05 Revelation   What The Spirit Says To The Churches (1)
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05 Revelation What The Spirit Says To The Churches (1)

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Class 5 of 16 on the Book of Revelation, scheduled to be taught by Dale Wells at Palm Springs Church of Christ on February 4, 2009.

Class 5 of 16 on the Book of Revelation, scheduled to be taught by Dale Wells at Palm Springs Church of Christ on February 4, 2009.

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05 Revelation   What The Spirit Says To The Churches (1) 05 Revelation What The Spirit Says To The Churches (1) Presentation Transcript

  • Lesson 5 What the Spirit Says to the Churches (1) Amen! Hallelujah! – A Study of the Book of Revelation By Dale Wells Text: Rev 1.9-2.17
  • INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST VISION
    • Rev 1:9-11 WEB I John, your brother and partner with you in oppression, kingdom, and perseverance in Christ Jesus, was on the isle that is called Patmos because of God's Word and the testimony of Jesus Christ..."
      • Brother in Christ.
      • Areas of fellowship:
  • The first is "oppression"
    • Greek thlipsei .
      • Pressure exerted on a kernel of wheat to break the hull, so the grain can be made into flour.
      • Trampling grapes to extract their juice.
    • It is the suffering that brings its objects closer to their intended use.
  • Difficulties can be beneficial
    • Jam 1:2-4 WEB Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
    • Rom 5:1-5 WEB … we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering works perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: …
  • The second area of fellowship was the “kingdom”
    • Greek basileia .
    • Spiritual realm in which God rules and Christians live.
    • We are the kingdom of God!
      • Rev 1:6 WEB ... [H]e made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
  • The third area of fellowship was "perseverance"
    • Greek hypomone – one word for “patience”.
    • The other, makrothymia – “long-suffering”.
    • Makrothymia is the patience that puts up with difficulties when it doesn’t have to!
    • Hypomone is “perseverance”. It is active, not passive.
  • For example, James reminds us of the “patience” of Job
    • Jam 5:10-11 WEB Behold, we call them blessed who endured. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the Lord in the outcome, and how the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
    • In the OT Job defends his own righteousness and challenges God’s sense of “fair play”. He does this with such vehemence that the Lord finally tells him that he’s had enough! That’s hardly our concept of patience – but it is a good description of the tenacity at the heart of hypomone .
  • John has more in common with those first readers than they can imagine
    • He is a prisoner on the island of Patmos – and he is there because of his preaching.
    • Patmos is an island 10 miles long, 5 miles wide & 40 miles off the coast.
    • He is worshipping, as best he can, on the Lord's Day when he receives his first vision.
  • THE HIGH PRIEST AMONG THE LAMPSTANDS ( 1:12-20 )
  • Rev 1:12-20 WEB
    • I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. Having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands. And among the lampstands was one like a son of man, clothed with a robe reaching down to his feet, and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and his hair were white as white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace. His voice was like the voice of many waters. He had seven stars in his right hand. Out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining at its brightest. When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. He laid his right hand on me, saying, "Don't be afraid. I am the first and the last, and the Living one. I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. I have the keys of Death and of Hades. Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will happen hereafter; the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven assemblies. The seven lampstands are seven assemblies.
  • John looks to see who’s talking, and then he tells us what he sees
    • The things John sees and hears in this first vision tell a great deal about the one whom he sees.
    • In order to get a good understanding of the visions in the Book of Revelation, it is important that you get the overall picture before you focus on the details. If you look too closely at the details, without getting the picture first, you could easily be like the person who “can’t see the forest for the trees”.
  • The overall picture is of God's messenger, from the Book of Daniel
    • Daniel was visited by a messenger from God in Dan 10:5-6 WEB .
    • Daniel is given a glimpse of future events from the Persian Empire, through the death of Alexander the Great and the infighting among his generals and their descendants. The vision focuses on one particularly sinister character, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who tried to destroy the Jews, and on the revolt against him by Judas Maccabaeus, and his followers.
