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

Revelation 2:12-17


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.


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.”


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.”


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)”


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. 


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)

Reading through Revelation, Chapter 2:8-11 – Smyrna

Revelation 2:8-11


¶ And unto the Angel of the Church of the Smyrnians write, These things saith he that is first and last, which was dead and is alive.

9 I know thy works and tribulation, and poverty (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them, which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the Synagogue of Satan.

10 Fear none of those things, which thou shalt suffer: behold, it shall come to pass, that the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried, and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto the death, and I will give thee the crown of life.

11 Let him that hath an ear hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.


Through His message to the angel of the Church in Smyrna, Jesus warned these believers that they were about to suffer. This reminds me of Paul’s statement to the Philippians (1:29, KJV),

For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ,

not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.

His message was that they were not to fear the ordeal – none of it. That Satan was at work against them, and that the ordeal would have strict limits. Praise Him forevermore for His goodness and kindness!

Geneva Bible footnote, verse 10: “That is, of ten years. For so commonly both in this book and in Daniel, years are signified by the name of days: that God thereby might declare, that the space of time is appointed by him, and the same very short. Now because Saint John wrote this book in the end of Domitian the Emperor his reign, as Justin and Ireneus do witness, it is altogether necessary that this should be referred unto that persecution which was done by the authority of the Emperor Trajan: who began to make havoc of the Christian Church in the tenth year of his reign, as the Historiographers do write: and his bloody persecution continued until Adrian the Emperor had succeeded in his place: the space of which time is precisely ten years, which are here mentioned.”

Study Helps

Halley’s Bible Handbook, Zondervan, 1965

“The Suffering Church. No word of fault, but only loving comfort. Smyrna, about 50 miles north of Ephesus, was a splendid city, of rare beauty, on a fine bay, rival of Ephesus, with the proud tradition that it had been the birthplace of Homer. Its bishop, at the time, was the beloved Polycarp. Irenaeus, who had talked with Polycarp, said that Polycarp was appointed bishop of Smyrna by John. The Church was composed of poor people, with nothing like the number or prestige that the Church in Ephesus had. They were ‘poor, but rich’ (2:9).”  Pp. 702-703.


Bible Study Tools – International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Like many other cities of Asia Minor, Smyrna suffered frequently, especially during the years 178-80 AD, from earthquakes, but it always escaped entire destruction. During the Middle Ages the city was the scene of many struggles. . . Smyrna was the last of the Christian cities to hold out against the Mohammedans; in 1424 it fell into the hands of the Turks.”

More than interesting!

“Smyrna vied with Ephesus and Pergamum for the title ‘First City of Asia.’” ~ Wikipedia

Though it has passed through many bad times, Smyrna still stands today (Izmir, Turkey). Ephesus lies in ruins.

Smyrna was a center of Caesar worship, and a temple to Tiberius and his mother was built there.  ~ Halley’s Bible Handbook, p. 696.

Also, Halley states that after Nero’s persecution, in which the Apostle Paul was martyred, there were 10 Imperial persecutions.

Domitian A.D. 95

Trajan A.D. 98-117

Hadrian A.D. 117-138

Antonius Pius A.D. 138-161

Marcus Aurelius A.D. 161-180

Septimius Severus A.D. 193-211

Maximin A.D. 235-238

Decius A.D. 249-251

Valerian A.D. 253-260

Diocletian A.D. 284-305

Halley records the following about the first of these, 

Domitian (95 A.D.). Domitian instituted a persecution against Christians. It was short, but extremely violent. Many thousands were slain in Rome and Italy, among them Flavius Clemens, a cousin of the Emperor, and his wife, Flabia Domitilla, banished. The Apostle John was banished to Patmos.  P. 761-762.

The name ‘Smyrna’ most likely comes from the word ‘myrrh’, one of its important exports. It was “the port of myrrh” (Donald Barnhouse, Revelation, p.44). Myrrh is a word that has holy and beautiful associations. Not only was it a gift to Jesus when He was a young child (Matthew 2:11), but it was offered to Him mixed in wine when He was on the Cross (Mark 15:23) and He was buried in this way (John 19):

38 And after these things, Joseph of Arimathea (who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews) besought Pilate that he might take down the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave him license. He came then and took Jesus’ body.

39 And there came also Nicodemus (which first came to Jesus by night) and brought of myrrh and aloes mingled together about an hundred pounds.

40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wrapped it in linen clothes with the odors, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

41 And in that place where Jesus was crucified, was a garden, and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid.

42 There then laid they Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation day, for the sepulcher was near.

Ignatius of Antioch visited Smyrna and later wrote to Polycarp. Both men died a martyr’s death.

Seven churches of Asia

Conrad Mbewe, on the certain outcome of Christ’s intercession for us

Luke 22:31-32


31 ¶ And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold,Satan hath desired you, to winnow you as wheat.

32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: therefore when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.


Hebrews 7:24-26

24 But this man, because he endureth ever, hath a Priesthood, which cannot pass from one to another.

25 Wherefore, he is able also perfectly to save them that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth, to make intercession for them.

26 For such an high Priest it became us to have, which is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens:

G3 Conference 2017


Paul Washer, on Scripture as our Sole Authority

1 Timothy 3:15-16


15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.

G3 Conference 2017


Feasting from the Puritans’ table ~ Thomas Brooks

Romans 7:21-25


18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!


Psalm 51:3

For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.

Our struggle against sin is a difficult topic – unpleasant and painful not only to experience but to think about. But this struggle leads to a greater reliance upon and a settled confidence in our Saviour. Praise Jesus Christ forevermore!

Thomas Brooks (1608–1680) was an  English non-conformist Puritan  preacher and author. . . Spurgeon said of him, “Brooks scatters stars with both hands, with an eagle eye of faith as well as the eagle eye of imagination.” ~ Wikipedia


“‘My sin is ever before me’ [Psalm 51.3].  A humble soul sees that he can stay no more from sin, than the heart can from panting, and the pulse from beating.  He sees his heart and life to be fuller of sin, than the firmament is of stars; and this keeps him low.  He sees that sin is so bred in the bone, that till his bones, as Joseph’s, be carried out of the Egypt of this world, it will not out.  Though sin and grace were never born together, and though they shall not die together, yet while the believer lives, these two must live together; and this keeps him humble.”

Thomas Brooks

Old Paths