Jan 272018

Revelation 2:12-17

To the Church in Pergamum

  • 50 miles north of Smyrna – 10 miles in from the Aegean sea
  • At one time the capital city of Asia.
  • A large library of 200,000 volumes – in my town the library boasts of 70,000 volumes.

People like to give nicknames to their favorite cities. In America, we have the Big Apple, the Windy City, the Motor City, the Big Easy, Sin City, the Mile High City, the Queen City, and the City of Progress. Most city nicknames try to highlight a memorable aspect of that city’s history or lifestyle. Most cities are proud of their nicknames, although many have derogatory alternatives like Cleveland’s “Mistake by the Lake.” Even Las Vegas revels in its otherwise shameful nickname.

The ancient city of Pergamum received a nickname from Jesus that it would surely not agree with or appreciate. Jesus referred to Pergamum as the city “where Satan dwells.” This nickname reveals much of what the Christians in this city were facing at the time John wrote these words.

12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.

  • The Christological identifier comes from 1:16, the 2nd
  • Again all of the letters are flowing from the image of The Son of Man – his characteristics and titles. We see fragments of the chapter one descriptions flowing into each letter.
  • The 2 edged sword – God’s word – Law & Gospel
  • Sword = word of God. This is the way we conquer, by keeping God’s word out front like a sword.
  • It is Jesus who will execute judgment at the end. This will look like Rev 19:15

13 “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

  • Hopefully we too today as times get tougher; we will not bend the knee. They hung on; pray that we do the same.
  • Where Satan’s throne is – people would come from all over Asia Minor to visit the temple of Asclepius.
  • This was the center of healing (a temple of healing).
  • The rod of Asclepius was a snake wrapped around a pole – sound familiar? Numbers 21:5-9 – Satan continually imitates God.
  • In this temple, they had an altar to Zeus. (Satan’s throne) – Interesting “where Satan’s throne is” – I thought Satan lived in Smyna?
  • This is an interesting take on ‘The Faith’. Is my faith in my Jesus? Look what Jesus commends. My name – holding fast to his name and not denying HIS faith.
  • What is The Faith? It is his faith, and his faith is his word. The faith of Jesus and the word of Jesus are one and the same.
  • We must be careful – we do not hold on to MY Jesus – but The Jesus.
  • Who is Antipas? We don’t know – there is only this one reference to him. We know it must have been a notable killing – the people know him and Jesus knows him… by name, as he knows all of us. We can assume he is the example of one who did not deny Jesus.

14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.

  • But then… same story, false prophets = false teachings. In Ephesus it was the false teaching of the Nicolaitans.
  • False teaching is to be recognized and called out.
  • What about Balaam: Numbers 24:15 ff – see also 2 Peter 2:14-15. (this is must read stuff to understand what is going on here.)
  • All false worship leads to spiritual adultery, which leads to physical immorality – but in the end, it is all to distract us from God.
  • Idolatry = cheating on God
  • Balaam wanted both God and money. He is the poster boy for Matt 6:24
  • Balaam is in it for the money, a prophet or pastor for hire. If you want the people to fill the coffers, tell them what they want to hear.

15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

  • The Nicolaitans preached cultural accommodation – you Christians need to chill out and compromise with society some so we can all get along.
  • The church was being encouraged to have the freedom to accept the more modern way – shed some of your old cultural thinking, even if it conflicts.
  • So God’s charge against them was 2 fold – hanging on to the false teachings of Balaam, and the false teachings of the Nicolaitans.
  • Where do we see this today? The ELCA – Her Church in SF – The Episcopal Church during the leadership of Katharine Jefferts Schori and the notoriety of gay Bishop Gene Robinson earlier on.
  • The practices of other religions begin to creep into the church and soon you have traces of paganism. An important point is that paganism etc does not just creep into the church – they are first led in by “other” christians (note the small ‘c’.)
  • We see it anywhere the Bible is clear but the church questions relevance.
  • Many of these churches can follow the liturgy and have a Christless, culture driven message. You wonder why they even ‘do’ church or ‘call’ it a Christian church. They long to feel they are caught up in the divine and are a part of something that is ancient.
  • So, these churches, what do they think of scripture? They do not view the scriptures as authoritative. Their attitude is more like “well that may have been the way Paul expressed his faith in his time and in his local, but not what we do.”
  • When they say resurrection, they do not mean physical bodies coming out of the ground – they mean the resurrection of the human spirit, the fight for life, to embrace the good.
  • This all sounds good but it is nonsense if you are going to call it Christianity.
  • Remember as I said earlier, even this is the devil’s attempt to keep you from Christ.

16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.

  • The Cliff Notes version of this verse? Cut it out and repent!
  • The call to the church is to repent – it is always to repent.
  • These are harsh words from Jesus – repent or face judgment. What is the judgment? He will come and war against them.

17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

  • These promises are to be treasured but they are a bit difficult to understand.
  • Is the hidden manna a Lord’s Supper reference? It seems that Jesus prepared them for this in John 6 – written by the same author.
  • A white stone could be a reference to being declared innocent. Some literature suggests that courts voted with colored stones.
  • A new name could be a baptismal reference as baptism was also a naming ritual.
  • When we get to heaven we can share with each other what we got.
  • Repent!


