor, and narcotics, and every vile and vicious and empty pleasure that Satan himself could devise. I see it before my very eyes every day of my life.
There is liquor in the country. Where I went to school, I had a pastorate, and on most any clear day, I could stand in the little village where I preached and see in the distance the soft curl of a smoke from a moonshine still in Kentucky. And in the little town in which I grew up, there was the bootlegger. Everybody knew it, and those who so desired, in the darkness of the night, could do business with him. But you never saw it organized. And you never saw it become corporate and powerful until you touch it in the city. Most of the country area will be dry. You take an election out in a county that is sparsely populated, and most of the times it will vote dry. It matters not to the liquor industries and corporations at all if the whole countryside is dry, just so though they have the city! For it is the city where you find those great vested interests, and if you touch it in Dallas, or if you touch that traffic in any other city, you touch not a man who just sells it, but back of him, you will touch the great financial empires and great political power. For Satan has his throne in the city! And how do you think those great empires are built and those great corporations exist, except they teach every rising generation to use their wares and to destroy their lives by what they sell? For to them, it’s money! That’s the city. And the young people come and are sacrificed on its altar where Satan has his throne.
In my reading, I copied from a court this record:
"What is your name, my woman? And where were you born?"
She answered, "My name is Aileen Burn, Your Honor. And I were born in Aberdeen off the Scotland coastland."
"And you are charged with striking a man?"
"I am, Your Honor."
"And you meant to?"
"I did indeed, Your Honor. He’s killed me, Your Honor. "
"McGennis here testifies that he never laid a hand on you," returned the judge.
"He stabbed me to the heart, Your Honor."
"Stabbed you? Suppose you explain."
"I will. You might know kin what was, Your Honor, to have one bonnie laddie and none else. I left the good father of my lad asleeping in the kirkyard when I brought my wee bairn to this land. For many a year, I toiled in sun and shade for my winsome Robbie. He growed so fine and tall that he was taken to a gentleman’s store to work. Then this man McGinnis set his evil eye on the lad. I was forced to pass his den on my way to and from the bread store and he minded. I hated the look on his face. And one morn as I passed by, he said, ‘I needn’t be so grand about my boy, he were no above takin’ a sup of liquor with the rest.’ I begged my child by the love of God to let the stuff alone. Me Robbie promised to ‘bide me wishes. But this man McGinnis watched to the nights, when were cold and stormin’ and gave the lad to his dreadful drinks to warm him, he would say. I go on my knees to my bairn and plead him, pass the place no more, but to get home by some other road. Then I went myself to the man and perhaps, Your Honor, you can understand how a mother would beg and pray for the bone of her bone and the flesh of her flesh. But he laughed in me face. Last night, Your Honor, the noise at me door frightened me. I run with all me might to see what were the trouble. And me Robbie swayed into the room and fell at me feet. He were drunk, Your Honor. When McGinnis poked his face in at the door and said, ‘What think you now, Mrs. Burn,’ did I mean to strike the man, Your Honor? If I could, I’d a strike the breath out of his body. You better keep me with lock and key until me gloom dies out. But oh, Judge, Judge, I wish meself and me lad here were in the courtyard aside the good father. They tell me if I could prove the lot sold liquor to the bairn under age, the law could stop him. I tell you, Judge, there is naught but God’s vengeance can stop his ilk. It’s well enough to arrest the mither that strikes the mon as ruins her bairn, but wait till the Lord God Almighty strikes. Aye! Wait for that!"
If they didn’t do it, they’d run out of business. So every ingenuity and every way by which they can teach our children to drink, that’s what they do, for if they failed, they would be nobody to whom to sell their wares. So the young people come and they pour into the city. And there, Satan presides. And they are debauched.
One young man I am thinking of, destroyed and ruined, said, "I went to hear the minister. And the minister said was no harm in a man drinking provided he didn’t drink too much." So the boy followed the advice of a minister. And one out of every nine that drink become problem alcoholics! One out of every nine can’t leave it alone. Five hundred thousand every year turn in destruction and in hopelessness into that downward road where Satan’s seat is. And most of the ministers of the gospel of the Son of God encourage them in it. Any man, I don’t care what his ordination, who says to a boy, "It’s all right to drink," has on his hands the blood of one young man out of nine or one young woman out of nine. It’s not worth it. It’s not worth it. Young man, don’t touch it. As this dear, blessed Scot woman fell down before her bairn and pleaded and pled and begged and prayed, pass it by. Pass it by. You may be one of the eight that can learn to carry your liquor. You may be, I don’t deny it. I say to you, for the ninth one, it’s not worth it. It’s not worth it. The destruction of his life is not worth it. Give it up! Give it up! Pass it by!
