God’s Message to the Church at Pergamum and Your Church in Revelation

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

The Book of Revelation has a message for the 7 churches that could help us examine the health or sickness of our own church, including the Church at Pergamum.

The Churches: Past and Present

The Book of Revelation has a message for the 7 churches that could help us examine the health or sickness of our own church, including the Church in Pergamum. The 7 churches in Revelation were not just figurative churches or ones that Jesus used as analogies, but these 7 churches were actual physical churches in the locations John gives. These 7 churches existed at the time John wrote these letters to them, but many Bible scholars believe that these churches are examples of the 7 different church ages that the church would pass through since the church was founded 2,000 years ago. Almost all scholars believe these letters were written to the churches in the first century and delivered shortly after they were written. Others believe that these also represent 7 different church ages that were to come, but we must remember that these letters to the 7 churches were sent to each of the 7 churches so that they might be read to the congregation in the hopes that they would not die out.

As was the case in the first century church (and churches into the future), these letters or books of the Bible were passed on to the other churches that existed at the time and they were intended to be read aloud to each church in each city/region. However, these messages can benefit our churches today and we would do well if we listen to Jesus’ admonishments to these churches and consider them as directed toward our churches. If we don’t, we may also cease to exist like these other churches.

The Church at Pergamum

The Church at Pergamum was probably not one large church because in those days, most local churches were held in people’s homes, but with the many house churches spread throughout the Roman Empire, the churches in that region were larger than we might think. The word Pergamum means “height” or “elevation,” but its use is often in reference to a citadel or fortress. Here, it could indicate a prideful attitude within the church, which is what happens when sin is allowed to go unchecked in the local church (1 Cor 5:2). When Jesus addresses each church, each message is tailored to each specific church and region. For example, Jesus says to John to write “to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword” (rev 2:12). Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1-10), so this identifies Jesus as the author of this message, and it is a powerful one indeed.

The Message for Pergamum

Jesus knows what the Church at Pergamum was going through, saying, “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells” (Rev 2:13). That sounds encouraging doesn’t it, but wait! He then says, “I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality” (Rev 2:14). So what does Balaam have to do with this church? If you have read the account in the Old Testament, Balaam used Midianite women to seduce the men of Israel which led them into worshipping other gods (Num 31). Today, many churches ordain and even marry same-sex couples, contrary to Scripture. Those churches will not survive, and if they do survive and thrive, it is only because they are Satan’s churches and his sinister ministers are behind the pulpit. God has departed there, for certain.

The Nicolaitans

Jesus rebukes this church by telling them that “you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth” (Rev 2:15-16). At least it’s “some” and not all who hold to this satanic teaching, so what is the teaching of the Nicolaitans? It is possible that the Nicolaitans are related to Nicolaus who was a proselyte of Antioch. This could very well be the same man who was also a deacon in the early church, but obviously a false convert. He was apparently following the example or teaching of Balaam. Remember that Nicolaus and other church leaders were “set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:5-7), but being a deacon may not have been enough for Nicolaus. He wanted his own following. And this following had infected the church, but there is still hope because Jesus commands them to repent, but if not, trouble and tribulation will come. And it did.

Ears to Hear

Once more Jesus equates hearing with obeying. He doesn’t want them simply to listen and not act, but to hear and obey what the Spirit of God says to the churches. The Lord says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (Rev 2:17). Who is it that conquers or overcomes that receives the “hidden manna” and receives “a white stone” with a new name on it? The Apostle John knew the answer to that, writing, “Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5). To believe in Jesus Christ does not mean we simply believe He exists because even the demons do that. It means we believe Him to the extent that we obey Him and all that He commands us in our hearing (or reading), albeit imperfectly.

Conclusion

The very same thing that happened to these churches could happen to our churches today; they could die, but only if we do not heed Jesus’ warnings to the 7 Churches in Revelation. Any church could be closed and shuttered for good if Jesus sees its usefulness is gone and the glory has departed. Thousands of churches do die every year in this nation; even more around the world, but it doesn’t have to be so. Jesus doesn’t have to take away the lampstand of my or your church. Not if we repent and have ears to hear, meaning we listen and obey the Lord (Rev 2:11). It is possible that Jesus may say to some churches this year, “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Rev 2:5). Churches can fail and thousands upon thousands do, but they don’t have to. If only they would do the first works again and cease from being lukewarm and repent, listening and obeying the words of our Lord. It takes more than hearing. It takes doing.

Here is some related reading for you: The Seven Churches Described in the Book of Revelation

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.





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