Reading through Revelation, Chapter 2:16-17 – Pergamos, the Lord’s warning of judgment and promise of blessing



Revelation 1:12-16

GNV

12 Then I turned back to see the voice that spake with me: and when I was turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks,

13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks, one like unto the son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girded about the paps with a golden girdle.

14 His head and hairs were white as white wool, and as snow, and his eyes were as a flame of fire,

15 And his feet like unto fine brass burning as in a furnace: and his voice as the sound of many waters.

16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword, and his face shone as the sun shineth in his strength.

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1 Corinthians 13:12

GNV

16 Repent thyself, or else I will come unto thee shortly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

17 Let him that hath an ear, hear what the spirit saith unto the Churches. To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the Manna that is hid, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it.


Some thoughts

The Lord’s thoughts are infinitely higher than ours – good and righteous, altogether!

Isaiah 55:9

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts. 

And He gives wisdom to those who ask for it, who want to understand His words and ways and those things which please Him.

James 1:5

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, which giveth to all men liberally, and reproacheth no man, and it shall be given him. 

Also, it takes countless words for us to express what He says in a few words, swiftly – His word runs very swiftly! – and powerfully.

He knows each human heart and so can warn or promise to each. (With Him actions are weighed.) So this is what He promised to those in the church in Pergamos and to all who hear, 

To fight them with the sword of His mouth,

or

To reward them with the hidden manna and the white stone with a new name!

Because “now we see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12), we can disagree in interpreting Scripture. Please don’t let this keep you from enjoying the various beautiful things people have written on this passage.


Study Helps

Overview of Revelation 2:12-17 (Pergamos)

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

“The word of God is a sword, able to slay both sin and sinners. It turns and cuts every way; but the believer need not fear this sword; yet this confidence cannot be supported without steady obedience. As our Lord notices all the advantages and opportunities we have for duty in the places where we dwell, so he notices our temptations and discouragements from the same causes. In a situation of trials, the church of Pergamos had not denied the faith, either by open apostacy, or by giving way so as to avoid the cross. Christ commends their stedfastness, but reproves their sinful failures. A wrong view of gospel doctrine and Christian liberty, was a root of bitterness from which evil practices grew. Repentance is the duty of churches and bodies of men, as well as of particular persons; those who sin together, should repent together. Here is the promise of favour to those that overcome. The influences and comforts of the Spirit of Christ, come down from heaven into the soul, for its support. This is hidden from the rest of the world. The new name is the name of adoption; when the Holy Spirit shows his own work in the believer’s soul, this new name and its real import are understood by him.”


Warning of Judgment

Holding Fast the Faith

Charles Spurgeon, sermon on Lord’s Day Morning, February 5, 1888

“Specially note, dear Friends, at the opening of this morning’s meditation the character under which the Lord Jesus Christ presents Himself to the Church at Pergamos. ‘These things says He which has the sharp sword with two edges.’ Does the Lord Jesus come to His Church in that way? Does He, at the door of the Church, bear a sword? A sword unsheathed? A sharp sword? A sharp sword with two edges? Yes, even to His visible Church this is how our Lord Jesus Christ appears. To His own spiritual and faithful ones He is to each one a husband full of unutterable tenderness and love.”


Promise of Blessing

The Hidden Manna

Arthur Pink, 1944

“. . . as the manna was the food which God supplied from Heaven for His people of old, nourishing and sustaining them throughout their wilderness journey, it must be regarded as a figure of the written Word which is the Christian’s spiritual staff of life. And since the Word of God ‘lives and abides forever’ (1 Peter 1:23), does not the ‘hidden manna’ (Revelation 2:17) point to the inexhaustible riches of Divine wisdom, which are stored up in it, and of which we have at present—but a fragmentary knowledge. We cannot think that any of that treasure will be lost to us—rather, do we conclude it will be made known and afford part of our delectation [joy, rapture, happiness] in Heaven.

“Now we know the marvels of Divine inspiration and revelation ‘in part,’ but then shall we know them in full. 2 Corinthians 12:7 shows that Heaven is the place of ‘the abundance of the revelations.’ As the risen Christ expounded the Scriptures to His disciples and opened their understandings to understand them (Luke 24:27,45), will not the glorified Savior do the same for us (Hebrews 13:8)!”

1 Peter 1

23 Being born anew, not of mortal seed, but of immortal, by the word of God, who liveth and endureth forever.

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Halley’s Bible Handbook, Zondervan, 1965

The Hidden Manna may be the Fruit of the Tree of Life (22:2). The New Manna may stand for a form of existence that will be satisfying beyond anything we have ever known or dreamed of in this life) . . .”

