Revelation – The letter to the compromising church in Pergamum – (5) Conclusion

In Part 5 of The letter to the church in Pergamum, we see the conclusion of this letter. It includes what I’ve called the “Hear” section, which is almost always identical in both words and placement in all seven letters. For the church in Pergamum, whether the people in the church will receive some hidden manna, or not.

Revelation – The letter to the compromising church in Pergamum – (5) Conclusion is article #17 in the series: Seven Letters to Seven Churches. Click button to view titles for entire series
Revelation – The letter to the church in Pergamum - (5) Conclusion

Will the people in the church in Pergamum be overcomers?

Or will their compromises keep them from truly knowing Jesus?

Before we resume with the letter to the church in Pergamum, here’s the breakdown for this particular letter.

Tothe angel of the church in Pergamum
Fromhim who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
Divine KnowledgeI know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
But -Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
So -Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
HearHe who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To those who overcomeTo him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

Hear:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

As with all the other churches, this means the letter can only be understood via the Holy Spirit.  As we saw in the letter to the Ephesian church, it goes back to a prophecy in Isaiah.  If you haven’t read it yet, it’s right here – Revelation – The letter to the loveless church in Ephesus.

The psychology of the letter to the church in Smyrna

Before we reach the conclusion, let’s return to the graph at the beginning. After reading all this, where would you put the church in Smyrna now? Do you still like your original positioning? Of have you learned some things that cause you to want to put it someplace else?

Click to see my placement of the church in Smyrna along the path
church of pergamum on graph

Surprised?

I think the church in Pergamum thinks they’re doing OK.  I suspect they’ll be shocked to read their letter.  After all, some really are holding on to Jesus’ name and to their faith.  But that’s where it stops.  They hold onto their own faith, but they don’t seem to be watching out for those who aren’t.  They are just allowing to to continue, apparently unchecked, because those who follow the Nicolaitans the and teachings of Balaam hold on to their beliefs just as strongly. 

There’s enough good in the church that Jesus isn’t going to take away their status as a church.  But Jesus is preparing to fight them!  Yes, with a sword that’s an analogy for His Word.  But still – I wouldn’t want that!  This is cause for great concern in the Pergamum church.

What follows next is an explanation of why I put this church where I did on the chart.  Someplace on the peak of inflated expectations, because they were like what we call a Jesus + church today.  Jesus + Balaam + Nicolaitans.  It wasn’t that they were disillusioned with Christianity, but that they added things to it – or allowed things to be added to it.

If they fail to repent – to change their ways, the path is clear. It’s continuing down – further and further into the trough of disillusionment – further from the truth – further from God. Sadly, this will happen because of their disillusionment with the “+” part of their made-up version of Christianity.

However – if they choose to repent – to stop allowing the false teachings to poison their church and their beliefs – that trough would be much more shallow. If they do repent – they can start on the slope of enlightenment sooner, rather than later (or never if the church is totally taken over by the followers of Balaam of the Nicolaitans). They can get to the point where the Smyrna church is – where Jesus had only good words for them.

Of course, we also have to consider what the author of Hebrews wrote.  Some may very well just leave Christianity, rather than go through the embarrassment and pain of returning.

There’s lots of pressure these days from people outside the church to redefine what those of us in the church believe. Just because the world in general thinks that something is true – that doesn’t mean it is. That’s the same kind of thing that was going on in the days of the Pergamum church. And it was the same thing that was going on back in the days of Balaam and Balak. And there was that thing back in the Garden of Eden where Satan twisted God’s words to Adam and Eve when he convinced Eve that it was OK to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. So there’s nothing new. It’s the age old problem – knowing the truth and having the strength to live by it – strength that can only come from God.

Years ago, during one of the updates I made to this series, I had just finished reading a book called “Hangman’s Curse” – part of a series called “The Veritas Project”, by Frank Peretti. BTW – Veritas is Latin for truth. There’s a great sequence in it:

“When you lose sight of God, you lose sight of what the truth is. When The Veritas Project investigates a case, we assume up front that the Truth is the Truth, even if it isn’t popular, even if we don’t like it. The Truth is like God: It is what it is, and you can’t change it, and you can’t ignore it.”

Those outside the church do want to change “The Truth”. And for a time – they will seem to succeed. And we may be tempted to follow them, because their way may look better – for a time. And maybe it will look like you can ignore the Truth – for a time.

Check out the portions of a long passage from Isaiah.  The first part introduces what he’s saying.  The underlined portions are of particular interest for today’s topic.

Jerusalem to Be Inhabited

Isa 44:24 “This is what the LORD says—
your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:

I am the LORD,
who has made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself,

Isa 44:25 who foils the signs of false prophets
and makes fools of diviners,
who overthrows the learning of the wise
and turns it into nonsense,

Isa 45:19 I have not spoken in secret,
from somewhere in a land of darkness;
I have not said to Jacob’s descendants,
‘Seek me in vain.’
I, the LORD, speak the truth;
I declare what is right.

