2:12 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.
2:18 the church in Thyatira - Thyatira was located twenty or thirty miles southeast of Pergamos on the river Lycus. The road between the two cities was said to be one of the most beautiful in the world. In John's time it was a town of considerable size that was mainly inhabited by Macedonians. They formed themselves into various guilds of potters, tanners, weavers, rope-makers, and dyers. Lydia whom Paul met at Philippi in Acts 16 was a seller of purple from Thyatira. The city had a mixture of races and religion. As all of the cities previously mentioned it was dominated by idolatry. In Pergamum true believers in the church were a majority, but in Thyatira they were a minority, a church settling into the world.
his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass - Fire and brass both speak of judgment. 1 Cor 3:13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. In Ex 27:1-8 God gave Moses detailed instructions on how to build the brazen altar upon which Israel was to offer their burnt offerings. Though Jesus has some good things to say about this church if they don't change course quickly they will be facing judgment.
There are five good things Jesus has to say about this church, but I will make my observations of them based on what He says in verses 20-23. This church was influenced by someone who was not of God, but claimed to speak with God's authority. Therefore it's possible even the good things Jesus mentions were far from what they should have been.
2:19 I know thy works - Works here means labor, deeds, or toil. Notice that Jesus mentions it again at the end of this verse saying, "and the last to be more than the first." This church was a working church. No one would be able to accuse them of being lazy. However, doing and working is not always a sign of successful ministry. It's much easier to work than to take time to be holy. Remember the words of Jesus to Martha, sister of Mary and Lazarus, in Luke 10:42 ...Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. What Mary had chosen was to hear and worship Jesus.
charity - The Greek word here is agape and is the strongest word used for love in the Bible. It literally means love in action or love that is shown. It speaks of what we do for others and how we treat them. Therefore, it's correctly translated charity. This church accomplished a great deal for others and their community, but that's not necessarily a sign of successful ministry. There are many churches today doing the same things, helping people and their communities. Walmart does it all the time and would love to tell you about it. The church at Thyatira was showing love, but if they didn't proclaim the gospel of Christ and stand for the truth of His Word, they were a failure.
service - Service here means attendance or aid, executing the commands of others. Again, this church was a busy church doing what they believed they were told to do, but that does not mean they were successful ministers of Christ. Serving without devotion to or love for the Savior means there is an incorrect motivation.
faith - Faith here means belief or assurance. This was a church who may have believed all the right things. Believing all the right things does not always mean you're doing all the right things or even have fellowship with God.
patience - Patience here means enduring. These people had set themselves firm in the work they were accomplishing. It seems those who have only religion are often more diligent in their works than are true believers in Christ. Muslims, Hindus and even Catholics are good examples of that.
2:20 that woman Jezebel - Most believe the woman Jezebel here is symbolic. She represents someone who is out of place. According to scripture a woman has no place as a teacher of men. It's expressly forbidden. 1 Tim 2:11-12 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 1 Cor 14:34-35 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. These are verses, which in whole, virtually no one in our modern time will receive. By that I mean no church I know of practices those verses as written. God certainly does not think any less of a woman than he does a man, but our modern thinking will not let us take these verses as written and think any thing else. It's just another example of man declaring He knows more than God. Jezebel was the wife of King Ahab, who was king over the northern ten tribes of Israel in the days of Elijah. She was a foreigner who seduced Israel to worship Baal, a false God. The woman Jezebel in this letter to Thyatira represents a false teacher who is seducing the church to commit sin. One of the errors within true Christianity has always been to think the liberty we have in Christ can be used to do as we please. Paul gives an example of the error of doing so in 1 Corinthians chapter 8. Though the name Jezebel here is almost certainly symbolic this false teacher may be an actual woman who was serving as a teacher the church, maybe even wife of the pastor.
which calleth herself a prophetess – A prophet is someone who reveals secrets and/or teaches the Word of God. It's said here she calls herself a prophetess. That may be a sure sign she is not. The majority of the time God calls someone to teach His Word that person is identified a teacher or prophet by others before they ever proclaim it themselves.
