Revelation – The letter to the compromising church in Pergamum

We move on to the third of the seven letters in Revelation.  This time the letter to the compromising church in Pergamum – also called Pergamos in some translations.  Jesus has good things to say about the church in Pergamum.  And some things that aren’t good.  Given the warnings though, it seems like more bad news than good.  We’ll see if that’s the case.  Just how bad is the compromising?

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

Revelation – The letter to the compromising church in PergamumOnce again, the title comes from the section title in the NKJV.  But this time, the title refers to what was happening in the church, rather than how Jesus referred to Himself as the author of this letter.  Therefore, how they compromised will be high on our list of things to look at.

As I’ll probably do in each of the letters, let’s start with something David wrote.  An excerpt from Psalm 139.  Something we should do often.  Something that will help us learn what the message in these letters might be for each of us – even as individuals.

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

Ps 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

Ps 139:2 You know when I sit and when I rise; [1]
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

Ps 139:3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

Ps 139:4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

Ps 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Ps 139:24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Now, with that in mind and with open hearts, let’s invite the Holy Spirit to be with us as we examine the letter to the compromising church in Pergamum.

To the Church in Pergamum

Rev 2:12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:

These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I 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.
Rev 2:14 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. 15 Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Rev 2:17 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. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

What’s your initial impression here?  Good news or bad news for this church?  

 

As usual, before we get into any details, let’s take a look at the graph we built in parts 1 and 2 of the series.  Based on what we just read, where would you put the church of Pergamum on the graph?  Why there?  Don’t worry if you don’t know anything beyond the verses we just read.  Part of the study will be to see how your placement might change as we go through more about the church in Pergamum.  Context and culture are usually important.  So is what it might mean to us today, in our context and our culture.

psychology of the church in Pergamum - blank

Some Pergamum history

 

Pergamum was a hub of the Imperial Cult in Asia Minor.  You may remember, the Roman Emperors were considered to be gods.  Of course, they all died, but they had enough power to make the cult continue for some time.   You may remember there was competition between Ephesus and Smyrna, including in this area.  The greatest competition was actually between Ephesus and Pergamum.  Pergamum was the first to achieve notable milestones in the competition for the best of the Roman Cult cities – building temples and such.  Ephesus was up to the competition.  But Pergamum never let Ephesus forget that each achievement was first accomplished in Pergamum.

With that kind of emperor worship going on in the city, it was certainly a tough place to be a Christian.  Those who worshipped the emperor didn’t like being told their god was merely a false idol.

There was also a great deal of Greek history in the city.  They had both an altar to Zeus and a Temple to Athena.  Yet another source of antagonism towards the Christian church here.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, there was also a small Jewish community to add a bit more persecution to the people in this church.

coexist, in the religious senseAnd it wasn’t just persecution.  You may have noticed the title for this one includes the word “compromising” – as in the compromising church in Pergamum.  Today, it would maybe be called the worldly church in Pergamum.  Sometimes, to avoid persecution, or to just “get along”, we take the easy route and coexist.  To that end, you might be familiar with the coexist bumper sticker that was popular some years ago.

Each of the letters represents a different religion” or school of thought about how to live, since peace isn’t really a religion.  The problem with the coexist idea is that, in the process, people tend to water down each of the basic beliefs of the various religions that they no longer resemble what that religion is supposed to represent.  When the basic tenets are diametrically opposed – there’s really no other choice.  That’s compromising.  For more on that, please see The problem of Coexist – and – Love your enemy.

Worldly, on the other hand, isn’t going so much with a religious belief as it is just doing what most other people do.  Like – if it feels good – do it.  Or something like whatever’s right for me – I can do it.  That’s a problem when we’re called to be different from the world because we’re following Jesus – and yet it’s difficult or impossible to tell the difference between us and the rest of the world.

That’s probably why Jesus identified Himself the way He did in this letter.

The letter to the church in Pergamum

So – let’s break down the letter to the church in Pergamum.  Unlike the letter to the church in Smyrna, I didn’t see any real differences in the way this one was examined by various scholars.  So, here’s what I have for it.

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.

The letter to the church in Pergamum

The tradition To and From headings are present. 

To:

Obviously, it’s to the church in Pergamum.  As we saw in the letter to the Ephesian church, it’s most likely not to an actual Heavenly angel.  Rather it’s probably to someone, probably of a high position, within the church.  To that end, Young’s Literal Translation says:

‘To the messenger of the Ephesian assembly write:  [1]Young, R. (1997). Young’s Literal Translation (Re 2:1). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

From:

This letter is from he who has the sharp, double-edged sword.  OK – that sounds bad.  Maybe.  Let’s see what I mean by that.  Hopefully you remember a reference to that double-edged sword earlier in the Bible.  The image is used six times.  Three are in the Old Testament.  It’s in Hebrews once.  And this is the second time it’s used in Revelation.

The double-edged sword in the Old Testament was always what it sounded like.  A deadly instrument of death.  However, maybe not the way we think.  Let’s just take a quick look at these three.

Double-edged sword in the book of Judges

The first is all the way back in Judges.

Ehud

Jdg 3:12 Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. 13 Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms. 14 The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years.

After 18 years under Eglon, the King of Moab who defeated them, the Israelites finally cry out to God.  And God, ever faithful, has someone to deliver them – Ehud.

Jdg 3:15 Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab.

