“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
“‘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. 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. So also 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. 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.’
Understanding And Applying the Text
Christ identified Himself as the one with the sharp two-edged sword. This is from 1:16. Christ referred back to this sword at the end of this address, verse 16. It is the sword with which He would make war.
Christ told John to write the words. These are Christ’s words. The Septuagint uses has the same Greek phrase. It uses it about 350 times. Around 320 of them having “the Lord” (Yahweh) as the subject. The fact John used the phrase seven times with Christ as the speaker is no mistake. John was proclaiming Christ’s sovereignty and deity.
Christ told the church He was aware they lived. They lived in a very sinful place. He called it the place where Satan has his throne. Pergamum had the oldest temple in Asia Minor devoted to emperor worship. This implies quite a bit. It implied Cesar was the embodiment of Satan. This will become important later on in Revelation.
Christ commended the faith of those at Pergamum. They remained faithful even during intense persecution. Christ referenced a martyr, Antipas. According to Aretas Antipas was the minister of the church of Pergamum. Antipas was a martyr for Christ. Yet the church remained faithful.
Even though they were faithful. There were some among them who held to the teachings of Balaam. In Numbers 22 Balaam gave Balak advice which led to Israel’s harlotry in Moab. (Numbers 25:1-4). Also, several who professed Christ indulged in sexual immorality.
Like the church at Ephesus, they had several who held to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. We do not have any historical record of who the Nicolaitans were. We do not know what they believed or taught. There are only two references to the Nicolaitans both in the New Testament. Both in Revelation. There is no record of them outside the Bible.
I found two sources that speculated they were a sect within the church. (John Wesley’s commentary and NET bible notes.) That would explain why there is no record of them outside scripture. At this point in history, Christianity was not important to the world. A sect within Christianity even less so. These sources speculate the Nicolaitans were a sect associated with Nicolaus. He was one of the seven original deacons in Acts 6:5. The sect taught Christians lived under grace. So they could engage in immoral behavior with impunity.
Baalam and the Nicholaitans taught sexual immorality. We are living in a time today where we allow the same teaching within the church. Many young couple are living together outside the bonds of matrimony. Yet the church says nothing. We do not what to offend. They might leave the church. Or rather they will go to another church which will not object to their lifestyle.
Notice what Christ said. He will come and war with them. Or even worse for the Ephesians, He threatened to remove their lampstand. Where is the love if we do not say anything? I contend there is none. There is only love of ourselves. We what them to like us. We do not want to disrupt the peace. Yet their very souls are at stake.
Christ’s repeatedly used the phrase. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15; Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8;14:35). Here He used it again. This implies that not everyone can hear the message of salvation. Only those the Spirit has given the ability to hear. But if we can hear we had better pay attention.
The conclusion is an exhortation and promise. “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna.” This may be a reference to the manna preserved in the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle. (Exodus 16:33–35; Hebrews 9:4). Christ promised to nourish the faithful with an unfailing supply of heavenly, spiritual food (John 6:32–58).
The stone has had several interpretations. Some scholars believe that the white indicates a vote of acquittal in court. Still others, a token of Roman hospitality. The context, suggests this is something to prize. It was a type of reward for those who have ’won the victory. “To the one who conquers” or the one “who overcomes.”
We should expect persecution. But we are not saved by martyrdom. God saves us by His grace through faith. We are call to persevere.