to teach and to seduce – Seduce means to deceive, err or go astray. This is the goal of Satan within the sphere of religion. He seeks to change the truth by misrepresenting it. Many are being used by him unknowingly. All of us can be used by Satan when we allow our heart to depart from the Lord. The only way to avoid it is through an intimate relationship with God and the Word of God.
commit fornication – This phrase “commit fornication” means to give one's self over to something unlawful. Fornication is, of course, sexual sin and it could be what Jesus is referring to here. However, it would do us well to remember God calls the reverence of false gods adultery. What Jesus says next may be evidence that's just what He means here.
eat things sacrificed unto idols – Eating things sacrificed unto an idol at the very least shows to others some form of reverence for that idol. That is not something that should be supposed of those who worship the true and living God. No liberty we have in Christ is worth misleading people who do not truly follow Him. Anyone who would deceive a church into doing such things has no place as a spiritual leader or teacher.
2:21 I gave her space to repent...and she repented not – Repent means to change your mind, think differently or reconsider. God desires all to come to repentance and is long suffering. Individuals who will repent can be saved from His judgment. However, the only cure for apostasy itself is judgment, and that judgment is coming. It's part of the revealing of Jesus Christ to the world and we will see it here in our study of The Revelation. Space means a time or a season. The fact that this woman was given space to repent and did not shows the stubbornness and rebellion bound up in the heart of many people. To find peace and rest is to surrender.
2:22 I will cast her into a bed - A bed is a place of rest, it's also a place where adultery can be committed. Religion and the Antichrist will get along fine for the first 3 ½ years of the great tribulation. In fact religion and government have always got along fine. The key to their successful relationship is that they manipulate one another as necessary to promote what they would say is their common agenda. However, God cannot be manipulated and that's why He seldom has a place in government or the heart of government officials.
2:23 I will kill her children with death – The uniting of religion and government has brought forth many children and our country is suffering the consequences. Most of the modern day politicians would fit into that category. If they will not hear the truth and repent then tribulation and eternal death is all that await them.
and all the churches shall know – Know means to perceive and understand. It's always been God's goal for mankind to know the truth. Many will come to know the truth to late. How sad it is that some of them will have been church members who should have already known.
searcheth the reins and hearts – Reins here means the innermost thoughts, feelings, intentions and purposes. Heb 4:13 ...all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. God looks into the innermost part of us and knows what we are. That's both a frightening and sobering fact. 1 Sam 16:7 ...the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. God knows what we will do because He knows our heart. Example: Pharaoh, king of Egypt in the time of Moses. Ex 9:16 And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. If what's inside us is important to God then why is it not important to us?
according to your works – We usually care little about matters of the heart and instead like to focus on what we do, that's true for both the saved and the lost. The children of God when ask if their right with God would begin to tell you what they do, not the condition of their heart. Many that are lost will one day claim God owes them heaven. Jesus said in Matt 7:22-23 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Since we like to exalt ourselves by our works God will judge us by our works. The biggest mistake we make when proclaiming our works is taking into account the motivation behind them. That's why Christians will have so much wood, hay and stubble to burn at the Judgment Seat of Christ and why God owes no one heaven. Things look strangely different in the light of God. Jesus said in Luke 16:15 ...Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. The religious Jews had works, but a rotten motivation behind them. When we are forced to see what we do in the light of our true motive all our righteousness turns to filthy rags. It's what's in our heart (our motives) that places the true value on what we do.
2:24 unto you...unto the rest...as many as have not this doctrine – What doctrine? The doctrine that would allow sexual sin and reverence of false gods in the life of a believer. Jesus is speaking here directly to those in the church who are truly trusting in and following Him, they have not given themselves to the deception of Satan. Jesus does not wish to put upon them any other burden. The true believers were, no doubt, already suffering at the hands of those who were deceived. He asks them to hold fast until He comes. Sadly in modern times the church has so departed from the truth of God that holding fast will gain us nothing but defeat. We must repent if we are going to regain a place of influence in this world and then hold fast.
the depths of Satan – To understand this I believe it helps to think of the depths of the ocean. Something lost to the depths of the ocean is seldom seen again. The depths of Satan speaks of his consuming deception. The deeper you go into his deception the less likely you will ever come out. Satan has an alternate truth for every fundamental truth found in the Word of God and he can make his deceptions fit together almost as good as God's truths fits together. Satan is not someone to be trifled with. You'll not be able to match wits with him and that's the reason it does little good to argue with one caught in his deception. Arguing is for losers because arguers can't win. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. That's where our victory lies. That's what we must show those who are deceived.