“Tribute” was another word for a present or offering.  Something to show respect.  Except in this case, there was a hidden motive.  BTW – the sword was not the tribute.

Another note – although the English translation is left handed, a more proper translation of the Hebrew is that Ehud had something wrong with his right hand, and that’s why he was left handed.  It makes the whole thing even more amazing, showing the power of God.

16 Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing.

Here’s the double-edged sword.  The first instance of such a weapon in the Bible.  A foot and a half may not be considered a sword these days, but then it’s long for the average knife too.  The point is that it’s double-edged.

17 He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. 18 After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way the men who had carried it. 19 At the idols near Gilgal he himself turned back and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.”
The king said, “Quiet!” And all his attendants left him.

The fact that it’s done near the idols is probably not a coincidence.  Even the fact that the idols are mentioned means the location is important.  As are the idols.  That’s true for the time described here in this incident that’s unfolding.  And idols also play an important part in what’s going on in Pergamum when Jesus delivers this message to their church.  Whether it’s Roman, Greek or pagan idols – we don’t know for sure.  Probably all three, to varying degrees.  But idolatry most certainly was a problem in Pergamum.

Jdg 3:20 Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace and said, “I have a message from God for you.”

So what’s going to happen with this double-edged sword is a message from God.

As the king rose from his seat, 21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly.

The left hand.  An unexpected attack.  Once more, something reminiscent of the beginning of the End Times.  Even though we know they’re coming, many won’t believe.  And none know when it will happen.

22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. 23 Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.
Jdg 3:24 After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, “He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the house.” 25 They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.
Jdg 3:26 While they waited, Ehud got away. He passed by the idols and escaped to Seirah. 27 When he arrived there, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down with him from the hills, with him leading them.

The deed is done – the king is dead – and victory will be theirs.  All because of a man, sent from God, with one bad hand and a double edged sword.

Jdg 3:28 “Follow me,” he ordered, “for the LORD has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands.” So they followed him down and, taking possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab, they allowed no one to cross over. 29 At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not a man escaped. 30 That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.

So in this case, God used the double-edged sword to free His people.

But before we leave the topic of double-edged – notice what else was double edged here.   In the very first verse, we read Jdg 3:12 Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel.  God allowed Elgon to defeat Israel because they did evil in His eyes.  Most likely, the evil had something to do with those idols that were in the room where Eglon died.

But then, things turned around.  Eglon was killed by the double-edged sword, right by his idols, by Ehud – who was sent by God.

So when God allows something like this to happen, it’s a double-edged deal.  Eglon no doubt thought his power and success came from his idols.  All the while, it was God allowing Eglon to achieve that success.  And when the time came, God also collected what was due for what Eglon did to God’s people.  As we saw previously, it’s a terrible thing to fall into the hands of God when we have done wrong and we have to pay the price ourselves.  

Double-edged sword in Psalms

Yes, the second instance is in Psalms.  But see if you can tell what it’s really about.

Psalm 149

Ps 149:1 Praise the LORD.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the saints.

Ps 149:2 Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Ps 149:3 Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with tambourine and harp.
Ps 149:4 For the LORD takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with salvation.
Ps 149:5 Let the saints rejoice in this honor
and sing for joy on their beds.

Ps 149:6 May the praise of God be in their mouths
and a double-edged sword in their hands,
Ps 149:7 to inflict vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples,
Ps 149:8 to bind their kings with fetters,
their nobles with shackles of iron,
Ps 149:9 to carry out the sentence written against them.
This is the glory of all his saints.

Praise the LORD.

If you said Psalm 149 was about the book of Revelation – you got it.  Well, part of it.  It had it’s meanings in Old Testament times, of course.  But when reading it, especially in the middle of studying Revelation, there are so many things that fit the time when the saints really can rejoice and sing for joy.  When everything is complete.  

Here’s what I mean.

The very mention of God’s salvation is enough to cause the saints to be joyful and sing aloud upon their beds. Even confined by sickness, shut in, or during the loneliness of the midnight hours, saints of God know that they are not alone and are encouraged to Let the high praises of God be in their mouth (lit., in their throat, cf. Isa 58:1).

It’s always worth remembering that, regardless of our current circumstances, we should remember to praise God.  Certainly for what’s coming, but also for His presence during the tough times.

But the saints of God are not always depicted as languishing upon their beds during the midnight hours. Praise and power go hand in hand. They also are depicted with a two-edged sword in their hand.

The double-edged sword.  We’ll see that it’s also, in a way, double-edged as far as what it represents.

For the Israelites, this was a literal weapon. In Nehemiah’s time they were used against a violent enemy (Neh 4:13, 16, 17–18). Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem were threatening the virtual destruction of the program for rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall. For Israel the two-edged sword in their hand was literal and deadly.

However, we must remember, it was really only a successful weapon in their hands when they prayed to God first, and had his approval.  Otherwise, they would lose, even with the double-edged sword.  In that regard, it was figuratively doubled-edged as well as physically.  In one sense a weapon wielded by people – in the other sense a weapon that represented the power of God when used appropriately.

It is no coincidence, however, that the book of Hebrews describes the Word of God as “… quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword …” (Heb 4:12).

Now, in the New Testament, The Word of God is a weapon in the Spiritual war.  The Word of God is also, as John points out, Jesus.