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Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, 1871.

Bible Study Tools

17. . . . the hidden manna–the heavenly food of Israel, in contrast to the idol-meats (Revelation 2:14 ). A pot of manna was laid up in the holy place ‘before the testimony.’ The allusion is here to this: probably also to the Lord’s discourse (John 6:31-35). Translate, ‘the manna which is hidden.’ As the manna hidden in the sanctuary was by divine power preserved from corruption, so Christ in His incorruptible body has passed into the heavens, and is hidden there until the time of His appearing. Christ Himself is the manna ‘hidden’ from the world, but revealed to the believer, so that he has already a foretaste of His preciousness. Compare as to Christ’s own hidden food on earth, John 4:32 John 4:34, and Job 23:12. The full manifestation shall be at His coming. Believers are now hidden, even as their meat is hidden. As the manna in the sanctuary, unlike the other manna, was incorruptible, so the spiritual feast offered to all who reject the world’s dainties for Christ is everlasting: an incorruptible body and life for ever in Christ at the resurrection.

31 Our fathers did eat Manna in the desert, as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you that true bread from heaven.

33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

34 Then they said unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

35 And Jesus said unto them, I am that bread of life: he that cometh to me, shall not hunger, and he that believeth in me, shall never thirst.

“white stone . . . new name . . . no man knoweth saving he — TRENCH’S explanation seems best. White is the color and livery of heaven. ‘New’ implies something altogether renewed and heavenly. The white stone is a glistening diamond, the Urim borne by the high priest within the choschen or breastplate of judgment, with the twelve tribes’ names on the twelve precious stones, next the heart. The word Urim means ‘light,’ answering to the color white. None but the high priest knew the name written upon it, probably the incommunicable name of God, ‘Jehovah.’ The high priest consulted it in some divinely appointed way to get direction from God when needful. The ‘new name’ is Christ’s (compare Revelation 3:12, ‘I will write upon him My new name’): some new revelation of Himself which shall hereafter be imparted to His people, and which they alone are capable of receiving. The connection with the ‘hidden manna’ will thus be clear, as none save the high priest had access to the ‘manna hidden’ in the sanctuary. Believers, as spiritual priests unto God, shall enjoy the heavenly antitypes to the hidden manna and the Urim stone. What they had peculiarly to contend against at Pergamos was the temptation to idol-meats, and fornication, put in their way by Balaamites. As Phinehas was rewarded with ‘an everlasting priesthood’ for his zeal against these very sins to which the Old Testament Balaam seduced Israel; so the heavenly high priesthood is the reward promised here to those zealous against the New Testament Balaamites tempting Christ’s people to the same sins.

“receiveth it — namely, ‘the stone’; not ‘the new name’; see above. The ‘name that no man knew but Christ Himself,’ He shall hereafter reveal to His people.”


Zouloufi frozen lavas, Patmos - Νικολίτσα Τσίτσικα. Nikol Patmos at Greek Wikipedia

Zouloufi frozen lavas, Patmos – Νικολίτσα Τσίτσικα. Nikol Patmos at Greek Wikipedia.

 


Arki (Patmos) Strongyli - Photo: Waldviertler

Arki (Patmos) Strongyli – Photo: Waldviertler


Reading through Revelation, Chapter 2:12-17 – Pergamos, the Lord’s commendation and rebuke



Revelation 2:12-17

gnv

12 And to the Angel of the Church, which is at Pergamos write, Thus saith he which hath that sharp sword with two edges.

13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s throne is, and thou keepest my Name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days when Antipas my faithful martyr was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that maintain the doctrine of Balaam, which taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, that they should eat of things sacrificed unto idols, and commit fornication.

15 Even so hast thou them that maintain the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

16 Repent thyself, or else I will come unto thee shortly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

17 Let him that hath an ear, hear what the spirit saith unto the Churches. To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the Manna that is hid, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it.


Thoughts

The Lord’s rebuke of the Church at Pergamos recalls Jude’s inspired words (KJV):

4 For there are certain men crept in, which were before of old ordained to this condemnation: ungodly men they are, which turn the grace of our God into wantonness, and deny God the only Lord, and our Lord Jesus Christ. . .

11 Woe be unto them: for they have followed the way of Cain, and are cast away by the deceit of Balaam’s wages, and perish in the gainsaying of Korah.