2:26 he that overcometh – The over-comer is described for us in 1 John 5:4-5 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? To overcome is to trust in and follow Jesus Christ, it is to be made free. John 8:31-32 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
keepeth my works unto the end – Keepeth means reserve, observe, watch and preserve. What are the works of Christ He wants us to keep? I want to mention two. John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, this is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. One work of Christ is to believe God. Matt 28:19-20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Some other works of Christ are to preach the gospel and then make disciples of them who believe. Doing so builds the kingdom of Christ.
power over the nations – At present the nations have power over us. In America Christians are being forced to put up with and in some cases tolerate things which are an abomination unto our God. A day is coming in which the nations will no longer have power over us but we over them. We will rule over them under the King of Kings and Lord of Lords for 1,000 literal years. It's not right to look forward to that with revenge in our hearts. That kind of sinful reasoning will be stripped away from us when we are made into the image of Christ. We will rule with Jesus in power, righteousness, humility and love.
2:27 rule them with a rod of iron – The word “rule” here is actually translated “feed” more times in the New Testament than “rule”. Rod means “staff” or “scepter”. The one who rules can also be the one who feeds and a staff of chastening should first be a staff of help and salvation. The millennial reign of Christ will be a time in which everyone on earth will be truly provided for. We will be overseers of that great task. A picture of that is seen in the rule of Joseph over Egypt under the Pharaoh.
as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers – Modern Christians, including myself, seem to have a problem relating to the world properly. We either want their admiration (we fear them) or judge them unworthy of our regard (we hate them). Both are incorrect. Those who stand against God are like a potter's vessel that will be shattered into hundreds of pieces. We should not fear or hate people in the world who are at odds with God, we should pity them and seek their salvation.
I received of my Father – I want to call your attention here to something that happened during the temptation of Christ immediately following His baptism by John. Matt 4:8-10 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. In the beginning God gave dominion of the world into the hand of Adam. When Adam rebelled against God in the garden of Eden allowing himself to be deceived by the devil that dominion fell to Satan. Remember Jesus told Pilate His kingdom was not of this world otherwise His servants would fight for His release. However, God has declared that His only begotten Son will reign over the earth. Revelation chapter five says there is a book in heaven sealed with seven seals. That book contains the terms of redemption for the earth. At a future date Jesus will begin to open those seals. When He finishes dominion over the earth will be His. Long ago Jesus was tempted by Satan to take dominion of the world under Satan. Dominion of the earth would one day be Christ's anyway. If He had taken it at that time you and I would have no Redeemer, no Savior, no way of escaping the burning lake of fire. Thank God for the perfect patience of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thank God for His love for us.
2:28 the morning star – Jesus said in Rev 22:16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. Jesus is the morning star He speaks of here. Morning is a type of beginning and a star is something that shines. At present our morning star is the sun and it out shines all the rest because its closer to us. One day Jesus will return and when He does He will outshine the sun. His light is not only physical, but also moral, intellectual and spiritual. In His light all truth shall be known. He will present us unto Himself and He will also present Himself to us. For God's children being forever with Him is what we look forward to most of all.
2:29 He that hath an ear, let him hear - In this letter the exhortation to hear is given after the promise to the over-comer rather than before as in the previous three letters. Some believe this is because in the church at Thyatira true believers were a minority. Whatever the reason the pattern stays the same for the remaining three letters. It's significant that the last exhortation Jesus gives this church is to hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. At present that remains the only hope any of us have. I feel there is an important question to be asked here. Do you hear from God? I'm not asking if you go to church, if you read your Bible or do a daily devotion. Do you hear from God? When the child of God hears from God it usually doesn't leave them the same.