Hello everyone and welcome to my seven part study series on the seven churches of Revelations.
In this study we are going to break down the letter that the apostle John gave to the church of Pergamos which Jesus Christ commanded him to write. Remember, these seven letters were written to seven actual churches in Asia Minor (Turkey), but they also had another purpose. These letters are a direct representation of the Church (the body of Christ) today. I will go into detail about the message that Jesus gave to the physical church at Pergamos, but also how this message applies to the body of Christ today.
Lets start off with a little background about the city Pergamos.
The church at Pergamos was most likely founded by Paul during his ministry at Ephesus (Acts 19:10). Pergamos once served as the capital of the Roman province of Asia Minor for around 25 years and was an important religious center for a number of pagan cults. It was the first city in Asia to build a temple to Caesar and it became the capital of cult Caesar worship. Smyrna was a rival city and due to its increased wealth, it became the political center of Asia Minor and eventually the new capital. Pergamos, on the other hand, remained the religious center.
Now back to the letter:
In the Prelude to this series, I explained how each one of these seven letters also has three implications that Jesus reveals to each church: Identification (identifying the recipient of the letter and Jesus Himself to the church), The Message (presenting to each church either their works/deeds or trials) and lastly A Prophetic Outcome (rewards given to the overcomer).
First lets look at the Identification:
This letter begins with identifying who it was written to, “To the angel of the church in Pergamos.” Again, in the Prelude to this series, I explained how this is literally translates as “angel” and not the pastor of the church.
Jesus then continues in Rev 2:12 by identifying Himself using a specific phrase or symbol that was previously used in scripture to identify Him before. This is a further confirmation that the message came from Jesus Himself and not from anyone else. Here Jesus identifies Himself as “The One who has the sharp two-edged sword.”
This is probably one of the most significant means by which Christ identifies Himself in all the letters to the churches. We can find this in two other places in the book of Revelations starting in Rev 1:16, where John describes Jesus as having a “sharp two-edged sword” out of His mouth. Again we see this same description later in Rev 19:15, this time described as a “sharp sword” coming from the mouth of Christ. But what is this sword and why is it so significant?
It is made apparent throughout all of scripture the identity of this sword as being the very word of God (The Bible). If we look at Hebrews 4:12, it states that the word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. When John describes Christ as having a “sharp two-edged sword out of His mouth,” he is referring to His Word, which is perfect at true (John 17:17). Just as a Roman soldier uses a sword to stab his enemies, Christ Word condemns the wicked and assigns them to the second death (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:14). This is further evident in Ephesians 6:17, where it refers to the sixth and last armor of God “the sword of the Spirit” as being the word of God.
Now lets look at The Message:
In all the letters (including this one), Jesus starts off by saying to the church “I know your deeds/trails” (Rev 2:2 nasb). Typically Jesus will start off by announcing the ‘good works‘ that the church is doing in the message, but afterwards He will equally rebuke the church for their trespasses.
Again we, as the body of Christ, should understand this as Jesus knowing all that goes on in our own lives. He sees all things and He knows all things. As His church we should find comfort in knowing that Christ understands all that we go through, our trials, and what we need. Jesus encourages us to continue the works we do for Him and His Church. But we should also equally understand that He knows our transgressions, and later on in this study we will see His rebuke of the church.
So what is the ‘good work‘ that Christ identifies here?
Before Jesus commends the church, He starts off by identifying where they dwell as “Satan’s throne.” He actually made this statement twice in verse 13. But what did He mean by this? Some suggests that ‘Satan’s throne’ refers to the collection of pagan temples in the city, including the alter of the pagan god Zeus, which Pergamos was famous for. Others believe that the cult worship of the Roman emperors, which was prevalent here, was the reason for this title. Christ could have had all this in mind when He referred to this city as “Satan’s throne”.
Regardless of the reason, what we can take away from this is the clear identification of Satan’s rule and influence on this earth. Ephesians 2:2 refers to Satan as the “prince of the power of the air,” and 2 Corinthians 4:4 calls him the “god of this world.”
Jesus then commends the church for ‘holding fast to His name’ and ‘not denying Him’ by remaining faithful even when faced with outside influence from the pagan society. Due to the Gospel of Christ being unlike any other pagan doctrine, theres no doubt that the church at Pergamos would have faced pressure to conform to the society around them. But in this, they remained obedient to God.
Jesus starts off His rebuke by identifying some in the church who ‘hold to the teachings of Balaam and Nicolaitains’ (Rev 2:14 and Rev 2:15).
Take a look at this commentary from Life Hope and Truth:
The “doctrine of Balaam” refers to this man’s misguided attempt to try to serve God while also fulfilling his own personal interests—which were counter to God’s—as ancient Israel marched towards Canaan (Numbers 22-24). The point is: God expects us to obey Him fully, with our whole hearts (Deuteronomy 6:5; Psalm 119:2; Matthew 22:37). To learn more about why Balaam’s conduct remained as an enduring example of how not to worship God, see the article “Balaam” on this website.
The “doctrine of the Nicolaitans” (Revelation 2:15) is not precisely explained in Scripture. Based on its usage here and previously in the message to Ephesus (verse 6), it is clear that this doctrine is something God hates. The wording in verse 15 can be taken as implying that this doctrine is the same as “the doctrine of Balaam” or similar to “the doctrine of Balaam.”Life Hope and Truth
So just as all the letters have a personal application to the Church today, what is the message that Christ is trying to portray here?
Jesus is warning us to resist the influence of the corrupt world around us by remaining obedient to Him. He also identifies a clear way to not only defend against the attacks of this world, but to also build a solid offensive strategy by means of properly wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph 6:17). If we fail to handle the word of God properly, we will lacks or slip away from Gods true word and ultimately fail to do what He has commanded us, which is to win others to Christ by the means of spreading the Gospel (Romans 10:17).
Jesus gave us His very Word so that we could know Him, obey Him, and have a means to prepare ourselves, so that we will not be mislead by the tactics of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:14 and 15).
Lastly, Jesus gives us a clear warning to ‘repent’ of our current bonds to this world, otherwise we will be subject to the condemnation that this world will one day face.
Last we will look at the Prophetic Outcome of this letter:
Jesus ends this message with the same phrase as all the other letters, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches“. In the Prelude to this study, I explain the significance of this phrase and how it applies to the rest of the book of Revelations.
Jesus then ends the letter saying “To him who overcomes” and “I will give some of the hidden manna.”
An overcomer are those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as our savior (1 John 5:4-1 John 5:5 nasb) so Jesus here is speaking directly to His Church. And the manna is a reference His word which is a promise that He gives to those of us who overcome.
This concludes Part 3 of my seven part study series “The Seven Churches of Revelations.” In my next study of this series, we will look at and break down the letter given to the church of Thyatira.
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And always remember, why is it important to study Bible prophecy? Because never have we been closer than today..