Revelation 2:12-17

Wednesday Night Bible Study

January 8, 1997


As we've seen, there's an outline given to us about this book:

John was to write down things in three categories: (1:19)

1) The things which thou hast seen (ch.1) - the vision of Jesus

2) The things which are (chs.2-3) - things which pertain to current history, the times of the church.

3) The things which shall be hereafter (chs.4-22) - the prophetic portion of the book.

We now dive into the second portion of the book - the "things which are", dealing with issues about the church, and the age of the church on earth.

Introduction to the Letters

As we've seen, each letter, written to a different church, has things in common with the letters written to the other churches.

Seven common characteristics (nice number, huh?)

1) They are all addressed to the "angel" over each church.

2) They all contain a brief description of Jesus, pulled from John's vision of Jesus in chapter 1.

3) Each letter (almost) has a section of "commendation", what they are doing good.

4) Each letter (almost) has a "rebuke", what they're doing wrong.

5) Each letter has an "exhortation", the solution to their sin.

6) Each letter has a suggestion to "listen", or, "for those with ears to hear ..."

7) Each letter has a "promise", a specific reward for those in the church who "overcome" the problems.

How do we take these letters?

1) They are written to real, historical churches that existed in AD 95.

2) As a whole

Because there are seven letters, the number of "completion", the letters are applicable to the "complete" church. In a sense, there are the same seven churches in existence today, just as their have been throughout history.

3) Individually

Each letter applies to each individual church today. Jesus says in each letter: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; - and in this sense, each letter also applies to each of us, as individuals.

4) Prophetically

The flow of the church through history is amazingly parallel to the flow of issues from church to church.

The church of Ephesus was a picture of the church during the time of the apostles, through John's death, around A.D. 100.

The church at Smyrna was the period of persecution from John's death until the time of Constantine, around A.D.300

:12-17 Letter to Pergamos

:12 to the angel

Again, two possibilities:

It could refer to an angelic being who was considered "in charge" of the church in the realm of the spirit.

It could also refer to the pastor of the church, since the term "angel" in the Greek is also applied to humans, such as John the Baptist.

Mt 11:10 For this is [he], of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. (AV) (also Luke 7:24, 9:25 among others)

:12 of the church in Pergamos

Pergamos (modern Bergama), the capital city of the province of Asia.

It was at Pergamos that parchment was first used as a writing material and here that the Attalid kings built a magnificent library of 200,000 volumes.

In a north-easterly direction from Smyrna in the Caicus Valley, some fifty-five miles away, in  Mysia, on a lofty hill, a great political and religious centre.

The Kingdom of Pergamum became a Roman province B.C. 130.

Pliny termed it the most illustrious city of Asia.

It was a rival of Ephesus in the temples to Zeus, Athena, Dionysos, in the great grove Nicephorium (the glory of the city).

Zeus was said to have been born there.

Pergamum was the first city in Asia (A.D. 29) with a temple for the worship of Augustus (Octavius Caesar).

Asklepios - recognized as a god, the god of Pergamos, son of Apollos, called Asklepios the Savior,

Originally represented by the Anatolians as a serpent, later by Greeks as holding Hermes staff, the caduseus, with a two headed snake.

Thousands of harmless snakes inhabited the area around the temple. From the ends of the empire, people came to seek healing in this temple.

Asklepium - health institution before Hypocrates.

Sleep was induced by drugs or hypnosis.

Patients would dream, interpretations

Bathing, whispered consultation, plays, music

:12 These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;

Again, part of the characteristics of each letter is a description of Jesus that's pulled from what John saw in chapter 1:

(Rev 1:16 KJV) And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

:13 I know thy works

We now get into the commendation of Jesus towards this church.

Keep in mind, that though there are definitely some problems going on in this church, Jesus does have some good things to say about them.

:13 and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is:


Jesus knows where you live.

That's nice to know!

Ryrie: a reference to Pergamos's worship either of the Roman emperor or of Zeus at his altar on the local acropolis (or both).

Some see it as the worship of Asklepios.

Satan, as other demon powers, is a localized spirit.

It seems that demons have rule of specific places, and perhaps this is talking about Satan's throne being in Pergamos at this time in history.

:13 and thou holdest fast my name

holdest fast - krateo - to have power, be powerful; to hold, to hold fast, i.e. not discard or let go

This church refused to say Kurios Kaisar (Caesar is Lord) but continued to say Kurios Iêsous (#1Co 12:3). They stood true against the emperor-worship.

:13 even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

Nothing is really known of this early martyr in Pergamum before the writing of the Apocalypse.

