Scripture Study – Revelation 2:12-17 “The Church in Pergamum”
Pergamum is located about 100 miles north of Ephesus with Smyrna located halfway between. It still survives today as the Turkish city of Bergama.
Pergamos was considered Asia’s greatest city. By the time the Apostle John received the revelation and wrote this section of the book, Pergamos had been the region’s capital for about 250 years.
Pergamos was an important center of culture and learning. The city considered themselves as “the defender of Greek culture” in all of Asia Minor.
The city was also considered an important center of worship. Four of the main deities of the Greco-Roman world had temples dedicated to Athena, Asklepios, Dionysos, and Zeus were located there.
But overshadowing the worship of all these deities of Pergamos’ devotion was the cult of emperor worship. Christians of the day were in constant danger of harm from the emperor worship cult. Elsewhere, Christians were primarily in danger of one particular day of the year where they were required to offer sacrifices to the emperor; in Pergamos, they were in danger every day.
The Church At Pergamos Was One That Lived and Served In The Shadow of Satan’s Headquarters.
Revelation 2:13 (a).
“I know where you live–a place where Satan sits enthroned.”
Notice the introduction Jesus used in introducing Himself to Pergamos as “the One Who has and wields the sharp two-edged sword”.
In ancient times, the highest symbol of authority was the sword. It represented the greatest authority that people knew. It represented absolute authority!
Jesus’ introduction leads one to believe that God wasn’t at all happy with the church at Pergamum. So I found it quite interesting to what Jesus had to say to the Assembly.
The Church’s Dedication Observed (2:13)
Here was a church positioned on a hill, so to speak, that was in the shadow of Satan’s throne, and Jesus noted their dedication. I can only imagine their struggle.
WOW! How complacent we can get while sitting in church on Sunday’s feeling comfortable without obvious persecution by the community in the valleys of our culture constantly trying to blow out the candle. “No LIGHT in shinning in that building!”
The headquarters of Satan is a strategic place best used by his influence.
Then Jesus goes on to say, “[Yet] you are clinging to and holding first to My name”. That meant they had not denied the purpose for which Jesus came. They had not turned their backs on the gospel. And in spite of the difficult circumstances that surrounded them, the BELIEVERS at Pergamos courageously maintained their FAITH in Jesus Christ.
A Period of détente –
détente [a French word meaning release from tension] and a name given to a period of improved relations during the Cold War, between the United States and the Soviet Union that began tentatively in 1971.
There was a problem in Pergamos.
It’s a problem that exists in our own backyards today as well, perhaps more strongly than ever in history.
Notice the church’s détente–détente meaning an easing of friction between two groups. It means compromising so as not to muddy the waters.
The church was faithful; it believed in Jesus. It was a strong church, an Orthodox church.
They had not denied His faith, BUT…they were tolerating false views. They tolerated what should have been expelled from the church. Don’t get me wrong here. The church didn’t hold onto false doctrines. It was a proper, orthodox, fundamental church in the city. There are churches similar in communities today. Perhaps you belong to a “fundamental” church like Pergamum. But the assembly in Pergamos held fellowship with those views ignoring the Truth laid down by Jesus. That was the thing Jesus attacked.
What has this assembly of believers allowed in their fellowship?
First, they allowed the doctrine of Balaam.
Balaam was called by a king to curse Israel in Numbers 22-23.
Balaam didn’t try to change the theology or to curse the nation. He just encouraged them to COMPROMISE the purposes of God. He polluted the people socially and spiritually.
THE END RESULT (vs. 14), A “stumbling block” before the children of Israel, resulting in the eating of things sacrificed to idols and committing immorality.
They taught that ORTHODOXY gave license to SIN.
What does the word, “Orthodox” mean in this context? It means “conventional Christian beliefs” or “traditional beliefs and customs of the early church that Jesus had established”. [See footnote [i].]
The church at Pergamum ‘new age’ thinking was “Believe in the right things, church, and you can do anything you want to do!”
