Christmas is over. The long-awaited day of the year has come and gone. For many, it was a grand celebration of gift exchange, fattening foods, and family time around the fire. They say this was one of the coldest winters on record, even for Florida, so being around the fire was very appropriate. I hope your holiday was relaxing and peaceful.
Welcome to 2023!
I started a series on the churches of Revelation but took a small break to focus on the characters of Christmas. I hope you were able to check it out. Today, we are getting back to the churches in Revelation. So far, we have covered Ephesus and Smyrna. Our church in focus today is Pergamum.
So let’s dive in and see what we can learn from the church in Pergamum.
12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
As a reminder, when looking at these passages from Revelation that reference the churches, we are looking for a general pattern. What we see in almost all of the letters is the character of Christ, his commendation, complaint, correction, and conclusion.
Do we see the character of Christ in the above passages? Yes.
We are told he carries a sharp, double-edged sword. The sword symbolizes Christ’s word of divine judgment.
What about commendation? Does Jesus say anything specific about this church? What are they doing?
Jesus knows where they live – the place where Satan has his throne. Yet they remain true to Jesus’ name. The church did not renounce its faith in Jesus, even in the days of Antipas. Sounds like those were some difficult days. Jesus knows that Antipas, his faithful servant, was put to death in their city, the place where Satan lives. I think it’s interesting that Jesus mentions Satan twice in verse 13. He knows where Satan’s throne is and where he lives.
Does Jesus have any complaints?
Yes, unfortunately. Jesus specifically mentions two things: Balaam and the Nicolaitans.
Balaam taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin. The Nicolaitans, we learned from the church at Ephesus, were a heretical sect within the church that worked out a compromise with the pagan society. They apparently taught that spiritual liberty gave them sufficient leeway to practice idolatry and immortality. Jesus did not like them in Ephesus, and he doesn’t like them in Pergamum.
What are they supposed to do? What is the right course of correction, according to Jesus?
Repent or Jesus will come to them and fight against them with the sword of his mouth. Remember what we learned about the sword? it symbolizes Christ’s divine judgment.
What does Jesus offer as a conclusion to the church at Pergamum?
To the one who is victorious, Jesus will give them some of the hidden manna. Jesus will also give them a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
My footnote says the hidden manna is heavenly food available to the believer who overcomes it in contrast to the unclean food of the Balaamites.
Let’s wrap up our study of the church at Pergamum.
The Lord is gracious in giving us fair warning in Revelation 2. I can hardly think of a day when we have not had an opportunity to hear the Word of God, read it, study it, or listen to it preached, whether on television, radio, internet, podcast or in person. We are without excuse. With millions of Bibles available, Bible study guides, Bible apps, and other means to hear and read the Word of God, we, more than anyone else in the world, at any other time, should be able to get back to our first love, Jesus Christ, before it’s too late.
Let’s not also forget that just because God is merciful and forgiving, we can do whatever we want and compromise on our faith. As a dear friend said to me years ago, “Quit riding the fence. Choose a side.”
Jesus tells us in Matthew 7, verses 13 and 14, there are two paths – the narrow and the broad. Jesus doesn’t say both paths lead to heaven. He says one leads to eternal life and the other to destruction. it’s one or the other, not both.
The day of the Lord is drawing near, perhaps closer than ever in our lifetime. Now is not the time to be prideful and ignorant.
The church in Pergamum had some good things and some bad things. But God, in his mercy, recognized their goodness and condemned their badness.
Notice though it was up to them to follow through on his corrections or pay the price in the end. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the church in Pergamum.