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  • THE CHURCH AT PERGAMOS (Around 100 A.D.)

    The Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:12-17

    the church in Pergamos – This city called Pergamos in the Bible is called Pergamum in Turkey. It was located 70 miles north of Smyrna, 135 miles north of Ephesus. The first three cities mentioned in Revelation chapter two were known as royal cities during the time of these letters because Roman emperors often visited them. Pergamum was a favorite of Caesar Augustus, in it was a grand temple built to him. The city had the greatest library of the ancient world containing over 200,000 volumes. The library was given as a gift by Marc Antony to his girlfriend Cleopatra. She had it's contents moved to Alexandria in Egypt and that library was considered the greatest the world has ever seen. Pergamum was a knowledge and religious center. While great knowledge and religion certainly go together, great knowledge and Christianity do not. In the beginning Adam chose knowledge over life and as a result the world was cursed. It's those who possess great knowledge who are the greatest enemies of Christ. Though true believers were still a majority in the church at Pergamum when this letter was sent to them worldly knowledge had begun to work its way in.

    the sharp sword with two edges – This comes from the description we find of Jesus in chapter one verse sixteen. The sharp sword with two edges comes out of the mouth of our Savior. That means the sharp sword is His words. It's fitting to be reminded of that in a city which possessed such great knowledge. Paul wrote in Rom 3:4 ...let God be true, but every man a liar. The words and knowledge of men will pass away, but God's Word will stand forever. The words of men have no complete answer for the problems of the world. God's Word has all the answers, but few will hear it. In Pergamum God's Word was a sharp two edged sword, dividing between that which was spiritual and that which was carnal, between that which was temporary and that which was eternal. Such words would have caused great controversy in Pergamum and would have put those who proclaimed them in danger.

    2:13 where thou dwellest – Paul wrote in 2 Tim 2:19 ...the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. Not only does the Lord know them that are His, He knows where they are. We can take great comfort in embracing that, the Lord knows exactly where we are. God knows what we are facing, His strength and grace are always sufficient. The church at Pergamum belonged to Jesus and He knew where they were.

    where Satan's seat is – Satan's seat is any place people choose knowledge over God. The devil rules over anyone who believes they know everything about a given person or situation. He has in his grip everyone that makes themselves a judge and analyzer of people and their circumstances. Paul wrote in 1 Cor 8:1-3 ...Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him. Satan's seat is any place people choose knowledge or their perception of things as the final authority. God's seat is the place where people yield to and trust in Him. We don't know everything, but God does. Because Jesus specifically identifies Pergamum as Satan's seat then it surly was the capital of false religion in Asia. Pergamum would have been a very dangerous place for a real Christian to live.

    holdest fast my name – Holdest fast means to take or lay hold on. The significance of the names of God cannot be overstated. To take or lay hold on His name is to identify with Him and even be known by His name. Many who call themselves Christians believe only parts of God's Word or feel it's good to have around in case they need it. They are poor representatives of God and do more to hurt His cause than to help. They identify themselves with God when it's convenient or profitable to do so. The church at Pergamum had some people like that in it as we shall see, but it also had some who were truly identifying with Christ.

    hast not denied my faith – I suppose there are two main interpretations of this phrase, the first being that Jesus refers solely to the way of salvation, that is, faith in Him only to be saved. That would be the more modern interpretation. The second is that Jesus refers to the whole body of truth concerning Him and His Word. My personal opinion is the second interpretation is more correct and more clearly describes what Jesus is saying. My reasoning is that one who walks with Christ, living by His truth is a greater testimony of God than one who just believes the truth about salvation. The first testifies only of belief in a Savior (a religion), the second of a relationship with Him. There were some in the church at Pergamum whose lives testified of a living Christ and they were a great threat to religion in the city.

    Antipas was my faithful martyr – Most Bible expositors say nothing is known of Antipas. This is largely because nothing is written of him by the early church fathers in the area like Polycarp. However, a man by the name of Symeon Metaphrastes, who lived in the second half of the tenth century, authored a ten volume medieval Greek collection of saint's lives. Symeon writes that Antipas, in the emperor Domitian's reign, was shut up inside a red-hot brazen bull, and ended his life in thanksgivings and prayers to God. Domitian was emperor when the Revelation was received by John. Whatever the case Antipas from Pergamum was martyred for Christ sometime before the writing of this letter to the church and was an example to all of what a Christian should be.

