Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Notes on Revelation 2:12-17

[Tomorrow morning in Sunday school at Kosmosdale Baptist Church I plan to teach from Revelation 2:12-17, "the letter to the church in Pergamum;" below are some of my teaching notes for this lesson.]

Translation of the Text

12 And write to the angel of the church in Pergamum:
    Thus says the One having the sharp, two-edged sword:
13 I know where you dwell, where the throne of Satan [is located],[1] and you have my name and you have not denied my Faith even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed in your presence,[2] [there] where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you. There you have those adhering to the teachings of Balaam, who was teaching Balak to place a trap before the sons of Israel: to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to fornicate. 15 Similarly, you even have those adhering to the teachings from the Nicolaitans as well. 16 Therefore, repent. But if you don’t, I will come to you quickly and make war with them by means of the sword from my mouth. 17 Let he who has an ear hear what the Spirit says to the churches: to the victor, I will give him some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name will have been written, which no one knows except the one receiving it.
Introduction of the Author
Pergamum was home of a grand temple of Zeus, and it was also a focus of Caesar-worship. The temple itself looked like a throne, which is one reason why it is referred to as a seat or throne of Satan. Pergamum was known as the city of the sword because the government of Pergamum had the right to execute without an appeal to Rome. Pergamum had the first medical school known to Western history. At one time, Pergamum had the second-greatest library in the Western world after Alexandria and developed the process of recording writings on animal skins rather than papyri, but this library was given by Mark Antony to Cleopatra. However, in NT times, Pergamum was still a center of education, striving to retain its place of importance.[3]

Acknowledgement of the Pergamenes’ Faithfulness Under Hardships
Pergamum is referred to as the throne of Satan due to a confluence of several local features. The altar of Zeus, who was said to be king of the gods, resembled a throne. Also, Caesar-worship was prominent in Pergamum, and failure to pay homage to Caesar was considered high treason against the state.[4] Rampant paganism and blasphemous nationalism led to severe, satanic persecution of the church, as illustrated in the case of Antipas.

Condemnation of the Pergamenes’ Tolerance of the Balaamites
The reference to the teachings of Balaam seems to be indicating Numbers 3:16, in which Balaam is said to provide counsel that resulted in the Israelites committing sexual immorality and practicing idolatry. In Pergamum, there was apparently a group encouraging participation in the orgiastic idol feasts by teaching that such activity was permissible for Christians. Perhaps part of the motivation for the teachers’ attitudes was either the threat of economic depravation or the promise of financial gain as the promise of treasure to  Balaam plays such a prominent role in the biblical account and subsequent traditions.[5]

Condemnation of the Pergamenes’ Tolerance of the Nicolaitans
This verse may be understood to mean, “You have also [in addition to those who hold to the teaching of Balaam] those who hold in like manner [to the way of the Balaamites and their teaching] the teaching of the Nicolaitans.”[6]

Admonition to the Pergamenes
The command to “repent” is given in the second person singular. As this letter is addressed to the “angel of the church in Pergamum, “This seems to indicate that repentance is to take the form of the church pursuing a process of discipline with those who are holding to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.”[7]

Warning to the Pergamenes
“Just as the Lord struck down those who yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor, and 24,000 died (Numbers 25:9), so Jesus threatens to ‘war [with] them’– apparently those holding to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.”[8]

Charge to Heed the Word
Observe that “churches” is in the plural, even though it is the church in Pergamum that is currently being addressed.

Promise to the Victor
tou: mavnna tou: kekrummevnou (tou manna tou kekrummenou) “the hidden manna” is an allusion to the jar of manna held within the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 16:32-34) and is employed in contrast to the food sacrificed to idols previously mentioned.[9]

In connection with the earlier OT references informing the readers’ understanding of the rewards to be given, the white stones with names engraved upon them seem to recall the stones worn by the high priest, bearing the names of the children of Israel before the LORD (Exodus 39:6-14), which is consistent with the already-established idea of the priesthood of believers.

“Whiteness” in Revelation is consistently a metaphor for righteousness.[10]

The “new name” is properly understood, not in terms of each believer receiving an individual secret name for himself, but in connection with Revelation 19:12; the “new name” is a name for Christ, which no one will know until the final judgment, and then only those who are victorious through faith in Christ will know this name. Unbelievers will never know this hidden name of the Lord.[11]

[1] ojpou oj qrovnoV tou Satana, in context, certainly refers to locality, so “is located” is added for clarity. tou Satana is either genitive of possession (“Satan’s throne), descriptive genitive (satanic throne), or subjective genitive (where Satan is enthroned/ruling).
[2] gar ujmin, literally rendered “with, beside, or among you,” is translated “in your presence,” as suggested by Aune.
[3] Daniel E. Hatfield, “Revelation 2:12-18” (classroom lecture notes, 22440–Greek Syntax and Exegesis, Spring 2007).

[4]Beale, 246.
[5]Ibid., 249.
[6]Thomas, 194.
[7]Hamilton, 90.
[9]Thomas, 194.
[10]Beale, 253.
[11]Ibid., 257.



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