Pergamos – the latter half of this name, gamos, is the Latin word for married. Every church ought to know that they are married to Christ and Christ especially wanted this church to know that they were married to Him alone. In II Cor.11:2 we read, “…for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” The spiritual warfare at Pergamos was for a pure Bride without compromise.
Pergamos was the Capitol of one of Alexander’s Generals. In Daniel's prophesy he predicted that the Grecian Empire would conquer the Medo-Persian Empire, which it did, but would not be given to one of his children but would be split in four under four different heads. Pergamos became the capitol of one of those Grecian kingdoms, which was called the Attalid kingdom from 281-133 BC. Attalla III bequeathed his kingdom to Rome who then turned it into the province of Asia with Pergamos as its capitol. For more than 300 years it was a vital capitol. It was a Royal city, a Political city, a rich city, a fashionable city, and an educated city. It was famous for its library of 250,000 books – it was in this city that parchment (vellum) skins of animals was first used in writing books and got its name. As we shall also see it was also a Religious city.
Rev.2:12, “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;”
Each of these letters begin with Christ revealing something of Himself that will be the answer to that particular churches preset problems, difficulties or compromises. In a revelation of Himself is found the key and answer to them overcoming the opposition of their particular circumstances. His answer to the situation at the church at Pergamos was that He is the one who "hath the sharp sword with two edges."
In v16 we read, “…the sword of my mouth.” In 1:16, “…out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword:” In 19:13-14, “And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God…And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations:” The Word of God is Christ's sword in this warfare for a church without compromise.
Eph.6:7, “…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” This is the sword which the Spirit of God takes and uses in the local church.
Heb.4:12, “For the word of God is quick (alive), and powerful (energy), and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing (going deep) even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Only a real application of Christ's sword to the heart will keep a believer free from compromise.
Rev.2:13, “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.”
Seat = thronos – a seat of special authority or royal authority (In Mt.19.28 seat of a judge; in Lk.1:32 seat of a king). Of all the places mentioned in Asia Satan had chosen to place his HQ of rule, administration and dominion in Pergamos. He wanted to rule at the heart of Asia so he set up his HQ at the capitol, the royal domain, the centre of learning, the place of law and government, and a stronghold of religion.
Dwellest/dwelleth = permanent residence; settled place. This word is used twice. First, we are told that these believers in this church had made their permanent dwelling there. They did not run away because it was Satan's HQ. They were there to stay. But secondly we are told that Satan made it his personal and permanent dwelling place. If he could rule Pergamos he could influence all of Asia. It was a strategic base.
As you approached Pergamos you would see a hill full of temples and shrines rise behind and above the city which was a dominating spectical. Wherever you were in this city this would be the dominating vision. This was the home of many gods. The god of healing (Asclepius), held a stronghold here. The serpent was his symbol of healing. Devotees washed in sacred springs, received dreams and experienced miracles. Also here was the Temple of Isis and Serapis (called the Red Basilica). It was 60 metres long with a statue of Isis standing in it 10 metres high. This temple was also filled with images of every Egyptian god imaginable. The city was also a stronghold for Dionysus (Bacchus) the god of wine. For Cybele, Mother of the gods, also called the Queen of Heaven and earth. It was a centre of Caesar worship, their own kings were worshipped here but so also was the Roman Emperor, Agustus (29 BC), and Trajan (temple). Many other gods were based here. This people wanted every and any god to be honoured. This was an ecumenical HQ of every religious persuasion imaginable.
But the particular thing that maybe most earned the name "seat (throne) of Satan" was the Altar of Zeus, which now resides in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin. Around the altar is a frieze depicting the Clash of the Titans. This myth has its roots in the Sumerian history of the rebellion of the god-men, or deified men, under Nimrod who rebelled against the God of Heaven who had previously sent the Flood.
Christ begins to commend this church which is situated in such a hard and volatile stronghold of the enemy by saying "I know thy works and where thou dwellest." Christ knows all about it and is personally and intimately aware of their situation.
“thou holdest fast my name” – krateō = to use great strength, all your power, and much vigour to seize, retain or hold unto. This church was using all their energy to hold fast to the name of Christ as the only means and way of salvation against the opposition of of the religious and political system baring down on them.
“and hast not denied my faith” = to contradict, disavow, reject. This is where the pressure was coming against the Church. Satan brought to bear his influence to try and cause this church to deny the only true faith.
A part of this opposition took the form of real persecution at a former point in time which resulted in the death of Christ's faithful witness Antipas. This name Antipas is of interest. 'Anti' is of course the Greek word for 'against or in opposition to.' The latter half 'pas' comes from Patēr meaning father (papa). Antipas was an anti-papist. He was against the religion of his fathers. He would not compromise his faith in Christ or yield to any religion of his fathers. As a result he was put to death probably at the Altar of Zeus.
Rev.2:14, “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.”