  • John's description is almost identical to the divine messenger in Daniel 10
    • Both are girded with gold; both have blazing eyes; both have brass feet. The voices are described similarly, as a multitude, or many waters.
    • A comparison of the passages leads us to see that the vision in Revelation 1 is rooted in the vision in Daniel 10.
    • This is a messenger from God, not unlike the messenger God sent to Daniel.
    • But some of the details are different, and it is those details that help us sort out who this individual actually is.
  • First, there is the location and attire of the individual
    • John sees a man in a robe walking among lampstands.
    • This is the High Priest in the Holy Place, tending the lamps.
      • Exo 27:20-21 WEB "You shall command the children of Israel, that they bring to you pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually. In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before Yahweh : it shall be a statute forever throughout their generations on the behalf of the children of Israel.
  • Who is this priest?
    • He is "one like a son of man".
      • Dan 7:13-14 WEB I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man , and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. There was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
    • Daniel 7 depicts God on the throne ready to judge.
      • Into his presence comes "one like a son of man", who is given an everlasting dominion. The Jews saw the coming Messiah. We see Jesus.
  • Daniel 7:13 is the most often quoted verse from Daniel in the NT
    • In Daniel's vision, the "one like a son of man" appears before God in the form of a human being, but he is clearly of heavenly origin.
    • He comes to his coronation accompanied by the clouds of the sky.
    • Jesus repeatedly referred to himself as "the Son of Man" and emphasized his return to earth accompanied by "clouds".
  • Jesus used Daniel 7:13 as the text for his coming in judgment
    • Mat 24:29-30 WEB But immediately after the oppression of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.
  • His hearers understood that he was claiming to be Daniel's "Son of Man"
    • Mat 26:63b-65 WEB The high priest answered him, "I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus said to him, "You have said it. Nevertheless, I tell you, henceforth you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of the sky ." Then the high priest tore his clothing, saying, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Behold, now you have heard his blasphemy.
  • The NT picks up the theme of Jesus coming in the clouds
    • Act 1:9-11 WEB … as they were looking, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight . While they were looking steadfastly into the sky as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white clothing, who also said, "You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who was received up from you into the sky will come back in the same way as you saw him going into the sky ."
    • Rev 1:7 WEB Behold, he is coming with the clouds , and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over him. Even so, Amen.
  • Other parts of the description show that John is in the presence of deity
    • Dan 7:9 WEB I saw until thrones were placed, and one who was ancient of days sat: his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool ; his throne was fiery flames, and the wheels of it burning fire.
  • His voice is "like the voice of many waters" - a description from Ezekiel
    • Eze 43:2 WEB Behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like the sound of many waters ; and the earth shined with his glory.
  • He has "a sharp two-edged sword" coming out of his mouth
    • Isa 49:1-3 WEB Listen, isles, to me; and listen, you peoples, from far: Yahweh has called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother has he made mention of my name: and he has made my mouth like a sharp sword ; in the shadow of his hand has he hid me: and he has made me a polished shaft; in his quiver has he kept me close: and he said to me, You are my servant; Israel, in whom I will be glorified.
  • Here, he is the High Priest; later he will be the Divine Warrior
    • Rev 19:11-16 WEB I saw the heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it is called Faithful and True. In righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has names written and a name written which no one knows but he himself. He is clothed in a garment sprinkled with blood. His name is called "The Word of God." … Out of his mouth proceeds a sharp, double-edged sword , that with it he should strike the nations. He will rule them with a rod of iron..."
  • God has sent a herald to John as he did to Daniel
    • Unlike the unidentified messenger to Daniel, there are enough details for us to identify John's messenger. It is our high priest!
      • Heb 4:14 WEB Having then a great high priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold tightly to our confession.
    • When John saw him he fell at his feet as dead.
      • That was the way Moses, Isaiah & Ezekiel reacted when they found themselves in the presence of God!
  • "The First and the Last" is another clear claim to be God
    • Isa 44:6 WEB Thus says Yahweh, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, Yahweh of Hosts: I am the first, and I am the last ; and besides me there is no God.
