V-12: And to the church in Pergamos write, these thing says he who has the sharp two edged
V-13: “I know your works and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to
My name and did not deny my faith even in the days when Antipas was My faithful
martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
V-14: But I have a few things against you, because you have those who hold the doctrine of
Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat
things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.
V-15: Thus you also have those who hold to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
V-16: Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of
V-17: He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who
overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone,
and on that stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
Pergamos was the provincial capitol of Asia Minor. It had been the capitol for over 400 years, going back to the time of the break up of the kingdom of Alexander the great. This was the beginning of the Selecuid kingdom. After Attalus died in 133B.C., he willed Asia minor to Rome, where Pergamos remained the capitol.
Its geographical location made it an interesting site for a capitol city. The city was perched high on a cone-shaped hill overlooking the Caicus River Valley. It was not on any major trade routes and thus was not a major center of trade. From its location, one could see the Mediterranean Sea just 15 miles away, and any traveler coming through the river valley would certainly be impressed.
Instead of commercial greatness, Pergamos was the cultural center of Asia Minor. It had the second largest library in the ancient world, second only to the one in Alexandria, Egypt. A Pergamene king called Eumenes started a centuries-long feud with the Egyptians when he tried to hire the chief librarian away from Alexandria. Ptolemy, the ruler in Egypt at that time, promptly arrested the librarian and placed an embargo on papyrus to Pergamos. The people of Pergamos, not to be deterred, set about and developed parchment, which eventually replaced papyrus in the ancient world.
Pergamos was also a great religious center for Asia Minor, especially as the keeper of the Greek way of worship. Two of the most popular sites were the Temple of Athene and the Altar of Zeus. They both were 800 feet up on the mountain and could be seen by anyone approaching the city. Historians say that the Altar of Zeus stood 40 ft high on a large projection of rock and from a distance looked like a gigantic throne. Around its base was a majestic carving depicting the victory of the Greek gods over the barbarians’ giants. Smoke went up from the altar all day long from the continual sacrifices being made.
More important, Pregamos was the home to the god Asciepios. If there was any god who would be known as the god of Pergamos, it would have been Asciepios. He was the god of healing. People came from all over the ancient world to Pergamos for healing. It may have been the closest thing to a teaching hospital then known in the ancient world.
What probably caused Pergamos to be called the seat of Satan is that it was the capitol of Asia Minor. This made it not only the administrative center but also the center of emperor worship itself. While other cities jousted for position to build this temple or that temple to an emperor, Pergamos was the definite center for Emperor worship in Asia Minor, and they took that very seriously. Emperor worship was the only form of worship in the empire that could require punishment by death if one failed to concur. This wasn’t during all times and wasn’t always carried out in all places, but it was a fact.
This is pointed out in verse 12, where Jesus refers to Himself as ‘He who has the two edged-sword.’ Roman governors were divided into two classes – those who had the ius gladii and those who didn’t. The ius gladii would be one who had the power of the sword, thus having power over life and death. In Pergamos the governor had the ius gladii, and there was always a chance for the congregation to have that power wielded against them; but Jesus wants them to remember that HE is the one with the two-edged sword. Jesus has the final say. While the power of Rome might be satanically powerful, it would never be as powerful as the risen Christ.
This is not the first time the two-edged sword is mentioned in Revelation. It is also noted in Revelation 1:16. What I said there also applies to this scripture. It comes from Genesis 3:24, when God expels Adam and Eve out of the Garden. There is placed an angel with a two-edged sword, which turns every which way in order to keep them out. Also, in Hebrews 4:12, Paul talks about the two- edged sword as the word of God, “For the word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The Hebrews text speaks more clearly to verse 16, where Jesus says that He will come among them and slay them with the sword in His mouth. The “them” refers to the teachers of the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. Piercing the division between the true believers and the heretics, the sword of His mouth is Christ’s word. It is with His word that He will defeat them – and it is the same with us! It is with Christ’s word that we will be able to defeat the heretics of our day. Not logic, not philosophy, not psychology, but with Christ’s word.
