Part 4: Pergamum


Revelation 2:12-17: “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, 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: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who ta”ught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing 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 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. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

Pergamum, whose modern city is Bergama, was the greatest city in ancient Asia Minor, having the first temple built to Caesar and vigorously promoted emperor worship. This is why Christ said Satan had his throne there. As well, they had a temple dedicated to a healing god whose symbol was the serpent entwining a staff, the same medical symbol used today.

Jesus told this church that He had a two-edged sword, which was apt since the symbol of Roman authority was the single-edged sword, showing the greatness of Christ. They had suffered persecution and an important person in their church had been martyred. The Lord assures them of His knowledge of that hard fact and commends them for holding fast to their faith, not giving up in the face of suffering.

However, they have some problems: First mentioned is Balaam, a true prophet of Israel who tried to use his gift against Israel, but the Lord would not let him. He did, however, tell the enemy King Balak to make friends with Israel and then lead them to worship foreign gods instead of the true God. Balaam means “lord of the people” and is probably the same as the Nicolaitans, who put themselves higher than the true believers in the church. Nicolaitans also said you had to get to the deepest degradation of sin in order to overcome it, leading people continually further from God. You remember that Ephesus had the same problem with the Nicolaitans, so this was a dangerous and spreading sect.

The problem was that they were telling the people it was ok to compromise with Rome and simply put a little incense on the altar and say “Caesar is Lord.” We simply cannot have two masters, as the Bible tells us in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13. In the same way, you and I cannot compromise on biblical beliefs if we want to be true followers of Christ.

God is very serious with His people about being the only Lord in their lives. He will judge us in order to bring us back to Him. We see that enacted in the Old Testament with Israel, but we also see it with individuals there, and God does the same today. Stop and consider if you have ever been disciplined by the Lord to bring you back to a place of intimacy with Him. If so, you will know it. Six times in the books of Exodus to Joshua, we are told God is a jealous God. Not that He doesn’t want to give us good things, but He is jealous in the way a good husband or wife would be jealous of their mate. Not that they would never be seen with a person of the opposite sex but that they would always keep that love vow pure. God also expects His children to keep our vow of love to Him pure and not to commit spiritual adultery.

Christ turns to the individual in the church and tells him or her to overcome all the compromise that is offered. When that person does, Jesus will feed them with the manna of the Living Word, just as God fed the Hebrews in the wilderness for 40 years with physical manna. White stones don’t mean much to us today, but in that age, they signified acquittal in a trial or could be used like a ticket of admission. The overcomers in the church were promised acquittal of sins and a ticket to eternal life, just as you and I are. Isn’t that wonderful news?

ALL our sins are forgiven! Yes, as we commit new ones, we confess them to our Father, but we have assurance of forgiveness (see 1 John 1:9). Satan tries to bring them up to us again and again, but God says they are totally forgotten and we are under no condemnation whatsoever (see Psalm 103:12 and Romans 8:1). Eventually Christ will invite us to the wedding feast of the Lamb as His bride, the true church. Definitely the price to pay to not compromise with the world is worth what it costs us here on earth.

1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Psalm 103:12: As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Romans 8:1: There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.