Divinely Supplied, Humanly Gathered

Scripture Study – Revelation 2:12-17 “The Church in Pergamum”

PERGAMOS –

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.

Revelation 2:14-15

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

A Name Change At Your Heavenly Arrival !!

The Wind Words Blowing

ARE YOUR EARS AWAKE AND ARE WE LISTENING?

Revelation 2:17 The MESSAGE:

“Are your ears awake?  Listen, Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing 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.”

Revelation 2:17  The AMPLIFIED Bible:

“He who is able to hear, let him listen to and heed what the Spirit says to the assemblies (churches).  To him who overcomes (conquers).  I will give to eat of the manna that is hidden, and I will give him a WHITE STONE with a NEW NAME engraved on the stone, which no one knows or understands except he who receives it.”

The “WHITE” or “CLEAR SMOOTH STONE”–

The object, the stone, is given to those in the assembly who “conquer” or “overcomes” the pressures and temptations of the world.  There are many differing interpretations on the one hand, but that doesn’t mean we are hopeless in our efforts to attempt to understand what JESUS meant in the above Scripture passage.

I’ve been reading in the Book of Revelations of late and when I read Revelation 2:17, the Holy Spirit whispered…You need to stop here and meditate on the words, to grasp their full meaning.”  And of course as the WORD Detective, I began my investigation of the evidence presented in the Bible (God’s WORD).  I found that being somewhat cautious in my studying, and avoiding dogmatism; regardless of whichever view I lean towards, on how I embrace the new and secret name in eternity (the “This” or “That’s”) was my ultimate goal.

THE “WHITE STONE”:

In the Greek language, the word used for WHITE is “leukos” = “a light, bright, brilliant from whiteness [dazzling white].”  Several years ago, I noticed my wife was gazing intently in a jewelry store window along Front Street.  There in the display case was a gold necklace with a brilliant OPAL in the center mounting (Opal is her favorite gemstone).  It was glistening in the natural light, to the degree that it even caught my eye and I am definitely NOT the jewelry type.

She never said a word except, “Okay, let’s keep window browsing down the street’s storefronts.  That doesn’t cost us anything.”  The more I thought about the brilliant stone, the more I contemplated over purchasing the necklace.  Well, to make a long story short…I purchased the necklace for my wife; and not because of it’s brilliance.  I didn’t even think much about the value so much as I did about how much I loved her.  It became a special LOVE GIFT and because it was given in LOVE, many other since have recognized and admired the brilliance of the stone.

Other Viewpoints.

Some recognize the “white stone” signified acquittal by a jury, as over a “black stone” which pointed to the quilt of the defendant.  Others point to the pagan religious people who would carry a stone with them with the name of their particular deity engraved upon it.  If this is the background of our Lord’s reference, then “the written name will be that of God or of Christ,” as in Revelation 3:12 (cf. 14:1; 19:12).

The point is then an allusion to ancient ideas; the power of divine names.  To know the name of a deity was to possess a claim upon his help: “having the POWER of Christ to save and protect is exalted over that of His pagan rivals” (Colin Hemer, 99).

I could go on listing options on the meaning of the “white stone”.  But I want to give you the view I think is the Scriptural evidence being the most likely accepted.

WHITE STONES were often used as tokens of membership or tickets for admission to public festivals.  If THIS is the background for the referenced verse, the  WHITE STONE may be a symbol for the believer’s, the over-comer’s admission to the Messianic Feast in Revelation 19.

It is “white” in order to display the righteousness of the “over-comers”; those who are granted entrance.  NO GATE CRASHERS HERE!  As we read in Revelation 19:8 the invitation presented is granted to the Bride i.e., the Church:

She has been permitted to dress in fine (radiant) linen,

dazzling and white (“leukos”)–

for the fine linen is (signifies, represents) the righteousness

(the upright, just, and godly living, deeds, and conduct, and right standing with God)

of the saints (God’s holy people).