Although this church had not compromised with the world's system of religion they did however fall victim to compromising with the internal spiritual movements which wore the garments of spiritual Christianity.
First on the list of things Christ had against this church was "the doctrine of Balaam." This church at Pergamos "had" those in their midst who held to and promoted the "doctrine" or teaching of "Balaam." The apostles and faithful leaders of the first century churches exposed a spiritual movement which was creeping into the churches which they nicknamed after this Old Testament character Balaam. In II Pet.2:15 we read, “...false prophets…false teachers…following the way of Balaam…who loved the wages of unrighteousness;” And in Jude 1:11 that they, “…ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.” To follow the way of Balaam meant to walk in the foot prints he had left behind. The err of Balaam was a moving aside from the straight and narrow way of the Gospel. But what was his doctrine and who exactly was he and what did he do?
God visited him (“came unto Balaam”) – God spoke to him – God spoke through him – he had knowledge of Gods character and ways – he was restrained by God from doing some things which were wrong – he obeyed commands from God – he waited upon God for direction – he spoke blessings over Gods people – the “Spirit of God came upon him” – he witnessed a unique miracle and unusual manifestations – he had an angelic visitation – when rebuked by the angel he fell on his face and asked forgiveness. Balaam had all the appearance of a true prophet and man of God yet is called a false prophet and false teacher.
We are told that Balak King of the Moabites “…caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD…” (Num.31:16). Balaam invented a strategy of mixture: “…and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor" (Num.25:1-3).
“Stumblingblock” (skandalon) = a trap or a snare (scandal). Balaam gave Balak the means to cause the people to trip up, fall into sin, and to be cursed by God.
This Balaamite movement in the early church was just like Balaam in three key areas: i) A prosperity gospel - they were motivated by money and were moved by covetousness to gain financially through spiritual ministry. ii) Charismatic confusion - they operated in gifts and various kinds of ecstatic emotions, manifestations etc, yet had light views of holiness and sound doctrine. They made the narrow way to be broad. iii) Ecumenical compromise - they taught an ecumenical doctrine of unity with those not holding firmly to the true faith. They proclaimed a love Gospel that included all. As a result Christ was against these Balaamites.
We are not told that the church held these doctrine's but only that those who did hold them were tolerated to remain in their midst.
Rev.2:15, “So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.”
Earlier Christ had said of the church at Ephesus: “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (2:6). Ephesus had kept the Nicolatians out of their church and hated their deeds but the church at Pergamos had allowed them inside the church and tolerated or allowed such teachings to go unchallenged and unchecked in their midst.
You will remember that in the study on Ephesus we saw that these Nicolatians practised a form of leadership which subdued God's people under their rule with force. It was lordship leadership. It was forceful, abusive and exalted. In Ephesus their deeds are mentioned. But here their doctrine is mentioned. They had a set structured teaching which exalted leadership in a manner not taught by Christ and not lived out by the apostles. Christ hated this doctrine. But the church at Pergamos allowed this teaching to remain in the church.
Any teaching that allows leaders to abuse the sheep is compromise. Like the city of Pergamos this church was tolerating a confused mixture of everything that called itself true religion.
Rev.2:16, “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”
The only answer to Balaamites and Nicolatians being in the midst of a church is repentance. A church that allows the door to stand open for those who compromise the message of the Gospel, a life of holiness, and who lead God's people into sin is repentance. True repentance will clean up the church and purge it of a prosperity gospel, compromised gospel, and any form of abusive shepherding teaching.
It is not enough that a church successfully stands against false religion, political persecution, and confidently proclaim Christ as the only means of salvation. By allowing false teachers, teachings and compromise in the door the church has compromised its testimony. This church would not compromise with Isis, Cybele or Bacchus, but they were compromised from the inside by Satan sending in those who taught compromise and abuse in leadership.
If this church would not repent of these things and cast them out then Christ threatens to come "quickly" (suddenly) and to fight against the Balaamites and Nicolatians Himself. He will turn the church into a battlefield and a place of contention. Rather than a message of comfort He will send the sword of His Word to fight against these things and to cut them out of the body. When He says "fight" He means that He will engage in a prolonged warfare.
Rev.2:17, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.”
But for those who overcome the Word of God will come as Hidden manna – In the OT manna was placed before the Lord and in the Ark of the Covenant. It is called angel food and bread from heaven. It is a type and picture of the Word of God we feed on. If they don’t compromise by eating things sacrificed to idols then they will eat hidden manna by Christ Himself.
He will also give them a White stone – This could have a few different meanings. i) juries who sat in a trial used a white stone to mean acquittal. ii) Such stones were used in calculation and accounting. iii) They were also used to mark a day of victory. iv) And lastly as a reward (e.g. Caesar used to scatter such stones into a crowd. Whoever received them received a reward).
LISTEN TO SERMONS ON THIS SERIES