    • Isa 48:12 WEB Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel my called: I am he; I am the first, I also am the last .
  • This is none other than Jesus, our High Priest, and he claims to be God!
    • The high priest is walking among lampstands, holding stars in his hand. Think of the stars as flames. Imagine he is lighting the lamps by placing a flame on each lamp as he comes to it. That’s not far-fetched, because the lamps are the churches and the stars are the angels (messengers) of the churches. So, when the High Priest places a star on each lampstand, he is passing his message to the church through the messenger of that particular church.
  • WHAT CHRIST THINKS OF THE CHURCHES
    • The high priest is tending the lampstands, which represent the churches. He reports on what he finds.
    • Each church existed in its own community, with its unique culture & challenges. In that respect, they were not unlike churches today.
  • EPHESUS
  • Rev 2:1-7 WEB
    • To the angel of the assembly in Ephesus write: "He who holds the seven stars in his right hand, he who walks among of the seven golden lampstands says these things: "I know your works, and your toil and perseverance, and that you can't tolerate evil men, and have tested those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and found them false. You have perseverance and have endured for my name's sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I am coming to you swiftly, and will move your lampstand out of its place, unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my God.
  • The City
    • Ephesus was capital of Asia and a center of commerce.
      • It was three miles from the sea, on the Cayster River.
      • There is no city on the site; nearest is Kusadasi, Turkey.
      • The population of the city was 500,000.
      • It was the leading seaport and the beginning of all major trade routes through Asia Minor.
      • Christianity spread rapidly, once the church was planted in Ephesus.
  • Luke tells about Paul's work in Ephesus & the spread of the gospel
    • Act 19:8-10 WEB He entered into the synagogue, and spoke boldly for a period of three months, reasoning and persuading about the things concerning the Kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all those who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
  • Ephesus had been made a free city by the Roman government in 98 BC
    • Anyone born in Ephesus was a Roman citizen.
    • This was important in the 1 st Century, as seen in the exchange between Paul and the Roman commander:
      • Act 22:28 WEB The commanding officer answered, "I bought my citizenship for a great price." Paul said, "But I was born a Roman."
  • Paul was a citizen of Rome because he was born in another free city
    • That is why Luke records:
      • Act 21:39 WEB But Paul said, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city. I beg you, allow me to speak to the people."
    • Like Tarsus, Ephesus was a free city. Anyone born there was a Roman citizen.
  • Ephesus was as important to religion as it was to commerce
    • It was the center of worship of Artemis (Diana).
    • Her temple was one of the 7 wonders of the world.
    • Alexander the Great wanted his name carved on one of the 127 pillars, but the Ephesians declined, saying, "If we put the name of another god on her temple, it will upset her." The most powerful man in the world couldn't buy the privilege of having his name carved on a pillar of the idol's temple.
  • You may remember the riot in Ephesus
    • Act 19:23-41 WEB … Demetrius, … who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen, whom he gathered together, … "Sirs, you know that by this business we have our wealth. … This Paul has persuaded … many people, saying that they are no gods, that are made with hands. Not only is there danger that this our trade come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be counted as nothing ..." When they heard this they were filled with anger, and cried out, saying, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"
  • The riot involved the entire populace and took place in the largest venue
    • The whole city was filled with confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater... When Paul wanted to enter … the disciples didn't allow him ... Some … cried one thing, and some another, for the assembly was in confusion. Most of them didn't know why they had come together … Alexander beckoned with his hand, and would have made a defense to the people. But when they perceived that he was a Jew, all with one voice for a time of about two hours cried out, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"
  • The riot was only quelled when the mayor intervened
    • When the town clerk had quieted the multitude, he said, "You men of Ephesus, what man is there who doesn't know that the city of the Ephesians is temple-keeper of the great goddess Artemis, and of the image which fell down from Zeus? Seeing then that these things can't be denied, you ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rash. … If … Demetrius and the craftsmen … have a matter against anyone, the courts are open ... Let them press charges … For … we are in danger of being accused concerning this day's riot, there being no cause ....
