Revelation 2:12-17

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

Text: Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:12-17

THE CHURCH AT PERGAMOS

INTRODUCTION:

In chapters 2-3 we see letters to the seven churches.

Why were these seven churches chosen when there were other churches in the area that could have been chosen? Of course, this is God's business; and only He knows this for certain. We are only guessing.

Each church needed a particular message.

Each church illustrated conditions common in local churches at that time and in all ages of church history.

Each church was composed of individuals who needed the instruction and warning personally.

Each church may represent a period of church history.

The messages seem to go beyond the local churches mentioned.

We see -

I. THE COMMISSION FROM CHRIST - 2:12a

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:12 a - (12a) And to the angel [i.e. messenger] of the church in Pergamos write. . . .

The angel or messenger is best understood as God's representative leader of the congregation, i.e. as the pastor of this church.

Pergamos (Pergamum) was located in Mysia, in the western part of Asia Minor north of Smyrna and about 20 miles from the Mediterranean Sea.

Pergamos was a wealthy city with many temples devoted to idol worship and full of statues, altars, and sacred groves.

Pergamos was an important religious center where the pagan cults of Athena, Esculapius, Dionysus, and Zeus were prominent. One of the prominent buildings was the magnificent temple of Esculapius (also spelled Asklepios).

Pergamos was also the main center of the imperial cult in this part of the world. The Roman emperor was worshiped as god; and as early as 29 BC, the provincial assembly erected a sanctuary to Augustus Caesar and to the goddess Roma. Citizens were required to worship the Roman emperor and to affirm that Caesar is Lord. Of course, Christians could not do this because they believe that Jesus is Lord.

There was also a large Jewish population in Pergamos which was also anti-Christian.

Pergamos literally means mixed marriage and speaks of churches in compromise.

This was a particular message needed by and intended for a particular congregation, the church in Pergamos. Other churches or individuals might need a similar message.

The tense of write suggests write at once and without delay.

II. THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST - 2:12b

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:12 b - . . . These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges [i.e. the sharp two-edged sword].

He which hath the sharp sword with two edges is one of the descriptions of Christ in the portrait of Christ found in Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:9-20 .

Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:16 - And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

It is also found in Revelation of Jesus Christ 19:15 and 21 -

Revelation of Jesus Christ 19:15 - And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 19:21 - And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

The reference to the sword proceeding out of Christ's mouth indicates that the sword refers to the Word spoken by Christ, i.e. to the Word of God.

The Word of God separates the ones who are the vessels of grace from condemnation with the world. Thus, the Word of God is the instrument of salvation.

The Word of God is also the means of condemnation and rejection for those who refuse the message of grace. Thus, the Word of God is the instrument of death.

Those in Pergamos needed to be reminded of the distinct position of those who are true Christians as opposed to those who reject the gospel. The Word of God will separate the believers from the unbelievers.

Note the appropriateness of the character of Christ to meet all the needs of the church at Pergamos as well as the needs of all other churches.

Although the proconsul in Pergamos could execute people with the sword at will, the sight of Christ with the sword with two edges would assure the persecuted believers comprising this church that Christ is the One Who is really in control.

III. THE COMMENDATION FROM CHRIST - 2:13

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:13 - (13) I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat [i.e. throne] 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.

1. I know thy works - v. 13

Works is a general term for things the church has done involving deeds, actions, or accomplishments.

God expects believers to have good works -

Ephesians 2:10 - For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

2. (I know) where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is - v. 13

Thou is the church in Pergamos as represented by its pastor.

The Lord Jesus Christ knows where thou dwellest, i.e. not only where the church in Pergamos is located but also where every other local church or individual is located. He also knows the circumstances in which each church finds itself or in which each individual finds himself.

Where Satan's seat is is where Satan's throne is and refers to satanic power in the evil religious character of the city of Pergamos which showed itself in the persecution of Christians and, perhaps, which was epitomized in the worship of Esculapius, the serpent god.

Satan's seat (i.e. Satan's throne) refers to Satan's rule in the city of Pergamos.

3. Thou holdest fast my name - v. 13

They were personally loyal to Christ.

Thou holdest fast is you are holding something fast and, therefore, you remain closely united to it. Its tense indicates continuous, ongoing action in the sense of you are holding fast my name.

My refers to Christ, and name connotes all that Christ is and represents. It implies that the people were personally loyal to Christ, that they were holding fast to Christ.

4. (Thou) hast not denied my faith even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth - v. 13

My faith is literally the faith of Me and implies the faith or trust you placed in Me, i.e. the trust the people in the church in Pergamos placed in Christ when they received Him as their personal Savior. They did not deny their relationship to Christ even in the face of persecution.

