Summary: Sermons detailing the Lord’s instructions to the churches of Asia Minor.
Pergamos, Mail Call!
Revelation 2:12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
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.
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.
15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
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.
I. The Faith of the Church
a. Their climate
We can appreciate the faith of these believers more when we realize where this church was located. Pergamos contained a great library and many pagan temples. It was also the headquarters for the Roman pro-consul therefore it was the center for all types of heathen worship and idolatry. Church historians tell us that a particularly evil group was driven out of Babylon and that they settled in this city. They must have been really bad to be driven out of a place as wicked as Babylon. No wonder Jesus says that Satan’s throne was there.
b. Their contrast
Just imagine the contrast between the palaces of sin and pleasure where everything was opulent and then there is this little Christian church trying to survive and win converts in a place where Satan was working overtime! Friend, the devil is not in hell as he is often depicted in popular culture but since he is the god of this age and the prince of this world he is working where he can do the most harm. Satan is working everywhere, even in the most remote places on earth, (just ask a missionary to Africa or Asia), but he is especially effective in our large cities, the center of wealth and worldly amusement. Let’s face it, most of our major cities are moral sinkholes and are filled with things that appeal to the flesh and mankind’s lowest inclinations.
c. Their constancy
First, Jesus says that they had held his name fast! They were not cowards and they were not intimidated by their foes. They were not ashamed that they belonged to Jesus. Even though they were outnumbered they were not outgunned for they had someone with them who was greater than those around them. They bore the name of Christ courageously. In this day when there are so many calls for conformity, for Christians to act and behave like everyone else we must be different! The must a clear distinction between how the world lives and how the church lives! Second, they kept the faith in the face of intense persecution. They had been called upon to deny their faith but they had refused. Like Smyrna they too had lost their pastor. “Antipas” was probably not his real name but a name given to many of the martyrs of that day. It means “against all.” His enemies were saying that he was against everyone and everything. Sometimes when you take a stand for Christ you will have that criticism, that you are an “aginer”. In the old days a Christian was called before the emperor to denounce his faith in Christ. He refused to do so and the emperor said, “The whole world is against you.” Then, said the Christian, “I am against the whole world!”
II. The Failings of the Church
a. Their corruption
The Lord had some good things to say about this church but he follows up with some bad things. There were two ideas that had gained some traction in the church. First, was the “doctrine of Balaam” If you recall a King by the name of Balak wanted to stop Israel from entering the promised land so he tried to use a prophet named Balaam, who he paid a large sum of money, to curse Israel. God would not permit this prophet from cursing His people but Balaam did not want to lose this money so he did something else. He enticed a group of men to go to the heathen temples and defile themselves with the maids who stayed there, indulging in religious orgies. The behavior became a curse to Israel God slew 24,000 to clean out the corruption! This same doctrine had found its way into Pergamos. Some were saying we are Christians, we are on our way to heaven, we are saved by grace, we can never fall so we will do as we please so they joined themselves to these idols with the religious orgies and eating things offered to idols. Second, the Lord mentions a group called the Nicolaitanes. This word means “to rule the people” and seems to imply that they were trying to establish a hierarchy to rule the church. Perhaps this spirit was at work in the church when John wrote about a man named Diotrephes “who loveth to have the preeminence.”