Revelation 2:12-17: Danger.
‘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, not 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: there are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed 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 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.NIV
‘Being willing to die for the faith is no substitute for living for the faith’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.848.
Pergamum was a dangerous place for a Christian to find him/herself in the 1st century AD. Whereas Ephesus was the most important city in the province of Asia, Pergamum was its capital. So it was the residence of the Roman governor. He had the authority to put people to death – he had the power of the sword in other words. ‘’Antipas’’ was one Christian who paid the ultimate price for his faith. Jesus accords him a great honour by giving him a name applied to Himself in (1:5): ‘‘ Faithful witness.’’ Even at such an ominous time this church had remained loyal to Jesus. It’s not surprising, though, that Christians saw Rome as the instrument of ‘’Satan’’ (13). So much persecution came from that direction. However, Jesus here reminds the church that He has a more powerful sword than the governor’s (12; see 1:16, 2:16). He has the final authority over life and death.
But although this was a faithful church it was by no means perfect. It had some members who tolerated false teaching. Tom Hale says:
‘Their sin was the opposite of the Ephesian church’s sin. On the one hand, the Ephesian Christians did not tolerate false teaching; they were very strict and pure. But they had lost their love. On the other hand, the Pergamum Christians had not lost their love, they had lost their purity.’ ‘The Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.966.
Somebody observed that this was a compromised church, in danger of losing its cutting edge. The ‘’teaching of the Nicolaitans’’ (15) was probably similar to the ‘’teaching of Balaam’’ (14; see Numbers 25:1-3; 31:15, 16). Balaam persuaded Israel to compromise with their unbelieving neighbours, disobey God, and indulge in promiscuous sex.Bad believing leads to bad behaving, and this erroneous teaching resulted in sexual immorality. We have to take heed that we do not tolerate error. Heresy is a noxious root leading to an ugly flower. Jesus’ response tells us all we need to know (16). ‘His word will cut through the half-hearted spirituality that is happy to face both ways at once.’ Tom Wright.
But the letter ends on a high note. There seems to be some evidence that in this city a ‘’white stone’’ was given to those invited to a feast or ceremony. It bore the name of the one invited, and he/she presented it as proof that they were meant to be there. Those who remain faithful to Jesus have a free invitation to feast on ‘’the hidden manna’’ in heaven (17), which is surely the crucified Christ Himself (John 6:48-51).
PRAYER: Lord, help me to deeply know that truth matters, and not to play fast and loose with it.