THE BRIDE (the Church)

Little wonder, then, that John goes on to write  “Then [the angel] said to me, Write this down: Blessed are those who are summoned (invited, called) to the marriage supper of the Lamb”  (Revelation 19:9a).

I’M CAPTIVATED BY THE “NEW NAME” WE WILL RECEIVE:

The name that is written on the stone “that no one knows except…”  (Revelation 2:17b).  The words point to the prophecy given in Isaiah 62:2:  “and you shall be called by a new name” and in Isaiah 65:15, “…another name.”

A Question About Our New Name.

The question is whether this “new name” given to the over-comer is Christ’s or the individuals.  Although the first alternative is certainly possible, I’m inclined to think the “new name” in verse 17, is one given uniquely to each individual believer in Jesus Christ.  I also believe through my study,  it “symbolizes the individuals entry into a new life, status or personality…The thought may then be compared with that of 2 Corinthians 5:17”  (Hemer, 103-04).

In other words, because we’ve become believers in JESUS, we’ve become “new creations.”  It’s only fitting then, each one receives a “new name” suitable to their position in and with our relationship with JESUS.  That doesn’t mean the old or original name, given to us by our parents or the world is bad or to be thrown away.  Rather, one’s name in biblical times typically signified or point to ones character or calling or function:

Abram to Abraham, “father of a multitude.”

Sarai to Sarah, “princes.”

Jacob to Israel, “prince of God” (or also “he who struggles with God”).

Simon becomes Peter, the “Rock” (or more properly “stone”).

God is making a point about the individual concerned (memorializing their spiritual accomplishments and their spiritual potential, and His blessing on them).

Today We Name Our Children For Different Reasons.

Often we name our children, hoping their name might inspire confidence and perhaps power.  We might name our son “Gregory” rather than “Gomer” (for anyone reading this blog has a son named “Gomer”, I’m not making fun of the name); or a daughter “Wendy” rather than “Winnie Mae” (I can get away with that one since “Winnie Mae” was my aunt’s name).

All this to say that God will re-name each of us in accordance with the transformation of our nature in the likeness of His Son, to reflect the new and altogether unique identity:

“We are citizens of the state (commonwealth, homeland) which is in heaven”  (Philippians 3:20).

My new name, like yours, will be suitable to the new heavens, new earth in which I’ll dwell, a place where evil and error are not present.

THERE IS EVEN MORE TO THIS “NEW NAME” THAN MERELY NEWNESS!

The “new name” that’s given is a name that “no one knows” except for the individual “who receives it.”  Pet names between a husband and wife are given to each other in private.  My wife has an affectionate name for me that no one else knows but us!  It’s just between the ones who are the “giver” and the “receiver” in an intimate relationship.

Your TRUE IDENTITY with God is REFLECTED in Your New Name.

This new identity transcends any shame or regret or disappointment wrapped up in who you are now.  There is a very private and personal place of intimacy with Him which brings hope and freedom and joy.  None can touch or steal it.

The apostle Paul said it best–“…your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3 b).  Then Peter repeated much the same thing in 1 Peter 1:4:

“[Born anew] into an inheritance which is beyond the reach of change and decay [imperishable], unsullied and unfading, reserved in heaven for you.”

“Did I Missed Something in the Verse–How About the “HIDDEN MANNA”?

Although the emphasis I’m placing on Revelation 2:17 is about the meaning of our “name changing” on our heavenly arrival, I’ll briefly touch on the meaning of the “hidden manna.”

Some believe this is a reference of the manna being hidden in a jar; in the Ark of the Covenant.  But I think it’s more involved.  If JESUS is the manna, the “Bread of Life”, perhaps the point is–all that awaits us in Him is “hidden.”  It is reserved and kept safe and guarded against all possibility of loss! so that we might celebrate its certainty and the assurance of what God has promised, that He will provide!

Remembering An Old Chorus to a Hymn:

A New Name in Glory by C. Austin Miles

There’s a new name written down in glory,

And it’s mine, O yeas, it’s mine.

ANY GUESSES WHAT YOUR “NEW NAME” WILL BE?