Annapolis: Crab Town, Nap Town
Baltimore: Charm City
Chicago: The Windy City
Detroit: Motor City
New Orleans: The Big Easy
New York: The Big Apple or City That Never Sleeps
Las Vegas: Sin City
Hershey, PA: The Sweetest Place On Earth
In the book of Revelation, one of the letters to the seven churches, Pergamum is described as Satan’s City.
Jesus gives the church 4 reasons to stay faithful and not compromise His truth.
EXAMINE Revelation 2:12-17
12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
13 “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is…
The church must stay faithful because Jesus is our judge.
Jesus writes to the angel/church leader at Pergamum.
The Pergamum church was another city filled with emperor and cultic worship. It was an influential city, having a library consisting of over 200K volumes, rivaling the Alexandrian library. Pergamum was known as an intellectual hub for politics, religion and philosophy. The city popularized writing on paper from sheets made with animal skins (parchment comes from root word Pergamum). It was mostly known for its temple worship as the city featured an altar to Zeus, measuring a whopping 120’ x 112’ that towered over the city. The city population was polytheistic, with worship of Caesar and Roman gods: Asclepios, often referred to as ‘savior’ in Greek mythology, being the son of Apollo and the first physician. Today’s symbol of health and physicians is the staff of Asclepios with a serpent coiled around it. Any of these temple idol areas could have been Satan’s throne. Mostly, this city was like every other of the 7 Churches – idolatrous and immoral – with a remnant of God’s people sustaining against the cultural pressures.
Jesus knows the church dwells in a depraved city.
- Many places in the world have Satan’s throne or the devil’s foothold. They can be on the streets of our cities, but they can also be in the technology usage of our homes.
- Rev 13:2 Satan gives the beast his throne and great authority. Thus, Satan also will seek to work through earthly political powers.
- Jesus knows we live in a messed-up world, but Jesus is attracted to the mess.
- Whether we live in sin-saturated area or in struggling circumstances, Christians are not alone, abandoned, or defeated. Jesus walks among the lampstands to remind us of His protection and promises to survive.
- Jesus has sovereignly and strategically placed the church in communities filled with darkness to be the light and love of God.
- Jesus commended Pergamum for remaining faithful.
Jesus has the sharp, two-edge sword…
- The meaning is that Jesus has perfect and penetrating judgment. Swords were meant for bringing justice.
- The sword is not in the hand of Jesus but in His words (cf. Rev 1:16; 2:16; 19:15, 21). God’s word works like a sword.
- Acts 2:37 “they were cut to the heart”
- Eph 6:17 “the armor of God… the sword of the Spirit is the word of God”
- Heb 4:12 “the word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any double-edged sword”
- The language is somewhat figurative, but not diminishing the power of Jesus’s words to penetrate through hard hearts and cut away excuses and falsehoods. His judgments are true and thorough. Sometimes the words of Jesus are like a scalpel with precise cuts and other times like a sword to pierce.
- Jesus is presented as the final Judge who ‘cuts’ both the city and the church at Pergamum.
- God’s word has power. Speak it or have it read over your life: whether in a hospital bed or hellacious circumstances; also a reason why we should memorize Scripture. But be ready for God to use His word to convict in your own heart too.
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.
The church must stay faithful because suffering is sympathizing.
Jesus commends the church for their bold faith witness, with some even to the point of martyrdom. Apparently, one servant named Antipas was killed in Pergamum. As we looked at the previous Smyrna church, Christians will face suffering and persecution. Jesus does not promise Christians to have immunity from trial or tribulation. Yet, Jesus does promise that suffering will grow your faith to identify with Jesus in a deeper way and will refine you from earthly hopes.
Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Philippians 3:10-11 “that I may know [Christ] and the power of his resurrection and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
1 Peter 2:12 “Keep your conduct among the [unbelievers] honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
- If you’re not suffering persecution for Christianity, are you a Christian?
Note: there’s a difference for suffering for being personally obnoxious rather than religiously offensive. May Christ be the only stumbling block while we seek to remove all others (cf. 1Cor 9:19-23).
- If you’re suffering due to fallenness of the world, then know Christ knows right where you are and promises to wipe away every tear and reverse the curse of sin (cf. Ps 56:8; Rev 21).
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.
15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
The church must stay faithful because falsehoods need correction.
Jesus has a few criticisms:
- The criticisms of Jesus are always accurate and necessary; He is the omniscient Lord God Almighty.
- The criticisms of Jesus are always truth in love; He has their in mind and offers chances to change.
- When you critique, do you offer chances to change? Are you gracious and empathetic in evaluation?
Jesus also holds the Pergamum Christians accountable for their oversight.
- They held to the teaching of Balaam (Numbers 22-25). Balak, king of Moab, hired/bribed Balaam, a worldly prophet, to curse Israel. However, Balaam receives a divine message not to curse Israel. Yet, Balaam travels to Moab to do such, only for God to dissuade through a speaking donkey. This encounter leads Balaam to bless and not curse Israel. Yet, Balaam and Balak still seem to consort toward Israel’s downfall through immorality with tempting Israel with worldly pleasures that would in turn invoke God’s curse (Num 31:15-16).
- They held to the teaching of the Nicolaitans (cf. Rev 2:6). A group with defective doctrine and deeds.
