Sermon Series in Revelation # 05 Revelation 2:12-17
12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
13 “ ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.
15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war 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 the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it’.
Abraham Kuyper said that, “There is not a square inch in heaven or on earth or under the earth in which there is peace between Christ and Satan.”
Our passage speaks the words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. Remember that the Roman Army used two kinds of swords. A short sword was used for hand to hand combat. A long sword, as tall as a man, was used to cut down the enemy in one swath.
In Revelation 1:16 Jesus is not holding a short sword. Jesus does not do hand to hand combat with the enemy. He speaks a word and all the enemies of God fall to their knees.
In Ephesians 6:17 we take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. That’s the Greek word for the short sword. The Book of Revelation describes Jesus using the broad sword to call all men at once into eternal accountability.
And the Pergamum Church is glad to hear that Jesus can beat Satan with the spoken word, since they were living, according to Jesus, in the same city where Satan dwells.
In verse 13 Jesus says twice that the Devil dwells in Pergamos. I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
Why would the Devil establish residence in Pergamos? Asked better, in what sort of city does the Devil dwell?
Like Smyrna and Ephesus, Pergamos was a leading city of the day. It was the capital for Rome within Asia Minor. The governor of Pergamos could exercise the power of the sword, meaning capital punishment, without asking permission from Rome.
The people of Pergamum were inventors and innovators. They perfected a parchment made out of calfskin. They built the world’s first psychiatric hospital.
Pergamum was known for the arts. The city’s theater seated ten thousand people. The acoustics were so good that a whisper on stage could be heard in the top row.
The city’s acropolis rivaled Athens, and its library was the second largest in the ancient world. Its collection was so marvelous that the Roman General Marc Antony presented it as a wedding gift to Cleopatra.
Pergamum was the postal center for the distribution of decrees and edicts throughout the Roman empire by Caesar. Not bowing the knee publically to Caesar put your life at risk.
Case in point: Antipas was the Bishop of Pergamum around AD 80 to 90. He was ordained by the Apostle John and his faithfulness to Christ got the attention of the city leaders.
Antipas was arrested and ordered by the governor to offer a sacrifice of wine and incense to the statue of the Roman emperor. He was told to declare the emperor Lord and God. He refused.
So Antipas was sentenced to death on the Altar of Zeus. At the top of the altar was a hollowed out bronze bull. Victims were placed inside the bull. A fire was then built under the bull. The groans of the victim came through the mouth of the bull and made the whole alter seem to come alive.
Even as Antipas was being roasted alive, the elderly bishop was heard praying.
The enmity of Satan against God was evident in the lives of the people living within the city. This is the way to know if Satan dwells in your city. How much enmity against God is socially acceptable?
Is homosexuality celebrated? Are cults and witchcraft treated as acceptable religious options? Does the culture treat abortion as a morally neutral decision? Is living together without the benefit of marriage considered immoral? Is pornographic material readily available?
How much animosity against God can citizens flaunt without being shamed? Can people be publically sinful and not become social outcasts? These questions measure the level at which Satan feels at home. Satan probably feels very much at home in most American cities.
Satan is the ruler of the darkness of this age Ephesians 6:12. Satan is the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience Ephesians 2:2. The darkness and disobedience within our city flows from Satanic enmity against God. Letting the Devil feel at home is the fault of all good people who fail to speak up.
Jesus says that Satan had already made progress inside the church of Pergamum. Christians were embracing the doctrine of Balaam. What does that mean?
Balaam means to conquer the people. Christians were conquered, silenced and neutralized. After the death of Antipas they stopped speaking out. They negotiated a peaceful coexistence.
The term Nicolaitan also means to conquer people. There’s probably not two separate groups. God is calling them Balaam worshippers. They are calling themselves Nicolaitans.
What is the doctrine of Balaam? Balaam suggested that the good looking pagan women could lead the young Jewish men away from their covenantal commitments. He was right. It is easy to entice young men away from the Lord if they live in close relationship with the world.
Living in the world isn’t the problem. We all live in the world. The error of Balaam is thinking that we can coexist with the world and not have it affect us. It’s like when Lot turned his tent and heart toward Sodom.
We are embracing the error of Balaam when we stop confronting the world with God’s commands, when we don’t challenge the world with the authoritative claims of Christ and when we stop calling the world to repentance.