Today, converts are not made with a steel sword, but with the quickening power of the Word of God. We fight against principalities and powers; we fight in the power of God’s Spirit. Metaphorically, for those who have a new song to sing, the song of redemption by the blood of Jesus Christ, the two-edged sword is to be used against the prince of the power of the air (see also Rev 19:12–15).  [2]Hindson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (pp. 1194–1195). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

It turns out that this double-edged sword is “double-edged” in many different ways.  But always, one of the edges has to do with God.

Double-edged sword in Proverbs

The third and final instance of a double-edged sword in the Old Testament comes in a rather long proverb on adultery.  Since it is so long, I’m only including the first portion.  However, if you’d like to read the entire Psalm, you can use one of the links below to see it.

Warning Against Adultery

Pr 5:1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
listen well to my words of insight,
Pr 5:2 that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.
Pr 5:3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;
Pr 5:4 but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
Pr 5:5 Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.
Pr 5:6 She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.

This double-edged sword has nothing to do with God.  Well, not directly. One side is the allure of adultery.  The other is the price to be paid.  Part of the price has to do with relationships in this life.  Destruction of them.  Sometimes even death over them.  For instance, remember that Proverbs was written by Solomon – David’s son.  And it was David’s own adultery with Bathsheba that led to her husband’s death and so much grief in David’s family.  That grief included the son born to, as the Bible describes it – Uriah’s wife – who was Bathsheba. 

But then there’s also the issue of the spiritual justice price to be paid.  Under the New Covenant, of course, who pays that price depends on us.  On our choice to accept God’s gift of salvation – or not.

Double-edged sword in Hebrews

The first instance of the double-edged sword in the New Testament comes in the book of Hebrews.

A Sabbath-Rest for the People of God

Since this passage begins with the word “therefore” – we really need to know what came before this.  Therefore implies that what follows is for a reason.  But unless we know the reason, we cannot possibly know what this conclusion applies to.

So, what preceded this is a passage that talked about a lack of belief.   It referenced back to the people that Moses led, and their lack of belief and faith in God.  Since this is the New Testament, it is now referring to a lack of belief in God, and in the Holy Spirit specifically.

Heb 4:1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.

You may be wondering, what is “his rest”?  First, it’s God’s rest, as you probably assumed.  But the meaning of rest isn’t all that obvious.  Here’s what it meant.

2663 κατάπαυσις [katapausis /kat·ap·ow·sis/] n f. From 2664; TDNT 3:628; TDNTA 419; GK 2923; Nine occurrences; AV translates as “rest” nine times. 1 a putting to rest. 1a calming of the winds. 2 a resting place. 2a metaph. the heavenly blessedness in which God dwells, and of which he has promised to make persevering believers in Christ partakers after the toils and trials of life on earth are ended. [3]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

It’s interesting that, while we’re looking at a double-edged sword, we find a word where it has a double meaning and they both apply.  Yes. it can literally mean rest.  But it also can be a metaphor indicating the heavenly blessedness in which God dwells, and of which he has promised to make persevering believers in Christ partakers after the toils and trials of life on earth are ended.  So this has something to do with missing out on eternal life with God.

2 For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
“So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”

The Gospel was preached to them, but to no avail.  Keep in mind, the Gospel is the Word of God.  A double-edged sword in itself.  Although, remember that Jesus isn’t the double-edged sword.  Rather it comes from His mouth.

And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.” 5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”

Those who don’t believe will never enter God’s rest.

Heb 4:6 It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. 7 Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

Once again, we get the idea that belief is more than just saying some words.  If it was merely saying the right words, then disobedience wouldn’t be an issue.  Since it is, it must be our actions after saying that we believe which indicates whether or not we really do believe.  For a much deeper look at that, please see Are we supposed to Believe God, Believe in God or Follow God?.

Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Remember, this isn’t a physical sword, so we can’t take the dividing portions of this passage to mean anything physical.  Rather, it means that God can see everything – even things that are unseeable to us.

So in this passage, God looks behind our words.  Even behind our deeds.  He looks into our hearts and knows the reasons why we say what we say and do what we do.  Even the times we manage to convince ourselves of something other than the truth.

Double-edged swords in Revelation

In case you didn’t catch the heading, it’s swords in Revelation.  The term double-edged sword is there twice.  The second one is the one we’re looking at right now – These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.

The first one was earlier in Revelation.  It gives the final clue as to what Jesus is saying about Himself to the church in Pergamum.  Here it is.

One Like a Son of Man

Rev 1:9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

Rev 1:12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

Rev 1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Rev 1:19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

What’s happening in that passage above?  Remember, each letter has a unique way that Jesus identifies Himself.  Every one of them is in that passage.  Now that we’re part way into the letters, it seems like a good time to point that out.  We’ve already seen that each of the identifying statements has an Old Testament history.  That only makes sense, because everything in the New Testament also has an old Testament history – a prophecy.

So what does the From part mean?

So going through six instances of the double-edged sword should, and does, tell us a lot about the message Jesus is trying to give the church in Pergamum.

  1. From Judges – with Ehud as the one to rescue the Israelites when they cry out to God.  In any time, including the End Times, God is ready, willing and able to save us when we call out to Him.  Although we often put ourselves into places from which we need to be rescued, God will not only save us, but will also avenge us.

  2. From Psalm 149 – with the double-edged sword in a foretelling of the final victory when the saints will rejoice.  The double-edged sword in this case isn’t a physical sword, but the Word of God.