  • The riot turned on conflict between monotheism and polytheism
    • Paul's preaching was cutting into the sales of Artemis paraphernalia, and the folks who manufactured and sold Artemis souvenirs were losing money.
    • Then, as now, many of the conflicts that appear to be cloaked in "principle" are merely matters of economics.
  • The Messenger
    • The messenger is the one John saw in Rev 1:9-20.
    • In most letters, John singles out one or two aspects of the description.
    • He “holds the seven stars … and walks among the seven golden lampstands” – i.e. the high priest, Jesus.
    • The lampstands are the churches and the stars are their messengers.
    • The one who trims the lamps reports on their condition.
  • The Message
    • We know more about the church in Ephesus than any of the others
      • The church began with Priscilla & Aquila in Acts 18.
      • They heard the preaching of Apollos, Paul & Timothy.
      • It had received one letter from Paul & two to Timothy.
      • Paul made a special stop en route to Jerusalem, to pray with the elders from Ephesus (Acts 20:17-38).
      • Tradition holds that John spent his last years in Ephesus.
  • The church began with unsurpassed zeal
    • The Christians burned the relics of their former practices.
      • Act 19:19 WEB Many of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. They counted the price of them, and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver.
    • By Revelation 2, the church has lost its fervor.
      • It is working hard and persevering. Its teaching is healthy and it does not put up with doctrinal error.
  • The church is doctrinally correct, but spiritually destitute
    • It needs to recapture the zeal it once had – OR ELSE!
    • If it doesn't repent, Jesus threatens to eliminate it, entirely!
    • Today there is no church in Ephesus. Even the city lies in ruins.
  • The Promise
    • As in each of the letters, there is a promise to the overcomers – those who are faithful to the end. In this letter, the overcomers are promised “I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my God.”
  • The Bible begins with man in fellowship with God at the tree of life
    • Gen 2:8-9 WEB Yahweh God planted a garden eastward, in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground Yahweh God made every tree to grow that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
  • When man sinned, God banished him from access to the tree of life
    • Gen 3:22-24 WEB Yahweh God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil. Now, lest he put forth his hand, and also take of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever..." Therefore Yahweh God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed Cherubs at the east of the garden of Eden, and the flame of a sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
  • Here, Jesus promises the overcomers a bite of the tree of life
    • Rev 22:1-5 WEB He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.There will be no curse any more. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
  • He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies
    • Though directed to a specific congregation, this letter carries a message to other churches in similar circumstances.
    • It also is a reminder that the Book of Revelation was intended to be understood – and acted upon – by its first readers, just as Jesus said in Revelation 1:3.
  • SMYRNA
  • Rev 2:8-11 WEB
    • "To the angel of the assembly in Smyrna write: "The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life says these things: "I know your works, oppression, and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Don't be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested; and you will have oppression for ten days. Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. He who overcomes won't be harmed by the second death.
  • The City
    • Smyrna (Izmir), 35 mi. N, of Ephesus, a harbor city of 200,000, with a wealthy academic community.
    • Had a temple to Tiberius.
    • Famous for buildings.
      • Apollonius referred to her “crown of porticoes” – buildings around the summit of Mt. Pagos – that may be the image behind Jesus' promise of a “crown of life.”
    • Had a “street of gold” with temples at each end.
      • Likely the image Jesus used describing the New Jerusalem.
  • The Messenger
    • The messenger is “The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life.”
    • “ The first and the last” is an description of deity.
      • Isa 44:6 WEB Thus says Yahweh, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, Yahweh of Hosts: I am the first, and I am the last ; and besides me there is no God.
      • Isa 48:12 WEB Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel my called: I am he; I am the first, I also am the last .
  • It is also he "who was dead, and has come to life"
    • These words will be meaningful to Smyrna.
    • They are about to face persecution that may lead to death, at the hands of the Jewish community.
    • The messenger has faced the same experience from the Jews in Jerusalem.
    • They killed him, but he came to life again.
    • These Christians will be encouraged to “be faithful to death,” because he, himself, has gone through death, and come out alive!
