A Message to Pergamum, Revelation 2:12-17

December 28, 2005

A Message to Pergamum, Revelation 2:12-17

Text Reading

2:12 Kai. tw/| avgge,lw| th/j evn Perga,mw| evkklhsi,aj gra,yon\ Ta,de le,gei o` e;cwn th.n r`omfai,an th.n di,stomon th.n ovxei/an\ 2:13 Oi=da ta. e;rga sou( kai. pou/ katoikei/j o[pou o` qro,noj tou/ Satana/ kai. kratei/j to. o;noma, mou kai. ouvk hvrnh,sw th.n pi,stin mou kai. evn tai/j h`me,raij evn ai-j VAntipa/j o` ma,rtuj mou o` pisto,j o]j avpekta,nqh par u`mi/n o[pou katoikei/ o` Satana/j 2:14 avll e;cw kata. sou/ ovli,ga o[ti e;ceij evkei/ kratou/ntaj th.n didach.n Balaa,m o]j evdi,dasken e[n tw/| Bala.k balei/n ska,ndalon evnw,pion tw/n ui`w/n VIsrah,l fagei/n eivdwlo,quta kai. porneu/sai 2:15 ou[twj e;ceij kai. su. kratou/ntaj th.n didach.n tw/n Nikolai?tw/n o[ misw/Å 2:16 metano,hson eiv de. mh, e;rcomai, soi tacu, kai. polemh,sw met auvtw/n evn th/| r`omfai,a| tou/ sto,mato,j mou 2:17 o` e;cwn ou=j avkousa,tw ti, to. pneu/ma le,gei tai/j evkklhsi,aij tw/| nikw/nti dw,sw auvtw/| fagei/n avpo. tou/ ma,nna tou/ kekrumme,nou kai. dw,sw auvtw/| yh/fon leukh.n kai. evpi. th.n yh/fon o;noma kaino.n gegramme,non o] ouvdei.j e;gnw eiv mh. o` lamba,nwn

Verse 12

Kai. tw/| avgge,lw| th/j evn Perga,mw| evkklhsi,aj gra,yon\ Ta,de le,gei o` e;cwn th.n r`omfai,an th.n di,stomon th.n ovxei/an\

And to the angel of the church at Pergamum write: These things says the one holding the sword– the two-edged, the sharp one;

This is the same two-edged sword, which John had a vision of in verse 1:16. It should be noted that the somewhat awkward sounding translation of this is intentional. th.n di,stomon— the double-edged. th.n ovxei/an\— the sharp, swift. Both adjectives use the definite article, which makes this description of the Lord’s sword much more emphatic. The Lord doesn’t just possess a sword. He possesses the one that cuts both ways and is swifter than anything his enemy might have. It proceeds from his mouth and is the very word of God. Just as he was able to speak the world into existence, he has the power to destroy his enemy with a mere word from his mouth.

Most professing Christians think of Christ and his love and compassion. However, they fail to recall his wrath. His enemy will receive his terrible wrath one day. And this punishent isn’t just reserved for Satan and his demons. It is also reserved for those who do not repent. It is reserved for those who make a false repentance without conversion and regeneration. And It is reserved for those who are indifferent. There will come a day when many will stand before the Lord, clothed in their own self-righteousness. This group will be comprised of preachers, elders and church members all filled with good intentions. Yet they will fall short of the mark for there will be no God-given faith— no imputed righteousness. They will be judged as enemies of God and cast into the lake of fire, where they will be destroyed.

Verse 13

Oi=da ta. e;rga sou( kai. pou/ katoikei/j o[pou o` qro,noj tou/ Satana/ kai. kratei/j to. o;noma, mou kai. ouvk hvrnh,sw th.n pi,stin mou kai. evn tai/j h`me,raij evn ai-j VAntipa/j o` ma,rtuj mou o` pisto,j o]j avpekta,nqh par u`mi/n o[pou katoikei/ o` Satana/j

I know the works of you and where you live, where the throne of Satan is: and you hold fast my name, and you do not renounce my faith, even in the days in which Antipas, the faithful martyr of me, who was put to death among you— where Satan dwells.

The Lord, once again, knows the works of the members of this church. Yet he also knows that this city is a stronghold of Satan. In fact, the Lord declares that Satan himself dwells in this city and has even established his throne. The wickedness, which must have been present for the Lord to make such a statement, must have been truly great.

