Lesson Number 5
THE MESSAGE TO Pergamum
"And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: 'I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith, even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 'But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality. 'Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 'Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.'""" (Revelation 2:12-17, NASB)
As the Head of the church, the Lord Jesus remains involved with His people. The book of the Revelation is a wonderful example of this truth. The churches to whom this book is written had all been exposed to the Gospel of Christ, and were duly instructed in the manner of the Kingdom. They had been in place for several years, and were all noted for some form of religious activity. From the viewpoint of many, there was no need to provide a message for these churches. Such people imagine that the thrust of Divine activity is the evangelization of the lost. The book of Revelation is a contradiction to this distorted view of the Kingdom! The salvation of the lost involves a process that extends from the new birth to the removal of the individual from the natural order.
It is not enough to merely profess identity with the Savior. There is a Divine insistence that the people of God avail themselves of the benefits provided in Christ Jesus. A profession of faith is not enough! There must be spiritual life in order to Divine acceptance. That is why judgment "begins with the house of God" (1 Pet 4:17). This judgment is not to be equated with condemnation. It refers to Divine evaluation, which may result in approval as well as condemnation. For the church in Ephesus, the judgment of Jesus resulted in a stern rebuke. For the church in Smyrna, it resulted in a word of comfort. Now, for the church in Pergamum, another rebuke will be issued.
We must see that this is the manner of King Jesus--to evaluate the churches. Before He unveils the determination of the heavens to them, He will assess them. Our hearts must not miss this perspective. When, from His regal throne, Jesus determined to give a final message to the sons of men, He addressed it to "the churches." He then admonishes every person who has been renewed (he with "ears to hear") to hear what the Spirit is saying "to the churches."
These considerations must ever be kept before us as we review this book. Our approach must not be a novel one, characterized by fleshly curiosity. This is a message to the churches, designed to alert them to Divine assessment, and the absolute requirement for being pleasing in the sight of the Lord. If we lose sight of this, our perceptions of the Revelation will degenerate to that of mere men. In such a case, all value will be lost, and no spiritual gain will be realized.
All of heaven is involved in the giving of the message: God, Jesus, the Spirit, and an angel. Now, every one with a spiritual capacity to discern the voice of the Lord, is to hear what is being said. That means we are being confronted with a relevant and pertinent message--one that is not to be ignored. Man lives "by every word of God" (Luke 4:4), including the book of the Revelation of Jesus. The fact that so many believers ignore this book, thinking it to be beyond them, indicates a spiritual deficiency that must be addressed and resolved.
WHO IS SPEAKING
"And to the angel of the church in Pergamum (Pergamos, KJV) write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this." The KJV uses the word "Pergamos," which is a transliteration of the Greek term translating the Greek letters into English letters, rather that translating the word. This is the same approach taken in using the word "baptize" (baptidzo).
The city of Pergamum was a significant and highly regarded one. It was a political and cultural center, noted for its beauty and scholarship. Jesus, however, makes no reference to the political, educational, or social structure of the city. Nor, indeed, does He send a message to its political officials, or endeavor to correct its decadent morals. He selects "the church in Pergamum" as the target of His message. Those who bear the name of Jesus must catch the significance of the church, to which they belong. It is not a mere institution, or a secondary consideration to some preconceived work of greater prominence. Because Jesus "loved the church and gave Himself for it" (Eph 5:25), He first addresses it, striving to bring it into accord with Divine purpose.
Jesus again addresses the church in one of His revealed capacities: as "The One who has the sharp two-edged sword." Earlier, when John saw the glorified Christ, he said "out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword" (Rev 1:16). The Lord Jesus discloses and corrects conditions with His Word. It is what comes out of His mouth that makes the difference. He does not say, The One Who has wrought great miracles says this although He did, indeed, work magnificent and revealing miracles. But when He sought to correct or encourage a church, He did not work a miracle, but speak a word. The sword comes out of His mouth!
A deficient church does not need Jesus to do something for them as much as they need to HEAR what He has to say! Also, the Lord does not need a church to do something for Him as much as He needs one whose ear is tuned to the heavenly pitch, where a love for the truth is found.
The Word of the King will cut to the heart of the matter. Both diagnosis and remedy are found in His Word in what He has to say to the churches. One might suppose that since the rest of the Bible had already been written, the study of the Scripture would be sufficient. What further need for Jesus to speak? It must ever be remembered that salvation involves being "joined to the Lord" (1 Cor 6:17), not merely a book. Let none suppose for a moment that the Scriptures may be neglected with impunity. That is not at all the case. It is only, however, as that Word is related to the Lord Jesus in our perception that it obtains power for the individual.
Do not forget it! What Jesus accomplishes is by means of His Word. That is how He created the worlds (Gen 1:3,6,14). It is the means through which all of nature is held together in dependable precision (Heb 1:3). And, that is how He nurtures and leads His people. Through His word the Gospel is brought to the alienated, and that is how our minds are brought into accord with our God. As it is written, "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb 4:12, NASB).
Jesus not only sustains the entire creation with "the word of His power" (Heb 1:3), He deals with His churches by means of His word. He does not correct them by psychoanalysis. He does not comfort them by means of physical ease and social tranquility. The sword that fights for us or is against us proceeds "out of His mouth!" It is no wonder this picture is placed so vividly before the church in Pergamum
That same "sword" is also "the sword of the Spirit" (Eph 6:17). Just as Jesus speaks the word to the churches, the Holy Spirit brings it home to the heart, convicting or strengthening. It proceeds from the mouth of the exalted Christ as to its source. It is utilized by the Spirit as regards its effectiveness. The church in Pergamum is confronting Deity!
The descriptive phrase "two edged sword" refers to the effectiveness of Christ's Word. Of His words Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). This is a declaration of the ability of Christ's words to quicken the soul, making it sensitive to both God and His will. Christ's words are also the appointed vehicle through which illumination and sanctification come.
