Christ confronts churches who tolerate false teaching. Pergamum was very loyal to Rome, even holding the right to carry out executions immediately. There were at least four temples dedicated to emperor worship at one time or another in the city. Many in the city worshiped the false god Caesar, so some in the church had come under that influence.
Christ simply confronts that practice. He firmly asserts that He holds the sword of judgment and protection (2:12). He sees mixed worship as an abomination, and warns the church against it. The throne in Revelation signifies the seat of authority from which commands are issued and sovereignty is established. Satan claims a throne in that sense in Pergamum. There was a time when the church stood against such impurity, recognizing the satanic element in it. They were persecuted for that stance; some were killed for their witness (2:13).
But one faith battle does not ensure victory in spiritual warfare. The Lord expects perseverance in faith. The “teaching of Balaam” alludes to when the prophet Balaam was hired to subvert the faith of Israel in the wilderness (2:14). When Balaam proved unable to lead Israel into harm, he then encouraged Israel to intermarry with Moabite women (Numbers 22-24). Israel compromised their exclusiveness and followed his enticement (Numbers 25:2; 31:16; 2 Peter 2:15). That kind of temptation to idolatry and immorality never disappears (Rev. 2:14). The “teaching of the Nicolaitans” is essentially the same enticement to compromise, though the particulars of it are not related as clearly (2:15).
Perseverance of the faithful during trials may need to include repentance (2:16). The Lord promises quick action, wielding a weapon far more powerful than a human sword. He will come into their midst and establish a clear line of separation between the faithful (“you”) and the compromisers (“them”). They mislead with words and with the temptation of food (2:14b); He will judge with the sword of His mouth.
“Manna” represents God’s providential care for His people (2:17). The Lord had provided manna to meet Israel’s need and remains the Provider for His church. He further offers a white stone to serve as a personal reminder of His presence. God cares about His church. He also cares for His people individually. The hidden manna and the small stone held in one’s hand bear testimony that Christ has His eye on each person who trusts Him.
Dr. David Moore is a Baptist preacher in Pampa and an online instructor in Bible and theology for Taylor University and Nations University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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