Verse of the Day Devotion: Revelation 2:12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:
Over the seven days, I will be looking at what John wrote, by the inspiration of God, to the seven major churches in Asia Minor. In these seven letters, God gives a message to each that is specific to each and speaks of issues that could fit the Churches throughout history. It is important to look at these and examine our church and ultimately ourselves to see where we stand regarding these.
Now we come to the Church in Pergamum. Pergamum (modern Bergama, Turkey) was a major city located about sixty-five miles north of Smyrna by road and fifteen miles from the Aegean Sea. The heart of the city was the acropolis, which rose above the valley below. Although the city had been settled long before, the Pergamene rulers of the third and second centuries BCE transformed it by building impressive walls, temples, palaces, and a renowned library that was second only to that of Alexandria.
In our focus verse, Christ is said to have a ‘sharp two-edged sword coming from His mouth. This is referring to the Word of God. “And in His right hand He held seven stars; and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.” Revelation 1:16. Then He next tells them of their strengths. “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.” Revelation 2:13. They were a Church that remained strong even while residing in a place known as a center of pagan cults. The idea is probably a reference to the fact Pergamum was the center of the worship of the Roman Emperor. Rome was the most recent and most powerful agent of Satan because of its demands for absolute allegiance, as well as the presence of the alter to Zeus which looked like a throne. And through all this they remained faithful. “And you hold fast My name and did not deny My faith.” Revelation 2:13b.
Then after this, He brings up areas He has against them. “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.” Revelation 2:14. Balaam was a seer, perhaps from upper Syria, who was called by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse Israel. (See Numbers 22-24). The positive side of Balaam’s legacy is that he pronounced blessings instead of curses. His promise that a star would rise from Jacob was understood to anticipate a messianic ruler and the image is used this way in later Jewish sources and Revelation. The negative side of Balaam’s legacy is that he was implicated in Israel’s sexual immorality and worship of Baal (See Numbers 25:1-5). And within the Church were people who followed the teachings of Balaam, who by doing this put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality which were abominations to God. And because of this there were some who held to the beliefs of the Nicolaitans. (The Nicolaitans were a Christian group that considered it acceptable to eat what was offered to Greco-Roman deities.)
He then tells them, “Repent therefore or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.” Revelation 2:16. He is not speaking of when He returns at the end times. However, It is best to construe it as a limited disciplinary visitation before the end. Here his coming is conditional: He will come if people refuse to repent, which implies that if they do repent, he will not come. His coming is also limited to people at Pergamum, whereas his final coming will defeat God’s opponents everywhere.
Note the final part of the message. “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 2:17. He who overcomes the temptations that exist are promised three blessings. “The precise explanation of these three items is disputed; however, all three blessings must concern the believer’s victorious reign with Christ, consistent with the blessings bestowed on the other six churches. The “hidden manna” is likely an allusion to the manna hidden in the Ark of the Covenant representative of God’s faithful presence and sustenance. The white stone could be a reference to the stones used for entrance into temple events in ancient times or to one of the stones on the high priest’s breastplate, although the exact meaning of the stone is uncertain.
The Church in Pergamum had many pagan and sinful practices to reject and teach the same. They were persecuted by pagan cults and Rome. As they did, it is important that we reject the ways of this world and focus on what is pleasing to God in all things. We must not fall for the trickery of false prophets, and we must say NO when it is demanded of us to participate in sinful practices. When we do this, we will be blessed with eternal fellowship with the King, Jesus the Christ. Therefore, stand strong no matter what. It is worth the suffering that may come our way.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.
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