When, therefore, Jesus identifies Himself as the One from Whose mouth a sharp two-edged sword proceeds, He is alerting the church in Pergamum that He will address their situation. He will deal with them not only to divulge their condition, but to correct it. He will provide the means to recovery. Herein is seen the greatness of our Savior, as well as His desire purify us from all iniquity.
I KNOW THY WORKS and WHERE YOU DWELL
"I know your works . . . " It is arresting to consider that every church is greeted with these words, "I know your works" (2:2,9,13,19; 3:1,8,15). This ought to tear us away from the notion that our works are of no consequence to Jesus! While we are not justified by works, it is the ordinance of God that we are created in Christ Jesus "for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:10). The people of God have been separated from the world for the Lord Himself. In regards to our activity, no posture is acceptable but one in which we are "zealous of good works" (Tit 2:14).
This ordained circumstance is why Jesus first looks at what His churches are doing their "works." We must not allow an institutional mind-set to rob us of this perspective! On the whole, most churches are not recognized for their works. In fact, many of them are self contained, keeping much to themselves. The thought has not occurred to them (at least not with any apparent power) that they have been called into the fellowship of Christ to engage in arduous and God-glorifying activity. Their "works" are to be characterized by the subduement of the flesh and a kingdom initiative that, to some degree, neutralizes the works of darkness.
Where Satan Dwells
"I know . . . where you dwell, where Satan's throne is . . . where Satan dwells." There are places dominated by Satan, where "the works of darkness" are found in apparently unrestrained abundance. Such places are citadels of wickedness, where unusual influence to engage in iniquity is brought to bear upon the soul. Just as there are holy places, associated with Divine activity, so there are wicked places, identified with the work of Satan. I recall many business trips to New York, Los Angeles, and other similar cities, where the power of darkness was especially evident. During my first trip to India, I have vivid memories of the rule of Satan that swept over my soul as we landed in Bombay. This is a very real condition.
Here was an "inner city" church. Christ's assessment of their location is worthy of our consideration: "where Satan's throne is." It was a place where idolatry and immorality prevailed. Jesus tells the church why because Satan's throne was there! It was an area in which the devil could work more freely, and where his influence was more prominent. The "power of darkness" (Lk 22:52; Col 1:13) was in this place in a disproportionate way. The churches in Smyrna was Philadelphia (the only churches of the "seven" that had no fault against them) confronted "synagogues of Satan" (2:9; 3:9). Both of these churches were faithful, neutralizing the power of darkness in their area. The old serpent's throne was not there as it was in Pergamum. In this city, the saints did not confront the "synagogue of Satan," but the "throne of Satan."
Satan Is Behind the Opposition
Pergamum was a center of imperial worship and authority. Here was built the first Asian Temple of the divine Augustus, which for more than forty years was the one center of the Imperial religion for the whole Province. Ramsay tells us, "The authority over the minds of its Asian subjects, possessed by the State, and arrayed against the Church, was mainly concentrated in the Temple." This political situation, however interesting, is not identified in these terms by Jesus. He calls the city "the seat [or throne] of Satan."
There is a principle here that is reflected throughout the book of Revelation. Satan is behind all opposition to God's people! In a vivid description of opposing political power, John is told that Satan is the one animating that influence. "Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority" (Rev 13:1-2).
The spiritual environment in Pergamum was such that Satan could raise up and empower governmental opposition to the church. Here was an environment in which he could work more freely than is ordinary. The persecution leveled against that church was instigated by Satan, though carried out through the government.
A Cultural Seat
Unlike Ephesus and Smyrna, Pergamum was not noted for its trade and commerce. It was a place of culture and refinement. Adorned with cathedrals and dignified by a university-climate, some would have thought this a good place to live. But it was not. The throne of Satan was there! He disseminated his corruption from that place, and pioneered the spread of spiritual blindness, fleshly indulgence, and "science falsely so called."
As Satan's seat, here was a city where culture itself became a deterrent to godliness. The discipline of the mind thus became a means to carnality rather than godliness. The philosophies of men not only contradicted faith in Christ, but was aggressive in its opposition to it.
Where Satan's throne exists, danger is imminent. Those who dwell in such places must be strong in faith, and armed with the whole armor of God. Slovenly spiritual manners will not allow survival in such realms!
There still remain cities where Satan is dominate in an unusual way cities that are Satan's headquarters. Los Angeles, New York, Chicago they are citadels of Satanic influence. It is not unusual for such places to also be cultural centers, with purported educational and scholastic superiority. Nevertheless, like Pergamum, they are the place of Satan's throne.
The awareness of this circumstance should alert the people of God. They are not to trust in what flourishes where Satan's throne is found! Those who seek to authenticate their work for Christ with credentials attained in the realm of Satan's throne do well to rethink their quest. Such a procedure is far more serious than commonly perceived.
Paul was from Tarsus, also an educational and cultural center. It had an outstanding university in which men of renown taught (Antipater, Archedemus, Nestor, Athenodorus surnamed Cordylion, Tiberius, Plutiades and Diogenes, Artemidorus, Diodorus, etc.). Yet, in all of his recounting of the past, not a single reference is made to the cultural climate of Tarsus! He referred to himself as "a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city," and "a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia" (Acts 21:39; 22:3, NIV). He knew that whatever advantages he held in the Kingdom were not owing to Tarsus or its purported culture.
This was also the case with the church at Pergamum. Whatever few advantages they held were certainly not due to the cultural resources in Pergamum. With all of its social advantages and scholarly superiority, Jesus identified it as the city where "Satan's throne" was situated. May the Lord restore this kind of perception in His people. It will protect them from the evil one, and bring to the the blessing of the Lord.