  3. From Proverbs, we have the example of adultery being a double-edged sword.  Something we thought would be “good” turns out to not be good at all.  But when we cry out to God, He will deliver us to something that truly is Good.

  4. From Hebrews – we again see the double-edged sword as the Word of God, able to penetrate even to things that are, to us humans, unseeable.  

  5. From Revelation – the first instance pointing to #6, as the second instance in Revelation.  The one where Jesus is portrayed like this:  out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.

All of the first four references to double-edged sword come back together in this image of Jesus in Revelation.  It’s an image that shows two clear possibilities for the church and its people.  Call out to Jesus and be saved.  Or don’t – and pay the price.

The reality of that conclusion is seen in the Divine Knowledge section of the letter to the church in Pergamum.

Divine Knowledge of the church in Pergamum

I 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.

As mentioned – there’s a double-edge to this one.  There are two good things that Jesus said about this church.  you remain true to my name  and You did not renounce your faith in me.  However, both of those are encased in the middle of two statements about Satan.  where Satan has his throne and where Satan lives.  How will this play out?  Can the middle break through the statements on Satan?  Or are the folks in this church doomed?

Let’s begin with the good things, since that’s generally what this section on Divine Knowledge is about.

I know where you live

You might remember the opening of the previous two letters.  

Ephesus: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.
Smyrna: I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!
and now
Pergamum: I know where you live—where Satan has his throne.

After this letter, the remainder will all go back to the format of I know your deeds.  Since the statement to Smyrna had a lot to do with the likely outcome for this church, we should expect the same thing for the church in Pergamum.  Given that it “live” where Satan has his throne, the location sounds rather ominous.  Especially since, as we saw, the Divine Knowledge – the good news – also ends with where Satan lives.

It’s an important thing to note for this church.  It’s also an important thing for every Christian to take note of.  Where do we live and how strong is Satan’s presence in our area?  I feel like this can be especially tough for Christians who stay pretty much isolated to the church and with Christian friends.

For example, I read something yesterday from N.T. Wright, an Anglican Bishop.  He was writing about looking at the Covid-19 virus as a time of exile.  Personally, I was glad to see that, having recently written Is Covid-19 a modern-day Exile?.  I wish more Christians would take that point of view, rather than going the political route and looking to the government to “rescue” them.  Here’s part of what he said in an article titled Should Churches Reopen? The Answer Lies in Thinking of This As a Time of Exile.  I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

I find myself caught between these two viewpoints, both of which seem to me right. I totally understand that we need to be responsible and scrupulously careful. I am appalled by reports of would-be devout but misguided people ignoring safety regulations because they believe that as Christians they are automatically protected against disease, or that (as I heard someone say on television) “you’ll be safe inside church because the devil can’t get in there.” (I wanted to say: Trust me, lady, I’m a bishop: the devil knows his way in there as well as anybody else.)

It really is possible to get a false sense of security about the devil.  Some that I’ve written about with the virus, my response has been to just look around and see that this virus really has affected Christians – and churches.  The numbers and real like tell us that God is not sparing us.  And if this is a time of exile for us, the Bible tells us that it’s to be expected that this virus will hit us as well.

But I really like what Wright wrote – Trust me, lady, I’m a bishop: the devil knows his way in there as well as anybody else.  One thing we should have learned from the Bible is that the devil knows Scripture very well.  More than well enough to twist it.  And well enough to trip us up.  So why we think we’re protected when the Bible is full of instances where we’re tested and even told troubles will come upon us – I just don’t get it.

But this false sense of security and protection happens.  And I think it’s probably more likely when we spend most of our lives inside the church and with a close circle of only Christian friends.  We don’t know what’s happening “outside”.  Then, when Satan des come “inside”, we aren’t ready for it.  We aren’t used to having to be careful, so we aren’t.  That’s true for both this virus and for our spiritual lives.

So the point for bringing up I know where you live has to do with exactly that.  What else lives where we do?  Yes, deeds are important.  They show something of our faith, especially when combined with what’s in our hearts.  But when Jesus warns about what else is happening where we live – we really should pay attention.  Then when He repeats it, we should pay extra attention to it. 

So that’s something else to keep in mind as we proceed.  This church now has two things to watch out for.  The double-edged sword and Satan.  And we’re just getting started.

Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness,

Since the divine knowledge is supposed to be the good news for each church, let’s start with the parts that most seem like good news.  Then we’ll return to Satan afterwards.

Yes, we’re going to look at both staying true and not renouncing together.  They are, after all, saying the same thing.  I wonder though, do we really get the intensity of what Jesus said?   Here’s what the Greek word we read as “remain true” meant.

2902κρατέω [krateo /krat·eh·o/] v. From 2904; TDNT 3:910; TDNTA 466; GK 3195; 47 occurrences; AV translates as “hold” 12 times, “take” nine times, “lay hold on” eight times, “hold fast” five times, “take by” four times, “lay hold upon” twice, “lay hand on” twice, and translated miscellaneously five times. 1 to have power, be powerful. 1a to be chief, be master of, to rule. 2 to get possession of. 2a to become master of, to obtain. 2b to take hold of. 2c to take hold of, take, seize. 2c1 to lay hands on one in order to get him into one’s power. 3 to hold. 3a to hold in the hand. 3b to hold fast, i.e. not discard or let go. 3b1 to keep carefully and faithfully. 3c to continue to hold, to retain. 3c1 of death continuing to hold one. 3c2 to hold in check, restrain.  [4]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

We see things like hold and lay hold on.  But just how strongly were they holding?  This is one time when the NIV maybe gives a better idea than the Authorized Version as to what’s going on here.

