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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

THE CHURCH IN PERGAMOS

Rev 2:12-17 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith He which hath the sharp sword with two edges; 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. 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. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. 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.

Of the seven churches of Asia receiving this Revelation letter, Pergamos is located the farthest north in this Roman province. At the time of this writing, Pergamos gained much worldly attention, and drew people from all parts of the world due to its many pagan-inspired, Satanist temples, which involved sensuous rites of worship. The city still exists today, has a small population, and includes many still professing to be Christians.

Jesus identifies Himself immediately to this specific church as He which hath the sharp sword with two edges, a similar appellation He used at the beginning of this book (Rev. 1:16). This descriptive name is also used in Hebrews 4:12 to describe the word of God,found in the New Testament doctrine which, He personally taught, and also inspired His apostles to continue to teach through out the world. He reminds them of His omniscient power by telling them, I know thy works. Just as He knew the good works of the church of Christ in Smyrna, so He knows the evil works of this congregation of God's people.

He commends them for holding onto the name of Christ as His followers, and not denying their faith in Him, as the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. They maintained their Christian faith in this city, even in the midst of this well known center of idolatry. The location of this congregation of Christians was certainly not conducive to the expansion of God's gospel of salvation found in Christ Jesus. Rather, it offered nothing but stumbling blocks, through ridicule and threatening persecution. The city of Pergamos, Jesus aptly described as the seat of Satan, the same city wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. Very little else is known of this faithful follower of Christ. Historians speculate that Antipas was an elder of the body of Christ in this city, and was put to death by the Roman rulers at the request of the priests of the temple of Aesculapius, a pagan "god" given to human health and passion.

Having commended them for upholding their Christian faith in such an idolatrous city, Jesus now rebukes them by saying I have a few things against thee. It seems that there were members of the church that had been allowed to teach false doctrine without being scripturally reprimanded and censured for their conduct. Among them were those that held the doctrine of Balaam, a false doctrine that caused the children of Israel to sin by eating things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. There were some within this church that taught, and upheld, religious rites that involved indulging in idol feasts and all types of heathen fornication. Those converted from the evil society of this city seemed to have as much difficulty relinquishing their paganistic rites as did many Jews that were converted to Christianity.

Also, Jesus rebukes them for having members of the church of Christ upholding the doctrine of the Nicolaitans - those which allowed, and even espoused, the liberty to commit sensual sins. Such things Jesus hated. And unless they repented of such teaching and practices, He promised to bring about their swift destruction.

Jesus, then, made this promise: To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, a symbol of an innocent verdict. The stone would then reveal a new name, which probably meant that of a faithful, repentant Christian, and highly valued over all worldly deeds and possessions.