Revelation 2:12-17 Part 2

12) And write the message for the Church in Pergamum:  The One   having the sharp two edged sword says these things.

13) I know where you dwell, in the place of Satan’s power, and you are laying hold of My Name, and you did not renounce My Faith even in the days of Antipas My witness My faithful, who was killed among you where Satan dwells.

14) But I have a few things against you, that you have there ones who are holding to the Balaam teaching, who was teaching Balak to lay a scandalous trap before the sons of Israel, to eat sacrifices to idols and to commit fornication.

15) As mentioned previously, you likewise have ones who are holding to the Nikolaitan teaching.

16) Repent therefore!  But if not, I Am coming to you quickly, and I    will make war with them arrayed with the sword of My mouth.

17) Let the one having an ear hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.  To the victorious one I will give to him the hidden manna, and I will give to him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name having been written which no one has known except the one who receives it.


On December 10th it was reported that, over the last 24 months, there have been nearly five hundred attacks on Christians and missionaries by Hindus in India.

On December 5th it was reported that there has been an increased crackdown on Christian Churches in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.  Two more Christian pastors were deported on that day.

On December 4th Islamic militants closed down two more Churches in Indonesia.

A Christian teacher was released from prison in Sudan on December 4th after being incarcerated for desecrating the name of muhammed.  She was threatened by mobs of islamic Sudanese with machetes.

On December 3rd a northern state in the country of Nigeria ordered four Christian Churches to be demolished.

On November 28th China detained forty Christian Church leaders for distributing evangelical material.

In Egypt, also on November 28th, authorities arrested a formerly islamic woman who converted to Christianity in order to marry a Christian man.

On November 23rd, it was reported that a Christian pastor in Azerbaijan, who was in prison for conducting “illegal religious services”, was required to pay exorbitant prices for his prison food and other services.

On November 19th the government of North Korea closed down a large Australian company doing business there and arrested its representatives, claiming they were “spies”.  They weren’t.  They were Christians.

A leaked government document from China disclosed, on November 14th, that the government has launched a massive crackdown on Christian house Churches.

It was reported on November 12th that the government of Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan has arrested numbers of Christian activists and tortured them.

On November 7th a young Christian pastor in India was kidnapped and sacrificed to a Hindu goddess!

Now, I’m not going to go any further with this... that’s less than two months worth of the “reported” atrocities especially aimed at Christians and Christian Churches; and I’m also sure that there are many times that many incidences of persecution that were not reported in any media.

The point being that today, in December 2007, satanically inspired hatred of Jesus Christ and His Church, with or without the cooperation of government authorities, is occurring around the world.

And, as we’re all aware from the recent news, Satanically inspired persecution of the Church and its missionaries hasn’t bypassed our own shores – the Christians in Colorado can readily attest to that!

And let’s not forget that almost every Christian family which resided in Iraq before our occupation has now fled extreme persecution by islamists; and they have sought some kind of refuge in the neighboring countries of Syria, Jordan and Turkey – all of which are islamic!

And, as well, let’s take notice of the “political” persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ in our own country.  While every philosophy known to man is welcomed in the public square, Christianity is becoming more and more unacceptable as liberal, agnostic and atheistic groups continue to badger the legal system with politically correct law suits.  And the cries of our leaders for “freedom” and “democracy” for all nations ring hollow in the ears of the King of Kings, for nations that reject Him and His Law-word move irrevocably toward decline, slavery, stultifying human law and war-mongering.  Outside our Lord’s Word, there is no freedom!

As we look at the message of Jesus to the Church at Pergamum, the questions that you need to ask yourselves have to do with your responses to slander, accusation, persecution, affliction, imprisonment, torture and death.

That Church existed right in the place of Satan’s power, with every conceivable mythical god and goddess, with all dominion granted to the Roman emperor, with every shameless, unrestrained and immoral practice imaginable in the healing center run by the son of Apollo, and the worst of it all – the warped and savage hatred of Christ and His Church by judaists.

And the Lord Jesus Christ sends them a message which says, “you are laying hold of My Name”.

The close relationship between organized judaism (which, remember, is a false religion just like the worship of zeus, or the worship of a Roman emperor); but the relationship between judaism and the imperial officials made it only natural that persecution and martyrdom would begin here... especially since there is an inherent opposition to statism and the worship of the creature in Christianity.  It would begin here, if anywhere in Asia, since this is the place where emperor worship began! 

And, as I said before, emperor Augustus caesar declared himself the emperor of all the heavens and all the earth.  He himself was the one link between the natural and the supernatural; the link between heaven and earth; the one through whom the supernatural became accessible to mere humanity.

In him, caesar, was the personal, human affront to the human Christ, Who did, indeed, bodily enter the throne-room/judgment-seat of God in the heavenlies above the created realm!

The first emperor of the Roman empire claimed to take the seat of universal judgment over all things.  And his worship temple was in Pergamum!  At the time of Jesus’ message to the Church, that place of worship was already over a hundred years old.