“This city was a legal center for the district and at the same time an old stronghold of emperor worship, where already in 29 B. C. a temple had been build to the divine Augustus and the goddess Roma, which was served by a powerful priesthood. Especially abhorrent to the Christians was the local cult of Aesculapius whose symbol was the serpent, which was called ‘the god of Pergamum’ but to Christians was the symbol of the serpent of Eden. In addition to these pagan cults there towered on the Acropolis a throne-like altar of Zeus Soter (Savior) which commemorated the defeat of the barbarian Gauls by Attalus about 240 B. C., which was decorated with a famous frieze of the gods warring against the giants whose human bodies had serpentine tails. Built under Eumenes II about 180 B. C. and dedicated to Zeus and Athena Nicephoror, and rediscovered in 1878, this great altar was more an imposing monument than a place of worship” (Lenski pp. 163-164).

Verse 14

avll e;cw kata. sou/ ovli,ga o[ti e;ceij evkei/ kratou/ntaj th.n didach.n Balaa,m o]j evdi,dasken e[n tw/| Bala.k balei/n ska,ndalon evnw,pion tw/n ui`w/n VIsrah,l fagei/n eivdwlo,quta kai. porneu/sai

But I have a few things against you, for you have there those holding to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to throw a snare before the sons of Israel, to eat idol sacrifices, and to commit fornication.

I’m not all together sure how this reference is meant to be applied to some at Pergamum. But apparently there were some seeking to snare God’s people in whoredom in an effort to gain some control over them. Certainly, in this day and age, there are many ministers who have been snared by fornication and adultery. Could it have been true in the days of this letter? Sure. I think to contrast a bit, much of the ensnaring, today, is self-inflicted. But in Pergamum, there were those seeking to corrupt God’s people.

Verse 15

ou[twj e;ceij kai. su. kratou/ntaj th.n didach.n Îtw/nÐ Nikolai?tw/n o`moi,wjÅ

Thus, you also have, you, ones likewise presently holding fast the teachings of the Nicolaitans.

This is quite emphatic in the redundant use of “You”, su., in the subject. John makes it quite clear that they are also guilty of having amonst themselves those who taint sound doctrine by forbidding to marry and to maintain celibacy, which is common for the church at Rome. This denial of marriage has led, and continues in our time to lead folks into various lustful temptations.

Verse 16

metano,hson ou=n\ eiv de. mh,( e;rcomai, soi tacu. kai. polemh,sw metV auvtw/n evn th/| r`omfai,a| tou/ sto,mato,j mouÅ

Repent therefore; and if not I am coming to you swiftly and I will wage a war against them with the sword of my mouth.

Ahh, the wonderful aorist imperative. Urgently repent. Don’t even stop to consider alternatives, but repent immediately for God is already on his way with judgement. Note the use of the present tense, e;rcomai,, instead of the future tense as is used on waging war. While his war may be waged in the future, his judgement is already deployed. And it will be visited upon his people for not distancing themselves from these heretics. God will, however, wage his war against these heretics and will uterly destroy them. This stern warning should be heeded by us today. We need to protect ourselves against false doctrine. While we need to love our enemy, we need to make sure we’re not secretly embracing those who are not engaged in doctrinal purity.

Verse 17

~O e;cwn ou=j avkousa,tw ti, to. pneu/ma le,gei tai/j evkklhsi,aijÅ Tw/| nikw/nti dw,sw auvtw/| tou/ ma,nna tou/ kekrumme,nou kai. dw,sw auvtw/| yh/fon leukh,n( kai. evpi. th.n yh/fon o;noma kaino.n gegramme,non o] ouvdei.j oi=den eiv mh. o` lamba,nwnÅ

The one having an ear, let him urgently hear what the spirit is saying to the churches. To the overcoming, I will give him the manna, the having been hidden, and I will give him the white stone, and upon the stone a new name having been written, which no one had understood if not the receiving ones.

The command to those who won’t follow these heretics and who will come out from among them, God will grant something much better than the food offered to false idols. He will grant them to eat of the hidden manna, which only he can provide. This message isn’t only to the church at Pergamum. It goes out to all of the churches.

And for those who follow, God has already written down their names. There is that song, “A New Name Written Down in Glory” and it talks about our names being written down when we repent. But this is a perfect participle– having been written down. The saints of God will come unto their election because it has been predetermined before the fall and before the foundation of the world. This cannot be comprehended by anyone other than the ones who have been saved. In fact, God’s elect don’t even understand until they come into salvation for it requires a regenerate heart to comprehend spiritual truth.

1. Lenski, R.C.H.; Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of Saint John’s Revelation. Hendrickson Publishers, 2001.

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