  • The Message
    • Smyrna had a large Jewish community.
    • The church was about to undergo persecution from the Jews.
    • The good news was that the persecution would only last a short time - ten days.
    • The bad news was that the persecution would end in death!
  • Ten is the number that signifies when someone says "Enough!"
    • For example, after Laban changed his wages ten times, Jacob said "Enough!"
      • Gen 31:7 WEB Your father has deceived me, and changed my wages ten times, but God didn't allow him to hurt me.
    • Job complained that his friends had accused him ten times when he said "Enough!"
      • Job 19:3 WEB You have reproached me ten times. You aren't ashamed that you attack me.
  • We say "three strikes and you're out!" With God, people get ten strikes
    • In the book of Exodus, God gave Pharaoh ten chances to do the right thing, by freeing the Israelites. Plague after plague turned up the heat on Egypt until, with the tenth plague, God finally said "Enough!" It is the tenth plague that results in the final and decisive judgment on the nation of Egypt.
  • Ten plagues and the Red Sea should have convinced Israel to trust God!
    • Not so! Israel rebelled 10 times before God barred that generation from Canaan.
    • Num 14:20-24 WEB Yahweh said, I have pardoned according to your word: but in very deed, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh; because all those men who have seen my glory, and my signs, which I worked in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have tempted me these ten times, and have not listened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land which I swore to their fathers...
  • God gave Israel ten opportunities to change its heart and obey him
    • Interestingly, though twelve spies were sent into the land, it was the unfavorable report of ten that brought about Israel's disobedience at Kadesh Barnea. That was "the straw that broke the camel's back" as far as God was concerned, causing him to say: "Enough!"
  • "Ten days" is the promise that God will say "Enough!" and will intervene
    • 1Co 10:13 WEB No temptation has taken you but such as man can bear. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
  • The force of the text is "Be faithful, even if it costs you your life"
    • 80 years after this, one of their own would be martyred.
    • On February 23, 155 AD, Polycarp, a disciple of John, and an elder of the church, burned in the theater for refusing to renounce Jesus.
    • When the Romans decided not to execute him, the Jews set the fire, in violation of the Sabbath laws.
    • Those who are faithful to death will receive the crown of life!
  • The Promise
    • Each promise is suited to the readers.
    • They are facing persecution, and death.
    • They are encouraged by the one who “was dead and is alive”
    • He assures them that overcomers “will not be hurt … by the second death.”
    • We’ll see that second death later.
  • This reminds us of Jesus' words
    • Luk 12:4-5 WEB "I tell you, my friends, don't be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom you should fear. Fear him, who after he has killed, has power to cast into Gehenna. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
    • As with all the letters, it ends with the reminder that it has something to be understood and taken to heart by Christians in other times and places: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
  • PERGAMUM
  • Rev 2:12-17 WEB
    • "To the angel of the assembly in Pergamum write: "He who has the sharp two-edged sword says these things: "I know your works and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. You hold firmly to my name, and didn't deny my faith in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to throw a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans likewise. Repent therefore, or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him who overcomes, to him I will give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no one knows but he who receives it.
  • The City
    • Pergamum was the capital of Asia Minor. It was inland, about 65 miles north of Smyrna, along the Caicus River.
    • It had the second largest library in the world, with 200,000 volumes, second only to Alexandria, Egypt.
    • The king of Pergamum once tried to hire Aristophanes, Alexandria's librarian. Ptolemy II, Philadelphus, the ruler of Egypt, imprisoned Aristophanes and cut off the supply of papyrus to Pergamum.
  • Until then, papyrus had been the main writing material in the world
    • When Pergamum couldn't acquire papyrus any more, they set about developing a new material, specially treated animal skins, which they called "vellum", but which the world came to know by the Greek word pergamene (lit. "from Pergamum"), in honor of the city. Pergamene , later became our "parchment". It was a much more durable writing material than papyrus ever was.
    • This is a page from Sinaiticus, a 4 th Century parchment manuscript of the Bible.
