12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
13 “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith[a] even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
14 But 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. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war 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 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.’
Today the angel of the church in Pergamum is addressed. Pergamum was the political capital of Asia Minor, so another important city. It was a city noted for culture, as an educational centre (it had a library containing over 200,000 volumes), and was also noted as a ‘religious’ city. We read also that it is a stronghold of satanic power.
As to why it was such a stronghold, some believe because Pergamum was full or pagan religion, especially of “Asclepios Soter” or “Asclepios Savior.”, a pagan god depicted by a snake, a pagan god of healing. Sufferers would flock to this temple from all over the Roman empire and spend the night in the dark temple, being run over by tame snakes. To touch the snake, they believed, was to touch the god himself, and be healed…
Others believe it was because Pergamum had a huge altar dedicated to the Roman god Zeus, and yet others believe it was because Pergamum was the political centre of Caesar worship.
Clearly, a mixed up place.
This church are holding fast to the name of Jesus in a place filled with unbelievers, where the way of life totally revolved around worship of other gods, where people were known to be religious but were not in relationship with the One true God.
But, as there is no such thing as a perfect church, there are also behaviours and actions that they are told must stop, must be repented of.
Some in the church were still holding on to former ways of immorality and idolatry, as we read, they were holding the teaching of Balaam, see Numbers 22-24, and 31.
To live up to Biblical principles of morality means going against the grain, especially in Pergamum 2000 years ago. Listen to what Roman statesmen Cicero said,
“If there is anyone who thinks that young men should not be allowed the love of many women, he is extremely severe. I am not able to deny the principle he stands on. But he contradicts, not only with the freedom our age allows, but also with the customs and allowances of our ancestors. When indeed was this not done? When did anyone find fault with it? When was such permission denied? When was it that what is now allowed was not allowed?”
As believers we are called to stand against such ‘freedoms of the age’, and live with the timeless truth of the Word of God in mind, the timeless principles embodied by the Lord Jesus Christ.
We must never have a spirit of accommodation towards false teaching, towards idolatry, or towards immorality…the church must be doctrinally pure, and God promises us true manna from heaven if we are (John 6.41).
He also promises that if we see this through to the end, we are heaven bound, as evidenced by the white stone. Here the name on the stone is far more important than the stone itself.
Think, if you won the lottery and were told, ‘Do you want a cheque, a bank transfer, or an enormous bag of cash?’, you wouldn’t care how it got there, you’d just care it got there, you see?
So on the stone is our heavenly name, our guaranteed reservation to dwell with God forever…if we hold fast to His timeless truths despite living in a world that seeks to water them down, push them aside, or out and out crucify them.