  12 Responses to “The Weekend Word”

  1. Jesus says without him we can do nothing.

    On that basis, this teaching also provides the structure for a perpetual prayer of the Church that according to His abundant mercies and steadfast love we beseech our creator Father to preserve the Church and all Christians under the protective wing of His Son, our Lord, and in His powerful Word.

    Do not let the Word depart from our lips, nor the Spirit from our hearts for the sake of your name O Lord.

  2. Jean, when we get to chapters 7&8 we will the ongoing praise and worship of the church with their continual prayer – and the power of that prayer.

  3. I’m looking forward to it. Keep up the good work.

  4. Because of Jesus’ continual hard words against false teachers, false teaching and those who will not confront or repent of such, evidenced by Jesus’ threat in v. 16 – I think it is important to add that Christians should take notice of Christ’s strong warnings against allowing false teachings into their midst. During His earthly ministry, He warned His disciples to be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and to watch out for false prophets (Matt.16 and 24). St. Paul speaks on behalf of Christ warning the churches in Corinth and Galatia to steer clear of false teachings for a little yeast ruins the whole batch (1 Cor 5:6 and Gal. 5:9).
    We should take note of this especially today when false teachers and their false teachings run rampant in the church. We are to steer clear of them and cling to what is in accord with sound doctrine.

  5. I think Tim Challies does a good job in this short video (10 min) identifying what and who we are up against.

  6. The problem comes when we try to identify false teachers in real life.
    Your confession says that anyone outside your communion is a false teacher.
    Challies wouldn’t be much more generous.

    Without a baseline standard,this issue becomes completely subjective.

    We know little about the Nicolatians, though I suspect that your description is probably pretty close in context.

    The thing that stands out to me in these letters isn’t the emphasis on false teachers (though it is there) it;s the promise of suffering.

    The falsest teaching of all is to teach Christians they will avoid it…

  7. You know Michael, the reason I put the emphasis where I do is because of the emphasis Jesus places not just on the false teaching / teacher, but the tremendous threat of a church that will not call the offenders to repentance.
    As I pointed out, Jesus says he will come against and war against his church.
    Twiddling our thumbs and saying recognizing false teaching is too subjective, just may not be helpful.

  8. The problem doesn’t go away because it’s difficult.
    According to your confession I am a false teacher, as is every orthodox teacher outside the LCMS.
    I think that is a steaming crock of “stuff”.
    Nowhere in these letters do we find doctrinal disagreements of the sort we wrangle over as defining false teachers.
    In our passage today the warning seems to be against idolatry (which you rightly note leads to other sins) and compromise with the culture and paganism.

    “2:13 Pergamum hosted temples dedicated to “the divine Augustus and the goddess Roma” and to Asklepios (the god of healing, symbolized by serpents), and a large altar dedicated to Zeus. The worship of the emperor as a god was also strongly emphasized, even required, in the province of Asia, and it was a major problem for Christians at the time.”

    The ESV Study Bible, Accordance electronic ed. (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008), paragraph 24998.

    I would also suggest that the sin mentioned here was at least in part a melding of church and state…and well, make your own application…

  9. Jesus does not say He will war against His church…

    “In keeping with the warning in the first letter (to Ephesus), but not found in the second (to Smyrna), the risen Christ calls on the church in Pergamum to repent therefore, which is the only hope for survival that the church would have had. But whereas the former threat was the removal of “your lampstand from its place”—severe punishment indeed!—in this second instance failure to repent means that otherwise, I will come to you and will fight against them.

    Here in particular one should note the change in pronouns, from “you” to “them.” This is not a battle against the whole church, although they are indeed to repent for letting this false teaching exist among them, but warfare carried on specifically “against them,” the purveyors of and adherents to this false teaching. The means by which the risen Christ will do battle against them is with the sword of my mouth, thus indicating that the sword in the original picture (1:16) is intended for battle, not simply for defense. All of this is imagery, of course, but it is difficult to escape its very strong implications, that Christ intends to purify his church and will personally do battle against those who would pervert his pure gospel into something else.

    Fee, G. D. (2011). Revelation (pp. 35–36). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.

  10. Forget the LCMS – I never brought them up in my article(s) – some people bring in the LCMS to use as a whipping boy.
    I will offer up a false teacher to you – Kenneth Copeland or Benny Hinn.
    Now you can tell me if you think they are false teachers or not and then tell me the baseline you use so that you are not being subjective – or are they just examples of modern day wranglings?
    (if you want to say they are not false teachers, I will not argue back)

  11. I abhor Copeland’s teachings and believe him to be a false teacher and possibly demon possessed.
    However, my assessment of Copeland is subjective as it isn’t based on an agreed upon standard.
    He claims the Bible as his standard, too.
    I don’t know enough about his theology to know if he has violated the creeds…he certainly violates my religious sensibilities.

  12. Benny Hinn is a Trinitarian heretic so that one is easy…

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