Revelation 2:12-17

Sunday Morning Bible Study

August 14, 2011


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision

John the apostle has been exiled to the island of Patmos where he is given a “Revelation” by Jesus Christ Himself.

John sees a vision of Jesus walking among lampstands. We’ve seen this as a picture of Jesus acting as a priest, and every day the priests would go into the Holy Place to clean, refill, and relight the lamps in the Temple.

The churches are the lamps. The cleaning and refilling of the lamps are what is taking place as Jesus writes seven letters to seven churches.

Do any of you remember the old Sunday School song, “This Little Light of Mine”? We are the lights of the world. Jesus wants to be sure that our lights are shining brightly in this dark world.

2:12-17 Pergamos

:12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:

:12 PergamosPergamos – “height” or “married”

Play “Map to Pergamos” video.

There is several reasons why the letters are in the order they are. One of them is that they simply follow the route that a messenger might take delivering the letters one after the other.

Pergamos is located in modern Turkey, or “Asia Minor”.  We’ve already looked at the cities of Ephesus and Smyrna. Pergamos is about 50 miles from Smyrna.

The ruins of Pergamos are located just outside the modern city of Bergama, population 100,000.

In the days of John the apostle, Pergamos was actually the main Roman seat of government for Asia Minor.

It had several prominent pagan temples. In John’s day it had the world’s second largest library after Alexandria. The library at Pergamos held 200,000 titles.

:12 the sharp two-edged sword

Jesus is the one with the Word of God.

The story goes that a Christian farmer lost his Bible out in the field. A few days later he went to answer a noise at his door. Standing there was a cow, with his Bible in its mouth! The farmer raised his eyes to heaven and thanked God for this miracle. “Not really,” said the cow. “Your name was written inside.” (the Bible is God’s Word)

sharpoxus – sharp; swift, quick

two-edgeddistomos (“double” + “mouth”) – having a double mouth as a river; used of the edge of the sword and of other weapons, so has the meaning of two-edged

swordrhomphaia – a large sword; properly a long Thracian javelin, also a kind of long sword wont to be worn on the right shoulder

In John’s vision of Jesus in chapter one, we saw that this sword was coming out of Jesus’ mouth (Rev. 1:16)

 (Re 1:16 NKJV) …out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword…
This “sword” is a symbolic representation of the Word of God. The Word of God is what comes out of Jesus’ mouth.

The writer of Hebrews says:

(Heb 4:12 NKJV) For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
We may not always be able to discern what people’s real motives or thoughts are all about. We may not be able to figure out our own motives sometimes.
God’s Word “cuts” to the point. It helps us understand the confusion that’s often in our own hearts.
The church of Pergamos has some pretty good things going for it, but if you’re not careful, you might tend to overlook their problems because you are impressed by their better qualities.
God’s Word doesn’t miss a thing.

:13 “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

Here’s the commendation. This is what they are doing right.

:13 I know your works

This is a church that does good things.

:13 where … wherepou … hopou two slightly different words used here, the second “where” points back to the first “where”

These two “locations” are related. The place they live is where Satan’s throne is.

:13 you dwell … Satan dwellskatoikeo – to dwell, settle; inhabit

:13 Satan’s throne

In Rev. 2:9, Jesus called the Jewish synagogue of Smyrna a “synagogue of Satan”.

The Jews in Smyrna would work with those who worshipped Caesar to bring great persecution in Smyrna.

There are several possibilities as to what this might refer to:

Pergamos was famous for was the Temple of Asclepius, the god of healing. Asclepius’ symbol was a staff with a serpent wrapped around it.
Even though the people of Smyrna invented the worship of Rome, it was in Pergamos where the first temple was built for the worship of Caesar.
One of the biggest temples in Pergamos contained a “great altar”. This was thought to have been dedicated to the god Zeus.

No matter how you take it, there was serious evil present in Pergamos.

I just finished reading the book “Unbroken”, a biography about Olympic runner and WWII veteran Louie Zamperini.  Louie’s plane went down over the Pacific Ocean where he and his pilot survived 31 days with practically nothing to eat or drink.  When they made it to land they were captured by the Japanese and went through two years of the most horrendous treatment you could imagine.  Man is capable of the most horrendous evil.  Louie will be sharing at Harvest tonight…

:13 you hold fastkrateo – to have power, to hold; i.e. not discard or let go

There’s something important that they are strongly clinging to – their faith in Jesus.