One legend is that he was burnt to death in a brazen bull. Other martyrs followed him at Pergamum (Agathonice, Attalus, Carpus, Polybus).

my faithful martyr - or, "my faithful witness"

The Greek word here is "martus", the basis of our word "martyr".

It wasn't until the 3rd century, that "martus" became synonymous with a person who died for what he believed.

It simply originally meant "witness".

But these early "witnesses" ended up giving their life for the sake of the testimony they gave.

This is the Lord's commendation for Pergamos:

They didn't deny the Lord, even though they lived near Satan's throne!

Even though they faced great persecution.

:14 But I have a few things against thee,

a few things - oligos - little, small, few


1. Don't exaggerate the problem.

As we've talked about, Pergamos and Thyatira seem to amazingly parallel the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.

And as many problems as we see within those churches, Jesus says that there's just a few problems.

In relationships,

One of the biggest "fouls" that we commit in arguing is to exaggerate the problem.

"You never say anything nice to me"

"You never buy the right thing"

"You always forget our anniversary"

Though we may blow it a lot with each other, it's rarely true that we "always" or "never" do certain things.

Yet when we state that as fact, it makes the other person want to argue back and defend themselves.

2. Even little things need to be dealt with.

Even though Jesus calls them a "little" problem, He still clearly wants something done about it.

Sometimes we use excuses in our lives like, "Well, it's only a little problem."

It may be little, but it still needs to be dealt with.

Little problems lead to bigger problems.

It's just little flies that make the perfume stink.

(Eccl 10:1 KJV) Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.

It's the little foxes that spoil the vine.

(Song 2:15 KJV) Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

It's a little leaven that leavens the whole lump.

(1 Cor 5:6 KJV) Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

Jesus doesn't ignore the "little" problems.

Warning: I'm a little concerned that some of you who love to find little things to pick at don't feel like I'm giving you license to criticize everybody and everything.

But, sometimes, some of us like to pretend that certain problem don't exist.

And we feel that maybe somebody else would be better off dealing with the situation.

Yet the Bible says:

A true friend is even willing to hurt you if necessary

(Prov 27:6 KJV) Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Maturity comes from hearing the truth

(Eph 4:15 KJV) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

It's only when we're honest with each other, when we say it in love, that we're able to grow up, whether as a church, or as individuals.

:14 the doctrine of Balaam,

Balaam is an interesting character in the Old Testament.

He appears during the time when Israel was coming out of Egypt, and just about to enter into the promised land, by crossing through the land of Moab, getting ready to cross the Jordan river near Jericho.

At that time, the king of the Moabites, Balak, was panicking because of this huge mass of people swarming through his land.

So he got out the Yellow Pages (was it under "prophet" or "profit") and looked to hire someone who could put a walloping curse on the Israelites, so they would go away.

He hired a man named Balaam, and promised to pay him big bucks if he would put a good curse on Israel.

He took Balaam up to a high hill to see the swarm of Israelites, and Balaam began to conjure up a good curse, but instead out came things like:

(Num 23:8-10 KJV) How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied? {9} For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. {10} Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!

I wonder if he ended each prophecy by grabbing his mouth and saying, "Oops!"

Somehow, Balaam was never able to utter a curse, but only blessings on Israel.

At first, it seems that Balaam left, unable to fulfill his part of the bargain.

But the chapter after he leaves, tremendous trouble falls on Israel.

It seems that these young, good looking Moabite women started visiting the Israelite men, and started leading them away from God with sexual immorality and sacrificing to the Moabite gods.

And God's judgment falls on Israel, with 24,000 dying in a plague before the problem gets dealt with.

A few chapters later, when the Israelites begin to conquer the Midianites and the Moabites, we read:

Num 31:15-16 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? 16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. (AV)

What was the "doctrine of Balaam"?

It was a mixing of pagan practices with true worship.

The Israeli men began to break God's commands by sexual immorality and getting involved with the Moabite gods.

In the early church, there were those who felt that since they weren't under the law, then they could live any way they pleased.

In the Corinthian church, they were rather proud of the fact that they were so tolerant with a man who was sleeping with his step-mom (1Cor.5).

Paul wrote:

Ro 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. (AV)

Practical application:

This "doctrine of Balaam" is effectually, any teaching that causes a Christian to compromise in God's standard for them.

It's teaching people that things that God forbids are okay.

(1 Cor 6:9-12 NASB) Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, {10} nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. {11} And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. {12} All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.

I'm concerned about the churches that are teaching that it's not a sin to commit homosexual acts.

