―To the angel of the church inPergamum write…‖ The compromising church
The Letter to Pergamum ―And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: ‗I know where you dwell, where Satan‘s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny Myfaith even 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 kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. ‗So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. ‗Therefore repent; 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 churches. To him whoovercomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.‖ (Revelation 2:12–17)
General Background on Pergamum• Name derived from ―fortress‖, ―height‖.• Legend says it was built by Hercules• Located in modern Bergama, Turkey• One of the most important cities in Asia Minor – capital of the Asia province• Archaeological evidence dates to the Bronze Age (3100-1200 B.C)• Had the 2nd largest library in the world• Renown for its temples to Augustus, Athena, and an extravagant temple for Zeus Soter (savior)• Likely THE center of emperor worship
“The One with the Shard Two-Edged Sword…” The governor‘s residence used to be in Pergamum and he alone heldthe right of capital punishment. The sharp two-edged sword of Christ mentioned in the greeting (2:12) and in the threat (2:16) is contrasted implicitly with the ‗sword‘ of the governor. Jesus is the one who has the ultimate authority and power over life and death. Unlike Smyrna that was comforted with its description of Jesus (the one who was dead and has come to life), Pergamum is reminded of Jesus‘ authority and judgment.
“The One with the Shard Two-Edged Sword…” ―From His mouth comes a sharp sword, sothat with it He may strike down the nations‖ (Revelation 19:15)
“Where Satan’s Throne is…” Temple of Zeus stood on a hill 800 feet above the city and could be seen for miles. Could this be what Jesus was referring to?
“Where Satan’s Throne is…” Pergamum was the center of emperor worship and had a temples dedicated to Augustus. The statement ―Caesar is Lord‖ would have been a direct assault against the Biblical claim ―Jesus is Lord‖.
“You Hold Fast my name…Did not Deny my Name” The reason the doctrine of eternal security is referred to as the‗perseverance of the saints‘ is because the evidence of true saving faith is the believer persevering to the end.―Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. ‖ (Revelation 14:12)
The Witness of Antipas―‗. . . even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.‖ (Revelation 2:13)The Bible has nothing more to say about Antipas other than he wasmurdered in Pergamum. A tradition that is traced to the Eastern Orthodox Church in 1000 A.D. says that Antipas was murdered by being placed in a bronze bulland being cooked alive because he would not renounce his faith in Christ.
Christian Martyrdom Today ―‗. . . even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.‖ (Revelation 2:13)Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistans minister for minorities and the only Christian serving in the government, was gunned down in a drive-by shooting on March 2, 2011. Al- Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination, which ended one mans lifelong pursuit of religious tolerance in the face of violent extremism. Bhatti had recently sought to reform the countrys blasphemy laws, under which insulting Islam is punishable by death.
The Witness of Antipas―‗. . . even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.‖ (Revelation 2:13)The Christians at Pergamum held fast their faith even after watching one oftheir own die for his faith. It‘s one thing to be threatened for your faith, butanother thing to watch an execution be carried out and still not turn away from Christ. But this is what the saints at Pergamum did and Christ commended them for their bravery and belief: ―Donot fear those who kill the body but areunable to kill the soul‖ (Matthew 10:28)
The Condemnation ―‗But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed toidols and to commit acts of immorality. ‗So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.‖ (Revelation 2:14–15)
Balaam Balaam = ―glutton‖; ―swallowing up the people‖ Beor = ―burner up‖; ―Destroyer‖"Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. . . . And Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. So he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, at Pethor, which is near the River, in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, saying, ―Behold, a people came out of Egypt; behold, they cover the surface of the land, and they are living opposite me. ―Now, therefore, please come, curse this people for me since they are too mighty for me; perhaps I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.‖ So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand; and they came to Balaam and repeated Balak‘s words to him‖ (Numbers 22:2-7)Balaam was from Pethor, a city on the River, probably the Euphrates. Possibly Pethor was not far from the great city of Mari, discovered in 1933 in the Euphrates Valley. Thediscovery of a vast number of cuneiform tablets at Mari, beginning in 1933, revealed amongother things the existence of a complex cult of prophets and seers whose activities precisely resemble those of Balaam. One power attributed to these prophets was that ofpronouncing curses on intended victims. These curses would of course be couched in such qualified language that they were bound to come to pass one way or the other.