Obviously, the young Jewish men who married pagan wives were not living as salt and light in their relationship with these attractive females. They went along to get along and got married. Then that close relationship turned their hearts away from God. If they had been living redemptively with those pagan women then they never would have ended up getting married.
This happens every day to our church members. We are told not to be intolerant so we go silent. We are told not to be dogmatic about God’s commands. We are told not to judge. Then over a period of time the sinful lives of our friends lead us away from our commitments to Christ. We stop being salt and light. Satan’s darkness creeps in and we become compromised.
The doctrine of Balaam is all about compromise. It’s a go along to get along mindset. Make no mistake, if we are willing to stop calling sin an offense to a holy God, then we lower our risk of persecution. This is how Christians become conquered.
Jesus called these silent church members followers of Balaam. That’s intentionally negative.
They had relabeled their lifestyle with the sweet name Nicolaitans. The world always mis-labels their sinful actions with sweet names.
Jesus calls homosexuality an abomination. They call it an alternative lifestyle.
Abortionist’s call their clinics Planned Parenthood.
Just down the road we have Jehovah Witnesses. Their founder is Russell, but it doesn’t sound all that spiritual to be a Russellite. Jehovah Witness sounds better. Christian Scientists are really just Mary Baker Eddy followers.
And the world hated Jesus for His forthrightness. Jesus was unflappable. He didn’t bend God’s laws to make the world like Him. Jesus didn’t moderate to be considered polite.
Balaam was all about being moderate. Don’t be too extreme. Keep your mind open. Don’t be too heavenly minded. Keep one foot firmly planted in this world and one in the next.
This fits so well the Church in America. We have gone along with the moral decline so as to get along with our neighbor and we have become indistinguishable from our pagan culture.
How does Jesus want us to handle our compromise? Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.
That’s easy enough isn’t it? Don’t sit at the table with Satan and try to negotiate peace. We can’t compromise with the Devil and be the friend of God. We can’t find middle ground so that the Devil will leave us alone.
There is a truism that the friend of my enemy is my enemy. If we are friends with the world, then we are not the friend of God.
We must not moderate God’s words. We must stop worrying that we might offend the guilty conscience of a condemned world. We must speak God’s opinions without hesitation.
Jesus tells the Church to repent.
That means that we side with the Holy Spirit against ourselves. Confess that God is justly pricking your conscience. Confess that you are not taking the stand God has called you to take. Confess staying silent when you should have spoken up for God’s name. Become willing to be targeted by the world for the name of Christ.
17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it’
When Israel entered the promised land the manna stopped falling from heaven, but they kept a container of that heavenly food sealed up inside the Ark of the Covenant. When Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. that pot of manna disappeared.
Tradition held that the prophet Jeremiah salvaged the pot of manna and hid it from the Babylonians. The hope was that the Messiah would find the manna and give it to His people.
Jesus is promising to sustain them with this legendary heavenly food.
Second, Jesus promises to give a white stone.
There were three ways that white stones were used within the Pergamum culture.
Jurors held a white and black stone. At the end of the trial they threw one of the stones into a bag to indicate their vote.
Second, families had the habit of dropping a white or dark stone into a pottery jar at the end of the day. After a period of time the jar would be poured out. The pile of stones gave witness to the joy or sadness of the family.
Third, slaves or gladiators were given a white stone with special engravings to show that they were released from their bonds. Like an admission ticket into their permanent freedom, they kept it with them to prove their liberty.
All of these meanings explain what Jesus is telling us.
If we are faithful like Antipas, and we do not sit to negotiate peace with Satan, then Jesus will give us His vote, our life will be found joyous and happy in spite of our suffering and we will have an admission ticket from our labor and slavery into the freedom and rest of God’s eternal Heaven.
These are the promises of the Almighty who by the power of His word alone will overthrow the powers of darkness and expose those who went along to get along.
Make no mistake, Jesus knows it is tough living in a culture dominated by the power of Satan. Jesus Himself had to speak up. He paid the ultimate price. His words cost Him His life.
We too need to speak God’s unbending words to this world. You and God make a majority!
Don’t share the blame for your community being at peace with Satan’s darkness and disobedience. Don’t let your voice for Christ be conquered by the error of Balaam.
Speak against the moral decline. Be a witness for God. Stay salty. Keep your light out from underneath the basket of fear and compromise. Jesus isn’t coming to negotiate. Jesus is coming to conquer. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.
 The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.