From The Heart

Publish date: 07/19/2004

Revelation 2:12-17 NIV

"To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:

These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live-where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city-where Satan lives. 14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15 Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

Pergamum was situated in Teuthrania in Mysia, in the Caicus Valley, about fifty-five miles north-east of Smyrna. It was in a district watered by three rivers, one of which flowed into the sea. The original city was built on a lofty hill, which afterward became the citadel as houses sprang up around its base. It was a great political and religious center. Eumenes II (B.C. 197-159) extended Pergamum and embellished it with many great buildings, including a fantastic library with 200,000 volumes, which was second only to Alexandria. The kingdom of Pergamum became a Roman province 130 BC. All the main roads of Western Asia converged there. Pliny called it "by far the most illustrious city of Asia."

Pergamum was celebrated for the manufacture of ointments, pottery, tapestries, and also parchment, which derives its name (charta Pergamena) from the city. The great glory of the city was the Nicephorium, a grove of great beauty containing an assemblage of temples - belonging to Zeus, Athena, and Dionysos - rivaling Ephesus. Next to this was the celebrated and much-frequented grove and temple of AEsculapius (or Asklepios), the god of healing, with a university for medical study. AEsculapius was also called the god of Pergamum, worshipped in the form of a living serpent, kept and fed in the temple. On the coins struck by the town, he often appears with a rod encircled by a serpent.

The city has been described as a sort of cross between a pagan cathedral-city, a university-town, and a royal residence. It was enlarged and improved during a succession of years by several wealthy kings. Pergamum was the first city in Asia (A.D. 29) with a temple for the worship of Augustus (Octavius Caesar). Hence, in the Apocalypse, Pergamum is a very center of emperor-worship "where Satan dwells." The Nicolaitans also flourished here as in Ephesus and Thyatira. Like Ephesus, this city is called temple-sweeper (neookoros) for the gods. All forms of pagan ungodliness prevailed openly in this city.

In Numbers, chapters 22 through 24, Balak tried to get Balaam to curse the Israelites, but all he could do is bless them because God would not allow him to curse them. He knew what was right and wrong, and yet he chose to ignore his conscience, oppose God’s will, and do what was wrong. He could not curse Israel or do anything to destroy them from the outside, so he tried to do it from the inside - he encouraged the daughters of Midian and Moab into sexual relationships with the Israelite men. In this way, the introduced the worship of Baal of Peor into the Israelite camp and brought a curse upon Israel (Numbers 31:16). The sins of Balaam were idol worship, including eating foods offered to idols, and sexual immorality.

The Church in Pergamum remained faithful to the name of Jesus Christ, even though they suffered persecution and were surrounded by extreme ungodliness on every side. However, they had been a little too tolerant of those among them who clung to vile and immoral, ungodly beliefs and practices. This was unacceptable to the Lord and He calls on them to repent or else He would deal with them using His two-edged sword – the sword of the word - bringing judgment upon them.  

“To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna.”  Jesus is the Manna – the Bread from heaven – hidden from all, and unappreciated by all, except those who embrace Him. He is the life and sustenance of those who love Him and love His Word. He is all we need!

I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”  The white stone was regarded as a token of favor, prosperity, victory or success everywhere. It represents your allegiance. The white stone also represents heaven and the presence of God. In some cultures, it was the prize the victor received for winning the competition. As such, it would denote that the Christian, to whom it was given, would meet with the favor of the Redeemer and would have a token of his approval. In eternity, the favor and approval of man counts for nothing, but the favor and approval of Almighty God means everything!