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12“Write to the angel of the church in Pergamum: “The One who has the sharp, double-edged sword says:
13I know where you live—where Satan’s throne is! And you are holding on to My name and did not deny your faith in Me, even in the days of Antipas, My faithful witness who was killed among you, where Satan lives.
14But I have a few things against you. You have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to place a stumbling block in front of the Israelites: to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality.
15In the same way, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
16Therefore repent! Otherwise, I will come to you quickly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
17“Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:12–17, HCSB)
In this age and time, most people around the world are living in countries of multiculturalism. Take the example of Canada – a nation which is famous for its multiculturalism and diverse population. Multiculturalism is good for it teaches people to respect the culture and ethnicity of others, particularly those of minority groups. But on the other hand, it does not mean we have to compromise with our own values.
Sadly, but truly, all of us belong to a world of compromise, as we might have to make compromises on all levels of life. If you were a politician, you compromise. If you were a businessperson, compromise isn’t strange to you, since it is a part of the game. For the betterment of their relationships, girlfriends and boyfriends, wives and husbands often compromise. On many occasions, frustrated young parents have to compromise with their demanding toddlers.
Some compromises are not harmful but some are destructive. Take the example of the fall of Adam and Eve. God commanded our first parents to obey Him in the garden of Eden, but they chose to compromise with Satan instead. Throughout the ages, all humans have compromised their moral values for the Devil’s torrent of misinformation.
Although compromise is almost unavoidable in daily life, Christians should not compromise with their faith. Having said that, some of the believers of the Pergamum church compromised with their faith. And because of that, Jesus rebuked these believers in a stern way. There is a reason behind it because one of the missions of Christians is not to compromise with their faith. If you were an outsider of the Christian faith, perhaps you would like to consider the topic of standing up for your principles, instead of making unnecessary compromises all the time.
Let’s read the passage about the church at Pergamum and learn the things that we should not compromise.
1) Your Lord (Revelation 2:12)
Why is that Jesus Christ called Himself as “The One who has the sharp, double-edged sword”?
The sword was a Thracian broadsword used in cavalry charges. In Roman times, it was a symbol of military power. This symbol is to tell the Pergamum church that it is the exalted Christ, not Roman officials, who is the true Judge. In essence, Jesus Christ is the only one who has sovereignty over all things and all people.
The Significance to the Pergamum Believers
Jesus wanted to remind the Pergamum believers that He is the sovereign Lord and ultimate Judge. In short, He will eventually judge the deeds of these believers.
Significances to Modern People
Oftentimes, we compromise our moral values for the sake of short-term benefits. There is a reason behind it – we don’t recognise Jesus Christ is the ultimate judge, or we have forgotten that He is the true Judge. So, do remember the bad and good deeds that we do every day, we will stand before Jesus Christ the Judge one day.
2) Your Spiritual State (Revelation 2:13)
13I know where you live—where Satan’s throne is! And you are holding on to My name and did not deny your faith in Me, even in the days of Antipas, My faithful witness who was killed among you, where Satan lives. (Revelation 2:13, HCSB) Jesus told the Pergamum believers he knew that they lived in the city where Satan had his throne. Have you ever thought you are living in the city where Satan has his throne? We are bewildered thatPergamum is situated at Satan’s throne.
Concerning the meaning of the Pergamum believers living where Satan has his throne, I have found out that there are at least five schools of thought, and the most possible explanation is that the Satanic throne is the imperial cult, the foremost problem behind Revelation as a whole and the centre of Pergamum religion.
My Father’s World
Remember the hymn This is My Father’s World? Although most churches don’t sing this old hymn anymore, it reminds us that the world belongs to God our Father. That said, this world has terrible places that have the footprints of Satan.
Beware of Dangers
In many large cities, road repairs and constructions are always ongoing in one place or another. In order to warn pedestrians about potential risks and dangers, danger signs are placed next to these areas that may be unsafe. Jesus Christ warned the Pergamum Christians that they were residing in a very dangerous place.
The citizens of Pergamum chose to worship the Roman Emperor, and thus the city became the throne of Satan. Pergamum chose to allow Satan to reside among them permanently. Humans have the absolute right to choose whatever they see fit, but often we have made the wrong choices.
Jesus spoke of a person by the name of Antipas. Who is Antipas? No one for sure knows who the person is, but according to the context of this passage, he is a hero of faith.
An Unknown Hero
Many Christians and non-believers have heard of the Apostle Paul, but Antipas is an unfamiliar name to them. Although Antipas is not a renowned Christian, the most important thing is that he remained faithful to Jesus Christ until death. Among His faithful followers, Jesus Christ singled out Antipas. Definitely, Antipas was a martyr of the faith. Perhaps, Antipas may have been the first or one of the most notable of martyrs. Also, very likely, martyrdom was still not common back then, therefore Jesus used the faithful exemplar of a prominent martyr to spur on other believers. Antipas was indeed an unsung hero of the faith.
Most people learn by examples. As Christians, godly examples are crucial to our spiritual growth. In the days of Antipas, he has become an example to the believers around him. Pray that God will raise up more godly leaders, and ask Him to mould you to become one.