:13 denyarneomai – to deny; not to accept, to reject

:13 faith … faithful – both Greek words are from the same root.

They did not deny their “faith”. Antipas was “faithful”.

:13 AntipasAntipas – “like the father”

Tradition tells us he was the first “bishop” (pastor) of Pergamos. One legend said that he was burned to death in a bronze bull a few years before John’s Revelation.

This apparently happened just a few years (92 A.D.) before the writing of Revelation.

:13 martyrmartus (“martyr”) – a witness

The word simply means a “witness”.

Jesus had told the disciples that after they were filled with the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem, that they would be His “witnesses” (same word).

(Ac 1:8 NKJV) But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

By the third century A.D., there had been so many “witnesses” who had died for their faith that this word took on the meaning of our English “martyr”.

Antipas was one of these faithful “witnesses”.


Faithful in the fire

This was a church that held on to their faith, even when it got tough.
This was a church characterized by a man who gave up his life for Jesus, a “faithful” man – Antipas.
They where faithful despite living in a place where “Satan’s throne” was, where Satan was at home in.
When Jesus calls Antipas a “faithful martyr” or better, a “faithful witness”, He is giving Antipas a title that has already been used by John about Jesus:
(Re 1:5 NKJV) and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness

Antipas would not be the first one to have been faithful to God even to death. Jesus had paved the way for Antipas to follow.

Today there are cases of Christians who are “faithful martyrs”

There is a case in Iran where a 32 year old pastor is facing a death sentence if he doesn’t deny his Christian faith and embrace Islam.

The indictment against Joseph Nadarkhani, a father and evangelical pastor who became a Christian at age 19, accused him of organizing evangelistic meetings, sharing his faith, inviting others to convert, running a house church, and “denying Islamic values,” CNSNews reports.

Nadarkhani’s lawyer has also been sent to prison for nine years in jail and a ten year ban on practicing law for “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime.”

Peter wrote,
(1 Pe 3:14–17 NKJV) —14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
He also writes,
(1 Pe 4:12–16 NKJV) —12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
It’s one thing to experience trouble simply because you’re acting like a jerk.

But if you are experiencing difficulty because of your witness for Jesus, then you are in good company.

God sees your difficulties. He cares about what you are going through. He will carry you to the end. This was Pergamos.

:14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.

This is the rebuke

:14 a few thingsoligos – little, small, few

:14 holdkrateo – to have power, to hold; i.e. not discard or let go

, be powerful; to get possession of; to hold; to hold fast, i.e. not discard or let go

This is the same word translated “hold fast” in verse 13. They “held fast” Jesus’ name – that was good.

They also had some who “held fast” to the “doctrine of Balaam”

Some things are good to “hold onto”. Other things you need to learn to let go.

:14 doctrinedidache – teaching; that which is taught

Jesus is referring to the story from Numbers 22-24.

Balak had hired the prophet Balaam to bring a curse on the invading Israelites.  Every time that Balaam tried to utter a curse, he ended up blessing Israel instead.

Then the tables get turned in Numbers 25.
(Nu 25:1–3 NKJV)1 Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. 2 They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel.
The King of Moab had come up with this ingenious idea of how to get God to turn against the Israelites. He sent these cute young Moabite gals into the Israelite camp and they encouraged the Israelite men into worshipping their Moabite gods through sex. In Numbers 31 that we find that Balaam had taught Balak to do this.

(Nu 31:16 NKJV) —16 Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.

Balaam’s “doctrine” was how he taught Balak to entice the Israelites to compromise their faith.

There is a parallel between the Israelites and the people of Pergamos.

Balak couldn’t defeat them by outright going to war. He beat them by “joining” them, by causing them to compromise.
The danger for Pergamos was not the difficulty of persecution, but the deception of compromise. There were two areas of compromise:

:14 BalaamBalaam – “perhaps”

:14 who taughtdidasko – to teach

:14 BalakBalak – “a devastator or spoiler”

:14 to putballo – to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls; to put into, insert

:14 a stumbling blockskandalon (“scandal”) – the movable stick or trigger of a trap; any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall

The “doctrine of Balaam” has to do with causing people to stumble.

Jesus points out two areas where people where being caused to stumble in Pergamos. These were things that the church was allowing, areas where the church was compromising.