HOLDING FAST CHRIST'S NAME
" . . . you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith . . . " Three other times our Lord uses this expression ("hold fast") in this book. To the church at Thyatira He said, "But that which ye have already hold fast till I come" (2:25). The church in Sardis was told, "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent" (3:3). Jesus also told the church in Philadelphia, "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown" (3:11).
This is a Kingdom manner of life! The Thessalonians were admonished, "Test all things; hold fast what is good" (1 Thess 5:21). Young Timothy was exhorted, "Hold fast the pattern of sound words . . . " (2 Tim 1:13). Our identity with Christ requires that we "hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end" (Heb 3:6). Perceiving that we have a great High Priest Who is passed into the heavens, we are to "hold fast our confession" (Heb 4:14; 10:23). We are, then, speaking to a subject most pertinent to the life of faith.
The church in Pergamum is commended for holding fast to Christ's name. What does this mean? First, it confirms believers are presently in the realm of struggle. Forces of darkness continually try to take from us what Christ has given to us. They make every effort to move us beyond the boundary of confidence and assurance. They cannot do this by force, so they employ delusion, or "cunning craftiness." Holding fast relates to the believer's effort to keep what has been received, and maintain an identity with the Lord Jesus Christ.
This aggressive term postulates intense opposition and a determination to take hold and keep hold. From the word krateij, this term has a basic meaning. of being strong or possessing power; (1) take hold of forcibly, seize, grasp; (2) take into custody, seize, arrest; (3) take control of, hold fast; (4) hold back, restrain from, hinder, prevent; (5) of following a doctrine, creedal confession, or course of life hold fast to, keep hold of, continue firmly in ; of causing a state to continue retain, keep. Jesus vividly described this Kingdom manner in these words. "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force" (Matt 11:12). More literally, the kingdom of heaven is "gotten by force."
The church in Pergamum had been aggressive to keep the Name of Jesus. They maintained a tenacious grasp on it even though influences were brought to bear upon them to loosen their grip. But what does it mean to hold fast the Name of Christ? Even when they were subjected to peril, they refused to abandon their allegiance to Christ. It is one thing to claim to be a Christian when it is not vigorously opposed by those around you, and it does not thrust you into danger. It is quite another thing to keep your profession when it is dangerous to do so. In the very citadel of Satanic power, they insisted on being identified with the Lord Jesus Christ!
The faithful in Pergamum did not DENY the Son of God, even when pushed to do so. Remember, Jesus said, "But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Matt 10:33, NKJV). To hold fast the name of Christ is NOT to be ashamed of Him (Luke 9:26) even when faced with scoffing, persecution, or even death.
Did Not Deny My Faith
Jesus also commends this church for NOT denying His faith. Here is an concept we would do well to incorporate into our thinking denying Christ's faith. To "deny" is to contradict, i.e. disavow, reject, abnegate:--deny, refuse. Scripture speaks of those who deny the power of godliness (2 Tim 3:5) and the Lord (2 Pet 2:1; Jude 4). With great solemnity the Spirit testifies, "If we deny Him, He also will deny us" (2 Tim 2:12). It is said of those living in glaring contradiction of the new creation, "but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work" (Tit 1:16).
Like "holding fast," denying is not casual, but aggressive. It requires the assertiveness of the human will. It took considerable effort and determination for Peter to deny Jesus three times in one night (Matt 26:69-75). Conversely, it required a significant exertion of the will for the church in Pergamum to "not deny My faith." One might suppose Jesus would have said they had not denied His name, or His Person. But He says they have not denied "MY FAITH." Paul wrote of the person who refused to provide for his house as one who had "denied THE faith" (1 Tim 5:8). But Jesus says "MY faith." The KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, RSV, Darby's, and Young's, translate the expression "MY faith." The NIV and NRSV versions translate it "your faith in me." What is the difference between the two expressions?
One is objective, and the other subjective. The objective view shows in Whom the faith resides: faith IN Me. The subjective view shows the experiential aspect of faith: received from Christ, i.e., "My faith." In the latter case the faith was Christ's by origin. In this case, the church in Pergamum did not repudiate or abandon the faith given to them by Christ. In the former case, they did not repudiate their faith in Christ, or refuse to trust Him because of oppression.
Both views are correct, thus providing us a full view of the faith. While it is received, or "obtained" (2 Pet 1:1), it evidences itself in personal and conscious reliance upon the Lord's Christ. Jesus commends this congregation for not denying His faith, even when pressed to do so. O, there needs to be a return to this set of values! Those who, under stress, do not deny the faith given to them, retaining their reliance upon Christ Jesus, are to be commended! Such retention is a great accomplishment. That is why Jesus commends it even in those with major deficiencies.
MY FAITHFUL MARTYR
" . . . even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you." The commendation just given to the church in Pergamum was especially meaningful in view of the circumstances. They were living in a time of fierce and bloody opposition. They did not merely argue with philosophers, but encountered those who were "able to kill the body" (Matt 10:28). In the beginning, the church was found "praising God and having favor with all the people" (Acts 2:47). But, alas, those days soon passed. Even in Jerusalem, persecution broke out against believers. It is written, "time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles" (Acts 8:2). Throughout history, the latter condition has been more the norm than the former. So it was in Pergamum. There was blood shed because of the testimony of the saints.
A word concerning the nature of spiritual life is in order at this point. Those who insist on lives of relative ease, and cannot stand the opposition of their peers, will not be able to keep Christ's faith or hold fast to His name. What we have received in Christ Jesus is contrary to the world. The reason many people do not experience much opposition from the world is that the world cannot see any difference in them. It is not threatened by their presence, and thus is quite willing to leave them alone. But it was not so in Pergamum, seat of political power, source of unspeakable beauty, and in possession educational superiority.
