REVELATION (Part 3)

Letters To The Seven Churches, (continued)

2:12-17 PERGAMOS

Pergamum, or Pergamos in the KJV, was a capital city in Asia, and many cults were practiced there. Emperor worship abounded; there were temples to Caesar, Trajan, and Asklepios, as well as a throne-like altar to Zeus, which is now in the Berlin Museum. It is interesting that many of their pagan gods were symbolized by a serpent, a symbol of Satan himself. This church was faithful to Christ's name, refusing to worship the pagan gods and emperors, even suffering martyrdom in Christ's name. However, in a spirit of tolerance, they allowed false teachers within the church, who tried to combine heathen practices with true Christianity. Many churches today have this same problem, believing that Christian love requires us to be tolerant of things we know are wrong in the eyes of God. Although we are not to judge, we cannot be tolerant of those things God has already judged to be wrong.

  • JESUS: "He who has the sharp sword with two edges". (1:16). Jesus is presented to this church as an instrument of judgment, separating the good from the bad, and cutting away or destroying the bad. Jesus is never pleased when the church tolerates false doctrines.
  • PRAISE: "I know your works, and that you live where Satan's stronghold is; you still hold fast to My name and have not denied My faith, even when Antipas was slain as My faithful martyr among you, where Satan lives." Where Satan's stronghold is (KJV says Satan's seat, other versions say Satan's throne) = A place where Satan is firmly settled in, and rules without much opposition. It is not entirely certain just who Antipas was, only that he was martyred in Christ's name.
  • CHARGES: "You have those among you who cling to the teachings of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, eating foods sacrificed to idols and committing fornication (see Num. 22). You also have those who hold the doctrines of the Nicolaitans, which is a thing I hate."
  • EXHORTATIONS: There was only one all- encompassing exhortation given to this church---- "Repent." Although they had not denied their faith, their compromises and some of their teachings were so far from the mark that they were actually hurting the cause of Christianity.
  • WARNING: "Repent, or I will come unto you quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." Jesus is clear that He will not tolerate false teachers, separating them from and cutting them out of His church.
  • PROMISE: "To him who overcomes I will give hidden manna to eat, and will give hime a white stone with a new name written on it which no one will know except the one who receives it." Manna, God's providence for His people (see Ex. 16:15), instead of foods sacrificed to idols. And a new name, one that would not be tarnished by association with heathen or pagan practices, and would not be persecuted. The white stone may refer to one of two things:
    • 1.) In their judicial system, votes were made using a black stone if the person was guilty, or a white stone if they were innocent, or blameless. The white stone mentioned here may indicate blamelessness before God.
    • 2.) To indicate friendship or special standing, a stone called a "tessera hospitale" was given, and only had to be shown to be guaranteed free and safe passage and hospitality. The white stone mentioned here may indicate this kind of guaranteed pass to the one who receives it.

2:18-29 THYATIRA

Thyatira was famous for it's many trade guilds; Lydia, a seller of purple cloth (see Acts 16:14) was from here. This was a small but growing church, who were the opposite of Ephesus in that their zeal and love for the Lord was growing instead of fading. However, not only did they tolerate false teachers like the church at Pergamos, but they also allowed the licentious practices of Jezebel, which included sexual immorality (see I Kings 16) It was a church of compromise, possibly because membership in the secular trade guilds was required, thus the mixing of heathen practices with Christianity.

  • JESUS: "The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like fine brass." (1: 14,15). Eyes like a flame indicate Christ's all-seeing omniscience that sees through such fase practices and hidden motives, and His righteous wrath--- He is greatly angered by these things in His church. Feet like fine brass, steadfast, strong, firmly planted against such practices, uncompromising.
  • PRAISE: "I know your works, your love, your service and faith and patience, and that your last works are even more than the first." Their zeal was growing, not fading, and they were serving faithfully.
  • CHARGES: "You tolerate that woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, allowing her to teach and to seduce My servants into committing fornication and eating foods sacrificed to idols." A reference to King Ahab's wife, who introduced immoral acts into worship practices (see I Kings 16). Most of the early manuscripts say " thy wife, Jezebel" instead of "that woman, Jezebel". That would indicate that this Jezebel must have been the wife of the bishop of that church, or possibly a very highly placed and influential person in the church.
  • EXHORTATIONS: "I say unto you, and to all in Thyatira who have not followed these teachings {those of Jezebel} and who have not known the depths of Satan, that I will put upon you no other burden. Just hold fast to what you already have until I come." The Gnostics, a popular religion of the time, believed that their knowlege was 'the depth of God', but Jesus, who can see through such falsehoods, plainly states who is responsible for such teachings, and denounces them as 'depths of Satan'. He not only recognizes Satan to be the originator of such teachings, but also acknowleges Satan's pervasiveness, and how difficult it is for Christians to withstand, thus placing no other burdens on them.
  • WARNINGS: "I gave her time to repent of her fornication, but she did not. Realize that I am going to cast Jezebel into a bed, and will cast those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds." Jezebel has already been judged and condemned by her refusal to repent of her great wickedness. "I will kill her children with death, and all the churches will know that I am the One who searches the reins and hearts, and I will give unto every one of you according to your works". Her children, or followers, are also condemned to death, not just physical death but spiritual death, however, they will face much tribulation prior to that. Jesus says here that He searches the reins and hearts, i.e.-- the reins indicate the controlling force, or our conscious thoughts and the choices our thoughts lead us to make. The heart here represents the innermost thoughts and motives, which we may not even be fully aware of ourselves. No one can hide their actions or even their motives from Jesus. (see Heb.4:13).
  • PROMISE: "He that overcomes, and keeps doing My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations, and he will rule them with an iron rod; like clay pots they will be broken into tiny pieces, even as I received from My Father, and I will give him the Morning Star." Those who overcome will be able not only to withstand all immoral and un-Godly practices, but will rise victoriously above those who practice such ungodliness, and actually be given the power to destroy those who support such acts. This power will be given to them by Jesus, who received it from His Father.

References used in this study:

  • NIV Study Bible; Zondervan Press
  • The Revelation of John, volume 2; Wm. Barclay
  • Halley's Bible Handbook; H.H. Halley
  • Clarke's Commentary On The Bible; abridged by Ralph Earle

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