:14 the childrenhuios – a son

:14 to eatphago – to eat

:14 things sacrificed to idols

eidolothuton (“idol” + “to sacrifice”) – sacrificed to idols, the flesh left over from the heathen sacrifices


Abusing the gray areas

In ancient days, meat was not an easy thing to come by. You didn’t just go down to your local Albertson’s and pick up a pound of ground beef.
The cheapest meat was the meat available at the market located behind the local pagan temple. The pagan priests would sacrifice your neighbor’s cow to Aphrodite, but only part of the cow would be burned on the altar. The rest was sold in the market behind the temple.
Ancient Christians struggled with whether or not to eat this meat that had been sacrificed of dedicated to these pagan gods.
For some, they didn’t see a problem. Paul wrote that there was really nothing behind these pagan gods, so why not eat cheap meat? (1Cor. 8:4).
Yet there were some believers who had come out of these pagan cults. They couldn’t get away from the idea that eating this meat honored the pagan god (1Cor. 8:7). When they ate this meat, they felt defiled. And if they watched the pastor eating an Aphrodite burger, they were horrified.
This issue became one of the great “gray areas” of the early church.
On one hand there was really nothing wrong with it.
On the other hand, it might cause someone to stumble.
Do we have “gray” areas today? I think we do. Some of you may argue with me over some of these:
Drinking alcohol – it is actually permitted by Scripture. It’s getting drunk that is forbidden. But some struggle with alcohol.
Watching TV – a dangerous subject. Quite a few folks don’t even want a TV in their house. Others are watching things that are not very healthy.
Paul gave some guidelines about these “gray” areas”
(Ro 14:14–15 NKJV) —14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.

Be careful about doing something that may cause another to stumble. It is not a “loving” thing to do.

:14 to commit sexual immoralityporneuo – sex outside of marriage



Porneuo” is a very broad word and covers any kind of sex outside of marriage. This is NOT a gray area.  This is clear.  It is also a compromise.
The world teaches that sex is okay as long as you both consent.
Just about every show on TV gives you the impression that if you date someone, you will have sex with that person.
The common thinking of the world is that before you get married, you have to “try it out” first by moving in and living together, including sex.
The world teaches that one of the most important types of compatibility is “sexual compatibility”, and so you better try it out before you end up marrying someone and finding you’re sexually incompatible.
The Bible teaches something far different.
The Bible teaches that you wait for sex until after you get married.
This doesn’t mean that God thinks that sex is bad – God is the one who invented sex.
Sex was designed by God to be part of a relationship where there is a lifelong commitment.
The act of sex carries a very strong emotional component. The act of sex brings a strong sense of attachment to the other person.

It is meant to be shared by two people who trust each other, not by two people who one moment are together, and the next moment one betrays or walks out on the other.

It’s not uncommon for one person to tell the other person, “You need to have sex with me because this is how I know you love me”.

Guys have told this to girls since the dawn of time.

Some girls think that having sex means that they are loved by the guy.

When a breakup occurs, it hurts more when you’ve slept together because of the deeper attachment you’ve developed.

If you are not willing to say “I am committed to you for the rest of my life”, and back up that statement by actually getting married, then you are not ready for sex.

Being engaged is not enough. It’s too easy to back out of an engagement. It’s getting married that changes things.

I know that it is very likely that within church there are going to be some of you who are not living in a good place in regards to sex.
God tells us that it’s time to change this.
If you decide to stop having sex with your partner, and they aren’t happy about it, you have a choice to make. You either get married (and I’m not sure this is the first best choice), or you realize that this is not the right person for you and you follow through.
By the way, we do perform weddings.

:15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

:15 Thushouto – in this manner, thus, so

The doctrine of the Nicolaitans is not an additional thing that Jesus has a problem with, the doctrine of the Nicolaitans was the same as the “doctrine of Balaam”. It’s the teaching of compromise in the church.

:15 holdkrateo – to have power, be powerful; to get possession of; to hold; to hold fast, i.e. not discard or let go

Same word used in vs. 13 (“hold fast”) and vs. 14 (“hold”)

:15 NicolaitansNikolaites – “conquer” + “people”

The only thing we know about the Nicolaitans is what we have here in the book of Revelation.

We’ve already heard Jesus talk about this when He wrote to the Ephesian church:
(Re 2:6 NKJV) But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
This is the only other passage that mentions this group.

Some have suggested that these were followers of somebody named Nikolas (like St. Nicolas?)

