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If I Were Told the Future - Lesson 24

Letter to the Church of Pergamos

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Let’s pray:

Our Lord God,

May our study of the letter to the church of Pergamos help us to better appreciate Your prophetic Word, to better understand Your will for each one of us, and also to better serve You.

We ask You all these things, not by virtue of our merits, but rather by the merits of Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.


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Revelation 1:9-11

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, (...)

«What you see, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia; to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos (...).»


The third letter is addressed to the church of Pergamos.

The origin of the name «Pergamos» is uncertain, but «Exalted city», «Citadel» and «Acropolis» seem to be some of its derived meanings.

Capital of the Roman province of Asia for two centuries, Pergamos was also, since the 3rd century B.C., a center of cultural and intellectual Greek life.

It had a library containing 200,000 scrolls, competing with Alexandria’s library.

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Revelation 2:12

And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write,

«These things said He which has the sharp sword with two edges.»


Revelation 1:16

Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shines in his strength.


Just like the previous ones, this letter begins with a portrait of Jesus taken from John’s initial vision.

What does the sharp two-edged sword mean? The answer to this question will help us understand the message of this letter.

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Ephesians 6:17

Take (...) the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.


Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.


The sharp two-edged sword symbolizes the Word of God.

So it seems that the condition of Pergamos requires the use of the Word of God to bring this church back to the right path.

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Revelation 2:12

These things said He which has the sharp sword with two edges.


First, let’s look at the local application of the letter to the church of Pergamos.

As early as 29 B.C., Pergamos distinguished itself by becoming the site of the first worship of a living Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus.

As the religious capital of Asia Minor, it accommodated temples for many oriental religions. One of its pagan temples, dedicated to Aesculapius, god of healing, received thousands of pilgrims each year.

Error mixed with truth thus justified the intervention of the sharp two-edged sword, the Word of God.

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Revelation 2:12

These things said He which has the sharp sword with two edges.


The letter also gives a precise prophecy about the Church.

Indeed, when Roman emperor Constantine embraced Christianity in A.D. 313, persecution came to an end. From the status of forbidden sect, the Church rose to a position of undisputed popularity and power.

From 313 to 538, it imposed itself in Western Europe, both on religious and political levels.

To succeed, it became flexible regarding doctrine: however, all the compromises made resulted in a sad mixture of Christianity and paganism.

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Revelation 2:13

I know your works, and where you dwell, even where Satan’s seat is.

And you hold fast My name, and have not denied My faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwells.


Pergamos thus symbolizes the Compromising Church.

Although it held fast to the name of Jesus and the main elements of Christian faith, which is its only positive point, it allowed paganism to invade it, because of its craving for domination over people of all beliefs.

This is why Jesus now looks upon it as the place «where Satan dwells».

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«You hold fast My name, and have not denied My faith.» (Revelation 2:13)

However, the councils held by the Church between the years A.D. 313 and 538 reaffirmed some of the great biblical truths about Jesus Christ:

- The Nicea Council, in 325, concluded that Jesus is fully God.

- The Constantinople Council, in 381, concluded that, in addition to being fully God, Jesus is fully human.

- The Ephesus Council, in 431, concluded that Jesus combines within Himself full divinity and full humanity.

- The Chalcedonia Council, in 451, concluded that the divine nature and the human nature of Jesus, though combined in a single person, are nevertheless distinct one from the other.

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Revelation 2:13

[You] have not denied My faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwells.


Acts 22:20

And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting to his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.


Let’s also notice how Jesus talks about the persecutions as a period that is now over.

The Church has no longer faithful martyrs dying for Jesus, like Antipas (about whom few things are known) and Stephen.

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Revelation 2:14

But I have a few things against you, because you have there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.


To describe what happened in the Compromising Church, from 313 to 538, Jesus compares this age with the work of Balaam, a prophet of God who was overcame by a craving for power and wealth.

By studying the life of Balaam, we will better understand the meaning of this comparison.

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Numbers 24:10,11

And Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together. And Balak said to Balaam,

«I called you to curse my enemies, and, behold, you have altogether blessed them these three times. Therefore now flee you to your place: I thought to promote you to great honor; but, see, the Lord has kept you back from honor.»


The story of Balaam is simple.

Balak, king of Moab, asked him to pronounce a curse upon the people of Israel. Balaam failed because, at each attempt, a blessing came out of his mouth.

So Balaam suggested another strategy to Balak: the corruption of Israel through the women of Moab.

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Numbers 25:1-3

The people [of Israel] began to commit prostitution with the daughters of Moab.

And they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.

And Israel joined himself to Baalpeor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.


The strategy of Balaam, whose name means «Devourer of the people», was very effective.

The women of Moab introduced their pagan rites among the people of Israel, who then lost God’s approval.