  • Religion
    • The two main gods of Pergamum:
      • Dionysus, the god of the kings - represented by the bull
      • Asclepius, the god of healing - symolized by the serpent spiraling around a staff (still the emblem of the medical profession).
  • The city was the official center in Asia for the imperial cult
    • It had three temples to the emperors, including the first in Asia Minor dedicated to Augustus.
    • On a crag above Pergamum was a throne-like altar to Zeus.
    • No wonder Jesus describes Pergamum as the place where Satan has his throne.
  • The Messenger
    • Jesus describes himself with another part of the description from Rev 1:16.
    • The “sharp, double-edged sword” (Greek rhomphaia ) is the long, heavy broad sword with which the barbarians were armed.
    • It symbolizes the irresistible power of divine judgment.
    • The description of the messenger portends his judgment which is coming on that church.
  • The Message
    • The church, by and large, is faithful.
    • One of their own, a brother named Antipas, has been martyred.
    • But some people in the congregation are practicing compromise, and they may face the double-edged sword of divine judgment.
  • What is the teaching of Baalam and of the Nicolaitans?
    • The background is Num 22-24; 25:1-4; 31:16.
    • Israel was en route to the Promised Land.
    • Balak tried to hire Baalam to curse Israel.
    • Baalam asked for permission, but the Lord refused.
    • When Balak offered money and power, Baalam asked again.
  • God allowed Baalam to go, but he could only say what the Lord allowed
    • An angel was in the way. Three times the donkey saved his life, and Baalam beat the donkey.
    • Three times, he tried to curse Israel, but out came a blessing! Balak sent him on his way.
    • The next event involved idolatry & immorality.
  • The incident at Baal Peor
    • Numbers 25:1-9 tells the story.
      • The Israelite men got involved in sexual immorality with the Moabite women and started participating in idol worship. A plague broke out - the result of the Lord's anger. Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, killed one of the perpetrators, along with his Midianite mistress. By the time the plague had ended 24,000 Israelites were dead.
    • Several chapters later, we learn the rest of the story.
      • The Israelites defeat their enemies, but they keep some of the women and children alive.
      • Num 31:15-16 WEB Moses said to them, Have you saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against Yahweh in the matter of Peor, and so the plague was among the congregation of Yahweh.
  • Now, it makes sense!
    • God turned Baalam’s curses into blessings. So Baalam gave Balak a way to get God to curse Israel! All it takes is to draw the people of God into the world. Get them dabbling in sin & God will curse them! So, Balak's people enticed the Israelites into immorality & idolatry until the Lord turned on them! Baalam was the mastermind behind Baal-Peor!
    • The connection between "Baalam" and "Nicolaitan"
      • "Baalam" is from two Hebrew words: Baal ("destroyer") and ammon ("people").
      • "Nicolaitan" is from two Greek words: Nikon ("destroyer") and laos ("people").
      • Why use two words with the same meaning? Possibly there are Jewish and Gentile Christians encouraging compromise.
  • The Promise
    • First, they are promised "some of the hidden manna." This recalls the manna in the desert.
    • Deu 8:3 WEB He humbled you, and allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you didn't know, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh does man live.
  • To the Christian, it is a reminder of Jesus, himself
    • Joh 6:48-51 WEB I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Yes, the bread which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
  • The second promise is "a white stone with a new name written on it"
    • Two usages of white stones with inscribed names:
    • Inscription listing names on white stone pillars, such as those found in the ruins of Pergamum.
    • Invitation to a banquet. It may be that Jesus intends readers to think of the "white stone" as his invitation to the wedding supper of the Lamb.
      • Rev 19:9 WEB "Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'" He said to me, "These are true words of God."
  • The "new name" is a reminder of God's promise/threat to Israel
    • Isa 62:2 WEB The nations shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name , which the mouth of Yahweh shall name.
    • Isa 65:15 WEB You shall leave your name for a curse to my chosen; and the Lord Yahweh will kill you; and he will call his servants by another name :
    • The new name is the name of Christ; the promised name is Christian.