While exiled as political prisoner to the island of Patmos John the Apostle received visions from Jesus for seven congregations in Asia minor. The message below is addressed to the church in the city of Pergamum
12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 13 “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. 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 to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” ‘
Notes: At the end of the 1st century Pergamum (north of present-day Bergama in Turkey) was the Roman Capital of Asia. Here the Romans worshiped especially Zeus, Aesculapius (a serpent-god whose image Christians identified with Satan himself), and many altars to Rome (Roma) where citizens had to confess “Cesar is Lord” or face the wrath of Rome. Here their pastor Antipas was martyred, being roasted to death in a big bull-shaped cauldron. For “doctrine of Balaam” consider Numbers 25:1-5. The Nicolaitans refers to a sect or group of people within the church who derived their name from their behavior: conquerors (“Nico”) of the common people (“laity”) and is thought of as people within the church who lead by fear and oppression instead of love.
- What do you pick up from the tone of this letter about Christ’s attitude towards this congregation?
- From your reading of this letter, what is the context (situation) of the congregation in this city?
- Why would Jesus reveal Himself as “the One who has the double-edged sword in his mouth?” (v12) What does Christ want to accomplish by revealing Himself as such in this congregation?
- Complete the Revelations series table below by answering these questions (2:12-17):
- How does Christ reveal himself to this congregation?
- What does Christ commend in this congregation?
- What does Christ condemn in this congregation?
- What does Christ exhort in this congregation?
- What does Christ promise to this congregation?
- What does Christ warn this congregation?
- What behaviors and attitudes in this congregation did Christ refer to by using the phrase “the doctrine of Balaam”? (verse 14; consider Numbers 25:1-5)
- What trends were present in the church in Pergamum, which you can also identify in your own congregation? Why would you say that?
- Which things did Jesus condemn which are present in (a) your congregation’s and (b) your personal live?
- What was this congregation called to “overcome”?
- What hope does Christ’s message in this letter give you?
Application and Prayer
The compromising church in Pergamum was called to “repent”. Considering Christ’s warning, what compromise in your life do you need to repent of? Pray that prayer now.