Jesus said, “I know where you stay.” Jesus uses an interesting word here, the Greek word katoikein, which means a permanent dwelling. In most cases when referring to where a Christian lives or stays, the New Testament writers use the Greek word paroikein, which means a traveler or sojourner. Why? The common thought is that we as Christians upon receiving Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior are no longer of this world. We are now seekers and citizens of the Kingdom of God, and we are not expecting to permanently dwell here. This world is not our kingdom and not our home – and often the world does not even want us here…. But in this passage, the word katoikein is used to denote that we also follow the Lord who overcame the world. As Christians we are called not to escape the slings and arrows that the world throws at us but to conquer. The work of the Christian is to stand firm even in the face of persecution and possible martyrdom and witness to the Gospel of Jesus. Regarding the man who was executed, Antipas, Jesus calls a faithful witness. Too often this Greek word gets translated as martyr, but the Greek is actually martus, which translates as witness. Unfortunately, for a true disciple a faithful witness can leads to martyrdom. It is one thing to proclaim Jesus in our Bible study group, Sunday school class, or worship service. It is another to stand firm in our faith where our faith is met with even violent opposition….
Let’s be real – this is happening more and more in our world today. There is opposition within the church against fellow believers. Those who believe in the authority of Scripture are being called names, denounced, and vilified because of holding to scriptural correctness above politics or whatever society says is correct at the moment. Their definition of correct continues to change with the wind. There is also a growing opposition to Christian faith in our local communities as well as officials all the way to the top tiers of the government.
Friedrich Nietzsche, the French philosopher, is best known for his writing in which he supposedly proclaimed, “ God is dead.” Nietzsche was taken out of context. He saw the world around him and all the changes that were happening which at the time seemed like a very quick pace. He saw the societal changes and said basically that the ways of the church and the worship of God at the time was not meeting the need of the people of that time. Now this is a discussion for another day, but there were a lot of changes in the study of theology, especially out of Germany, which had spread throughout Europe and also to the United States which made that true. However, Nietzsche also wrote that there would always be a god, because humanity would make one to put in His place. Imagine that insight….
We see this today with the fascist leftist medias attacks on the faith of those who believe in the authority of Scripture. The Bible itself is being jammed into the category of hate speech. It is being called exclusive. Laws are in the process of being passed which will cancel a Christian’s right to free speech if they disagree with the social justice culture. There are talks of indoctrinating people to believe as the government thinks one ought to believe. Some of the people in the 2021 president’s administration believe that those who will not bow should be imprisoned in special camps. Look at what is happening in China regarding the imprisonment of Islamic believers and the enforcing of slave labor. There has been even talk of holocaust-type murders of Islamic believers in China, where the Christian church is also persecuted. As the violence and deceptive speech of the cancel culture and social justice warriors are rammed down peoples’ throats – and all media is being controlled to the point where dissenting voices are canceled, censored, or silenced – who’s to say the same thing will not happen in the U.S. ? Jesus is telling the congregation at Pergamos, and the congregations of today, that He is proud of their witness in the face of deadly opposition. He is telling them – and us – to continue to stay where we are, stand, and witness, even if it means death. He reminds us that He has overcome the world, no matter what the happenings around us look like. (We shall see later that the death of Antipas will be revisited when we talk about the stone and the name written on it.)
Who are the heretics? Well, apparently there are two groups and not one, as in Ephesus. The first are those who hold the doctrine of Balaam. Balaam was a great sorcerer who was contracted by Balak, the king of Moab, to cast a curse on the Children of Israel as they were passing through Moab on their way to the Promise Land. Balaam tried three times, but the Lord God only gave him blessings to pronounce. Yet Balaam told Balak that while the Lord God would not allow him to curse Israel, Balak could get them to curse themselves by going in the back door and tempting the children of Israel to blaspheme through the women of Moab. Thus, the children of Israel sinned against God by doing the same things mentioned in verse 14, sacrificing and eating things sacrificed to idols and committing sexual immorality. We have already noted that Pergamemes saw themselves as the keepers of pure Greek culture, as well as taking pride in their support of the emperor cult; and most Greek temples and their worship included male and female prostitutes. Unless you knew of a good Jewish butcher, all meats sold in the marketplace had been sacrificed to idols. The meat was not a problem unless it was eaten at a pagan temple as part of a pagan celebration. This purchase location would also be the same time that a person might be seduced into sexual immorality with a temple prostitute. Now, one might say, “ OK, just stay away from pagan temple functions.” But the Christians had family that were not Christians, and temples were the places for birthday celebrations, weddings, and many other secular social events. Apparently the congregation at Pergamos had become lax in the scrutiny of some of the fellow believers. While not all were guilty of these sins – maybe not even the majority – the congregation was not holding each another accountable.