- The practices of the Pergamum church were tolerating blurred boundaries and mixed messages on Christian convictions. Examples may have included eating food sacrificed to idols, enjoying immoral pleasures. When sinful actions are tolerated, they become promoted. Jesus expected Christians to avoid what He abhors and to be attentive to what He approves.
Our culture practices counterfeit Christianity in similar ways. We don’t call our practices idolatrous or pagan worship, but they are nonetheless.
- Tolerating syncretism: Where Christians and churches mix Christianity with other religious morals, secularism, and general humanistic positivity.
- Say they don’t support sexual immorality but then don’t discipline self against pornography or discipline church members for living out of wedlock or for easy divorce with “irreconcilable differences” or not hold leaders of their own political persuasion to the same standards they hold for other parties.
- Say they don’t support ethnocentrism or racism but then expresses or defends stereotypes, denigration, and derogatory comments about entire groups of people.
- Say they don’t support greed but then don’t give or serve generously.
- Say they support the Great Commission but don’t share the gospel with another person, don’t invite neighbors to church, don’t give to organizations that evangelize through the local church.
à When is the last time you shared the gospel or invited someone to church?
Story: Many churches have a sign outside their building which includes some type of message about their church and mission. They are usually meant to get the passerby’s to think and consider coming to that church. Well, recently in 2006, in the little town of Limerick, PA, St. James United Church of Christ posted a message on their sign. It was from Luke 4:7 “If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.” At first glance this message seems to imply that worshiping Jesus carries the benefit of some type of reward (which has its own complications). However, these words are actually from Satan speaking to Jesus during the temptation. In other words, the church was unintentionally promoting the worship of Satan. Unfortunately, this happens in other ways as well when churches allow unbiblical teaching to creep in and distort the true gospel.
Satan’s aim is to counterfeit Christianity, and if he cannot cause you to reject Christ then he will attempt to make you confine Christ to just a few areas but not the entirety of your life. Satan wants to shift us from viewing Jesus as Lord with divine commands to a mere lecturer with good ideas. When this happens, Jesus, Scripture, and church become supplemental rather than instrumental. When we think we can live without Christ and church and our obedience becomes partial and preferential.
The problem with all of this is that Jesus condemns the church for being casual toward His commands. We cannot be spectators or fence-riders when it comes to our Christian faith. Satan owns the fence, so make a choice.
- “Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” – MLK Jr.
- Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or He’s Lord; stop with the patronizing nonsense about Jesus being a good man and either be devoted to Jesus or deny him. – C.S. Lewis paraphrase
- Concerning biblical truth, are you able to correct falsehoods or are you easily deceived? If you’re immature in faith then what’s the reasoning – failing to personally read & grow spiritually? – failing to participate in bible groups?
16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.
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.’
The church must stay faithful because the consequences are eternal.
Jesus calls for the church to repent. μετανοέω change of mind; align thinking w/ God in every area & action.
The language tense is having an action that is done once and for all, not a present tense continuous action. So, the idea is Jesus is commanding them to make a choice – draw a line in the sand and either stay where you are or go forward in obedience.
The Pergamum church was to repent of wrong teaching. More exact, the wrong teaching was leading to wicked behavior. Teaching always leads to application. Jesus condemns bad doctrine bc it leads to bad deeds. If your takeaways from church area not leading you toward right actions then you are missing the point, and likely missing a genuine relationship with Jesus.
Repentance is characteristic of Jesus and early church emphasis
- Matthew 4:17 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
- Luke 17:3 “Pay attention to yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him”
- Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
We must understand repentance is both a decided action and an ongoing discipleship.
- Decided action to trust Jesus, no turning back.
- Discipleship action for the ongoing posture and orientation of heart to obey God’s word. We will not be perfect, but God is perfecting us to be more like Jesus every day.
- Reformer Martin Luther’s first of 95 Theses was “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said ‘repent,’ willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.”
- A biblical view of repentance requires us to go beyond a shallow remorse or regret for where we have been ashamed or embarrassed of getting caught doing wrong by others; instead repentance is about a path of transformation where some may be taking a longer path than others, but we are headed in the direction of truth, faith, and love for Jesus.
If we do not repent, Jesus will come soon and war against us. If we don’t fight for faith then we will fail forever.
- Temporal judgment. Deuteronomy 28:15, 20 “if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments…curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish… because you have forsaken me.”
- Eternal judgment. “sinners will be thrown into the fiery furnace with weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mat 13:42; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Rev 20:12-15).
If we do repent, Jesus will give rewards.
- hidden manna: food God provides (cf. Ex 16; Jn 6:35). Can you imagine pb cups endlessly dropping from heaven?
- a white stone: Stones used for admission into feast or games.  Jurors also used for civil trials and officials over gladiator games voted with stones with black meaning guilt or death and white meaning innocence/pardon, freedom, and life.
- new name: God’s changing of names in OT & NT symbolized higher purpose & promise. Jesus has a new name (cf Rev 19:12) and gives us a new name too. He gives us identity and we belong to Him as son/daughter!
When you hear your name called… at restaurant to be seated, at dmv, at stadium… you rejoice but you must also respond. Today, Jesus is calling your name, what is your response?
 Grant Osbourne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary series, p.149.
 Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, Rev 2:17