*Geneva Bible footnote, verse 13: The faith of them of Pergamos is so much the more highly commended because they remained constant even in the very heat of persecution.


Study Helps

Please forgive the repetition of certain facts.

Halley’s Bible Handbook, Zondervan, 1965

“Pergamum, Pergamos, was a city of Mysia in the Caicus valley, 15 miles inland; In KJV, Pergamos. Royally situated in a commanding position, Pergamum was the capital until the last of the Pergamenian kings bequeathed his realm to Rome in 133 B.C.  Pergamum became the chief town of the new province of Asia, and the site of the first temple of the Caesar-cult, erected to Rome and Augustus in 29 B.C. A second shrine was later dedicated to Trajan. . . The worship of Asklepios and Zeus were also endemic. The symbol of the former was a serpent, and Pausanias describes his cult image ‘with a staff in one hand and the other on the head of a serpent.’ . . . On the crag above Pergamum was a throne-like altar to Zeus now in the Berlin Museum (Revelation 2:13?). . . It is natural that ‘Nicolaitanism’ should flourish in a place where politics and paganism were so closely allied and where pressure on Christians to compromise must have been heavy. Pergamum was an ancient seat of culture and possessed a library which rivaled Alexandria’s. Parchment (charta Pergamena) was invented at Pergamum to free the library from Egypt’s jealous ban on the export of papyrus.”

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The Final Prophecy of Jesus, An Introduction, Analysis, and Commentary on the Book of Revelation, Oral Edmond Collins, 2007

12. . . . [Pergamum] was the place where the Roman Emperor was worshipped after the fashion of the ancient Babylonian mysteries. 13. The Babylonian cult was for centuries prior to the writing of the Revelation a focal point for Satan worship, including sexual orgies and the veneration of the serpent. At the death of King Attalus  III Philometer in 133 B.C., his will ceded Pergamum to the Romans. Attalus was the last to inherit the title, Pontifex Maximus, ‘Divine’ high priest of the cult. After a time the Roman Emperor took to himself the local cultic function and the title, Pontifex Maximus. In 29 B.C. the Imperial cult erected in Pergamum a temple to the Emperor Augustus. The provincial governor functioned as the local high priest of the cult. In the second century, a second temple was erected to Trajan and a third to Severus.

14. On the teaching of Balaam, see Num. 1:1-36; cf. 25:1-3. Balaam, a false prophet of the LORD, offended the kings of Moab who had hired him by blessing Israel whom he had been hired to curse. Apparently, to regain their favor and perhaps collect his pay, he then advised the kings to use their Midianite women to seduce the men of Israel into attending temple banquets, practicing sexual immorality, and worshiping Baal of Peor. Religious prostitution was common to much of the pagan worship in the ancient Mediterranean lands. It was practiced by the Nicolaitan cult in the name of Christianity. . . 15. The Nicolaitans, probably falsely, attributed their heinous doctrine to Nicolaus, the deacon of the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:5). Their error was a variety of Gnostic philosophy, which held that, because the material and spiritual worlds are essentially separate, licentious conduct was not in conflict with the Christian faith. They therefore imported into Christian piety practices which were common to pagan temples (cf. Jude 3-16). 16. The Lord’s commandment was to repent. . . Indeed, repentance and purity are frequently reiterated themes in our Lord’s last prophecy. The Lord will fight against the unrepentant. . . The language of the text implies both temporal as well as eternal judgment. . . Through this text Christ speaks as the Divine Judge with absolute authority.”

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History of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 100-325, Philip Schaff

§ 120. Schools of Gnosticism.

[These schools of heresy are categorized by geography, doctrine, and ethics: Nicolaitanism is from Asia Minor, belongs to the ‘Christian’ group, and is libertine.]

“The arbitrary and unbalanced subjectivity of the Gnostic speculation naturally produced a multitude of schools. These Gnostic schools have been variously classified. . .  The ethical point of view, from which the division might as well be made, would give likewise three main branches: the speculative or theosophic Gnostics (Basilides, Valentine), the practical and ascetic (Marcion, Saturninus, Tatian), and the antinomian and libertine (Simonians, Nicolaitans, Ophites, Carpocratians, Antitactes).


More than interesting!

REVELATION: An Expositional Commentary, Donald Grey Barnhouse, Zondervan, 1971.

[Pastor Barnhouse was committed to the Church-Age view of the letters in Revelation 2 and 3.]