But how does this story describe the Compromising Church, from A.D. 313 to 538?

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2 Peter 2:15

[They] have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.


By craving for domination over people of all beliefs, the Church was willing to «convert to Christianity» many pagan doctrines and rites. So:

- in 307, baptism by sprinkling replaced baptism by immersion;
- in 321, the day of rest was changed from Sabbath to Sunday;
- in 375, worship of saints began;
- in 400, worship of the dead was instituted;
- in 416, the Church began to baptize babies;
- in 432, worship of the Virgin Mary began.

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Revelation 2:15

So have you also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.


Revelation 2:1,6

To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, «(...) But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.»


Another negative aspect of Pergamos was its attachment to the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, distorting God’s grace, unlike the church of Ephesus which was fighting against this same doctrine (see the lesson «Letter to the Church of Ephesus»).

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Revelation 2:16

Repent; or else I will come to you quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.


Isaiah 49:2

[The Lord] has made My mouth like a sharp sword.


Jesus was patient with Pergamos, which symbolizes the Compromising Church of the years 313 to 538.

He invited it to repent, to come back to the Word of God, before this same Word became for the Church a judgment tool in the mouth of Jesus and His faithful servants.

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Revelation 2:17

He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches.

«To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna.»


Exodus 16:14,15,31 (NKJV)

And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground.

So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, «What is it?» For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, «This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.» (...)

And the house of Israel called its name Manna.


To Israel recently come out of Egypt, a pagan nation which darkened the beliefs of God’s people, God gave manna.

Likewise, God promises the hidden manna to him who overcomes Pergamos’ confusion.

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Revelation 2:17

To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna.


Deuteronomy 8:3

So [the Lord your God] humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that He might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord does man live.


The promise of manna first reminds us of our complete dependence upon God, both physically (bread) and spiritually (the Word of God).

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John 6:31-35

[The people said to Jesus,] «Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”»

Then Jesus said to them, «Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.»

Then said they to Him, «Lord, ever more give us this bread.»

And Jesus said to them, «I am the bread of life: he that comes to Me shall never hunger; and he that believes on Me shall never thirst.»


The promised manna is also the promise of everlasting life that God offers us in Jesus Christ.

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Exodus 16:33,34

And Moses said to Aaron, «Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations.»

As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept.


Hebrews 9:3,4

The Holiest of all (...) had the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant.


Finally, the hidden manna is the manna kept inside the ark of the covenant, beside the element which Pergamos neglected so much: the Ten Commandments.

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Revelation 2:17

To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone.


Romans 8:1

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.


In the Greco-Roman courts, a stone was given to the defendant by way of verdict: a black stone if guilty, a white stone if innocent.

The promised white stone thus completely clears those who overcome in Jesus.

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Revelation 2:17

To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows saving he that receives it.


Isaiah 56:5

Even to them will I give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters.

I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.


Finally, Jesus promises a new name to him who overcomes in the church of Pergamos.

According to the Bible, what are the implications of changing one’s name?

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In the Bible, a change of name indicates a new destiny:

«Neither shall your name any more be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made you.» (Genesis 17:5)

«Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince have you power with God and with men, and have prevailed.» (Genesis 32:28)

«In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name with which she shall be called, “The Lord our Righteousness”.» (Jeremiah 33:16)

«The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. (...) You shall no more be termed “Forsaken”, and your land shall no more be termed “Desolate”; but you shall be called “My Delight Is in Her”, and your land “Married”; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.» (Isaiah 62:2,4 [NRSV])

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2 Corinthians 6:14,15,17

Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.

For what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what concord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has he that believes with an infidel? (...)

Why «Come out from among them, and be you separate,» said the Lord, «and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.»


Now, what is the personal application of the letter to the church of Pergamos?

To keep one’s beliefs is often a lot more difficult than to yield to compromise. But Jesus invites us to always remain faithful to Him in all things.

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Matthew 6:24

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.

You cannot serve God and mammon.


The Compromising Church, symbolized by Pergamos, tried to serve both God and its craving for power. A vile mixture of paganism and Christianity was thus created.

We must avoid this dangerous trap in our life.

Let’s end this lesson with a summary of the letter to the church of Pergamos.

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The five points of the pattern in the letter to the church of Pergamos

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We invite you to pray with us:

Heavenly Father,

Responding to Satan, who was offering Him all earthly kingdoms in return for worship, Your Son Jesus said, «Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.”» (Matthew 4:10)

These words perfectly summarize the attitude that the Church of Pergamos should have adopted.

We humbly ask You to always help us to resist compromise, so that the promise to him who overcomes may also be ours, and that we may also receive this new name You keep for those who remain faithful to You until the end.

In Jesus Christ we pray.


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