Revelation 2:12 – “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
Pergamum was the political capital of the Asia minor region of the Roman Empire. It served as the regions capital city for over 300 years. Modern day it is still there but is called Bergama. In ancient days, it was a center for culture and education as it held a notable library with over 200,000 volumes. But just like the other cities we have studied, it was a religious city that housed pagan temples to Dionysus, Athena, Demeter, Zeus, Caesar Augustus, and Asclepios.
This church is also addressed by Jesus as he describes himself as Him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. We have seen John use this description of Jesus already in chapter 1:16. Here is a part of that study for a review: Read Hebrews 4:12. The greek word for sword used in this Hebrews verse is “machaira”. It describes a short little sword or knife used to make precise cuts and it symbolizes the Word of God. The Bible does this very thing to us as it shapes us into the image of our Lord. This greek word for sword however is not the one used in this Revelation verse. The greek word for sword used in this verse is “rhomphia”. It menas a long, heavy, large type sword. The type used to kill and destroy or used for defense. Read and compare to Ephesians 6:17. Jesus won’t be using His for defense however, as Satan, demons, and the wicked will be thrown into the Abyss.
Revelation 2:13 – I know where you live–where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city–where Satan lives.
As we have seen in our study time and time again, Jesus knows all. He knows what we think, what we are doing, where we live and work, and where and what we spend our time doing. If you accept Him as Lord and Savior, this is a very comforting thought. But if your not…..
Just like us, He knew where the church of Pergamum was located. It’s not exactly known what is meant here by Satan’s throne, but looking at what the city is, it may refer to it being the capital city of the region and it is run by heathen intellectuals. Men that were not guided by God, and therefore Satan had a huge power base here.
Even with their location, this church remained true to the name of Jesus. They held fast to the faith even if it meant losing their life. Christ here gives us a good example in the faithful witness, Antipas. It is widely understood that in church history this is the only mention of this individual and his martyrdom. He is never mentioned again in scripture, nor in any other historical writings of that time. Nobody else found it worthy to mention his name and works, other than Jesus. No matter how small or insignificant we may think we are or how much we think what we do in service goes unnoticed, there is One that always knows and that’s all that matters.
Revelation 2:14 – Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.
Nevertheless. Even though the above is so about the church in Pergamum, it does not out- weigh what they are doing wrong. Let us never think that we can cover up even the smallest sin in our eyes by a great act of service. Only the blood of Christ can cover up our sins.
What were they doing wrong? There was some in their church who held to the teaching of Balaam. The story of Balaam can be found in Numbers 22-31, but here is a short synopsis. Balak the Midianite King wanted Balaam, a prophet, to curse the Israelites. Not getting permission from God, Balaam instead worked around it and advised Balak to send Midianite women to the Israelites to lead them astray. The Israelites intermarried with the Midianite women and were lead into various forms of idolatry and sexual immorality. This is was a prototype of future teachers who deceive believers into compromise their faith with worldliness.
Revelation 2:15 – Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
The Teachings of the Nicolatians, if you remember from their mentioning in the Church of Ephesus study, believed that what was done in the flesh did not effect the spirit and that they almost had to indulge in sin to understand it. Again, they compromised their faith with worldly desires.
Here is a quote from Cicero, a pagan Roman statesman, that will give you a general idea of the worldly mind frame of their time: “If there is anyone who thinks that young men should not be allowed the love of many women, he is extremely severe. I am not able to deny the principle he stands on. But he contradicts, not only with the freedom our age allows, but also with the customs and allowances of our ancestors. When indeed was this not done? When did anyone find fault with it? When was such permission denied? When was it that what is now allowed was not allowed?”
The Christians in Pergamum had to really swim against the current. Some didn’t however, and they gave into worldly desires of the flesh. How does the mind frame back then compare to the mind frame now?
Looking closer at the last two verses, Jesus’ reprimand wasn’t just against the people who held to the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolatians, but it is also against the true Christians that were tolerating these actions. “YOU have people there who hold to the teachings of Balaam…”. “…YOU also have those who hold…” Read 1 Corinthians 5. We are to not tolerate false teachings in our churches and we are to judge them by what
scripture says. (Notice, however, that we are to judge people that are already in our churches and are actual or professing Christians, not people who are outside of the church and have never professed to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We must show these people grace, love, and mercy as we were shown when we were outside of the body of Christ. We don’t condone their actions, but at the same, we were lost sinners in need of a Savior once also. I am thankful I didn’t have to clean up my life before Jesus saved me. I would still be lost. Grace and mercy first, then God will help to clean up their lives after.)
Revelation 2:16 – Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Repentance is not just for unbelievers. As we saw from the past two verses, Jesus is calling for the false Christians and true Christians of the church in Pergamum to repent. Remember that even after we first give our life to Jesus and our sins are thrown as far as the east is form the west, we are still sinners and we need to be continually sanctified each day. This starts with coming humbly before God with repentance on our minds.
Read 1 Peter 4:17. If there was no repentance, Jesus would come first to the true Christians with discipline in mind. Read Hebrews 12:5. Shall we be scared of God’s discipline or thankful?
He would also come against the false Christians and fight against them with the sword of his mouth. Remember form our study above on the double-edged sword. Read Numbers 31:6-8. Balaam was killed by way of the sword. What implications can you make about the end fate of those who follow the teachings of Balaam will be?
Revelation 2:17 – He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.
Again, just like the letters to the last two churches, this letter is not only addressed to the church in Pergamum, but also to us.
“Hidden manna”. Read John 6:25-59. Jesus is our hidden manna and we have here a promise to be with Him forever if we overcome and remain true to Him! Amen!
There are many associations that could be made with the white stone and as to what it stands for. It could be a ticket to a banquet, a sign of friendship, evidence of having been counted, or as a sign of acquittal in a court of law. This quote from Adam Clarke describes it well: “Others suppose there is an allusion here to conquerors in the public games, who were not only conducted with great pomp into the city to which they belonged, but had a white stone given to them, with their name inscribed on it; which badge entitled them, during their whole life, to be maintained at the pubic expense . . . These were called tesserae among the Romans, and of these there were several kinds … Tesserae conviviales, which answered exactly to our cards of invitation, or tickets of admission to a public feast or banquet; when the person invited produced his tessera he was admitted . . . But the most remarkable of these instruments were the Tesserae hospitales, which were given as badges of friendship and alliance, and on which some device was engraved, as a testimony that a contract of friendship had been made between the parties.”
We are not sure if the new name that God reveals to us is a new name for us or a name for God we don’t know yet. Scripture doesn’t say. Read Isaiah 62:2 & 65:15. Based off of these scriptures, it could be that the new name will be ours, but either way this gesture shows the intimate relationship that belongs between each believer and God, and I can’t wait to find out!