It was in 30AD that Jesus Christ atoned for the sin of the world (entering the holy of holies once as mediator for mankind) and was then bodily resurrected and bodily ascended to the glory cloud, where he received the glory which He had put aside for a time, and where He received the nations as His inheritance, and where He was crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords – and enthroned as God-man with all authority over the heavens and the earth!

And the emperor of the empire claimed this accomplishment for himself.  He said, in essence, “I am the christ – the savior of the world!  I am the mediator between the earthly realm and the heavenly.”

And this is what judaists joined forces with against the Church!  It’s no wonder that the Pergamene Christians would have nothing to do with emperor worship; and it’s also no wonder that these believers were under such affliction and persecution.

But Jesus praises these little ones who belong to Him, because they are holding fast to His Name, confessing Him alone as Savior, Mediator and Lord, proclaiming none other than Him had entered the heavenlies and was King over all kings and all nations and all peoples.

They did not renounce the faith of Jesus, even when bitter persecution came “in the days of Antipas, My witness My faithful, who was killed among you where Satan dwells”.

As far as Antipas is concerned, there is nothing in Scripture or in the history of the times to give us clues as to who this might be.  Therefore no information about these days and about this notable martyr of Pergamum has come down to us.  Naturally there has been a lot of “mythology” that arose about him, but most of it came about in later centuries as mystics conjectured as to his personage.  But it is especially interesting that the name that Jesus gives him in this message – Antipas – means “against all”.

And Jesus gives him special mention as an example of the Pergamene Christians not “renouncing My faith”; for this man was killed while among the believers in the Church.  And Jesus’ mention of him will forever be on the tongues and in the hearts of Christ’s newborn babes.

So whoever killed him was apparently making an example of this staunch, faithful believer in Christ, so that the Church would be afraid of affliction, torture and death.  Rome was the final arbiter of life and death; and the death of this faithful man was a savage act of the total destruction of life and, apparently, an act of intimidation of the Church.  There’s no information here as to the reason for the killing, but, given the language in all the messages to the Churches, we can almost be certain that it came as a result of judaists and their slanderous accusations.

But Jesus praises the Church for holding to His Name and not renouncing His Faith, both in the totality of the circumstances in which they found themselves, and also in the specific instance of one of their most faithful members being slain.

The pressure to compromise; the human compulsion to do something – anything – to avoid pain and imprisonment; the constant stress of being under coercion; the urgency to protect each other and families; the burden of constant adversity; the innate fear of being executed; the crushing and choking burden of being hated by everyone; and the constant tension of false accusations and slanders – and being required to defend against them to the Roman authorities.

How would you react?  Individually, and with our families and our little Church, what persecution comes our way is almost benign… especially when compared with that of the Pergamene Christians.  Rejection from some (friends, family, acquaintances, visitors to the Church) is about the extent of it (and even that’s somewhat dispiriting to us).

But what if all of this turned into something much more devilish than it already is?  What if this pluralistic and secular government (where there are still some freedoms that remain) was taken over by those who are more antagonistic to Jesus and His Church?  Suppose one with a firm concept of the messianic state rose to power and the word “Christian” became politically incorrect and forbidden?  Suppose there were many, under those conditions, who would falsely accuse you of being disloyal to the state by your public worship of Jesus?  Suppose there had to be a state license in order to operate a Church, and the state prescribed what could and could not be said? … and practicing homosexuals could not be denied membership…..and Bibles had to be registered? … and underground Churches were outlawed? … and state authorities could come into your home to see whether you were conducting “Christian” activities there … and prison was the punishment for breaking the law?

And suppose that a change in law made it possible for anybody to sue a Church for “hate speech” simply for preaching an exclusively Christian message, and excluding positive statements regarding state secularism, islam, hindu and wiccan religions?  And what about the “gaia” (earth) religion and it’s “global warming” doctrines?

What would you do?  Would you “hold fast to the Name of Jesus, and not renounce His Faith”?  You should know that all of this is possible; it’s even probable should the country continue its moral decline!  Would you suffer for Jesus’ Faith?

There is approval and even acclamation from the Lord of heaven and earth for those united to the Christ at Pergamum.  They suffered – and more so than many others – in this place of Satan’s power.  And He would expect nothing less of us, should we come under persecution for His Name.  Remember the words of the apostle Paul: “those who are persevering to the end are the ones being saved”.

Now.  Apparently there were a few in the Pergamum Church who did not hold to the Name of Jesus and His Faith as faithfully as did Antipas (and, I might add, many others there in the Church).

And what I’m about to say may startle, or surprise, some… especially those who may hear, or read, this preaching of the text, and who may not be as familiar with Reformed theology and preaching.

But listen carefully as I unfold this for you.  And remember that this is nothing “new”.  This is the way it has been preached; and it is the way it should be preached – in order that the Church hear what is said by the One with the “sharp two-edged sword”.  It is, indeed, ominous for those who will not hear!