In the 1984 NIV, the word was translated 13 times as either “arrest” or “arrested”.  That’s pretty strong.  More so than”hold”.

And then, to reinforce what He said, Jesus essentially repeats the remaining true theme when He immediately adds You did not renounce your faith in me.  Renounce means pretty much what we expect.

So first, Jesus says at least some in the church in Pergamum held so tightly to His name that it was like holding their belief in a secure place.  I remember someone who worked as a missionary in China told me that when things are difficult, just grab hold of Jesus’ hand (figuratively) and just don’t let go!  Remain true with that kind of hold.

And then Jesus reinforces it by saying they didn’t deny Him, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city.  No one knows for sure who Antipas was.  Therefore, there’s also no telling who exactly killed him.  All we know is that Antipas was martyred for His faith.  It could have been the Romans.  Or any of the various pagans in the city.

Often times, it feels like some details are left out of the Bible for a reason.  In this case, so we can’t draw any false or wrong conclusions about the circumstances surrounding Antipas’ death.  Who did it isn’t the most important thing.  That he dies a martyr for his faith in Jesus is what matters.  As does the fact that at least some in the Pergamum church didn’t lose their faith because his death caused too much fear for their own lives.

Is this Divine Knowledge good or bad?

That was the good part of Pergamum’s Divine Knowledge.  But what do we do with this part?

I 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.

When Jesus says Satan lives there and has his throne there, is that good or bad?

To answer that question, I have to go back to the double-edged sword description.  I believe it’s both good and bad – depending on who we’re talking about.

The good side of I know where you live—where Satan has his throne … —where Satan lives

For those who remained true / didn’t lose their faith, I believe it was good.  Very good, even.  Given the prevalence of emperor worship and the high sense of competition in the city, peer pressure to join in with friends must have been enormous.  Not to mention the pressure of the Roman hatred for the Christians who were calling their Emperor god an idol.  Or the death that came to some of them – like Antipas.

Some scholars debate over whether the references to Satan were about the Romans, Balaam or the Nicolaitans.  I feel like that’s an argument for the sake of arguing.  Here’s why.  Consider the passage below.

Whoever Is Not Against Us Is for Us

9:38-40 pp — Lk 9:49, 50

Mk 9:38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

Mk 9:39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”

No, it’s not about the Romans or the pagans.  But look at what Jesus said about being for or against “us”.

whoever is not against us is for us

From a strictly logical point of view, there is one way to rearrange that sentence and still have it always be true.

Whoever is not for us is against us.

Now, look at what’s happening in Pergamum.  The Romans are certainly not for the Christians.  Neither are those who follow Balaam.  Nor are the Nicolaitans.  Therefore, as we know, all of them are against the Christians.  Now add the fact that this is a spiritual battle between the forces of good and evil.  Between God and Satan.

Does Satan really care if someone joins any of the three groups in Pergamum who are against the Christians?  Romans, Balaam worshippers, Nicolaitans – he doesn’t care.  When we get right down to it, Satan is ultimate the author of all of them.  To get lost in discussions of which of the three was the cause of any one event is to lose track of the real war.  To sow discontent within Christian scholars and to Christians in general as we argue over who was right.  I’m sure Satan is delighted when this happens.

The bad side of I know where you live—where Satan has his throne … —where Satan lives

Which leads us nicely into what’s wrong with being where Satan lives and has his throne.

Talk about temptation!  There are things like the arguments we just looked at.

The first thing Jesus has against the church in Pergamum

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.

Since Jesus mentioned Balaam and Balak, we should go back and look at that.  It’s quite long, so we won’t do the whole thing here.  However, if you want to read all of it, it starts at Numbers 22:1 and continues through chapter 25.  

I am in the process of doing a series on Balak and Balaam.  You can read what’s available so far at What a tangled web we weave.  You can either check back there for additions, or subscribe to this site using the link towards the top right corner of the page.

Here’s what was happening at the time:

Num 22:1 Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.

So they were on their way to Moab, during the Exodus.  Balak was the King of Moab.  Balaam was an Israelite who had the gift of prophecy.  And the plays out like God holding a double-edged sword, with Balaam getting to decide which side of his double-hearted desires will dictate what God does with His double-edged sword.

We have to follow carefully what plays out.  It’s important for the church in Pergamum.  And for us as well, when we examine our own motives for doing things.  Due to time constraints and trying not to make this too long, the details will be in the series mentioned above.

For now, let’s just say that Balak entices Balaam to do something wrong.  Balaam pretends, to Balak and to himself, that he’s following what God wants him to say.  All the while, he’s trying to get a higher price for what he’s doing.  

Ultimately, the best source for knowing what Balaam really did is the passage below.  It’s quite long, so we’ll only look at the relevant portion.

False Teachers and Their Destruction

2Pe 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

2Pe 2:13 They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. 14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16 But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

2Pe 2:17 These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”

Scholars don’t agree on whether Balaam was actually affected by his encounter with the angel while on his donkey.  Some say yes.  Others point to the passage immediately after the ones in Numbers where he’s clearly involved – and say no.

