Summary: The third in a series of seven. This is an expository, alliterated sermon with practical application based on the letter to Pergamum in Revelation. PowerPoint is avialable if you e-mail me.
You’ve Got Mail: Pergamum
Scott Bayles, preacher
First Christian Church, Rosiclare, IL
For those of you just joining us, we’ve spent the past couple of weeks camped in the Book of Revelation. Rather than trudging through the more puzzling prophetic passages, though, we’ve been pouring over the more practical pages of John’s Revelation—specifically, we’ve been reading other churches’ mail. One envelope at a time, we’ve been unfolding the seven letters from the Son of God to the seven churches of Asia. Although these seven letters weren’t addressed to us, they do address the cares, concerns, and crises faced by ours and countless other churches throughout the centuries.
We’ve already investigated the letters to the churches in Ephesus and Smyrna. “After leaving Smyrna, a letter carrier traveled along the coast of the Aegean Sea for about forty miles. Then the road turned northeast along the Caicus River. About ten miles inland stood the impressive city of Pergamum, built on a hill one thousand feet above the surrounding countryside, creating a natural fortress. Rivaling Ephesus as the leading city in the region, Pergamum had become the capital of the province of Asia and the center of Asian culture. It was proud of its links with Rome.” Here’s what Jesus had to say to the Christians living in Pergamum:
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum. This is the message from the one with the sharp two-edged sword: I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city. But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:12-17 NLT)
Just like the first two letters, Jesus begins the letter to Pergamum by giving his credentials.
In the letter to the church in Ephesus, Jesus described himself as the one who holds the seven stars and walks among the seven gold lampstands—an encouraging image, reminding the church that he is with them. To Smyrna, he says that he if the First and the Last, the God of all creation who knows the beginning from the end. But to the church in Pergamum, Jesus provides a much more foreboding image. He describes himself as: “the one with the sharp two-edged sword” (vs. 12 NLT).
This imagery, just as with several of the letters, comes directly out of the first chapter of Revelation when John beholds the glory of Jesus. There John said, “When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man… and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth” (Revelation 1:13-15 NLT).
Now, before try to picture Jesus walking around heaven with a broadsword hanging out of his mouth, understand that this wasn’t meant literally. Rather, John’s description of Jesus is pregnant with metaphors, symbols, and other colorful imagery. This particular image is probably drawn from the book of Hebrews, which says: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV).
You see, just as the sword was a symbol of Rome’s authority and judgment, Jesus’ double-edged sword represents his ultimate authority and judgment over the world and his church. And notice that he doesn’t hold the sword in his hand; rather, it protrudes from his mouth, indicating that it is by his words that mankind will be judged. Jesus put it this way: “Anyone who hears my words and does not obey them, I do not judge, because I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for those who refuse to believe in me and do not accept my words. The word I have taught will be their judge on the last day” (John 12:47-48 NCV).