    2:14 them that hold the doctrine of Balaam – Balaam is used as an example three times in the New Testament. First is the way of Balaam in 2 Pet 2:15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness. The way of Balaam is to desire what the world has to offer, it is covetousness. The second is the error of Balaam. Jude 11 ...ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward. The error of Balaam was to believe God could be manipulated into destroying Israel. The third we find here, the doctrine of Balaam. The doctrine of Balaam is something we find by looking at what Moses said concerning the Midianites in Num 31:16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. The counsel of Balaam to Balak, king or Moab, was to call Israel to the Moabite feasts where they ate meat offered in sacrifice to false gods and to entice the men of Israel into mixed marriages with Moabite women. By doing so he believed God could be manipulated into destroying Israel. Covetousness, guile and manipulation are ways of the world and of the flesh. In Pergamum they had allowed the unconverted world to come into the church.

    2:15 the doctrine of the Nicolaitans – As we discussed in verse 6 the name Nicolaitans means to conquer the laity. From that many have supposed this to be a priestly order taking authority over fellow believers that didn't belong to them. Another theory is there was a man by the name of Nicolaus of Antioch, who apostatized from the truth and formed a cult which taught (among other doctrines) that one must indulge in sin in order to understand it. They gave themselves over to sensuality with the explanation that such sins did not touch the spirit. Though we can only speculate about who the Nicolaitans were, we can be sure that Jesus hated what they stood for and what they were doing. When things Jesus hates are allowed into the church it ceases to be a light in a dark world. The same applies to individual Christians. When we allow in our heart and life things Jesus hates we cease to be a light.

    2:16 Repent – Repent means to change one's mind, to think differently, to reconsider. When things are wrong between people and God it's the only cure. God will not change because He is perfect in His views and His truth. We are the ones who must change and it starts by a change of mind.

    I will come unto thee quickly – Quickly means speedily or suddenly. Prov 29:1 He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. When God speaks to us He expects us to listen and act. Failing to listen can lead to sudden destruction that is without remedy.

    fight against them – No person in their right mind wants to have God as their enemy. Jesus is speaking to the church at Pergamum here. Notice how He says “them”, referring to those who hold the doctrine of Balaam and of the Nicolaitans. The wayward would be who Jesus would fight against, but it's foolish to believe it wouldn't affect the whole church.

    the sword of my mouth – Jesus identified Himself to this church as the One who has the sharp sword with two edges. The sword of His mouth is the word He speaks. None of the words of God are meaningless. When Jesus said, “Lazarus come forth”, Lazarus came back from the dead. When Jesus said to the fig tree, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever”, the fig tree died. The words of Jesus will destroy the army gathered together against Him at His return to reign on earth for 1,000 years. There are legions of angels who do exactly what Jesus says. It should be a fearful thing to disagree with Christ our Creator. Someone once said, “If we stand with Christ then we cannot loose, but if we stand against Him then we cannot win”.

    2:17 the hidden manna - Manna is the bread of God. Two types of manna are spoken of specifically in the Bible. 1. The children of Israel ate manna for forty years before entering the promised land. 2. Jesus said to the Jews in John 6:49-51 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 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. The bread of life is Jesus Christ, He is the bread of God that gives life to all those who receive Him. In these two types of manna we see the ability to sustain life and to give life. Something else that might be considered manna is the Word of God. Luke 4:4 It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. There is much that we can know from the Word of God, but what is the hidden manna? Hidden means kept secret so we do not know what it is. Whatever it is it may involve giving and sustaining life. My personal opinion is that it's the knowledge of all things so we may know even as we are known. 1 Cor 13:9-12 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

    a white stone - The significance of this white stone can be found by knowing the customs of the time in which John was writing this letter. During that time a man accused of a crime who was tried and acquitted in court was given a white stone to show to all he was not guilty. A white stone was also given to the special guest of a feast or celebration to show their importance. Often the stone contained a special message. The white stone given by Christ to those who overcome will declare their innocence and have written on it a new name which will only be known by Christ and the person receiving it. In biblical times a name often had a specific meaning, our new name will have such a meaning, it will let us know who we are to our Savior.