Regardless, the lesson is there for false teachers and prophets.  

For the church in Pergamum, being where Satan lives and has his throne means there will be plenty of false teachers and false prophets.  The question remains for this study though – were Jesus’ words a reminder, a warning or a wake-up call?

The same is true for us.  In a way, these words are for all of us.  Remember what Jesus said about Satan and this world.  The entire passage is important for us to remember and to live out.  It’s full of important things for us – the Holy Spirit, living as Jesus taught us, not being afraid, having peace.  And for this topic, especially verses 30 and 31 at the end, regarding the prince of this world – Satan.

Jesus promises The Holy Spirit

Jn 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

Jn 14:22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

Jn 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Jn 14:25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Jn 14:28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
“Come now; let us leave.”

Yes, Satan is the prince of the world.  This world.  For now.  However, he has no hold on Jesus.  The same can be true for us, but only if we live as Jesus taught.  

So yes, people in some areas will be more likely to encounter false teaching and other things to draw them away from God.  However, as prince of the world, or ruler of the world, at this time – there is no place where Satan’s impact will not exist.  As we’re seeing here, even in our churches. 

And let’s be real.  “Churches” aren’t affected by evil.  “Churches” aren’t tempted.  Because “churches” are either buildings or groups of people, depending on how we use the word.  But temptation affects people.  And individual people then affect groups of people.  So it only takes one person to have a negative impact on a church.  So we all have to be on guard, as Paul wrote in the section titles The Armor of God from his letter to the Ephesian church.

The second thing Jesus has against the church in Pergamum

You may remember that in the letter to the church in Ephesus, Jesus said: But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.  Not so here in Pergamum.  To this church, Jesus said:

Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

As we just saw, the entire church doesn’t have to be led astray in order for trouble to come to the entire group.  Jesus specifically says – you also have those who hold to ….  So it wasn’t everyone.  or was it?

Looking at the Greek words, there’s a bit of a question as to how many people were involved.

How widespread was the problem in Pergamum?

Let’s compare 

Rev 2:14 … 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.

with

15 Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

It seems like both instances are referring to some people.  But let’s look at the Greek before we run with that thinking.

First verse 14:

rev 2:14

And then verse 15:

rev 2:15

Let’s deal with that big dot at the end of verse 15 first.  It actually closes the thought from the very beginning of verse 14, which isn’t shown here because it would make the graphic too small.  But here’s the entire verse 14 in English:  Rev 2:14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam.  That last Greek word, represented by a dot and not translated into English closes the thought that began with “Likewise”.  It’s like bookends around the things that Jesus ahs against the church in Pergamum.  It makes it easier to understand in the Greek – but is lost in the English translations, because we have to such construct in our language.

So – let’s move on to some among you from verse 14.  Notice that there’s only one Greek word.  One.  Not a phrase like we read in English.  Here’s what it means.

1563 ἐκεῖ [ekei /ek·i/] adv. Of uncertain affinity; GK 1695; 98 occurrences; AV translates as “there” 86 times, “thither” seven times, not translated three times, and translated miscellaneously three times. 1 there, in or to that place.  [5]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Interesting.  It’s more like, you have there a hold on the teaching of Balaam.  Everyone?  Most?  Many?  Some?  The translators put some.  But is that realistic?  Hold that thought and let’s keep going.

In verse 15, we have those who hold to.  What’s the difference between “some among you” and “those who”?  The Greek word we read as “hold” is the same in both cases, so if there’s a difference, it must be in those two words: some and those.  And that’s where things get interesting.  

There is no Greek word to go along with “those who”.  They are implied from the Greek word we read as hold.  While there was at least a word for “some among you” – there’s nothing for “those who”.  It’s just not there.  

The difference between something and nothing.

So how do we evaluate the reasonableness of the interpretation?  I suggest two ways.  First, look at what “hold” actually meant and what the impact could be on the church.  Second, look at what Jesus says next to confirm what we come up with in the first analysis.

Hold – what is being held and by who?

So here’s the Greek word we read as hold:

2902 κρατέω [krateo /krat·eh·o/] v. From 2904; TDNT 3:910; TDNTA 466; GK 3195; 47 occurrences; AV translates as “hold” 12 times, “take” nine times, “lay hold on” eight times, “hold fast” five times, “take by” four times, “lay hold upon” twice, “lay hand on” twice, and translated miscellaneously five times. 1 to have power, be powerful. 1a to be chief, be master of, to rule. 2 to get possession of. 2a to become master of, to obtain. 2b to take hold of. 2c to take hold of, take, seize. 2c1 to lay hands on one in order to get him into one’s power. 3 to hold. 3a to hold in the hand. 3b to hold fast, i.e. not discard or let go. 3b1 to keep carefully and faithfully. 3c to continue to hold, to retain. 3c1 of death continuing to hold one. 3c2 to hold in check, restrain.  [6]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

You may remember, we already looked at this word a bit earlier.  It was related to Yet you remain true to my name.  Remember which word it was?  It was remain.  And what I wrote at the time about it was:

We see things like hold and lay hold on.  But just how strongly were they holding?  This is one time when the NIV maybe gives a better idea than the Authorized Version as to what’s going on here.

In the 1984 NIV, the word was translated 13 times as either “arrest” or “arrested”.  That’s pretty strong.  More so than”hold”.