Isa 45:20 “Gather together and come;
assemble, you fugitives from the nations.
Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood,
who pray to gods that cannot save.
Isa 45:21 Declare what is to be, present it—
let them take counsel together.
Who foretold this long ago,
who declared it from the distant past?
Was it not I, the LORD?
And there is no God apart from me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none but me.

Isa 45:22 “Turn to me and be saved,
all you ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is no other.
Isa 45:23 By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear.
Isa 45:24 They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone
are righteousness and strength.’ ”
All who have raged against him
will come to him and be put to shame.
Isa 45:25 But in the LORD all the descendants of Israel
will be found righteous and will exult.

So no matter how much anyone may want to change the Truth – no matter how much someone may think they are changing the Truth – it is only for a time. Because in time – they will realize they have failed – God’s Word is Truth – the Truth is still the Truth – God will not be ignored forever – Truth will not be permanently changed – and in the end we all will bow down to God.

There’s no escaping that.

Ultimately, I believe this church has a long hard road to get where they need to go.  

Even if those who held to the false teaching leave the church, there’s still a huge issue for the ones that remain.  When more people come to the church in Pergamum, and they begin to bring in false teachings again, what will they do?  Will they allow them to flourish again?  Will they just kick the people out?  Will they lovingly guide them to the right path?  Something else?  Whatever happens, I believe their eternal future may be on the line, just like the followers of Balaam and the Nicolaitans.

To those who overcome:

To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

What is the hidden manna?

The hidden manna is believed to be referenced in three prior places in the Bible.  Exodus, 1 Kings and Hebrews.  I feel like reading them and accepting them requires a certain degree of faith and trust in God.  Remember earlier, we looked at controversies in Paul’s first letter to Titus.  The hidden manna brings up one of them, in the form of an apparent contradiction.  Let’s take a look.

First – in Exodus.  Remember, the people were complaining that they were going to starve, so God gave them manna six days a week.  They were to gather enough for the seventh day on the sixth day.  Any excess would go bad by the next morning.  The hidden manna is believed to be referenced at the end of that passage.

Manna and Quail


Ex 16:31 The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. 32 Moses said, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt.’ ”
Ex 16:33 So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the LORD to be kept for the generations to come.”
Ex 16:34 As the LORD commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna in front of the Testimony, that it might be kept. 35 The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.
Ex 16:36 (An omer is one tenth of an ephah.)

Given what we read in Exodus and Revelation, the manna from Exodus should be there for those who overcome in the Pergamum church.  Or, I believe, for anyone at the End Times who “fits” in that church.

Supposedly, it was eventually put in the Ark of the Covenant, after it was constructed, in Exodus 25.

The Ark

25:10-20 pp — Ex 37:1-9

Ex 25:10 “Have them make a chest of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. 11 Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it. 12 Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. 13 Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the chest to carry it. 15 The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed. 16 Then put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you.
Ex 25:17 “Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 18 And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 19 Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. 20 The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. 21 Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. 22 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.

The assumption is that since God told them to put the manna in front of the Testimony (ex 16:34), and the Testimony was to go in the Ark, then the manna was also put in the Ark.

This seems to be confirmed in the New Testament book of Hebrews.

Worship in the Earthly Tabernacle

Heb 9:1 Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 2 A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5 Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.

Heb 9:6 When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. 7 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10 They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.

So far so good.  We have a trail of evidence that says the hidden manna will be there for the Pergamum church.

However, don’t forget about its appearance in 1 Kings.  Or should I say, it’s absence?

The Ark Brought to the Temple

8:1-21 pp — 2Ch 5:2–6:11

1Ki 8:1 Then King Solomon summoned into his presence at Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to bring up the ark of the LORD’S covenant from Zion, the City of David. 2 All the men of Israel came together to King Solomon at the time of the festival in the month of Ethanim, the seventh month.
1Ki 8:3 When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the priests took up the ark, 4 and they brought up the ark of the LORD and the Tent of Meeting and all the sacred furnishings in it. The priests and Levites carried them up, 5 and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted.
1Ki 8:6 The priests then brought the ark of the LORD’S covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. 7 The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and overshadowed the ark and its carrying poles. 8 These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from outside the Holy Place; and they are still there today. 9 There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt.

It’s not like someone forgot to mention the hidden manna.  It specifically says nothing was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt.  Everything else was gone.

So one commentary says this:

(The manna) was a provision to be held as a memorial to God’s grace and goodness. This sweet tasting, heavenly bread was to be preserved in a jar before the presence of God (16:31–34). As such, it was to become one of several items relating to the Ark of the Covenant. Hebrews 9:4 says that the Ark contained the jar of manna, although 1 Kings 8:9 appears to contradict this. It is not unreasonable to suppose, however, that by the time the Ark is placed in the Temple, after it had been captured by the Philistines, the pot of manna may have been removed from it. Whatever the truth of the matter, the manna in the jar was kept before the Lord as a testimony to his goodness to his people.  [1]Campbell, I. D. (2006). Opening up Exodus (p. 67). Leominster: Day One Publications

Really?  The Philistines removed the manna from the Ark?  This was supposed to be God’s hidden manna for one of the churches in Revelation and He allowed the Philistines to steal it?  Or maybe God knew the Philistines stole it, but still promised it to the church in Pergamum?  Are we supposed to believe that God would do either of those?  Or that He allowed someone to manage to lose track of it or fail to protect in any manner at all?

