3B.   Letter To The Angel Of The Church In Pergamos (2.12-17)


(2.12)  And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;


1.   Previously, we studied the letter written to the angel of the church of Smyrna. You will remember that man and that church in Smyrna underwent terrible persecution. Was there any doubt that the author of the persecution was Satan, the enemy of God and God’s people?


2.   Now, in the third of the seven letters, we come to Pergamos. The word Pergamos literally means both “marriage” and “elevation,”[1] and is the word from which we get parchment – a writing material developed from animal skin, which apparently was first developed in the area.[2]


3.   Who is this that speaks in this verse? Who has the sharp two-edged sword? If we remember the description John gave of the Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation 1.16, we can be sure that this is that same Lord Jesus.


4.   For some of you who may not have been here during our study of chapter 1, let me mention some things about this same type of sword that is mentioned there:


a)   The sword mentioned refers to a large double-edged sword used by a group of people back then known as Thracians, who were an intense, war-like people.


b)   The fact that the sword is double-edged clues us to the purpose of the Word of God being likened to such a weapon as this. One cutting edge is beneficial and the other cutting edge is judgmental.


c)   This description can be supported from Hebrews 4.12, where God’s Word is described as sharper than any two-edged sword.


5.   Once again, the Lord Jesus Christ is showing Himself to be the Judge of His Own. What a shock this is to many people. They forget that judgment must begin first in the house of God, First Peter 4.17.


(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.


1.   The reference to “Satan’s seat” is very interesting in view of the fact that the Greek word translated seat is pronounced “qronos.” Not just an ordinary seat is referred to here. The Lord Jesus is referring to Satan’s throne.


2.   Some background history. Several centuries before this portion of Scripture was written, a cult of Satan worshipping Magi was ejected from their point of origin in Babylon by the advancing armies of the Medo-Persian Empire. Do you know where the archaeologists tell us these Magi settled after they had been evicted from Babylon? Pergamos.


3.   History tells us that Pergamos was known everywhere, not as a commercial center, or a center for learning, but as a residence of kings prior to coming under Roman rule, and as a major religious center for the entire Middle East.


4.   It was here that the cult leader known as a “bridge builder,” or as one who bridged the gap between mortal man and Satan conducted his nefarious business. The Latin title of this satanic cult leader was “Pontifus Maximus.”


5.   By the time Julius Caesar had assumed power in Rome the cult had spread to Rome. What few people today are aware of is the fact that one of the major reasons the Caesar known as Augustus was able to consolidate power into the office of Emperor was because he, for the first time in Roman history, combined both religious and political and military power by successfully assuming the title of Pontifus Maximus and becoming the cult’s religious leader.


6.   Pergamos, then, was the throne of Satan. We must never forget that Satan is not the ruler of Hell. He is the god of this world, according to the testimony of Scripture, Second Corinthians 4.4. Satan literally runs this planet, First John 5.19. At the time this portion of Scripture was written the central place from which Satan exerted his ungodly influence upon the world was the city of Pergamos.


7.   Obviously, therefore, Satan would oppose the church in that city, and would be extremely energetic in fighting against the ministry of God’s man. One particular man of God, Antipas, resisted Satan unto death. Little is known of Antipas in history. But the Lord Jesus Christ never forgets the man who serves Him well. We can be sure that someday the man named Antipas will receive the crown given for dying the martyr’s death at the judgment seat of Christ.


(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 stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.


1.   Though the man of God was commended by his Lord on one hand, he was rebuked on the other hand. Why? Because there were some members of that church who held to the doctrine, or the teaching, of Balaam. You might remember Balaam from Numbers chapter 22. He was the prophet who was hired to curse the people of Israel. However, each time he tried to curse them he was prevented from doing so by God. Though he was unable to curse the Israelites, he was able to greatly harm them by encouraging their opponent, Balak, to send heathen women among the Jewish men, who then coaxed those men into committing fornication and idolatry with them.


2.   The doctrine of Balaam, then, is the teaching that you cannot defeat God’s people by an outright attack on them, for they have too much spiritual might and power available to them to defend against such attacks. However, if you can gradually influence them to compromise and to mix with false religious systems, then you will have thereby succeeded in leading them into spiritual fornication and idolatry.


3.   This is what was happening to that local congregation. That church was influenced by some of her members into hobnobbing with the false religious systems of the day. They were also intertwined with the government. An unholy marriage existed. But who does the Lord Jesus rebuke for this problem in the assembly? The angel of the church, the pastor.


4.   This pastor was rebuked by the Lord Jesus Christ because he did not get tough on the church members who wanted to go to “Christian” dances, who allowed their kids to go to “Christian” nightclubs, who decided it would not be a real problem to go to the Promise Keepers rally, who did not think social drinking was so bad as long as you do not get drunk, and such the like. Some church members think committing sin is not really that big a deal, but who does the Lord Jesus deal with about such sinning by church members, you or me? So, before you get so upset at how I deal with sin in the congregation, keep in mind that when spiritual compromise and wickedness is brought into this congregation, the first person who begins the feel the hammer blows of judgment in the form of a rebuke from the Savior is me. Not you, me.