I once had a pastor who rationalized celebrating Halloween activities in the church parking lot with this same reasoning, using 1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23 as his point of reference–“All things are lawful”; as a believer, we are free to do anything we please.” He left out the rest of the verse: “but not all things are helpful (expedient, profitable, and wholesome…” This isn’t to say that every Christian who uses this phrase “All things are lawful” has the wrong general idea. But I think it’s fairly clear that this is an example of a legitimate intention from the wrong text, with wrong teaching. We don’t want to cause a wave with the world over issues like homosexuality or abortion so we will allow FALSE TEACHING to enter in and adjust our doctrine, keeping everyone happy and the attendance up.
Given Direction (vs. 16)
“Repent [then]! Or else I will come to you quickly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” [AMP]
NOTICE the direction Jesus gives to them, “REPENT!”
He’s not talking to the people who had the doctrine of Balaam. He’s speaking to the CHURCH. He was telling the church to repent.
As I pondered over Jesus’ words, I began trying to understand His words here on how the CHURCH could repent. They weren’t guilty of believing those things. Jesus essentially says to the church, exclude those people from fellowship. Don’t give them false security. They were wrong; they were destroying what the church believed, so the church should remove them.
Jesus was saying to the church to exercise discipline, people!
Do we realize the danger of someone who rebels, fights against the things of God? The danger of someone in the midst of the fellowship who stands for that which contradicts the doctrine and gospel of Jesus?
Jesus said, you as a church better REPENT and ACT on this matter, or I will come and work against them. Basically, you take care of them, or I will take care of them!
DELIGHT (vs. 17) –
Revelation 2:17 (The Message Bible)
“Are your ears awake? Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blows through the churches. I’ll give the sacred manna to every conqueror; I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name, your secret new name.”
The hidden or sacred manna typifies the spiritual food provided by God in His Word. Jesus is talking about individual feeding, not a church function.
The manna is something that you receive daily already in life. It corresponds to your hidden life. A place inside where no one knows what’s going on except for you and God. It’s where you are tempted to impure thought, to pride, to lying, etc. It’s where you fight and overcome those temptations.
The sacred (hidden) manna, is the help you get when you pray for it in those times. It’s the nourishment you receive, by the power from heaven. It’s given to everyone who asks for it, everyone with a longing to be free from sin.
The hidden manna gives vitality and life.
But like the Israelites in the wilderness, God provided the MANNA for sustaining the daily physical life, but the people had to go out and gather it in daily.
Manna was divinely supplied but had to be humanly gathered.
God gave it, but the people had to gather it! God will not spoon feed you!!
The “White Stone” (“clear stone”) and the “New Name” meaning: [See footnote [ii] ]
- The WHITENESS represents the PURITY and the HOLINESS of God.
- The NEW NAME represents the name that a BELIEVER (“overcomer”) receives one day in Christ.
Sometimes a white stone was given to a person after a trial. The STONE symbolized NOT GUILTY,
Sometimes after a battle, the VICTOR (“conqueror”) was given a white stone representing total victory.
Sometimes a stone was given to an individual signifying CITIZENSHIP.
When we apply that to our Christian faith, it forms a beautiful picture.
But the Scripture is very clear here that the CHURCH must not tolerate those who lower the STANDARDS of the Truth.
It’s not a question of holding the TRUTH; Pergamos did that.
As a Church, we too face the same choice that Pergamos faced.
We can repent and receive ALL of God’s blessings, or, we can refuse to perform a spiritual self-examination and face the terrifying reality of having the Lord Jesus Christ declare war on us.
We need to remain to hold true to the Word of God and never compromising our position in Christ Jesus.
CREDITS AND FOOTNOTES –
Credit: ActiveChristianity – Hidden Manna, White Stone and a New Name – Revelation 2:17.
FOOTNOTES: [i] The Christian Crier – “What Does Orthodox Mean?”; [ii] Word Detective’s White Stone, New Name blog – https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/a-name-change-at…heavenly-arrival/
PHOTOS: Google Image Search, settings advanced.
BIBLE TRANSLATIONS: Amplified (AMP), New International Version (NIV), or where noted in the text.