[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
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,
[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.
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.
of the Author
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.
of the Pergamenes’ Faithfulness Under Hardships
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.
Rampant paganism and blasphemous nationalism led to severe, satanic persecution
of the church, as illustrated in the case of Antipas.
of the Pergamenes’ Tolerance of the Balaamites
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.
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.”
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.”
“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.”
Heed the Word
Observe that “churches”
is in the plural, even though it is the church in Pergamum that is currently
tou: mavnna tou: kekrummevnou
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
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
Revelation is consistently a metaphor for righteousness.
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.
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