A single saint is mentioned and this is the only mention of him in the Bible: Antipas. Even church history ignores this man, as though he were hidden from their view by Divine providence. From an earthly perspective, we do not know why Antipas was martyred or who instigated his death. Jesus provides a different view of the situation a heavenly view. He refers to a specific time in which perseverance was particularly noteworthy: "those days." He identifies the person martyred as "Antipas . . . My faithful martyr." Some of the versions say "Antipas my witness, my faithful one." This good brother held on to his faith at the cost of his life and Jesus saw it all! He was "faithful until death." He was a witness in his death as well as in his life. Jesus put his name in the Bible!
Those who suppose consistent protection from the enemy is guaranteed by a strong faith will have a lot of trouble with Antipas (not to mention Isaiah, James, Stephen, Paul, and Peter). There is a time when God's witnesses "finish their testimony" (Rev 11:7) and "finish their course" (2 Tim 4:7). At that time, we have no revelation about how we will make our exit from "this present evil world" (Gal 1:4). Occasionally, Jesus has revealed to strong brethren particulars about their death. He told Peter, "Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish. This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God." Having revealed this, however, "Jesus said to him, Follow Me" (John 21:18-19). Peter was crucified, church history apprizes us, in fulfillment of this prophecy. Such revelations, however, are exceeding rare. We are not promised the particulars of our death.
Note that Antipas was "killed among" the church in Pergamum. There was an onslaught leveled against this church by the devil himself, and Antipas was "killed" in that initiative. But, here is something of special significance. Jesus does not identify Antipas as one of them, but as His own: "MY faithful martyr!" He was "among" the Pergamum brethren, but he belonged to Jesus! This is a true Kingdom view of the faithful. Spiritual kindred with whom we fellowship are our brethren, and we cherish their presence, but they belong to Christ! This is why the Romans were admonished not to judge one another inconsiderately. "Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand" (Rom 14:4). The relationship one sustains to the Lord of glory is always the dominate one. This is how Jesus views the matter, and it is how we must view it also.
One final note on the martyrdom of Antipas. Jesus does not identify the depraved ruler responsible for the final decree. Nor, indeed, does he mention the reason for the aggression against the church. The credit is traced directly to Satan: "Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells."
This is the second time "where Satan dwells" is mentioned. The first time Jesus says the church dwelt where Satan's throne was. This time, however, He says Satan dwells among them: "who was killed among you, where Satan dwells!" The NIV softens the statement by saying, "Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city--where Satan lives." It is doubtless true that the city of Pergamum itself was a dwelling place for Satan. We will soon find, however, that the adversary had also found a place within the church itself. When a church is located where Satan's throne exists, it should be expected that he will launch an initiative against that church, which is a threat to his kingdom of darkness. Further, he will make every effort to do so from within the church.
A word about the relative anonymity of some saints is in order. There are a number of God's children who are mentioned only one time in God's Word. Antipas is among that number, although more is known of him than of many of the others. I want to list some of them in tribute to their faith, and in anticipation of their exaltation in the world to come. Crescens, Carpus, Andronicus, Junia, Amplias, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, Aristobulus, Herodion, Narcissus, Tryphena and Tryphosa, Persis, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas (Rom 16:7-15; 2 Tim 4:10-13). Antipas stood among this umber, "unknown" in the world, but "well known" where it counts (2 Cor 6:9)! Every seemingly obscure disciple should draw comfort from Antipas. They too are duly noted by Jesus!
I HAVE A FEW THINGS AGAINST YOU!
" . . . But I have a few things against you . . . " The carnal mind will find it difficult to believe a church like Pergamum could have something "against" it. After all, the Lord Jesus Himself had commended them. They had held fast to His Name where Satan's seat, or throne, was positioned. Under great duress, they did not deny His faith, but kept it with commendable zeal. They had even experienced the martyrdom of one of their members, and had chosen to side with the Lord in that martyrdom, rather than be intimidated by it. While it is true that "love will cover a multitude of sins" (1 Pet 4:8), arduous activity will not.
The nature of Christ remains constant, and is unchangeable. This is the true meaning of the expression, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb 13:8). This does not mean Jesus always does the same thing, for He does not. He allowed James to be killed at the threshold of the church (Acts 12:1-2), and permitted his brother John to outlive all of the other Apostles. Also, at the same time Herod killed James, seeing that it pleased the Jews, he determined to kill Peter also, who was miraculously delivered (Acts 12:3- 10). For that matter, although Peter was delivered from prison then, yet in the end, he was martyred while in prison. God's people do well not to be spiritually naive, failing to see that our Lord rules in a discriminating way.
Have you thought of the gravity of the words, "But I have a few things against you . . . " There are people who, under the influence of the evil one, cannot believe Jesus looks critically upon His people. They delight in thinking of Him as never saying anything bad about anyone. But that is only a delusion. Judgment does begin at the house of God (1 Pet 4:17). When the Lord finds things that are contradictory of His nature and impede the truth, He will not overlook them. Such things, if not crucified, have the potential of cutting people off from the Source of life.
The Teaching of Balaam
" . . . you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality." This is a difficult word for those who say doctrine is of no consequence. I have often heard people say, "We do not deal with doctrine, that is the source of too much division." That may sound good to the mind of the flesh, but it is absurd to the spiritual minded.
Here is a church that was allowing things to be taught that Jesus could not tolerate. In this matter, He was "against" them! You cannot get more serious than that!
Note the first thing Jesus had against this church. They had held fast to His name, and had not denied His faith. Yet, they tolerated teachers who caused people to sin! This was not the persuasion of the entire church, only of some within it. These subversive teachers held to "the doctrine of Balaam." Here is one of the mysterious men of Scripture who proved to be a contradicting dichotomy. He lived during the time of Moses, and was a prophet of God. One of the most poignant expressions of the Divine nature was uttered by this strange prophet. Read it and marvel. "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Behold, I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it. He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel. The LORD his God is with him, And the shout of a King is among them. God brings them out of Egypt; He has strength like a wild ox. For there is no sorcery against Jacob, Nor any divination against Israel. It now must be said of Jacob And of Israel, 'Oh, what God has done!' Look, a people rises like a lioness, And lifts itself up like a lion; It shall not lie down until it devours the prey, And drinks the blood of the slain" (Num 23:19-24, NKJV). Yet, he fell under the condemnation of the devil because of a covetous spirit.