3) Your Spiritual Problems (Revelation 2:14–15)
Internal Struggles and Problems
As humans, we all have internal struggles and problems. Without any exception, Pergamum had its internal struggles and problems too. It was a famous civilisation and learning centre. Also, it was home to several pagan cults. Back in the old days, most trades in the Roman world formed guilds that served as the security network for their members. Each guild had a patron god whose members are obliged to worship these deities. If people refused to participate in the worship and sacred meals of the deity, they would be removed from the guild and would lose their livelihood. Also, most meat in the meat markets were left over from sacrifices to pagan deities, and these provisions were sold to the public. Therefore, believers have to make a difficult choice. Apparently, some Pergamum believers were advocating that it was all right for Christians to participate in guild activities and to purchase meat from temple outlets (Revelation 2:14). This is seen as idolatry and spiritual fornication.
Usually people don’t want to offend their bosses. As subordinates, if you want to keep your job and seek for promotion, pleasing your superiors is the name of the game in the business world. If your boss is colour-blind, he or she told you that was a green apple, please try not to correct him or her in the public, as it might embarrass him or her. For the sake of survival and advancement in the workplace, certain folks simply give up their integrity. According to my knowledge, some Christians act like hypocrites in the business world as well. Like the Pergamum Christians, we are facing peer pressure on a daily basis.
New Religious Influences
Jesus rebuked some of the Pergamum believers because they held to the teaching of Balaam and the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Balaam was an infamous figure of false prophet in the Old Testament. He is a prototype of unethical and false prophet. Because of his sinful influence, he led the Israelites astray. As for the Nicolaitans, we cannot be sure of their identity. Most probably, the Lord Jesus didn’t want us to draw attention to two cultic movements, but to see as a comparison between a single movement. The crux of their mistakes was not simply doctrinal error but their wrongful behaviour. Since some of the Pergamum believers had become adopted the teaching of Balaam and the teaching of the Nicolaitans, they were led astray from the orthodox view of Christian faith and had themselves trapped in a heretical movement. New religious beliefs and religious ideas are springing up around the world every day. Be mindful of that some of these teachings can cause havoc to us. If we are not careful, these religious influences would weaken our moral principles.
4) Your Much-needed Repentance (Revelation 2:16–17)
Unopposed Enemies within the Church
Since some of the Pergamum believers didn’t oppose the harmful teaching of Balaam and the teaching of the Nicolaitans, they themselves have become the infiltrators within the Church. These heretics will for sure endanger the purity of the Christian community. And because of that, Jesus rebuked these heretics and asked them to repent.
The world is moving at a lightning pace, and we are bombarded by all kinds of new ideas daily. Although people have come up with a lot of great thoughts, some individuals have created numerous evil ideas as well. Likewise, churches around the world have to respond to these notions. Unfortunately, some of the church leaders and believers have fallen prey to numerous ideologies and teachings which are harmful to their spiritual well-being. Like some of the Pergamum believers, many church leaders and Christians have to repent of their choices of wrong religious ideas.
5) Your Conditional Reward (Revelation 2:16–17)
Jesus Christ stated very clearly that it is urgent for these Pergamum Christians to repent immediately. In a simple sentence, Jesus Christ Himself would wage war against the believers who hold fast to the false teachings. As you can see, this is some kind of spiritual warfare.
17“Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:17, HCSB) Not only Jesus mentioned spiritual warfare, but He also promised the victors some of the hidden manna and a stone with a new name inscribed on it. In a simple sentence, these were the conditional rewards that they could receive. As I was intrigued to know the meaning of hidden manna and the new name on the stone, I read many Bible commentaries. Although these Bible scholars offered various interesting interpretations, these are all conjectures. The reason I said so was because the Scripture said so. Jesus clearly indicated that “on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it”. Since only the receiver of the white stone will come to know the new name, all well-written interpretations can only be seen as suppositions. In conclusion, the hidden manna and the white stone can be seen as eschatological symbols related to the messianic feast at the end times. That said, these are the spiritual food and the new name that God gave to those faithful Pergamum believers then.
Every normal human wants to live for a rewarding existence. That’s understandable. However, we cannot script our own life and we cannot have things according to our wishes. Like it or not, all of us have to face all kinds of problems every day. Besides, Christians might have to face all sorts of ridicules and attacks from the non-believing crowd. However, Jesus Christ reminds all His followers that He will reward those who are being loyal to Him. As Christians, our rewarding existence is to live for Jesus Christ.
Assimilation in this modern age is subtle and real. If we are not careful, we would be easily assimilated into a pagan culture. The warning to the Pergamum Church is about assimilation. In some parts of the world, in desperation for the healing of their sick children, Christian parents even sought help from witch doctors. In the affluent West, secular materialism is so prevalent that it devours many sons and daughters of God.
Dear friends, beware of assimilation! Dear Christian friends, watch out for assimilation in the workplace. Jesus is calling His followers to be faithful to Him and His teachings, and being intransigent is one of our missions in life!