Some have suggested that there is a hint here of a ruling priesthood over the people.

The name itself suggests that there might have been some sort of “lording” it over by the leaders of the church.
Some have suggested that this was the beginnings of what we see in churches like the Catholic Church, where the common people are dependent upon the priests to be able to come to God.
The Bible teaches that we are ALL priests.

The one thing we do know is that they taught the people to compromise their faith.

And Jesus “hates” what they do.

These issues of eating things sacrificed to idols and immorality were issues that had already been dealt with by the church leadership.

In Acts 15, the church wrestled with what to do with the increasing number of Gentiles that were coming to trust in Jesus. Should they become circumcised and become Jews before they could be saved? Or was trusting in Jesus enough to be saved?
The church leaders realized that salvation came by faith, not by works. They did not require the Gentile believers to be circumcised, but they did make a few rules:

(Ac 15:28–29 NKJV) —28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.

These Nicolaitans were not following what the apostles had told the churches some forty years earlier.

:16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.

:16 Repentmetanoeo – to change one’s mind, a change of choice, not emotions


Turn around

Do you really want to find yourself fighting with Jesus?  Who wins?
Are you living a life of compromise? It’s time to turn around.

:17 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” ’

:17 To him who overcomes

Jesus has a promised reward for those who pay attention and obeys.

These rewards are kind of mysterious. I don’t have an exact idea of what they mean, but I can give you some ideas.

:17 some of the hidden manna to eat

This may be speaking of Jesus, the “true bread from heaven (Jn. 6:33).

Perhaps we get more of Him when we “overcome”.

The “manna” was that miracle food that the Israelites ate when they were wandering in the wilderness for forty years.

Jesus said He was the “true” bread from heaven (Jn. 6:33)
(Jn 6:33 NKJV) For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Two million people out in the middle of a desert. What do you feed them?
Every morning they would go out from the camp and there would be this “stuff” on the rocks. When they first saw it, they called it “manna”, meaning “what is it?”. We’re told that it tasted like wafers mixed with honey. The Psalmist (Ps. 78:24) called it the “bread of heaven”.
Jesus was talking about this “manna” and said that it was just one more thing that was pointing to Him – the “true” bread from heaven:
Perhaps Jesus is talking about Himself as the “hidden manna”.

Perhaps it speaks of the food that comes from obedience.

When the disciples brought back lunch to Jesus one day, He didn’t seem to be hungry. He said He had food they didn’t know about (hidden) …

Another idea comes from the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. The disciples had gone into the city to get some lunch while Jesus stayed behind and ended up talking to this Samaritan gal. When the disciples came back from MacDonalds they asked why He didn’t dive into the burgers …

(Jn 4:34 NKJV) Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.
We are “fed” (satisfied) when we repent and do the right things.

The danger of Pergamos is eating the food of compromise, “things sacrificed to idols”. But if we move away from compromise, we are fed by Jesus.

:17 white stone … new name

:17 stonepsephos – a small worn smooth stone, a pebble

It’s hard to see a clear picture of a white stone in the Bible.

Some see this as referring to the priest’s way of getting God’s answers. The suggestion is that a “white stone” meant “yes”, God is giving us His approval.
Some have suggested that it might refer to the “Urim and Thummim” of the high priest’s breastpiece. We aren’t really sure what these things are, but some have suggested that they were a white stone and black stone used to determine whether God was answering “yes” or “no” to the questions that the priest might ask. A white stone might be the “yes” of God.
Others point to the ancient justice systems where judges would vote on the guilt or innocence of a defendant. The white stone meant “not guilty”. The word for “stone” (“pebble”) here is the same word used for these judicial stones.
Another use of these pebbles with names was as tickets to entertainment. Perhaps this might be a picture of getting your ticket to heaven.

The Bible does speak a lot about new names.

Sometimes when a person had an encounter with God, they got a new name.
Jacob (“heel catcher”) became Israel (“governed by God”) (Gen. 32:28)
A person’s name in the Bible often spoke of their nature, who they were.
When a person had an encounter with God, they changed, and sometimes their name changed too.

Abram (“exalted father”) became Abraham (“father of a multitude”) (Gen. 17:5)

The new name is a picture of a new nature.
(2 Co 5:17 NKJV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Even though we don’t know exactly what this all means, it’s meant to be a reward, an incentive. This is good stuff, something we want. It makes life worth it.