And then, to reinforce what He said, Jesus essentially repeats the remaining true theme when He immediately adds You did not renounce your faith in me.  Renounce means pretty much what we expect. 

So how is it that we have the same word now, with the same repetition, but it’s in the negative sense?  And why is it that the first instance was translated as a generic “you”, implying everyone – while the second one was translated as being only some of them?  

If there’s any way at all to know, then it will have to come from the words Jesus has after this.

So:

Uh oh.  This isn’t good.  The next thing Jesus says in the letter is in the “So” part,  

Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

The sword of his mouth.  That, of course, takes us back to the beginning of the letter:

Rev 2:12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:

These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.

The double edged sword.  The one that cuts both ways.  In one way, it points to the ultimate victory, which is what Revelation is all about.  But we can’t stop there.  Because the other way the sword cuts is punishment and vengeance.

What does soon mean?

We need to ask this question.  Sometimes, soon means in a short time.  Other times it means quickly.  As usual, in this instance, it can mean either one.  Given other things about the timing of the End Times, quickly at an unknown time seems like the way to view this.

The Day and Hour Unknown – Mark

Mk 13:32 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

Mk 13:35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ”

Not necessarily soon.  Although, at some point it will be soon – but we won’t know it was soon until after it happens.  So the best thing for us is to always live as if it was imminent.

Not exactly helpful in terms of figuring out what the double-edged sword from Jesus’ mouth means to the church in Pergamum.  But very important, nonetheless.

Is the double-edged sword in Jesus’ mouth meant for the entire church?

So let’s examine something else.  If the double-edged sword was meant to bring destruction to the entire church, I suspect the image would have been more like the church in Ephesus, where Jesus threatened to take away their lampstand.  The lampstand that represented their standing as a church in God’s eyes.

In addition to that, we must pay close attention to what Jesus said.  Here it is again: Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth

Notice – come to you – and – fight against them.

In the Greek, “you”, in come to you is singular.  The only way this makes sense is if it represents the church as a whole.  Jesus is coming to everyone in the church.

However, “them” in fight against them is certainly not everyone in the church.

So let’s go back to something we looked at earlier, in the “But:” portion of this letter.  Back when we look at :

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. 15 Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

So far, we were unable to answer some questions about who exactly was Jesus speaking to in those verses.  My question was:

Interesting.  It’s more like, you have there a hold on the teaching of Balaam.  Everyone?  Most?  Many?  Some?  The translators put some.  But is that realistic?  Hold that thought and let’s keep going.

I believe we now have an answer.  We still don’t know whether it was everyone, most, many or some.  But I think we can say it wasn’t all.  At least not all were holding onto the teaching of Balaam. 

However, it also appears that no one stood up to say that some number of people in the Pergamum church were following the teachings of Balaam.  Or that some were following the evil practices of the Nicolaitans.  I say that because of a verse we’ll see later, from the church in Sardis.  In that letter, we read:

Rev 3:4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.

Apparently, it wasn’t the entire church in Pergamum that was following evil practices.  And it wasn’t so many people that Jesus said something like we just read in the letter to Sardis.  Therefore, the number of people in that church must have been, let’s say, moderate.

Even one is bad.  So I’m not minimizing what was going on.  The thing to notice is that each church is different.  And Jesus has something different to say to each of them.  That’s why it’s so important to pay close attention to what is going on in the church in each letter.  To what’s going on in our own lives. 

And to our church.  Even though the “So” portion of the letter says Jesus is going to fight against them, I have to believe the warning about Balaam is meaningful.  I mentioned earlier that I’m doing a series on Balak and Balaam.  One of the things from part 1 is:

Here’s how the root for the Hebrew word we read as divination is defined:

7080 קָסַם [qacam /kaw·sam/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 2044; GK 7876; 20 occurrences; AV translates as “divine” seven times, “diviners” seven times, “use” three times, “divination” once, “prudent” once, and “soothsayer” once. 1 (Qal) to practice divination, divine. 1A of diviners of the nations, Balaam. 1B of false prophets of Israel. 1C prohibited.  [7]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Balaam is even specifically mentioned as an example of a false prophet.  But let’s look at the rest of what’s going on and see how we view Balaam – how Balak views Balaam – and while we’re at it, how we view ourselves.  After all, the point of this is to bring it into today, when we weave our own webs to deceive not only others but ourselves.  And, oh yeah – when we try to deceive God with our tangled webs of deceit.

Balaam was a false prophet.  People in the church in Pergamum were listening to him.  By not saying anything about what was going on, the church allowed people to be deceived by those who were following things like sorcery and divination that were practiced by Balaam. 

In effect, that means false teaching was being allowed, if not outright supported, by that church.  That’s one huge problem when Jesus says things like His answer to what is the greatest commandment.

The Greatest Commandment – Matthew

22:34-40 pp — Mk 12:28-31

Mt 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Mt 22:37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

God is number one in our heart, in our soul, and in our mind.  That leaves no room for false teachings.  And if we love our neighbor, we will not allow false teaching to go unchallenged.  Therefore, I suspect this is a problem for both the leadership in the church, as well as the members who knew better, but remained silent.  After all, there were enough people who knew the truth that Jesus said, Yet you remain true to my name.