Balak, king of the Moabites, saw how God was with the Israelites, and what they had done to the Amorites. He, together with all of Moab, was stricken with fear, and sought the demise of Israel. They determined to seek out a prophet in Israel, and pay him a reward to exercise divination against Israel, bringing a curse upon them. Balaam was selected as the target for the reward. Upon confronting these people, Balaam told Balak he could not curse those God had blessed, and that no divination against Israel could be successful. In a stern word to the servants of Balak, Balaam said, "Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more."
Rather than dismissing the men, Balaam told them, "Now therefore, please, you also stay here tonight, that I may know what more the LORD will say to me." In a test of his faith, God appeared to Balaam that night saying, "If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you; that you shall do." In the morning, Balaam did not wait for the men to call him, but rose, saddled his donkey, and went with the men. Scripture tells us "Then God's anger was aroused because he went." The Lord then sent an angel to obstruct Balaam's way. The well known incident of the donkey talking to Balaam occurred at that time.
After a series of good words, Balaam, desirous of the rewards brought from Balak, succumbed to the wicked one. He told Balak there was no way he could curse those God would not curse. However, he reasoned, if some beautiful women from Moab could entice the men from Israel to commit fornication, and thus lure them into idolatry, God would be against His own people (Num 22-23). The ploy worked, and Israel was judged for their sin.
Peter said Balaam was one "who loved the wages of unrighteousness" (2 Pet 2:15). Jude refers to the false prophets of his time as those who "have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit" (Jude 11). In our text, Jesus says of him, he "who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication."
In this case, fleshly indulgence and the recognition of idols was taught for personal advantage. Like the false prophets of old, these men had nurtured people for destruction by making provision for the fulfillment of the lusts of the flesh. Their doctrine allowed people to maintain theoretical identity with Christ, while doing the things He hates. Their teaching allowed for honor to be given to other gods, eating meat that had been offered to them.
Some at Pergamum might have said they did not agree with what was being taught by these messengers of Satan. But Jesus holds against them their toleration of the condition. It is imperative that the church see this aspect of Christ's nature. The people of God are to view what is taught among them with great sobriety. They are to be able to "try the spirits," determining whether they are of God (1 John 4:1). Note, Jesus does not say this to only the elders or leaders, but to all the believers in Pergamum! This was not a matter to be settled by church politics! The people were apprized that the Lord of glory had something against them! They were allowing things to be taught that angered Him and made the people spiritually destitute.
Earlier in the history of the church, an edict was issued by the Jerusalem leaders concerning both fornication and eating things sacrifice to idols. "But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood . . . That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well" (Acts 15:20,29). In spite of this clear word, teachers arose who actually promoted what was here forbidden within the church! To teach what is wrong, men are required to ignore the truth. Their contradictions are not innocent, but deliberate. Indulgence in immorality and idol worship is never inculpable when found among the people of God. It always requires a denial of the truth.
The Teaching of the Nicolaitans " . . . Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans." There appears to have been a tolerant spirit among these people. Not only were some holding to the doctrine of Balaam, teaching corrupt things for wages, there were some in their number who held to views that were utterly false. For the sophisticated church of our time, one might suppose this was all right. After all, if they hold their doctrine privately, it is of no harm to us. But that is not the case, for Satan works through false doctrine, just as Jesus works through the truth. Whether the false doctrine is entertained privately or taught publically, it still has a leavening influence.
The church in Pergamum is not upbraided for teaching the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, but for having some in their number that had embraced such teaching. If this is how Jesus looks at the churches (and it most assuredly is) it would be interesting to know how He views many contemporary churches that are very familiar to us all.
The truth of the Gospel is abrasive to doctrinal error, and to those who hold to delusions, as "some" did in Pergamum. Even when an aggressive effort is expended to hold fast to the Name of Christ, and not deny His faith, doctrines can be held by some within the church that alienate people from God, anger Jesus, and quench the Spirit. They may not promote them, but Jesus knows they are being held by some in His churches. He does not treat the matter lightly. The existence of those who had embraced Nicolaitan teaching was something Jesus had AGAINST the church at Pergamum.
You will recall that Ephesus was commended for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which things Jesus also "hated" (Rev 2:6). The KJV and NKJV include these words in the message to Pergamum, "Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate." The fact that Jesus hates what some people do and teach is too difficult for the squeamish to receive. However, it is far better to acquiesce with the judgment of the Lord on this matter, than to be rebuked by Him for having some in our number who embrace such permissive teachings.
We do not know a lot about the Nicolaitans. They did promote the indulgence of the flesh, reasoning that the fleshly appetites came from God, and thus could be gratified without fear of Divine reprisal. Briefly stated, their doctrine allowed those who were converted to return to their immoral ways. We live in a time when this should not have a strange sound to us. We have "gay and lesbian" churches throughout the land, a sort of modern representation of the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.
As a matter of principle, when our religion salves our conscience concerning unacceptable behavior, the Lord Jesus is against us. When a church has within its number those who embrace such folly, whether they teach it or not, Jesus has something against that church. Whether aggressively taught or passively embraced, doctrines that do not discourage sin bring the individual under the judgment of Christ.
"Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth." When John the Baptist came preaching, he cried out "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matt 3:2). As soon as Jesus began His public ministry, it is written, "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt 4:17-18). Repentance stands at the threshold of Kingdom experience. Initially, it is turning away from what has alienated us from God, and turning to our Savior. The Athenian philosophers were told that God "now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained" (Acts 17:30-31). In obedience to his calling, Saul of Tarsus declared in Damascus and throughout all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, "that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:20).