In the city where Satan’s seat is, Satan’s throne is in the city where mammon dwells. Satan likes to have his throng in the glitter, and in the glory, and in the shine, and in the greatness of worldly power and worldly influence. The Lord God said, "You cannot serve God and mammon" [Matthew 6:24]. You look at that sentence. It is out of the Sermon on the Mount. He did not say you cannot serve God and the devil. He said, "You cannot serve God and mammon." God controls the spiritual life of a man through his heart; to the great commitments of his soul to Jesus. But mammon controls the life of a man through his affinities and love for the world and the things of the world. And there are men who sell their souls, and there are women who trade their lives for the tinsel and the tinfoil and the cheap rewards of this present, weary world. Satan has his seat in the city where mammon is great.
And false doctrine, which I haven’t time to speak of and will later, false doctrine is found in the city. I tell you the truth, if you had the preaching of the gospel in a country church for five thousand years, at the end of five thousand years, it would still be true to the faith of the Son of God. Heresy is in the city. It’s in the great institution, and it’s in the city pulpit. There was placed in my hands week before last a book by one of our own men, one of our supposedly great and intellectual theological professors. And it is an affront to God. One of the men in the service this morning brought me, two or three days ago, an article in a current magazine that you can buy down here on the racks. It proposes to be the attitude of the present, modern-day Protestant minister regarding some of the sacred relationships of human life. And had Freud written it, had an outright infidel written it, it would have been no more offensive and repulsive to God and to the Holy Book out of which I try to preach the message of Jesus; heresy out of the city where Satan has his throne.
We must hurry. Isn’t it a strange thing, "To the angel, to the pastor of the church in Pergamos write: I know where thou dwellest, where Satan has his throne." Well, of all the places, where is God’s church, but there, there? Aesculapius, the god of healing, whose symbol was a serpent and all of the orgies and incantations that went along with that heathen worship; then further up the hill Zeus, Jupiter; a little below the hill, Athena, Minerva; toward the heart of the city, Apollo. Surely, you wouldn’t find a church in a place like that. What a trying, perilous and difficult place to locate God’s house! No, sir. There where it is most difficult and most trying, there where it is most needed, there did Jesus build His house, did God establish His church, where Satan’s throne is. And that’s where it needs to be. In the midst of these towering monuments to wealth and industry and commerce, right down in the district where the nightclubs are, and the hotels are, and all of the passing throngs of humanity; there where Satan has his throne there is the church of Jesus Christ. There it ought to be. "I know thy works and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is: and thou hast not denied My faith, but you have been true like a bridge of stars, like a lighthouse set on a hill; thou hast not denied My faith" [Revelation 2:13].
How do we deny the faith in the city where Satan’s throne is? Briefly, may I say a few words then I must close. One: we deny the faith by refusing to confess it. Hush, hush. I’m a Christian. Hush, hush. I’m a member of that dear blessed and precious First Baptist Church. But hush, hush. It’s not to be said. It’s not to be confessed. It’s to be hid. It’s to be taken out of sight. It’s to be made a deep inward clandestine secret. But it’s not to be shared or confessed.
"I know where you dwell, where Satan has his throne, and thou hast not denied My faith, even in those days when Antipas, My faithful" – what did we say last Sunday: in Revelation 1:5 the word is translated "witness"; here Revelation 2:13 it is translated "martyr." It is the same word, the Greek word martus – "martyr, witness." In speaking of the church at Smyrna, we described the martyrdom of Polycarp, the pastor of the church, the one doubtless to whom the letter is addressed. And when he stood before the proconsul on that great festival day in 155 AD, the proconsul said, "Deny, blaspheme Christ, and I will give you your life." And in the great and famous answer of Polycarp, then when the proconsul pressed him again, Polycarp answered, "You ask me to deny what I am. Listen, I am a Christian!" And Polycarp paid for it with his life. And when the Lord says here, you have not denied My faith, then He mentions His faithful martyr, Antipas. I suppose he died in the same way Polycarp died. Just deny that you are a Christian, and we will receive you, and you will be one of us. Just violate, do, do violence to the great commitment in your soul and in your life and the call of God in heaven, and we will number you, we’ll like you. We will take you in. You can join our club. You can walk by our sides. You can sell our merchandise, and we will buy from you. "If I starve to death, I will not compromise!" "That is My faithful witness, My faithful martyr" [Revelation 2:13]. "Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven. Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I deny before My Father which is in heaven" [Matthew 10:33]. Down that aisle and here to the front, "I’m a Christian." Baptized in obedience to the command of the Lord Jesus Christ, I’m a Christian." And out there working in the world, "I’m a Christian. I’m a Christian." "Thou hast not denied My faith."
