Summary: The church is to hold to the truth inwardly as well as outwardly.
Have you noticed how often a sword is at the center of a story? Young Arthur of King Arthur fame is destined to remove the sword from the stone, signifying he is the future king. The sword “Excalibur” bears the power to protect Arthur from harm. Only when the sword is stolen, does Arthur become vincible.
Luke Skywalker has his “light saber.” Zorro needs his sword to leave his trademark signature “Z.” The Three Musketeers are reduced to a candy bar without their swords.
Dionysius was a fourth century B.C. tyrant of Syracuse. To all appearances, he was very rich and comfortable, with all the luxuries that money and power could afford, beautiful clothing and abundant and delicious food. He even had court flatterers to inflate his ego. One of these flatterers was Damocles. He used to make comments to the king about his wealth and luxurious life. One day when Damocles complimented the king on his abundance and power, Dionysius turned to Damocles and said, “If you think I’m so lucky, how would you like to try out my life?”
Damocles quickly agreed, and so Dionysius ordered everything to be prepared for Damocles to experience what life as Dionysius was like. Damocles was enjoying himself immensely until he noticed a sharp sword hovering over his head, which was suspended from the ceiling by a single horsehair. This, the king explained to Damocles, was what life as ruler was really like.
Damocles was very frightened of living under the sword. He quickly revised his idea of what made up the good life and asked to be excused. He eagerly returned to his poorer but safer life.
In Revelation 2:12-17, the One who speaks to the church at Pergamum is described as having a double-edged sword. According to Revelation 1:16, it comes from his mouth. This imagery is consistently used to refer to the Word of God or the Word of Truth.
The Lord says and John writes:
(12) “Write to the angel of the church in Pergamum: Thus says the one who has the sharp, double-edged sword: (13) I know where you live — where Satan’s throne is. Yet you are holding on to my name and did not deny your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness who was put to death among you, where Satan lives. (14) But I have a few things against you. You have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to place a stumbling block in front of the Israelites: to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality. (15) In the same way, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. (16) So repent! Otherwise, I will come to you quickly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
(17) “Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it.
The letter to the church at Ephesus said the church is to be marked by love for God and believers. The letter to the church at Smyrna says the church will be marked by suffering as it stays faithful to Christ. The letter to the church at Pergamum emphasizes the church is to be marked by truth inwardly and outwardly. Notice again the three-fold pattern of the message to the church. Christ commends the church (v. 12-13), Christ complains about the church (v. 14-16), and Christ’s conquest for those who obey (v. 17).
I. CHRIST’S COMMENDATION: THEY PRESERVED AND PROPAGATED THE TRUTH (REV. 2:12-13)
(12) “Write to the angel of the church in Pergamum: Thus says the one who has the sharp, double-edged sword: (13) I know where you live — where Satan’s throne is. Yet you are holding on to my name and did not deny your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness who was put to death among you, where Satan lives.
Like the previous letters, this letter begins with a description of Jesus: “Thus says the one who has the sharp, double-edged sword.”
The sword is a fitting symbol for Pergamum since the seat of government was located here and the proconsul had the authority to take life if the crime was a capital offense. In fact, one of their members had lost his life because of his devotion to Christ.
Isaiah 49:2, speaking of the Servant of God, which prefigures Christ, says, “He made my words like a sharp sword.” By the way, you can’t understand the book of Revelation if you don’t know your O.T. It’s the key to unlocking the images of this book. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Many suggestions are made about what is meant about the Bible being double-edged, but what is clear is the word of God does act like a sword. It stabs the conscience, wounds the sinful pride, cuts away our shielding of sin, and pierces our defenses. The word of God, whom Paul called the word of the Spirit, will kill sin and falsehood in our life if we will lay ourselves open it.