The second group of heretics was the Nicolaitans. Again, go to my writing on Ephesus and reread. These were the early form of gnosticism, which would become an even greater problem in about 50 years (the flesh was not important, only the spirit mattered). The Christian lifestyle was nonexistent for them. What one did, what one ate, and where one worshiped were not important. These folks evolved to believe that Jesus did not exist as a human but was only was spirit. He didn’t die on the cross. Sin was of the flesh, and Jesus was all spirit. Thus, He didn’t have to die, and the life lived in the flesh was not important – only the spirit was important. Again, these people were not in the majority, but they were also not being held accountable. What a false compassion – where the feelings and desires of persons takes precedence over the Sovereignty, Authority, Will, Holiness and Righteousness of God!
We can see this in the break- up of major Christian denominations today. Where Scriptural authority is set aside and sin is ignored or disclaimed to support a false compassion for the feelings of persons. Where is the real compassion, when we are willing to condemn a person to Hell because we are unwilling to confront their sin since we don’t want to hurt their feelings? We act like Luke telling Darth Vader, “I see the good in you.” But we fail to compare the good in them to the righteousness and holiness of God. The people of the congregation in Pergamos were willing sell their fellow members short because they did not want to ruffle feathers or hurt feelings.
Jesus tells the believers of Pergamos that if they are not willing to confront their fellow congregational members, then He will, by the sword in His mouth. Remember the words of Paul in Hebrews, “The word of is like a two edged sword.” Jesus says He is going to fight the heresy with His word; and because His word can sever between soul and spirit, joint and marrow, He can deal with the heretics without harming the faithful. Isn’t it interesting that while we try to handle things by political maneuvering, Jesus says, “I will handle it through My word.”
Again, let those with an ear (singular) hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the overcomers, to those who are faithful to the end, Jesus promises three rewards: 1) I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. It is believed by Hebrew scholars that one of the signs of the Messiah will be that He will feed the remnant with the manna from heaven as God did the children of Israel in the wilderness. This was the sign Jesus used in His own ministry with the feedings of the 4000 and 5000. Here Jesus is telling them that they will not have to worry about food or meat sacrificed to idols because they will eat at His heavenly table and eat His heavenly food. 2) I will give them a white stone. In the ancient culture of the day, there were a couple of different thoughts about the white stone; but since we are talking about end time and judgment, I believe the correct thought is one based on the judicial practices of the day. In a court case, unlike today, there was usually more than one judge. The judges would hear all sides of the case and then would pronounce their judgment, not by speaking but by casting stones. Each judge would have a white stone and a black stone. The black stone was if they found against a person, and the white stone was for if they found for a person. Similar to this was that in the early priesthood of Israel, a priest sought the will of God through the urim and the thummin. While the color of the urim and the thummin are not known, it is greatly believed that they were stones. The urim and the thummin are not mentioned again after the 7th chapter of Nehemiah. Jesus is telling the overcomers, both in Pergamos and in today, that He has cast for us the white stone. We win!!
3) There will be a name on the stone, a name that no one knows but the one who receives it. Now, most people want to make a big deal about the secrecy of the name, that no one will know it except they who receive it. But I would like to share that the name is not the secret. The name is mentioned in Rev.2:13 of our present study and was mentioned earlier in our study in Rev. 1:5. It is the name given to Antipas and the name given by God the Father to Jesus in Rev. 1:5 – Faithful Witness. You may say, “But Dap, Jesus calls Antipas a faithful martyr.” Please remember the Greek word for martyr is literally witness. The secret is not the name. The secret is that only the one who overcomes can understand the meaning behind the name…..
1.) Jesus is the one with the two-edged sword in His mouth. Jesus is the one who speaks the truth of
God. His word is truth. The power of His word is greater than the sword of Rome.
2.) Jesus knows their works, the hardship of where they dwell, and their faithfulness even in
persecution unto death.
3.) Jesus has one shortcoming against them, found in two areas: their failure to hold accountable those who are not constant in the faith (those who adhere to the doctrine of of Ballam) and those who refuse to adhere to the basic beliefs of the faith (the Nicolaitans).
4.) If they do not repent and do their duty as faithful believers, Jesus Himself will come and deal with
the unfaithful THROUGH HIS WORD.
5.) To the overcomers, Jesus will give three rewards: 1) They will be allowed to eat the bread of Heaven saved for those who overcome. 2) They will be judged righteous via the white stone.
3) They will be given the name that Jesus was given by the Father and which Jesus gave Antipas – that of Faithful Witness.
Remember to pray Psalm 91 in the first person daily. If you want to be more empowered, pray Psalms 23, 27, and 121 as well.