So yes, it’s a message for the church in Pergamum.  But also for every church, from the time of the Revelation all the way to the end of the age.  And if we really are responsible for ensuring pointing out that false teaching is going on in our churches, then it’s also a message for every Christian.  If you think that last part is going too far, saying that each of us is responsible even if we’re not pastors, remember something Paul wrote to 

Warning Against False Teachers of the Law

1Ti 1:3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

1Ti 1:8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

So Paul wants Timothy to be sure that false teaching, meaningless talk and other things that lead us away from a pure heart and sincere faith.  That’s very much in line with the problems Jesus told the Pergamum church they must deal with.  The question is though, is Timothy a church leader?  To answer that, let’s look at some background on him.

As Paul contributes a full portrait of his spiritual son, many years his junior, let us string together the salient features of Timothy.

    1. He was the child of godly heritage (2 Tim. 1:5). His mother was a Christian Jewess and the daughter of another devout Jewess, Lois. His Greek father’s name is unknown. It may be that Eunice became a Christian when Paul visited Lystra, a town not far from Paul’s birthplace, Tarsus.

    2. He was a youthful reader of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:15). From a “babe” he had had knowledge of the Truth. How blessed children are if cradled in the things of God!

    3. He was Paul’s child in the faith (1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2). Probably Paul, a visitor of Timothy’s house, led the young lad to Christ during his ministry in Iconium and Lystra since he refers to his persecutions there, which Timothy himself knew about (2 Tim. 3:10, 11). One writer suggests that when Paul recovered from his stoning at Lystra it was in Timothy’s home he found shelter and succor.

    4. He was ordained as a minister of the Gospel (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6, 7). Conscious of Timothy’s unique gifts, especially of evangelism (Rom. 16:21; 2 Tim. 4:5), it was fitting that Paul should choose him as a companion and fellow-worker. Faithfully he served Paul “as a son with his father,” in the furtherance of the Gospel (Phil. 2:22). How indispensable he became to the apostle (Acts 17:14, 15; 18:5; 20:4)! Paul had no other companion so “like-minded” as Timothy, who enjoyed Paul’s constant instruction (2 Tim. 2:3; 3:14).

    5. He was an ambassador charged with difficult tasks. The responsible and delicate mission of restoring a backsliding church required both gift and grace (1 Cor. 14:17), as did the comfort of believers in the midst of tribulation (1 Thess. 3:2).

    6. He was co-sufferer with Paul in the afflictions of the Gospel (2 Tim. 1:8). Tradition says that Timothy died as a martyr for his faithfulness as a bishop in the reign of Domitian or Nerva. While attempting to stop an indecent heathen procession during the Festival of Diana, this God-honoring minister sealed his testimony with his blood. The two epistles Paul addressed to Timothy are rich in their pastoral counsel.

It sounds like Timothy was a church leader, in spite of his age.  However, we also need to remember – we’re talking about the End Times in this letter.  Yes, Timothy died a martyr.  But then, so will lots of Christians at that time.  So are many Christians in various parts of the world even now.

Plus, let’s not forget what the author of Hebrews wrote about milk and solid food.

Warning Against Falling Away

6:4-6 Ref—Heb 10:26-31

Heb 5:11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.


Heb 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.
Heb 6:4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
Heb 6:7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end, it will be burned.
Heb 6:9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Check out especially that second underlined section:

Heb 6:4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

That’s scary.  As we’ve gone through the earlier letters, we’ve looked at the possibility for someone walking on the path to be taken off of it – and being able to get back on it.  Is this passage really saying it’s not possible?

No, I don’t think so.  After all, Jesus said:

Mt 19:26 “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

So yes, with the Holy Spirit, someone who strays can come back.  And God will welcome them and they will be forgiven.  The word impossible is hyperbole, overstatement for emphasis  However, there’s a very high probability that the person who achieves a good walk with Jesus and then turns away will find it extremely difficult to even ask for help from the Holy Spirit to return to the path.  

Given that, and given the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment, isn’t it a responsibility for every mature Christian to help our brothers and sisters not even reach this point?  To try to stop the false teachings before they take hold?  If that was done in Pergamum, they wouldn’t be in the condition they were when the letter was sent.  Furthermore, since those were the only things Jesus had against that church, they would have received a very different letter.

If we find ourselves in their place, shouldn’t we remember this letter and call for repentance?  And yes, maybe that includes looking the in the mirror and saying, Repent!

And doesn’t that become ever more important when we’re talking about, and maybe even reaching, the End Times?

So no – I don’t believe the warning was only for the church leaders.  Think about it.

Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

If we knew that was the condition of our church, or of some of our brothers and sisters in Christ, do we have so little love for them that we’d just let them get that warning?  Especially now that we know it’s a warning that some (many?) of them will not be able to do anything about?  That they could end up with Jesus fighting against them because we did and said nothing?

Some will say something like, “once saved, always saved”.  I say, maybe they (you / we) were never really saved in the first place.  Either way, is it a risk we’re willing to let people in our church deal with because we didn’t do anything?

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 seed along the path

OK – this may kind of shock some of you.  I feel like this church is in serious trouble.  Way more trouble that I ever did in previous iterations of writing this.  Don’t know if it’s because I’ve matured in my faith and see the risks better – or if I’m just pessamistic.  Although, even the latter may very well be called for given what’s in Hebrews.

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 ti 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 if 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 of f 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.  [8]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 someone managed 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). [9]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. …  [10] 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.  [11]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[+]

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