The message to Pergamum, Revelation Chapter 2 Verses 12-17 (NASB)



Pergamum is an inland city about 65 miles north of Smyrna. It had a famous 200,000 volume library. After Ptolemy Epiphanes of Egypt (205-182 BC) cut off the export of papyrus, the researchers of Pergamum developed a paper from animal skins called parchment. This allowed Pergamum to become second only to Alexandria, Egypt in its vast library.
There were many temples in Pergamum. In fact, the great alter to Sater Zeus was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. The people of Pergamum had two main religions:

    Dionysys  - the god of the royal family symbolized by the bull.
    Asclepius - the savior god of healing represented by the snake.
                (Note: snake's involvement in healing in the Old
                       Testament, Numbers 21:6-9).

     And to the ANGEL of the church in Pergamum write:
       the ONE who has the sharp two-edged sword says
Christ is the author of this letter - Revelation 1:16.

The Lord will use His sword to fight the BALAAMites (Revelation 2:14) and the NICOLAITANS (Revelation 2:15).

This verse may allude to the fact that Pergamum under Roman control was given the rare power of capital punishment (ius gladii). This power is symbolized by the sword.
     I know where you dwell where Satan's throne is;
The city of Pergamus was the center of idol and emperor worship. This put the Christian at great risk. The forces of idolatry, learning and celebrity were very strong. So strong that this city was considered to be where Satan's throne was.

Satan, as a created being, does not have the qualities of God. He is NOT

   *  omniscient  - Satan is not all knowing.  He does have an
                    active organization of fallen angels and demons.
                    They continually capture people who leave them-
                    selves open to their entrance.  Sometimes they
                    even hinder men of God from receiving answers or
                    help to their prayers - Daniel 10:10-14, 20-21.

   *  omnipotent  - Satan is not all powerful.  He does have a
                    number of thrones, dominions, principalities,
                    powers, rulers and wicked spirits in high
                    places. (Ephesians 6:12, Colossians 1:16, and
                    Colossians 2:15)

   *  omnipresent - Satan is limited to being at only one place at
                    one time.  Pergamus, apparently, was the location
                    of one of his thrones.  Job indicates that Satan
                    roams about the earth - Job 1:6-7.  As a
                    spirit entity, Satan has power in the air too -
                    Ephesians 2:2.  Satan is called the "ruler of
                    this world" in John 12:27-32.  However, he can
                    only be at one place at a time...he moves fast
                    though and has many helpers in the form of evil
                    spirits and demons within humans.
     and you
     (1) hold fast My name, and
     (2) did not deny My faith,
PRAISE THE LORD! Even in all this Satanistic realm, Christ complements the members of the church at Pergamum for raising His name and not denying the faith. It is the same complement given to those who do not take the MARK of the beast - Revelation 14:12.
     even in the days of Antipas My witness, My faithful one, who was
     killed among you, where Satan dwells.
The term "faithful witness" is used with Jesus Christ right at the beginning of Revelation in Revelation 1:5. Later in Revelation, there are two witnesses of the Messiah in Revelation 11:3 so that all the Jews may know. The spirit told the Smyrna church that the "faithful until death" would be given the crown of life - Revelation 2:10.
     BUT I have a few things against you, because you have
     some who hold the teaching of BALAAM, who kept teaching
     BALAK to put a stumbling block before the SONS of ISRAEL,
     (1) to eat things sacrificed to idols, and
Why should this be so bad? If one could eat things sacrificed to idols this may indicate that one tolerates (or even worships) these idols. God is a very jealous God. He will not have ANY god before Him - Exodus 20:3.

The teachings of Balaam was that it was alright to intermarry with heathen and compromise over idolatrous worship. One can see this in Numbers chapters 22 through 25.

      (2) to commit acts of immorality.
At the time of Revelation's writing, men indulged in sexual intercourse with temple priestesses in cult prostitution. Even if this phrase didn't refer to temple prostitution but rather to spiritual unfaithfulness, this, too, is not right in God's sight. See Ezekiel 23:36-39. It is so easy to follow the advise of "friends" or because "they are doing it..." makes the immorality OK. Not so. John tells us earlier in his life, 1 John 5:18-21, that we are to guard ourselves from idols.
     Thus you also have some who in the same way hold
     the teachings of the Nicolaitans.
The Ephesus church (Revelation 2:6) discovered the deeds of the Nicolaitans and didn't tolerate them.

The Pergamum church had them in the congregation expousing their cultic teachings. It is not known who these Nicolaitans were but God certainly hated them.

It is interesting to note that Satan tried to put pressure on the churches of Smyrna and Pergamum from the outside through persecution and martyrdom respectively. He didn't succeed. BUT using internal deception via the Balaamites and Nicolaitans, he made considerable inroads.

How easy it is to criticize "outside" faults of churches when, in fact, the devil may be inside already. Pastors (shepherds) have an awesome responsibility to keep the "wolves out of the sheep".
This is meant for the whole church. It was meant for those who did not follow Balaamite or Nicolaitan teachings. They need to repent because they permitted these influences in the church.

The Balaamite or Nicolaitan practioners needed to repent and give up their practices.

     or else I am coming to you quickly
(This is not the second coming of Christ but an individual church cleaning.)
     and I will make WAR against them with the SWORD of My mouth.
This is the same sword which will one day cut down the nations as told in Revelation 19:15. Curiously, the Old Testament diviner, Balaam, also died by the sword, Numbers 31:8 and Joshua 13:22. Recalling that the cultic practices involved sex, the only way to eradicate this from the congregation is to use drastic measures - Numbers 31:16-18.
     He who has an ear, let him HEAR what the SPIRIT says
     to the CHURCHES.
This is a personal effort. Only we as individuals have spiritual ears to hear. And according to Romans 10:17, faith comes by hearing and studying the Bible. Hopefully, that is why you are using this study guide.
     To him who overcomes, to him
There were three things the Pergamus church had to overcome:
  1. idolatry (eating the food given to idols)
  2. immorality (temple prostitution) and
  3. infidelity (men instead of God)
But to those who overcame, these
     I will give some of the HIDDEN MANNA and
In the Old Testament, some manna was placed into the ark of the covenant - Exodus 16:31-35. This ark became the focal point of worship for the Jews even before the Ten Commandments were given to them. Thus this manna has been "life" to the Jews for a long time.

We, too, have manna. Even as Paul explains in Hebrews 9:1-28 that Jesus Christ is now entering into the heavenly "holy of holies" (where the ark is) and is performing High Priestly functions on our behalf. Jesus early on in His ministry said He is the bread of life - John 6:48-58.

For the Pergamum overcomers, it was much better to "eat" of Christ and have eternal life than to eat the food offered to idols. So, too, you can have eternal life.

     I will give him a white stone and
White suggests purity instead of immorality, which is impurity. In the Old Testament the High Priest wore a breastpiece of judgment which contained 12 stones for each of the twelve tribes of Israel - Exodus 28:15-21.

Now the overcomers will each have their own white stone of purity. This may be a side reference to the pagan practice of needing an engraved stone to attend one of their banquets. If this is so, then this phrase would be a striking contrast to the Pergamus member.

     a new name written on the STONE which no one knows 
     but he who receives it.
This is God's special name to you, the overcomer. While our earthly name was given to us by our parents, our spiritual name is given to us by God. This same kind of naming was promised to the Philadelphia members (Revelation 3:12) and to the 144,000 witnesses standing on Mount Zion (Revelation 14:1).
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 Used by permission."

References to the Revelation of Jesus Christ are in bold italics. All other references are in bold only.