The One Who speaks to the Church at Pergamum now refers to His Own inspired Words in Numbers chapters twenty-two through thirty-one.  “You have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam.”  They’re now called nicolaitans, as has been mentioned previously.  Jesus makes an absolute connection between the “nicolaitan heresy”, which was the (at that time) current manifestation, and the Balaam and Balak incident in Moses’ book of Numbers.

In Numbers, Balak, the wicked king of Moab, hired the sorcerer Balaam to put a curse on the newly constituted Israel of God.  Balak was afraid of them.  Israel had moved into Moab in preparation for crossing the Jordan, and they were “many” – and they were “mighty”.  Balak’s kingdom of Moab was no match for this people; so the sorcery of the internationally famous Balaam was hired.  His curses and incantations were, somehow, to cause Israel to be unable to defend itself or conduct warfare.

But every time the sorcerer Balaam opened his mouth to curse Israel, only the most beautiful blessings and prophetic utterances would come out!  Well, king Balak was livid!  And only with many threats, and much wealth added to Balaam’s purse, was Balaam able to give King Balak the needed course to Israel’s destruction.

He taught Balak to lay a scandalous trap – a snare – before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication (verse 14) in our text.

As chapters twenty-two through twenty-four of Moses book of Numbers says, Balak perverted the sons of Israel by sending women into their camp.  And the sons of Israel committed fornication with them; and then went with them to worship their idols, participating in the sacrifices to those idols.

Balaam knew – and Balak learned – that “corruption” (debasement, defilement, perversion) is a rotting scourge in a nation (or a Church or a family).  So Balak laid the snare for Israel, and it became entrapped in it.  Because of the hideous vice of adultery and idolatry, fourteen thousand of the sons of Israel were executed for their participation in the debauchery.

Jesus says, in His message to the Church at Pergamum, that there were ones (plural) there holding to the current name for the ancient Balaam teaching… i.e. nicolaitans, who were advocating an antinomian Christianity!

These “few” must have been inside the Church; and they must have been advocating and practicing similar perversions taught by Balaam in Moses’ book of Numbers!  After all, they were in a society in which sexual immorality (as defined by God) was simply a non-issue; and in a society in which everybody ate the sacrifices made to zeus and the rest of the pantheon of gods and goddesses!

But you see (and this is what should be surprising to some) this is antinomianism!  Which means… in place of – God’s Law!  These few in the Church were teaching that, because of the sacrifice of the Christ, Christians were “freed” from God’s Law-word – a heresy completely opposed to Scripture.

So, these “nicolaitans” advocated a contemporary heresy; and Jesus condemns it in terms of the teaching of Balaam.  It was no longer a sin, in their opinions, to commit fornication and idolatry.  The believer in Christ can live with these things because he’s no longer under the obligation to obey the law.  They probably even claimed the “leading of the spirit” as justification for their lifestyles as they went to the temples, and ate the sacrifices, and participated freely in fornication.

Our Lord Jesus was relating His Own words from the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) which said:


“for it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain for things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication.  If you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well.”


There is another aspect to this as well.  The false teachers, these ones inside the Church who advocated this antinomian lifestyle, were seducing – or maybe trying to (like Balaam and Balak) – seducing the others in the Church into idolatrous eating and fornication.

But Jesus, in the latter verses in this message to Pergamum, promises wonderful things to those who revile this teaching and recognize it and expose it and overcome it.  (An examination of those things will have to wait until next time.)

But you see this heresy is inside the Church.  All the other provocations and persecutions and trials come from the outside.  But the Church is the official place of worship and fellowship for Christ’s people.  It is place, and time, in which our Lord receives the most glory from His people, and it is the visible representation of His Kingdom.  And that’s where His condemnation and judgment is directed in these messages, isn’t it? … at the teaching and advocacy of heretical doctrine and practice IN His Church!

So, at the instigation of Satanos, we have to sustain rejection, suffering and persecution from outside the Church, for which we can do little about, other than take our suffering to the throne of grace in prayer.

But, also at the instigation of Satanos, we have traps and snares to idolatry and fornication on the inside, don’t we?  This we must do something about, for our Lord demands it in His Church.  It must be recognized, exposed and removed according to Him.  For we must hold fast to His Name; and we must not renounce His Faith.

This morning I leave you with this from the apostle Peter, who was writing to the refugees from Israel in the Churches in the nations – one of which was the Church in Pergamum (2Peter 2):


1) But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.

2) And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.

3) By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.

4) For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;

5) and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;

6) and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;

7) and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked

8) (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)

9) then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,

10) and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries,

11) whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.

12) But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption,

13) and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you,

14) having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.

15) They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;

16) but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.

17) These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.

18) For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.

19) While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.

20) For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.

21) For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.

22) But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit”, and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”