How sometimes do we deny the faith? We deny it by exchanging it for another gospel and another savior. Wouldn’t that be a strange thing? After God has gathered His saints into glory, and these first Christians, first century Christians say back there in the days of the apostles, they have been saved by one kind of a gospel. In the third century Christians, they’ve been saved by another type of a gospel. Then the fifteenth century Christians, they’ve been saved by another kind of a gospel. And the twentieth century Christians, they’ve been saved by still another kind of a gospel. And when all of these different clients of these separate ways ascribe praise and glory to the one who saved them, what a motley conglomeration it would be! Would be discord from one end of the corridors of heaven to the other.
Man, that’s not the way God has it! Back there in the first century, saved by the blood of the Crucified One; in the second century, saved by the blood of the Crucified One; in the third century, the fifteenth, the nineteenth and today, all glory unto Him who washed us in His blood, to Him who reigneth forever and ever, to the Lamb of God: the same song through the centuries and the same ascription of praise through the unending millenniums. No new gospel, no other Savior, just Jesus and His love, "Thou hast not denied My faith."
How do we deny the faith? By forsaking it, by quitting it. We can do it individually. Many a fine Christian family comes to the city and is lost to God. Many a man who once served Jesus has forsaken the faith. Many a youth who loved God as a child or as a teenager, now is sold unto sin, with a load on his back and misery and blackness for his every day. Weep at night. Their hearts hunger, but they are out in the world. We can forsake, we can deny the faith by quitting it. And what we can do as an individual, we can do as a church. I think our Savior weeps over the great cities of the world, where the population of humanity and mankind every day presses more and more inwardly toward the city.
Don’t you ever persuade yourself that these great cities are emptying themselves of their populations. Every day that passes, the population of this heart of this great city increases and shall increase. Every day that I drive home and back to the church, where there used to be a single dwelling and a single dwelling, now they are stacked on top of each other, those multiplied units that constantly increase up and up and up and up and up, and shall continue to increase. Cater-cornered across from our church is going up right this minute a great towering apartment building, and directly across from our church is going up another one. These great cities tower and tower and tower, and the populations of the earth flood into them. And the churches of Jesus Christ go further out, and out, and out, and out, and out, and out, and away.
I copied from a Boston pastor, "Only two churches remain on the ground first occupied by the gospel in Boston. The sepulchers of Increase and Cotton Mather are with us to this day. They sleep hard by the scenes of their useful labors, but the churches to which they ministered have moved out." And those vast, teeming thousands and thousands are left forsaken where Satan’s seat is – where Satan’s throne is!
And the Lord said, "I understand. My church in the heart of that city, I know, I know the peril and the difficulty and the trial. I understand. I understand." And He does. Sometimes when the clusters from the vineyards may be few, He sees the ground is barren. And sometimes when the yield may be small, He sees the plowshares break against the rocks in the soil. He understands. That’s no reason to quit. And that’s no reason to cease to pray. And that’s no reason to stop our great thrust for God in the heart of His city where Satan has his throne. We challenge every inch of ground that he battles for, every vile and vicious thing that he offers. We challenge him to his face. These youth, they belong to God, not to the world. And these beautiful ones, they are dedicated to Christ, and not to Satan. And the power and the glory and the influence that God hath placed in this world and in the hands of men, it rightfully belongs to heaven, and not to hell. And God hath set His church, even us, where Satan’s seat is, where Satan has his throne that we might build up the household of faith in the name and in the spirit and the victorious conquest of our Lord Jesus.
Oh, man! March with us, march by our sides. Step with us, come, come, come. While we sing this song of appeal, giving your heart to Jesus or putting your life with us in the fellowship of the church, while we sing this song of invitation, make it this morning. Here, by the side of this sacred table, the pastor stands. And while we sing the song of appeal, to trust Jesus as Savior, or to put your life with us in the fellowship of the church, or the whole family of you come, "Pastor, this is my wife, these are our children. We are all coming today." As the Spirit of God shall lead in the way, will you follow after and make it now? While we stand and while we sing.