―For, according to heathen views, a magician had absolute and irresistible power with the gods; power was inherent in him or in the incantations which he used. And herein lay one of the fundamental differences between heathenism and the Old Testament, between magic and miracles. In the former it was all of man, in the latter it wasshown to be all of God. No prophet of the Lord ever had or claimed power, like the magicians; but in every case the gracious influencewas specially, and for that time, transmitted directly from God. Only the God-Man had power in Himself, so that His every contact brought health and life.‖ A. Edersheim, Bible History: Old Testament
Balaam ―God said to Balaam, ―Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.‖ So Balaam arose in the morning and said to Balak‘s leaders, ―Go back to your land, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.‖ Theleaders of Moab arose and went to Balak and said, ―Balaam refused to come with us.‖ Then Balak again sent leaders, more numerous and more distinguished than the former. They came to Balaam and said to him, ―Thus says Balak the son of Zippor, ‗Let nothing, I beg you, hinder you from coming to me; for I will indeed honor you richly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Please come then, curse thispeople for me.‘ ‖ Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, ―Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the Lord my God. ―Now please, you also stay here tonight, and I will find out what else the Lord will speak to me.‖" (Numbers 22:2-19) Notice Balaam suppresses the last two statements of God and doesn‘t tell the messengers how hopeless their undertaking was…
“the Teaching of Balaam…”―God came to Balaam at night and said to him, ―If the men have come to call you, rise up and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do.‖ So Balaam arose in themorning, and saddled his donkey and went with the leaders of Moab. But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of theLord took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, the donkey turned off from the way and went intothe field; but Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back into the way. . . . Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground. ‖ (Numbers 22:20-23, 31)
Balaam Narrative a Typology Balaam BalakDonkey sees angel that Balaam can‘t Balaam sees blessing of God uponsee Israel that Balak can‘t seeDonkey sees angel three times; Balaam speaks blessing of God uponDonkey is beaten three times Israel three times when asked to curse Israel three timesEach time donkey turns from angel, With each blessing upon Israel, thethe effect on Balaam is worse effect on Balak is worseBalaam is prevented from killing Balak unable to kill BalaamdonkeyDonkey speaks because God opens Balaam says he can only speak wordsits mouth God puts in his mouthBalaam not moved when donkey Balak not moved by blessings uponspeaks Israel
“the Teaching of Balaam…” ―They [the Ammonites/Moabites] hired against you Balaam the son ofBeor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. ―Nevertheless, the Lord your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the Lord your Godturned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you. ‖ (Deuteronomy 23:4–5) ―While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israeljoined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the Lord was angry against Israel. ‖ (Numbers 25:1–3)―Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the Lord.‖ (Numbers 31:16)
“the Teaching of Balaam…”―forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness‖ (2 Peter 2:15)―Woe to them! For they have gonethe way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. ‖ (Jude 11)
“the Teaching of Balaam…” "They killed the kings of Midian alongwith the rest of their slain: Evi and Rekemand Zur and Hur and Reba, the five kingsof Midian; they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword." (Numbers 31:8) Here, in Revelation, the people of Pergamum must have been intermarrying with pagans/unbelievers and thus tempting them with false gods. Also, In times of persecution, tasting the wine of the libations or eating meat offered to idols, was understood to signify recantation of Christianity.
Syncretism Forbidden in Scripture ―You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, or all the produce of the seed which you have sown and the increase of the vineyard will become defiled. ―You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. ―You shall not wear a material mixed of wool and linen together.‖ (Deuteronomy 22:9–11) ―Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnershiphave righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God;just as God said, ―I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.‖ (2 Corinthians 6:14–16)
“the Teaching of the Nicolaitans…” ―‗So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. ‖ (Revelation 2:15) Early second century sources (Irenaeus) say the Nicolaitans started with the Nicolas identified as a proselyte from Antioch (Acts 6:5). Nicolaitanism sported many of the characteristics of Gnosticism in that it encouraged the practice of physical immorality. ―In the same way‖ says that the Nicolaitans participated in the same type of activities as the Old Testament Israelites with Balaam‘s counsel. Evidently Pergamum wasn‘t as discerning as Ephesus.
“the Teaching of the Nicolaitans…” ―Do not be deceived: ―Bad company corrupts good morals.‖ ‖ (1 Corinthians 15:33) ―A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.‖ (Galatians 5:9)
“the Teaching of the Nicolaitans…”―Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body,but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. ‖ (1 Corinthians 6:18–20)
Repent or Else…―‗Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. ‖ (Revelation 2:16) ―Repent‖ means to change one‘s way of life as the result of a complete change of through and attitude (Lou Nida Lexicon). Jesus demonstratesthat compromise with sin in the church is not to be tolerated. Jesus Himself would come to fight against them unless they changed their behavior.
―You can never suppress error bycompromising with it.‖ - John MacArthur
A command to Hear―‗He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.‖ (Revelation 2:17) This phrase is repeated each time in Christ‘saddress to the seven churches of Revelation. In the gospels (it is never used in John), it is always used to highlight radical truths, great principles, and promises.Note that Jesus says it is the Spirit speakingto the churches, even though He is the actualone talking: ―All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness‖ (2 Timothy 3:16)
“To him who overcomes I will give…” ―Overcome‖ (nikao) means to be the ‗victor‘; ‗conquer‘. The name Nicolas(from the Nicolaitans) means ‗conqueror of the people‘. Rather than being overcome by them, Christ speaks to those who truly overcome. The overcomers in the New Testament arebelievers: ―For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is thevictory that has overcome the world—our faith. ‖ (1 John 5:4)
Three Gifts…―I will give some of the hidden manna…‖ (Revelation 2:17) There was a golden pot of manna preserved in the Ark of the Covenant (cf. Ex. 16:23). Asthe manna hidden in the sanctuary was by divine power preserved from corruption, so Christ in His incorruptible body has passed into the heavens, and is hidden there until the time of His appearing. Christ Himself is the manna ―hidden‖ from the world, but revealed to the believer, so that he has already a foretaste of what‘s to come: ―I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.‖ (John 6:51)
Three Gifts… ―I will give . . . a white stone…‖ (Revelation 2:17) The white stone referred to herecould be a couple of different things.When an athlete won in the games, he was often given a white stone whichwas an admission pass to the winner‘s celebration. A white stone was alsoused by jurors at a trial to vote for an acquittal.
Three Gifts…―I will give . . . a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.‖ (Revelation 2:17) To know someone‘s name in the ancient world and in the Old Testament often meant to enter into an intimate relationship with that person and to share in that person‘s character or power (cf. Acts 17 and the ‗unknown god‘). Also, to be given a new name was an indication of a new status (e.g. Peter). Here, it likely represents the eschatological new identity of each overcomer in the new heaven and new earth.
Conclusions• Pergamum is a picture of any church (and person) that courts the world and mixes itself in with wrong teaching that leads to immorality• God takes compromise seriously. This is a fact that the politically-correct churches need to learn• Those who persevere will be rewarded with Christ Himself, acquittal of guilt, and entrance to His kingdom
―To the angel of the church inPergamum write…‖ The compromising church