Once a person is "in Christ," he is not finished with repentance. This is the means through which recovery from "the snare of the devil" is realized (2 Tim 2:25-26). Repentance is more than simply a change of mind although it surely involves a change of mind. It is an AGGRESSIVE change of commitment and direction. The individual who repents zealously turns from the offensive way to the sanctified One. In repentance, there is an abandonment of one way in order to the embrace of another. The repenting one experiences a hatred for the old way because it has disqualified him for the way of blessing. The "broad way" always leads to "destruction" (Matt 7:13).
Only two of the seven churches to whom this letter is addressed (Smyrna and Philadelphia) had nothing against them. The other five were told that Jesus had something against them, and all of them were told to "repent" (2:5,16,21,22, 3:3,19). In Christ, recovery is both possible and imperative. Salvation makes no provision for backward motion, a lack of progress, or disinterest. When men sin, they must repent. That is the law of the Kingdom!
Satan has deluded many into believing recovery is possible without renouncing what has offended Christ. That is a delusion. Others imagine they can grow without initiative or effort. That also is a distortion. The church that was tolerating those who taught doctrines that not only permitted, but encouraged, sin, were told to "repent." Those holding these views, whether they taught them or not, were to "repent." They were to let go of the offensive thing, turn around, and eagerly embrace the Lord they had offended. This involves thinking differently and abandoning the manner of life rebuked by Christ. In my judgment, we are in need of a wave of repentance in the churches.
Should the church in Pergamum choose to ignore the counsel of the One with the two edged sword proceeding out of His mouth, there will be consequences. Our Lord's admonitions are never mere suggestions. They are to be taken seriously, and acted upon with zeal and determination.
The Lord does not allow a lot of time for the people to consider His admonition. "Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth." The thought of Jesus being your opponent, engaging in an initiative against you, is sobering, to say the least. At all costs this circumstance must be avoided.
Lest we casually dismiss this warning, we should consider what Jesus has done with His word. It is a powerful sword, indeed! The worlds were created by His word (Gen 1:3,6,14). Winds were calmed and seas were stilled by the words coming from Christ's mouth (Mark 4:39). Once He "rebuked" a fever, and it left Peter's afflicted mother-in-law (Luke 4:39). Demons inhabiting a man in a synagogue came out of the man at the command of Jesus (Mark 1:25-26). When soldiers came with Judas to arrest Jesus in the garden, He asked them, "Whom are you seeking?" When they said "Jesus of Nazareth," He simply said "I am He," and "they drew back and fell to the ground" (John 18:4-8).
The point is that when Jesus FIGHTS AGAINST us with His mouth, an inevitable curse will ensue. Those living by faith have Christ's word working for them. He intercedes for them thereby effecting their salvation (Heb 7:25). His words, in such a case, are "spirit and they are life" (John 6:53). But when He FIGHTS AGAINST people with His Word, He opposes them, frustrating their cause, and making Himself their enemy. Candidly, it is dreadful to contemplate such a circumstance! To have Jesus speak and fight against us must be avoided at all cost.
There appears to be an allusion to Balaam, who, in his quest for self gratification, confronted the angel of God, who had a sword (Num 22:23). In fact, in the end, Balaam himself was slain with the sword (Num 31:8; Josh 13:22). Since Pergamum had some who taught the "doctrine of Balaam," they are threatened with the judgment of Balaam. They must take Christ's assessment serious. He has not overlooked their toleration of what He hates. Yet, in His compassion, He first warns them, lest they lose faith altogether and be separated from Him.
THE GLORIOUS INCENTIVE
There is a condition that will become increasingly obvious in the messages to the churches. Jesus provides unusual promises to draw those in unusual sin to Himself. We have a good example of this in our text. Jesus has just threatened to come and fight against this church with the sword proceeding out of His mouth. However, He does not leave the matter with a threat. We do not become "partakers of the Divine nature" through threats, but through promises (2 Pet 1:4). There is a condition to be overcome in Pergamum. After telling them what He will do if they do not "repent," the Lord now provides a glorious incentive for them to overcome the Satanic initiative to which they have been succumbing.
Lest we forget, this message is not confined to the church in Pergamum! Again, Jesus speaks to every individual reading this book. Remember, a blessing has been pronounced upon "he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein" (1:3). There are circumstances in this book that perfectly parallel that of contemporary churches and individuals! We will hear threats that can be taken personally by both congregations and individual personalities. Now we will consider another promise that applied not only to the church in Pergamum, but to all of the churches. It also applies to individuals as well, "He who has an ear." Thank God for the personal and profitable nature of His word!
Do not read this book as something pertaining only to a church and time in the past. The Spirit not only gave this book, He is speaking today through it to everyone with a capacity to discern the Word of the Lord. The promise is not merely to Pergamum, but to "he who overcomes." That brings every believer into the picture. Here is something God wants to give to all of His children!
The Hidden Manna
This speaks of unimaginable privilege, and is to be compared with the dreadful practice of eating things "offered to idols." Whereas that eating brought the judgment of Christ, eating the hidden manna will bring the blessing of God.
The allusion is to the pot of manna that was placed in the ark of the covenant. "And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations" (Ex 16:33). "The ark of the covenant . . . wherein was the golden pot that had manna . . . " (Heb 9:3). This manna was NOT to be eaten. It was HIDDEN from the people. While it was of the same substance as the manna eaten by the Israelites for 40 years, it was not accompanied by the same privilege. Too, it did not stink and breed worms, as manna that was retained in the wilderness beyond the allotted time (Ex 16:20). That golden pot of manna was indicative of the remarkable advantages to be given those living in fellowship with Jesus Christ.
There is spiritual sustenance that is NOT available to those who allow Satanic influence in their presence "hidden manna." There is food for the soul that may only be possessed by walking in the light, living by faith, and walking in the Spirit (1 John 1:7; Rom 1:17; Gal 5:16). The sweet things of God simply cannot be possessed by the carnal and spiritually undisciplined mind!
