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Pergamum - The Seven Churches of Revelation

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The Seven Churches of Revelation


To the Church in Pergamum

12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 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. 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. 15 Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight 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 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. [1]

1.      The Church (2:12).

2:12. The third church was in Pergamum or Pergamos, about 20 miles inland from Smyrna. Like Ephesus and Smyrna it was a wealthy city, but it was wicked. People in its pagan cults worshiped Athena, Asclepius, Dionysus, and Zeus. Pergamum was famous for its university with a library of about 200,000 volumes, and for manufacturing parchment resulting in a paper called pergamena. The atmosphere of this city was adverse to any effective Christian life and testimony.

Anticipating Christ’s rebuke for their being tolerant of evil and immorality, John described Him as the One who has the sharp, double-edged sword (also mentioned in 1:16; 2:16; 19:15, 21). The sword is a symbolic representation of the Word of God’s twofold ability to separate believers from the world and to condemn the world for its sin. It was the sword of salvation as well as the sword of death.

2.      The Strong Poionts (2:13).

2:13. Following the same order as in the two preceding letters, commendation is given first. Christ recognized the difficulty of their situation. They lived where Satan has his throne. This may refer to the great temple of Asclepius, a pagan god of healing represented in the form of a serpent. Further recognition of Satan is indicated at the close of the verse. Pergamum was where Satan lives. The saints there were commended for being true, even when Antipas (which means “against all”) was martyred. Nothing is known of this incident. The Christians at Pergamum had been true to God under severe testing but had compromised their testimony in other ways, as seen in the next two verses.

3.      The rebuke (2:14-15).

2:14-15. They had been guilty of severe compromise by holding the teaching of Balaam and the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Balaam had been guilty of counseling King Balak to cause Israel to sin through intermarriage with heathen women and through idol-worship (cf. Num. 22-25; 31:15-16). Intermarriage with heathen women was a problem in Pergamum where any social contact with the world also involved worship of idols. Usually meat in the marketplace had been offered to idols earlier (cf. 1 Cor. 8).

They were also condemned for following the Nicolaitans’ teaching. Earlier the Ephesian church had been commended for rejecting what appears to be a moral departure (cf. Rev. 2:6). Some Greek manuscripts add here that God hates the teaching of the Nicolaitans, as also stated in v. 6. Compromise with worldly morality and pagan doctrine was prevalent in the church, especially in the third century when Christianity became popular. So compromise with pagan morality and departure from biblical faith soon corrupted the church.

“The Nicolaitans…appear to be a group that corrupted God’s people by suggesting compromise with the culture of the day. Rather than worship God and him alone, they suggested that it was appropriate to engage in patriotic ceremonies (such as feasts associated with the worship of the emperor) and other cultural institutions (for example, trade guilds, something like our modern unions or professional associations, and their worship). It is possible that either as part of these ceremonies or as a separate area of compromise they also permitted the use of prostitutes (perhaps as an accepted part of the “business ethic” of their day). Jesus (who is speaking through John) was not impressed. In fact, he threatened judgment on the church.”

4.      The exhortation (2:16).

2:16. Christ sharply rebuked the church with the abrupt command, Repent therefore! They were warned, Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. He promised that the judgment would come “soon” (tachys) which also means “suddenly” (cf. 1:1; 22:7, 12, 20). Christ would contend with them, using the sword of His mouth (cf. 1:16; 2:12; 19:15, 21). This again is the Word of God sharply judging all compromise and sin.

5.      The Promise (2:17).

2:17. The final exhortation to individuals, as in the messages to other churches, is again addressed to those who are willing to hear. Overcomers are promised hidden manna and a white stone with a new name written on it. The “hidden manna” may refer to Christ as the Bread from heaven, the unseen source of the believer’s nourishment and strength. Whereas Israel received physical food, manna, the church receives spiritual food (John 6:48-51).

Scholars differ as to the meaning of the “white stone.” Alford is probably right in saying that the important point is the stone’s inscription which gives the believer “a new name,” indicating acceptance by God and his title to glory (The Greek Testament, 4:572). This may be an allusion to the Old Testament practice of the high priest wearing 12 stones on his breastplate with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel inscribed on it. Though believers at Pergamum may not have had precious stones or gems of this world, they had what is far more important, acceptance by Christ Himself and assurance of infinite blessings to come. Taken as a whole, the message to the church in Pergamum is a warning against compromise in morals or teaching and against deviating from the purity of doctrine required of Christians. [2]

While the exact issues are different, similar compromises face the church today. Each society has its own “idols” that it expects all its citizens to worship, whether those idols be the government itself or some values or practices of the society. These “idols” are the places at which the values of the society conflict with total allegiance to Christ. Furthermore, the Nicolaitans are still with us under a variety of names, for there are always people who in the name of being “realistic” or under any number of other theological justifications counsel compromise with the dominant culture. This passage warns us that Jesus will not “buy” these justifications. He demands nothing less than total loyalty to his own person and directions. Anything less than this will put those who compromise in danger of his judgment.[3]

1.       A successful Christian life can be accomplished regardless of your neighborhood.

2.       Steadfastness and perseverance to the end is accomplished by a predetermined resolution.

3.       Be on guard against the influence of “


[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

cf. confer, compare

v. verse

[2]Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. 1983-c1985. The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures. Victor Books: Wheaton, IL

[3]Kaiser, W. C. 1997, c1996. Hard sayings of the Bible. InterVarsity: Downers Grove, Il

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