I'm concerned about churches that would promote couples living together before getting married.

I'm concerned about churches that would promote a woman's right to choose over a baby's right to live.

The historical interpretation:

Flavius Valerius Constantinus was born in the Roman province of Moesia (later Serbia) about AD 280.

His father, Constantius, was a member of an important Roman family, and was made caesar of Gaul by emperor Dicletian in 293.

When his father died, the army made Constantine caesar, and in 312, he invaded Italy and challenged Maxentius, the emperor of Rome.

His father had prospered when he prayed to the "god" of the Christians, so Constantine decided to do the same thing as he faced Maxentius.

It is said that on the next day he saw a sign in the sky, a cross with the words "in hoc signa vensis" ("in this sign thou shalt conquer")

Maxentius came out of the city with his army and met Constantine at the Milvian Bridge.

Constantine swept the enemy into the Tiber River, and Maxentius was drowned. Constantine then entered Rome as sole master of the Western half of the empire.

Constantine then declared his conversion to Christianity, and in 313 he issued the Edict of Milan, which gave the Christians the right to practice their religion openly.

He assumed headship of the church and repealed the persecution acts of Diocletian.

He didn't command people to become Christians, but it became the popular thing to do, especially as he began to promote Christians to high state office.

Eventually he moved the center of Christianity from Rome to Constantinople, his new capitol of the Roman empire.

Later, when the church split into east/west, it was the Greek Orthodox church that stayed centered in Contantinople (modern Istanbul).

Heathenism became Christianized.

Pagan temples became Christian churches.

Pagan festivals became Christian holidays.

Pagan priests slipped into office as Christian priests.

Most of the changes seemed to be through name only, not true changes.

It's these changes that were brought to the church, the mixing of pagan rituals, changing them to "Christianize" them, that is seen as this church of Pergamos.

The name Pergamos means "married"

Historically, it was when the church began to be married to the pagan world.

:14 to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

This was Balaam's doctrine, causing the Israelites to stumble.

It was also a specific problem in the early church, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians.

(1 Cor 8:1 NASB) Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.

(1 Cor 8:13 NASB) Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.

:15 the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.

We mentioned this back in Rev.2:6, as the Ephesians had apparently dealt appropriately with the Nicolaitanes.

We know nothing from history, but can only draw implications from their name.

Their name is based on two words - "nikao" and "laos" or "to conquer over" and "the people".

It has been suggested that this group may have held to the idea of a priesthood over the laity.

The idea of an "elite" group that calls the shots, and controls the goings on in the church.

Peter wrote to the elders:

(1 Pet 5:3 KJV) Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

:16 Repent;

It means "turn around".

Real simple, huh?


Just make the change.

I think sometimes we can talk an issue to death.

I think that sometimes we spend a little too much time trying to figure out why we did this or that, when we should be busy changing things.

Sometimes I hear us tell each other, "Well I just can't change, I can't help myself".

You have no problem helping yourself to breakfast in the morning, do you?

You have no problem going to work in the morning, even when you don't feel good, do you?

There's a lot more we can do that we don't give ourselves credit for.

The real problem is that we just don't WANT to change.

:16 or else I will come unto thee quickly,

In other words, don't drag your feet on this one.

:16 and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

The Word of God.

The word we typically use for the sword of the Word is "machaira", a short sword, meant for close combat, only good if you're trained with it, and is the word used in:

(Heb 4:12 KJV) For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

(Eph 6:17 KJV) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

But here the word is "rhomphaia" which is the large sword, the kind you have to carry over your shoulder.

If you don't repent, Jesus is bringing the "BIG PADDLE".

In this sense, it may not be talking just about God's Word, but the idea of judgment from the Lord, as He chastens His church.

He'll say to the Laodiceans:

(Rev 3:19 KJV) As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;

Even though we might look at certain churches, this actually can apply to all of us.

Be careful about compromise.

Be sure you learn your worship from God's Word.

:17 To him that overcometh

In every church, there are overcomers.

These next few things are kind of difficult to define.

:17 will I give to eat of the hidden manna,

Israel was fed in the wilderness by the manna.

It's often seen as a symbol of God's Word.

Jesus called Himself the "bread of life".

I wonder:

Jesus said:

Joh 4:32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. (AV)

Could it be that kind of spiritual feeding that no one else really knows about, that comes from obeying the Lord?

:17 and will give him a white stone,


1) Stone of acquittal, given by a judge.

the idea of acceptance.

2) A ticket to a feast.

:17 in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

A new nature.

Intimacy between the Lord and us.