This is the nourishment of which David spoke. "The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, And He will show them His covenant" (Psa 25:14). This does not speak of the mere conveyance of information like a heavenly library. This is life-sustaining revelation! Hidden manna is more nourishing than public manna! Allow me to put it another way. Knowing the significance of Scripture is more precious than just knowing the text of it, although such knowledge is imperative! O, if people only knew what a great price they pay by allowing Satan to work in their midst! They are thus deprived of the hidden manna, through which they could become acquainted more thoroughly with their precious Lord.
David again spoke of this hidden manna. "They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures" (Psa 36:8). The "hidden manna" equates to the "fullness" of God's house. Later, the Spirit would refer to this fulness as "the fulness of Christ" (Eph 4:13), accentuating the means through which it is received. The church at Pergamum could have access to this "fulness" is they will repent of their godless toleration. Solomon even spoke of this blessing. "His secret counsel is with the upright" (Prov 3:32). You cannot appropriate the things of God academically. Such things are hidden from the wise and the prudent, who insist on anchoring themselves to this world (Matt 11:25). Regardless of the intellectual abilities and mental disciplines of the church in Pergamum, if they did not repent of their wickedness, they could not eat the nourishing manna that is hidden in Christ Jesus. Spiritual nourishment requires separation from the world.
Isaiah contrasted the blessedness of this privilege with the curse of walking in darkness. "Behold, My servants shall eat, But you shall be hungry; Behold, My servants shall drink, But you shall be thirsty; Behold, My servants shall rejoice, But you shall be ashamed; Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, But you shall cry for sorrow of heart, And wail for grief of spirit" (Isa 65:13-14). It is alarming how common it is for professed believes to imagine they can be blessed while occupying the room of cursing! One who is at variance with Jesus will not sit at His table! They will not have "the mind of Christ," know the richness of Divine fellowship, or experience God being for them (1 Cor 2:16; 1 John 1:3,6,7; Rom 8:Rom 8:31). I am convinced there are churches all about us who need to hear this word. Within them, there are people with ears to hear a capacity to sense the voice of the Lord. May they hear this glorious promise!
Of this sustaining manna, Jesus said, "I have food to eat of which you do not know" (John 4:32). This food was "hidden" to the disciples at that time. It sustained Jesus, while they became hungry. "Hidden manna" is superior food of which those who are not offended by Satan and this world are totally ignorant. It simply is not available to them. Many a soul is spiritually starved because they live too close to the world, and too readily imbibe its manners.
Ultimately, the Lord Jesus Himself is the "hidden manna." Having "passed into the heavens" (Heb 4:14), He is no longer accessible to those living in the flesh. Only those who come away from the course of this world will be afforded the privilege of eating His flesh and drinking His blood (John 6:48-58). To put it another way, they will have transcendent fellowship with Him.
Finally, there is a reference here to the world to come, in which the saints shall have their hungers and thirsts thoroughly satisfied. They will no longer see "through a glass darkly," but will know "even as they are known" (1 Cor 13:12). The experience of spiritual satisfaction that is begun here will be culminated there! Blessed is the person who hears this promise, and sets himself to appropriate it by repenting of all that has deprived him of the blessing of God.
A White Stone
This "stone" is thought to be an allusion to various customs of the times. Some suppose the reference to be to a Grecian custom, which used white stones to mark special days. Others say it portrays the Roman custom of giving white stones to conquerors in the Olympic games. Others think it refers to the Roman Judicial custom of giving white stones indicate to absolution, as compared to a black stone which depicted condemnation. There are, of course, apparent parallels in each of these references. We could see in the white stone the guarantee of special and blessed days throughout eternity. We will also be recognized as conquerors in the race of life and conflict with Satan. There will also be a personal awareness of complete exoneration from all guilt, and relief from all handicaps.
I do not choose to accept these views as the intention of the Spirit, Who is speaking to the churches. There is a principle I recommend for those who delve into the various terms and figures employed in Scripture. You can look to the social customs of the day to find the significance of the reference, and yet, as Paul would say, "I show you a more excellent way."
One of the primary ministries of the old Scriptures is the development of a spiritual nomenclature in which God communicates with His people. Whenever possible, the significance of symbolic language should be sought in Moses and the Prophets. That is one of the primary functions of their writings. The effects of such perceptions will be more edifying and lasting than mere earthly parallels, particularly those conspicuously absent from Scripture.
The fact that this is a "WHITE stone" is significant. This is a depiction of purity, as God counts pureness. It is also a color associated with Divinity and Divine acceptance. The word "white" is used 19 times in this book, and ALWAYS relates to the Lord Himself, or those in association with Him. We read of Jesus' "white" hair, riding a "white horse," sitting on a "white cloud" and occupying a "white throne." Holy personages around the throne of God are declared to be "clothed in white robes." The "armies of heaven" are said to ride "white horses" and are seen wearing "fine linen, white and clean." Overcomers are promised a "white stone," the blessing of walking with Christ "in white," and being clothed in "white raiment." Those whose blood was shed for Jesus are said to be clothed in "white robes," together with all who came out of "great tribulation." The seven angels which came out of heaven's temple with the seven last plagues were "clothed in white." The glorified church will be granted to be arrayed in "fine linen, clean and white" (1:14; 2:17; 3:4,5,18; 4:4; 6:2,11; 7:9,13,14; 14:14; 15:6; 19:11,14; 20:11).
"White" is a heavenly color representing heavenly recognition and honor. A "WHITE stone" comes from heaven as a token of Divine acceptance, recognition, and reward. It denotes the Father's "Well done!" Heavenly approval and participation are promised to those who overcome!
