Letter to Pergamum
Do not tolerate heresy (charge of indifference)
Introduction: Mention the book Caring Enough to Confront…
- Show that confrontation is an important part of Christian living—of living in general
- Show that the problem of confrontation is that it can be very difficult
- Confrontation or the lack of it was the problem in Pergamum (note what Christ has against them (vv 14, 15).
- Show how they had the same problem as the church in Ephesus (2:4)
- Ephesus didn’t know how to love (great at towing the line)
- Pergamum, didn’t know how to fight—tolerated 2 heretical groups in the church
Do not tolerate or encourage false teaching and behavior! There can be no toleration of unbelief. The church who will not stand for Christ will receive the judgment of Christ! If we will not fight for our Lord—the He will fight for Himself—“I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth.”
This letter follows the similar pattern for most of the letters written to the seven churches here in Revelation…
- A word of commendation from Christ, vv 12–13.
- A word of condemnation from Christ, vv 14–15.
- A word of challenge from Christ containing a promise for those who overcome, vv 16–17.
The message to the church—DO NOT TOLERATE HERESY—DO NOT COMPROMISE MY TRUTH!!!!!
I. The commendation from Christ, vv 12–13.
Verse 12 comments
- Pergamum—city of idolatry, note their prominence
- Note references to two-edged sword (cf 1:16; Isa 11:4; 49:2)
o Refers to authority and power (sword a symbol of Roman justice)
o Refers to a word of judgment from Christ—ultimate power belongs to Christ
Note Heb 4:12 "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12, NASB95)
Verse 13a comments: there are 3 things that Christ knows about his people
- He knows the world in which they live…where they dwell
They live, in a sense, in Satan’s home town—his throne is there! (he is the ultimate instigator of persecution)—We cannot escape the evil in the world—the greater the darkness the greater the need for light…
Cave of the Winds illustrastion!
- He knows their faithful witness…hold fast My Name
- He knows their endurance under persecution…do not deny my faith
Notes on Antipas…
- A martyr of the Church in Pergamum, described as Christ’s faithful witness (Rev 2:13); the same description is given to Christ himself (Rev 1:5). Legend among later hagiographers (e.g., Simon Metaphrastes and the Bollandists) has it that Antipas was slowly roasted to death in a brass bull during the reign of Domitian (Mounce, Revelation NICNT, 97).
- Note Rev 1:5, same title used by our Lord (My faithful witness)
- Acts 22:20—Paul on Stephen (A martyr has the attitude of one who goes to war (soldiers in Iraq interviewed on TV)
- Lesson a witnessing church will be a persecuted church
They are commended for faithfulness even during this persecution but they also receive condemnation…
II. The condemnation from Christ, vv 14–15.
There are two groups of false teachers here in vv 14, 15 that are similar in their practices
Verse 14 comments…
- Balaam—led Israel into idolatry (teachers in Pergamum wanted the church to have a closer relationship with the world)
- Eating food sacrificed to idols is in the context of worship and participation with unbelief
- Balaam proverbial false teacher who encourages compromise with the truth
- Note Josh 13:21–22 and Numbers 31:8—Balaam killed when he returned to collect his reward from offering counsel against Israel—*cf. Num 22:23
Verse 15 comments…
- Nicolaitans—verse 15 and the mention of this second group in the church is the logical basis of the Lord’s urging to repent
- Remember that these letters are written to churches to be ready because of the soon return of the Lord—repent and get ready to meet him
III. The challenge from Christ, vv 16–17.
The Church is to repent, or Christ is coming with a sword to do war with unbelief!
Note this section is referring to the marriage supper of the Lamb
- Hidden manna—John 6:31–35
- White stone—acquittal—Paul in Acts 16:10 (pebble)
- Note Rev 19:9, white stone of invitation
- Resembled manna, Num 11:7; Ex 16:31
- White also for righteousness, Rev 19:8, 9, 14
- New name—confirms marriage supper idea, Rev 3:12; 22:3–4
- Illustration of Thomas, “MY Lord and MY GOD”
- Note prophecy of Isa 62:2; 65:15
Conclusion: Do you know Christ this morning? Have you received him by faith? Are you willing to openly confess him as your Lord and Savior?
According to v 13, those who posses Christ’s name and are loyal to him will be identified with him when he comes again (cf. 3:8). And they are the ones who are invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb—They are the ones who will be given a new name, by Christ himself—they are the ones who are acquitted of all their sins and will enjoy intimate fellowship with the Lamb of God forever, and ever!
I urge you this morning, if you do not know Christ come to him today. And if you do know him, then stand for him! God help our church to be vigorous in our faith and in the proclamation for Christ! May we learn to love him so much that we cannot, and will not tolerate compromise with the truth of God!
NICNT New International Commentary on the New Testament