I don’t buy that.  An all-knowing God would know what’s coming and would protect His reward for His people. 

Otherwise, the promise to the Pergamum church, To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna, was empty.  And if that promise was empty, then what can we trust from Him?

I choose to trust that God will fulfill all of His promises, as He has so far.  And that He takes whatever steps are necessary to do that.

What is the white stone?

I expected the question here to be about what the stone is.  After my research, I’m now more curious about what white means.

But first, since it is almost always translated as stone, let’s look at that word first.

5586 ψῆφος [psephos /psay·fos/] n f. From the same as 5584; TDNT 9:604; TDNTA 1341; GK 6029; Three occurrences; AV translates as “stone” twice, and “voice” once. 1 a small worn smooth stone, a pebble. 1a in the ancient courts of justice the accused were condemned by black pebbles and the acquitted by white. 2 a vote (on account of the use of pebbles in voting). [2]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

So it seems natural that we would read stone in English.

However, that leads to pagan images as being the basis for the stone.  As pointed out in one commentary though, there’s a potential issue with that.  Given that I like to look at the Jewish point of view, since they were Jesus’ audience when He walked the earth, I think the last portion of the excerpt below is important.  (BTW, the portions I removed are related to the name – not the stone – which we’ll get to in a moment.)

Interpretations of the white stone: The glorified body; Analogue of the names on the breastplate of the High Priest—priestly dignity, therefore; A reference to the heavenly reward; Tessera hospitalis; The stone used in casting lots for succession in the priestly function; The glory of victory.

The two meanings which attached to the white stone among the Greeks, viz.: acquittal in judgment and the award of some rank or dignity—are, manifestly, most intimately connected. Justification in the final judgment must, however, be distinguished from the justification of faith, though the two are connected and agree in the possession of a negative and a positive element (absolutio; adoptio in the principial sense; in the sense of consummation).

The remarks of Trench (Ep. to the Seven Churches, pp. 170–181) on the white stone and the new name are worthy of the highest consideration. He repudiates the idea that these symbols “are borrowed from heathen antiquity,” declaring that “this Book moves exclusively within the circle of sacred, that is of Jewish, imagery and symbols; nor is the explanation of its symbols in any case to be sought beyond this circle.” Following Züllig (Offenb. Johannis, Vol. I., pp. 408–454), he suggests that the ψῆφος λευκή may be, not a white pebble, but the Urim and Thummim—probably a diamond, a precious stone shining white. …  [3] Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (p. 121). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

The part about probably a diamond, a precious stone shining white got me thinking.  Just to be sure, I checked the meaning of the Greek word we read as white. 

3022 λευκός [leukos /lyoo·kos/] adj. From luke (“light”); TDNT 4:241; TDNTA 530; GK 3328; 25 occurrences; AV translates as “white” 25 times. 1 light, bright, brilliant. 1a brilliant from whiteness, (dazzling) white. 1a1 of the garments of angels, and of those exalted to the splendour of the heavenly state. 1a2 shining or white garments worn on festive or state occasions. 1a3 of white garments as the sign of innocence and purity of the soul. 1b dead white. 1b1 of the whitening colour of ripening grain.  [4]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

That opens up a whole new set of options, including even white garments, which are mentioned a number of times when it comes to the End Times and the next life.

But think about diamonds, since that’s where the Jewish person would tend to go.  What color are pure, clear diamonds?  We call them white.  And they are dazzling.  Back then, no one could write on a diamond.  We do today, with lasers.  But even if we couldn’t, who’s going to say that God can’t?

The reason I bring this up is to take it away from the pagan images.  Especially in this church, which was called out for allowing pagan beliefs among their members, it’s just hard to imagine they’d be given something from Jesus that could ever be thought of as a pagan symbol.

What is the new name written on it, known only to him who receives it?

There are two schools of thought on this.  Both of them seem like possibilities.

One is that it’s our new name.

The other is that it’s Jesus’ new name.

Which one is it?  I guess we’ll find out when we get there.

The question for the church in Pergamum – how many of them will overcome?  How many will walk away?  And how many will stick to their belief that they are OK, when in fact they aren’t?

As long as we’re still here, I pray we learn the lesson from this church and end up residing in Heaven with Jesus, rather than fighting Him here on earth.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1Campbell, I. D. (2006). Opening up Exodus (p. 67). Leominster: Day One Publications
2, 4Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
3 Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (p. 121). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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