Antipas is the name of a man whom Christ describes as my faithful martyr, literally My martyr, the faithful one or My witness, the faithful one, whom the Lord declares to have been reliable, dependable, or trustworthy until the time of his death.

Martyr implies that he died because of his Christianity. Nothing is really known of Antipas other than what is stated in this verse.

Who was slain among you, which refers to Antipas, is who was murdered; and among you indicates where this occurred. It was among the believers who comprise the church in Pergamos.

Where Satan dwelleth refers to the satanic power found throughout the evil, idolatrous, religious scene in Pergamos, which resulted in the persecution of believers. It may also be a reference to Esculapius, the serpent god, or to the imperial cult which practiced emperor worship.

IV. THE CONDEMNATION BY CHRIST - 2:14-15

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:14-15 - (14) But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught [i.e. repeatedly taught, kept teaching, or kept instructing] Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication [i.e. to commit sexual immorality]. (15) So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine [i.e. teaching] of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

Because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam indicates the reason Christ has a few things against the church in Pergamos.

The doctrine of Balaam was the teaching that the people of God should intermarry with the heathen and compromise in the matter of idolatrous worship.

Numbers 31:15-16 - (15) And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? (16) Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor [i.e. in what happened at Peor], and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.

Who [i.e. Balaam] taught [i.e. repeatedly taught, kept teaching, or kept instructing] Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. This indicates what Balaam's counsel was.

Balac (spelled Balak in Numbers) was the king of Moab who had hired Balaam to curse Israel; but every time Balaam attempted to curse Israel, a blessing for Israel came out of his mouth instead. When Balaam's efforts to curse Israel were thwarted, he apparently devised a plan intended to get the Israelites to involve themselves in sin with the intended result that the Lord would not bless them.

To cast is to throw or to put, and a stumblingblock is a temptation to sin or an enticement to apostasy.

Before the children of Israel [i.e. in the sight of the Israelites or in the presence of the Israelites], God's chosen people.

To eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication indicates the content or the nature of the stumblingblock.

Things sacrificed unto idols indicates that these people were engaging in worshiping these idols, which was strictly forbidden by the first commandment.

Exodus 20:3-6 - (3) Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (4) Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (5) Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; (6) And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Wherever idolatry is found, immorality is also found; and there is no exception in the church at Pergamos as is indicated by and to commit fornication. Fornication is a general term used of all kinds of illicit sexual relationships including things such as pre-marital sex, adultery, homosexuality, prostitution, incest, and bestiality.

Balaam taught Balac how to involve the Israelites in idolatry and its resultant immorality by intermarrying with the Israelites. God hated their involvement in immorality and idolatry and dealt with it in the Old Testament, and He still hates it and can be expected to deal with it in the church at Pergamos as well. Similarly, idolatry and immorality should never be practiced by any professing believers in the present day; or God will judge them.

??? - Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers (i.e. fornicators) and adulterers God will judge.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:15 - So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

The doctrine of the Nicolaitans was mentioned previously in Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:6 . What the church at Ephesus hated, some in the church at Pergamos embraced.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:6 - But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

What some in Pergamos hold (or are holding fast to) is referred to as the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.

The doctrine is the teaching or the instruction.

Of the Nicolaitans indicates that it is the Nicolaitans who taught this false doctrine. Exactly what this instruction given by the Nicolaitans was is not clear.

The literal meaning of the Greek word translated Nicolaitans is people conquerors. If this literal meaning is what John intended, then it suggests that they were teaching that the clergy should be lords over the church. However, one cannot be certain that this literal meaning is what John intended.

According to some church fathers, the Nicolaitans were professing Christians who lived licentiously [i.e. immorally]. If this is the meaning intended by John, then it would suggest that they were teaching that an immoral lifestyle was acceptable for the people in the church at Pergamos.

Which thing I hate, where which thing refers to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans and where I is Christ, is which I detest or which I abhor. Its tense indicates that this is always true. Christ never approves of the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. He always hates it.

V. THE CORRECTION PRESCRIBED BY CHRIST - 2:16a

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:16 a - Repent. . . .

Repent speaks of changing your mind so thoroughly that it will result in a change of direction in your life.

The church at Pergamos was to change its mind about being tolerant of doctrinal perversion and permitting those holding the doctrine of Balaam and those holding the doctrine of the Nicolaitans to remain in the church. This change of mind was to be so thorough that they would take action against these persons holding these false doctrines and put them out of the church.

VI. THE CONSEQUENCE PROMISED BY CHRIST - 2:16b

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:16 b - . . . Or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

Or, else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth indicates that a failure to repent will bring divine judgment.

Or else is the translation of a simple condition, which, for the sake of discussion, is assumed to be true. It is not necessarily true, however. Or else is literally and if not, now if not, or but if not and implies and if you do not repent, now if you do not repent, or but if you do not repent where you is singular and refers to the church as represented by its pastor.