But this is a "stone," not a scepter, crown, or sword. What is more, it is stone with a name written in it. I cannot help but recall the imagery of the tabernacle, so often used in this book. Stones were a prominent part of the "service" ordained in the tabernacle activities. An intricately woven ephod was worn by the priest. It had two shoulder pieces that were joined together. This ephod was held upon the shoulders of the high priest with "two onyx stones." With remarkable precision, names were written upon each of those stones. "Then you shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel: six of their names on one stone, and six names on the other stone, in order of their birth. With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, you shall engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall set them in settings of gold. "And you shall put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. So Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a memorial" (Ex 28:9-12).
The identity of the people of Israel with God Himself is seen in this arrangement. He knew them and thought upon them. The same thoughtfulness is seen in the stones placed in the "breastplate of judgement." There twelve stones were placed, each one bearing a name of one of the twelve tribes (Ex 28:15-21).
Note that no individual names were on the stones, only the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. The individual was not recognized, but the tribe to which he belonged. This was the arrangement under the old covenant. How different from our text! Jesus promises a stone, upon which is written the name of the individual overcomer! More precise recognition, more personal reward! The "white stone" is a token of the personal recognition and blessing of the Lord of glory. This aspect of the Divine nature was duly revealed in the shadow of the tabernacle.
A New Name
As I have already indicated, the blessing of recognition is personalized in Christ Jesus. The overcomer will not receive a white stone with the name of the congregation to which he belonged engraved upon it! His family name will not be there. Nor will his earthly name be found inscribed upon it. It will be a personal "new name." That is, it will be a new kind of name, one that perfectly matches his character and ministry in the world to come.
Scripture introduces us to the Divine manner of giving new names. Abram was given the new name of Abraham (Gen 17:5). Sarai was given the new name of Sarah (Gen 17:15). Simon was given the new name of Peter (Mark 3:16). Jesus gave the new name Boanerges to James and John (Mark 3:17). In each of these cases, the new name revealed their character and ministry. Abram became "the father of many nations," and therefore had his name changed to "Abraham." Sarai became the "mother of nations," and was therefore called "Sarah." Simon became a rock, and was therefore called "Peter." James and John were "sons of thunder," and were therefore called "Boanerges." These were all NEW names. In them the person and work of the individual were seen.
That will also be the nature of our new name. It will strictly accord with what we will be doing and will precisely portray who we are! No one will be dissatisfied with their name, and there will be absolutely no association of that "new name" with wickedness. Judas so defiled his name, that it is forever associated with iniquity even though it was also worn by one of Jacob's sons (Matt 1:3), a brother of James (Lk 6:16), another Apostle (John 14:22), and Barnabas (Acts 15:22). But no such associations will be made with your new name! Praise the Lord!
Which No Man Knows
Here we see the personalness of our relation to Jesus in the world to come. In this world, the individual is often lost in the masses. A specific Israelite was ordinarily lost in the identity of his tribe. Individual Israelites that came out of Egyptian bondage were swallowed up by national distinction. Contemporarily speaking, many a precious individual is lost in the crowd of the assembly to which they belong. Such identity- handicaps will forever be removed in glory!
There will be a closeness to Christ, experienced by all who overcome, that is only fully realized by the one possessing it. Jesus will know us personally, and interface with us personally. A sense of Divine acceptance will be realized that will belong alone to you. In this world, it is possible for a discerning person to know more about your relationship to Christ than you do. This very truth occasioned many Apostolic admonitions. Through the Spirit, they knew more about the believers heavenly associations than they did.
But that condition will not exist in the world to come! You will know more about your relation to Jesus than any one else knows. Let us state this in words which the Holy Spirit teaches. "Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known" (1 Cor 13:12). The joyful satisfaction that will be realized through this knowledge is too great for us now! What confidence, assurance, and boldness will result from this experience transcends the boundaries of both language and conception now.
Do you not see what powerful incentives Jesus has given the church in Pergamum to repent? History confirms they did not take the word of the Master seriously. Yet, I cannot help but believe there were some a remnant who heard what the Spirit was saying to the churches. Such people repented, and once again pressed forward to obtain the prize. Today, those triumphant souls are with another of their number, Antipas, who lost his life that he might forever gain it. How blessed the soul who listens to the Lord! Eternal blessings will be realized, and cursing avoided.
We have just considered a church that attempted to join delusion and illumination, wickedness and righteousness, indulgence and crucifixion. Such a joining is not possible! Well did the Spirit say, "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people. Therefore Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty" (2 Cor 6:14-18). No earthly relation, however seemingly precious, is worth the forfeiture of Christ's approval. The toleration of wicked teaching is not worth the rebuke of Jesus, which it will surely bring! Every believer, as well as individual congregations, arte to take religious associations seriously. Those who are living at enmity with God cannot be allowed to be our close associates.
Note also that it is possible to hold fast to a formal identity with Jesus without being perceptive of our surroundings. With apparent zeal, the church in Pergamum held fast to Christ's name, refusing to disown Him during persecution. They would not deny His name! Yet, the same people tolerated those who taught damning doctrines, and encouraged people to live in immorality and idolatry. Listen, those imagining that spiritual life is simplistic, not requiring much effort from us, are living in a state of delusion. If we learn nothing else from Pergamum, let us learn that alertness is as much a requisite to spiritual life as formal identity. If we allow the old serpent to lull us into spiritual sleep, we will inevitably fall into his snare and incur the rebuke of Jesus.
Last, let us rejoice in the character of our Savior. Though He saw an intolerable situation, against which He would surely fight if need be, yet He opened a "door of hope" to the people. Here is an example of a "way of escape" provided in the hour of temptation. The fact that He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet 3:9), is not a mere doctrinal detail. This is a true representation of the case, designed to provide an incentive for recovery from falling. The Lord Jesus views "the churches" with a mind to their recovery and spiritual stability. He wants His people to be with Himself in the world to come, arrayed in white, and standing triumphantly upon the sea of glass. If they will listen intently to what the Spirit is saying to the churches, they will surely receive the blessing!