Sunday, July 26, 2009

Revelation 2:12-17 Pergamos

Ephesus had left its first love and Smyrna was being persecuted, but both had held on to sound doctrine and had not allowed false teachers and doctrines into the fold. Not so with the next church. Pergamos is the third church. It is a compromising worldly church. Pergamos was a major city in Asia Minor about sixty miles north of Smyrna. It was a center for temple worship with the cult of the emperor as well as Greek pagan mysteries. It was also the headquarters of the Babylonian mysteries at this time. One of the seven wonders of the world, the largest altar in the world, the great altar of Zeus was located here. It was a center of intellectualism with its
200,000 volume library and it was also a medical center. Aesculapius or Asclepius (depending on whether you prefer the Latin or Greek), the deity of medicine was also worshiped. The name Pergamos means “marriage”.

Verse 2:12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges.”

Christ presents Himself as the one who has a sharp-two edged sword. This kind of sword is especially dangerous as a weapon as it cuts both ways. It cuts hard and quickly. Truth is a sharp two-edged sword, and Christ is going to present them with some hard truths. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword piercing 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.” Heb. 4:12. What Christ has to say is going to cut to the quick. His flaming eyes can discern the thought and intents of their hearts, and they are not what they should be. Again we see a description of Christ that we saw in chapter one. This sword also will smite the nations when Christ returns at Armageddon. Rev. 19:15a “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations…..” There is a reference from Is. 11:4b that speaks of this “…..and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.”

Verse 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.”

The commendations are that they have works, and even though they dwell where Satan’s throne is ( the headquarters for the Babylonian mysteries had moved here and that is verified as it says that Satan lived there. It was a major center for pagan worship), they hold fast to Christ’s name and don’t deny Him, even when persecution was so severe that martyrdom was a possibility. In fact one of their own had been martyred. A man called Antipas.

Verse 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 stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.”

Now comes the criticism. They have those there (not everyone does, but they tolerate those who do) who hold to the doctrine of Balaam. Most people are familiar with the phrase Balaam’s ass. If you don’t know the story, read Numbers chapters 22-24. Balaam was an Old Testament prophet who was called upon by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse the Israelites. I have heard pastors call Balaam a false prophet. The interesting thing is, Balaam had dialogue with the one true God. He did prophesy for God. He was a true prophet in that he acknowledges God as His Lord and says that he could only say what God told him to say, which is exactly what he does. He is a true prophet of God, although not a Hebrew. God apparently had prophets outside of Israel. He is not exactly righteous in that he eventually helps Balak, but not through his prophesying. God told him to not curse the Israelites, and Balaam at first tried to obey by refusing to go with Balak’s men. But then he does go. God is angry and sends the angel of the Lord (the angel of the Lord is usually accepted to be the pre-incarnate Christ) to stand in the way. The ass sees the angel and won’t go past him. Balaam hits the ass to try to get her to go forward. The angel continues to block the way and Balaam continues to whip the ass. Finally the ass falls down and when Balaam whips her the Lord gives her the ability to speak (shades of Narnia). She asks Balaam what she has done to deserve the beating. Balaam says that she is mocking him and if he had a sword he would kill her. [I have serious problems understanding Balaam at this point. If my dog or cat were to start talking to me, I’d be too stunned to do anything. I certainly wouldn’t want to kill them. Imagine what you could do with talking animals?] Balaam shows no surprise that the ass is talking, which is most peculiar in my mind. Anyhow, back to the story. The ass asks him if she has ever done anything like this before in all the time that he has owned her. Balaam must admit that she hasn’t and at that point the Lord opens Balaam’s eyes so that he can see the angel of the Lord. Balaam falls on his face. The angel of the Lord chastises Balaam for having gone when he knew God didn’t want him to. He tells Balaam that if the ass hadn’t turned away from him the three times that she did, he would have killed Balaam and spared her. Balaam admits his sin and says he will return home. Now the angel of the Lord tells him to go ahead with the men, but that he will speak what he is told to say. Balak is glad to see Balaam, but Balaam warns him that he can only say what the Lord puts in his mouth. Balaam offers burnt offerings and then meets with God. God tells him he has to bless Israel, which he does. This infuriates Balak. Balak thinks that if he takes Balaam to another location he can curse them. So they go through the whole ritual again. This happens three times. Balak tells him to go home. Balaam then prophesies about what will happen in the latter days. (Here is the term latter days, so this is a prophecy we should look into later.) Then Balaam goes home. From Numbers 31:16 we learn that when the Lord would not permit Balaam to curse Israel, he suggested to Balak that he get Israel to sin by using the women to seduce and entice them to participate in the worship of Baal-Peor. As a result, the Lord caused a plague to fall on Israel which killed 24,000 people.

Pergamos was guilty of having those who held to this type of doctrine. Balaam taught Balak that he should encourage Israel to intermarry with the Moabites. This would bring pagan practices within Israel. They would be breaking the laws, and committing sexual and spiritual sins. Balaam was also guilty of being willing to curse Israel for money. These people must have been encouraging people to intermarry with non-believers as well as other “freedoms in Christ” that are not allowed and possibly were selling something for profit. There is no way of knowing what they might have been doing for monetary gain, but sexual sins and pagan practices were being practiced by some of the members, and probably being introduced into corporate worship. Today we have the same problem. The church has a divorce rate as high or higher than the world's. Sexual sins among pastors is prevalent. Things that should be considered pagan are being accepted in the church with no problems. For instance, the music that is used in the vast majority of churches these days is CCM which is basically, in many cases, rock and roll with so-called Christian lyrics. To see what I have to say about that, reference my thesis found at Besides the music, there are all sorts of weird goings on in some churches today that are not at all what God would approve.

Verse 2:15-16 “So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”

There are also Nicolaitanes at this church. We’ve already discussed who they might have been. They are told to repent or Christ will come quickly (again with the quickly) and fight them with the sword of his mouth (the two-edged sword of truth). This is why He describes Himself as He does at the beginning when addressing this church. There is nothing that defeats false doctrines more effectively that the truth. We are told to study to show ourselves approved unto God rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Tim.2:15. We can’t even recognize false doctrine much less fight against it without knowing the truth.

Verse 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.”

Now he addresses the individuals again. To those that are opening to listening to the Lord and repenting and changing their way, there is a promise. Christ says the overcomer will eat of the hidden manna, and receive a white stone upon which is written a new name which no man can know except the one that receives it. The hidden manna is a reference to the manna that had been put in the ark of the covenant as a reminder of how God fed Israel in the wilderness. Christ taught that he was the “bread of life” or “living bread” that when a man eats of this bread will live forever. John 6:51. Christ is the hidden manna or source of life and nourishment for the Christian.

There are a couple of explanations for the white stone. Back then a person’s guilt or innocence was determined by the color stone that the “jury” put in the “pot”. A black stone meant guilt, a white stone meant innocence. Taken in that context, the white stone signifies our innocence before God as Christ has washed us white as snow. The other was a practice of the day when people would wear a white amulet on their arm. On the underside of the amulet was a secret writing or name that had been put there by the person giving the amulet. Only the person giving the amulet and the person wearing the amulet knew what the writing said. We know how God and Christ often renamed his people, Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul. He has a new name for each of us. He may also have something very personal to say to each of us that only we alone can know.

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