Inasmuch as this is assumed for the sake of discussion to be true and inasmuch as it is not known whether the church at Pergamos will actually repent, or else, i.e. if you do not repent should be understood in the sense of assuming that you do not repent.

I will come unto thee quickly is the statement indicating what is going to happen if the church does not repent and do the first works.

I will come is actually present tense and has been translated in a future sense. Its present tense implies that Christ is already on His way and will take care of the matter as soon as He arrives if the church has not repented before He gets there. It is something so certain of fulfillment that it is stated as already happening.

Unto thee is simply to you and refers to the church at Pergamos as represented by its pastor.

Quickly is at once or without delay.

A second thing Christ will do if the church at Pergamos does not repent is (I) will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

Will fight against them is predictive of something which will definitely occur in the future if the church at Pergamos does not repent. It is only a matter of time before it does happen unless there is repentance. If the church will not put these persons who are involved in doctrinal error and immorality out of the church, Christ will do it for them.

Will fight against is understood in the sense of will make war with or will fight with.

Them refers to those persons in the church who hold fast to the doctrine of Balaam and those who hold fast to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.

With the sword of my mouth refers to the description of Christ in Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:12 which refers to the picture of Christ in Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:16 .

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:12 - And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:16 - And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

With the sword of my mouth indicates the means by which Christ will fight against them. It means that He will slay them with His word and in so doing, sever them from the church in Pergamos.

VII. THE CALL TO HEAR - 2:17a

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:17 a - He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. . . .

The use of he indicates that the messages to the churches are to be applied to individuals.

He that hath an ear functions as the subject of let him hear in the phrase which follows it. It is literally let the one who has (an) ear hear or the one having (an) ear must hear. Inasmuch as, under normal circumstances, every human being has two ears, this statement is addressed to all human beings.

Let him hear is a third person imperative in Greek for which English has no equivalent. It means that all those who have an ear must hear, must listen to, must follow, or must obey.

What he must hear, listen to, follow, or obey is what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

The Spirit is the Holy Spirit.

Saith means utters in words, says, tells, or gives expression to. In a more specialized sense it may also mean orders, commands, directs, or enjoins.

Unto the churches indicates the ones to whom the Holy Spirit is saying these things. The fact that churches is plural suggests that the Holy Spirit is asserting these things to other churches and individuals as well. The same problems true of these seven churches may likewise be true of other churches or of many individual believers.

What the Spirit saith unto the churches refers to the content of these seven letters to these seven churches in Revelation, i.e. what the Spirit says to the church in Ephesus, what the Spirit says to the church in Smyrna, what the Spirit says to the church in Pergamos, in Thyatira, in Sardis, in Philadelphia, and in Laodicea.

VIII. THE CHALLENGE TO THE OVERCOMER - 2:17b

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:17 b - . . . To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna [i.e. to eat some of the hidden manna], and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving [i.e. except] he that receiveth it.

He that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna.

Manna was a food which God provided for the Israelites on a daily basis during the time of the Exodus and wilderness wanderings. It apparently provided perfect nourishment for them as a nation and was continued until they entered the promised land.

Hidden restricts or limits the meaning of the manna to being some specific manna that has been hidden and remains hidden. It is in a state of having been hidden. Giving the overcomer the hidden manna suggests that God is going to provide perfectly for whatever need the believer has, whether he is still alive on earth or whether he has passed on to heaven. The hidden manna which Jesus will give to every believer is reminiscent of Jesus as the bread of life in John 6:48-51 ,

John 6:48-51 - (48) I am that bread of life.

(49) Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. (50) This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. (51) I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

It is also reminiscent of what Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:3 ,

Ephesians 1:3 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.

(He that overcometh I) will give him a white stone.

In courts of law being given a white stone is thought to represent acquittal in contrast to a black stone which would indicate condemnation.

Giving him a white stone is thus an indication that he has been accepted or favored by Christ, a wonderful assurance, especially for those who have been rejected by the wicked world and are the objects of its persecution.

(He that overcometh I will give him) in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

The symbolism of giving each believer a white stone with a new name written on it which no man knows indicates that this believer has been accepted by God even though he has been rejected by the world.

What is an overcomer? - According to I John 5:4-5 , an overcomer is a saved person.

I John 5:4-5 - (4) For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. (5) Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

John 20:30-31 - 30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

It is not a special group of elite Christians distinguished by their spirituality in contrast to genuine Christians who lack these qualities.

Rather, it is a general description of what is normal and is to be expected among those who are true followers of the Lord.

Believing that Jesus is the Son of God is equivalent to believing that Jesus is the Messiah, that He is God Himself.

CONCLUSION:

We should never false permit or allow teaching or immorality in our church like the church at Pergamos did.