“The very word ‘Pergamos’ has in it the same root from which we get our English words for bigamy and polygamy. It is the word for marriage. The particle which forms the first syllable frequently calls attention to something that is objectionable. ‘Pergamos’ signifies a mixed marriage in the most objectionable sense of the word, for it is the marriage of the organization of the church of Jesus Christ with the world in defiance of the distinct command of the Spirit, ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?’ (II Cor. 6:14-16)”

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Bible Study Tools – International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Invalids from all over the province of Asia flocked to the temple of Asklepios and there, while they were sleeping, Asklepios was believed to reveal through their dreams remedies with which priests and physicians could heal them. Obviously, opportunities for deception were many. [Human nature, our folly, hopelessness, and wickedness, is the same in every era.]

There were  many Jews at Pergamos, and in 130 BC the people of the city passed a decree in their favor. Many were more or less assimilated with the Greeks, even to the extent of bearing Greek names. 

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From ancient Pergamon to modern Berlin – CFI-USA

“. . . the Nazi Party’s chief architect, Albert Speer, was commissioned by the new chancellor, Adolf Hitler, to design the parade grounds for the party rallies in Nuremberg. Speer turned to the Pergamon Altar for inspiration. Using the altar as a model, Speer created a colossal grandstand, known as the Zeppelin tribune. In the following years’ mass rallies, Hitler descended down the steps like a tribune in ancient Rome. . .

Hitler’s Final Solution is known as the Holocaust, a word that comes from a Greek word meaning ‘a wholly burnt animal sacrifice.’ On the ancient Altar of Zeus in Pergamom, burnt sacrifice was practiced. Centuries later in Germany’s Nuremberg, in the redesigned Pergamon Altar, Hitler announced his Final Solution to the world and this time, the burnt sacrifice was six million Jews.”


site of the sparse remains of the Altar of Zeus at Pergamon as seen from the Sanctuary of Athena (the oldest structure on the acropolis dated 4th century BC).

  

Berlin’s Pergamon Museum: The Altar of Zeus – History guru

Berlin – Pergamonmuseum – Altar
photo by Lestat (Jan Mehlich)

A resource for defining the Nicolaitans and other Gnostics


Revelation 2:6

GNV
To Ephesus

But this thou hast that thou hatest the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

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Revelation 2:15

To Pergamos

15 Even so hast thou them that maintain the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.


The doctrines and deeds of the Nicolaitans: A thing Christ hates

History of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 100-325

Philip Schaff

§ 120. Schools of Gnosticism.

The arbitrary and unbalanced subjectivity of the Gnostic speculation naturally produced a multitude of schools. These Gnostic schools have been variously classified.

Geographically they may be reduced to two great families, the Egyptian or Alexandrian, and the Syrian, which are also intrinsically different. In the former (Basilides, Valentine, the Ophites), Platonism and the emanation theory prevail, in the latter (Saturninus, Bardesanes, Tatian), Parsism and dualism. Then, distinct in many respects from both these is the more practical school of Marcion, who sprang neither from Egypt nor from Syria, but from Asia Minor, where St. Paul had left the strong imprint of his free gospel in opposition to Jewish legalism and bondage. [Nicolaitans]

Examined further, with reference to its doctrinal character, Gnosticism appears in three forms, distinguished by the preponderance of the heathen, the Jewish, and the Christian elements respectively in its syncretism. The Simonians,  Nicolaitans, Ophites, Carpocratians, Prodicians, Antitactes, and Manichaeans belong to a paganizing class; Cerinthus, Basilides, Valentine, and Justin (as also the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies, though these are more properly Ebionitic), to a Judaizing; Saturninus, Marcion, Tatian, and the Encratites, to a Christianizing division. But it must be remembered here that this distinction is only relative; all the Gnostic systems being, in fact, predominantly heathen in their character, and essentially opposed alike to the pure Judaism of the Old Testament and to the Christianity of the New. The Judaism of the so-called Judaizing Gnostics is only of an apocryphal sort, whether of the Alexandrian or the Cabalistic tinge.

The ethical point of view, from which the division might as well be made, would give likewise three main branches: the speculative or theosophic Gnostics (Basilides, Valentine), the practical and ascetic (Marcion, Saturninus, Tatian), and the antinomian and libertine (Simonians, Nicolaitans, Ophites, Carpocratians, Antitactes).

Having thus presented the general character of Gnosticism, and pointed out its main branches, we shall follow chiefly the chronological order in describing the several schools, beginning with those which date from the age of the apostles. . .

§ 121. Simon Magus and the Simonians. . .