5.   Let us consider something else. Most commentaries dealing with the Revelation take the position that these seven letters to the seven angels of the seven churches in Asia represent seven distinct time periods in church history. There is no real evidence that these passages are to be so interpreted, but theologians work hard to do so anyway. If Christ’s letter to the angel of this church does correspond to a distinct period of church history, which it does not really appear to do, then this letter might correspond to that period of time when Rome became a so-called “Christian” empire, when emperor Constantine became a “Christian” and also assumed the title of Pontifus Maximus.


6.   Remember where that title came from? When Constantine became a “Christian,” there was an immediate influx of hundreds of thousands of unsaved folks into churches throughout the empire, because it was now the popular thing to do. On one occasion, Constantine marched an army through a river and decreed them officially baptized Christians by so doing. So, when these unsaved Romans entered the churches they brought their false beliefs with them. Thus was formed, on the foundation of the Babylonian cult worship of the Magi, and through the office of the Pontifus Maximus, what is now termed the Roman Catholic Church.


7.   And this is not just ancient history. Even today, the doctrine of Balaam is being encouraged in churches all over America. It is called the ecumenical movement in some circles, and in other circles it is the charismatic movement or neo-evangelicalism.  But the direction is the same in any case. It is so-called “Christians” who are advocating an interplay between nominally Christian groups and the Roman Church, which is Christian in name only, as you who know your Bible realize.


8.   Let me tell you something about Baptists, as an aside. Baptists have historically been separatists. We do not think we are better than anyone else, but we do, by choice, refrain from fellowshipping with groups who compromise on key Bible doctrines. Why? Because we think we are superior? No. Because we are of the firm conviction that most Protestants are, however slowly, headed back to Rome, from whence they originally came.


9.   Though you might think you are being very magnanimous and broad minded, I advise you, as the under-shepherd responsible for watching over your soul, to be very cautious of anyone who indiscriminately associates with different religious groups, without regard to what those groups believe. Do not think that spreaders of good cheer and smiles cannot also be spiritually dangerous, ‘cause they can be. They are dangerous because they teach, by example, that it does not matter what you believe as long as you label yourself properly. No matter what some people may think or say, it does matter what you believe.


(2.15)  So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.


1.   The pastor also allowed to remain in the church those who held to the doctrine, or the teaching, of the Nicolaitans. Remember, the Lord commended the Ephesian pastor for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans. Jesus, you will remember, also hates their teachings. But the Pergamos pastor tolerated such heresy and practice in his midst.


2.   Remember what Nicolaitanism is? Our study convinced us that Nicolaitanism refers to deeds of abomination and impurity. Does this not tie in with the previous verse and the association with Balaam’s enticement to abominable and impure behavior? Spiritual compromise typically results in a lower of personal standards related to modesty, attire, and personal holiness.


3.   This pastor in Pergamos is noted for something which no pastor should be noted for; compromise. He tolerated things that Christ found intolerable. And the Lord Jesus Christ was holding him responsible for it all, as we shall see in the next verse.


(2.16)  Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.


1.   If that pastor does not repent, does not turn from his compromise and willingness to overlook that sin, the Lord Jesus Christ is promising to come in judgment. This is not His second coming. However, it is a warning that He will somehow come in judgment.


2.   My friends, this pastor is being warned. If he does not lead the church he pastors to hate what Christ hates and to be intolerant of false teachings, the Lord Jesus Christ will take matters into His Own hands. The Lord is promising to use the other cutting edge of His Word if things are not dealt with properly.


3.   Do we want the Lord Jesus Christ to chastise our church, which is to say to chastise us? Of course not. Then we had better get used to the fact that internal discipline is a way of life in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that a toleration of that which is wrong is no virtue to be lauded. Furthermore, although you ought to be willing to address and deal with sin when and where you see it, you must recognize that dealing with sin is a major responsible of anyone in pastoral ministry.


(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.


1.   Manna is angel food. Just as God gave manna to the children of Israel in days gone by, so a hidden manna is promise to the overcomer of this world. And who are the overcomers? Right. Christians, according to First John 5.4-5.


2.   “Black and white stones were used in the Jewish Sanhedrin to describe respectively the guilt or innocence of and the displeasure or favour to those who were brought before it. It was also a method of justice in the days of long ago. We understand that many secret societies use it to-day. This symbol is a well-known one. Therefore to be given a white stone by the Lord indicates His warmest approval and favour because of one’s faithfulness on earth.”[3]


3.   That same kind of intimacy will exist in heaven. Jesus will give a white stone to the believer. What is the new name written on it? I do not know. But I am looking forward to receiving my own private love note from the Savior. Aren’t you?


4.   Listen up, church, to this message the Head of the church has given that He wants every member to pay attention to.

[1] L. Sale-Harrison, The Remarkable Revelation, (New York: Sale-Harrison Publications, 1930), pages 42-43.

[2] See footnote for Revelation 2.12, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1995.

[3] L. Sale-Harrison, The Remarkable Revelation, (New York: Sale-Harrison Publications, 1930), page 45.

Home   Sermons   Sermon Outlines  Who Is God?   God's Word   Tracts   Q & A   Feedback  

Order this sermon on tape: or Mail/Phone