Meditation Mondays Revelation 2:12-17: The Compromising Church
12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write,
‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 13 “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, [g]which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly 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 to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” ’ (NKJV)
We are well into our series on this important, but often neglected book. If you're just now joining us, please start from the beginning. While you will glean things from each post, maximally benefit your reading by reading each article offered in this series thus far.
Today, we look at the church in Pergamos and we see that Jesus describes Himself as He who has the sharped two-edged sword. I'd like to harmonize a few passages for us to give a bit of clarity on this description of Jesus and spend most of our time discussing this.
First, we have the familiar Hebrews 4:12:
12 "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged 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." (KJV)
We have Revelation 1:16 (which we covered here):
16 "He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength." (NKJV)
15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." (NKJV)
And Matthew 10:34 Jesus says,
34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword." (NKJV)
These are enough passages to illustrate a very simple, but complex point. It is simple in that you can grasp it. It is complex in that we cannot exhaust its implications. Jesus our Messiah is the Word (see John 1:1-4). All of Scripture testifies about Him and He is the fulfillment of every prophecy in the Old and New Testament.
There is no question that Jesus Christ is our Messiah. And as our Messiah, as the very Word of God, His Word is on His tongue, constantly and this Word is piercing- like a sword. Jesus' sharp, true words bring conviction to His elect. The Words of Jesus which are the Words of Scripture, confront our sinfulness, convict us and provide the path for repentance for us. He is gracious in doing this for us. His Word pictured as the sword penetrates our very sinful passions (even those inner ones James speaks of) and cuts them off at the root level- the heart level. This only happens when we spend time with this sword and repentance only occurs at the heart level. It takes a sword to get to the heart.
So when Jesus is described as having a mouth with a sharp sword, we know that John isn't speaking of a literal sword. That is silly. John is saying that Jesus is committed to the Words of the Father- the ever-enduring Scripture that will not pass away. When Jesus says that He did not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34), He is acknowledging that His unwavering commitment to Scripture (for our good and His glory) divides because it cuts away our sinful flesh and this is a painful, but good process.
Now, on to His instruction to this particular local church in Pergamos. Jesus commends them for their works in a very hostile environment. Jesus even goes on to say that this local church ministers where Satan dwells. That is to say- the people in their community are committed to the world not Jesus as Messiah (these people hailed Ceasar as Messiah). Therefore for the church to herald the exclusive message of the gospel will, in fact, cost them something, and this church, unfortunately, began to cave under pressure.
Particularly, they began to compromise on issues of orthodox doctrine and sexual immorality. These believers began to emphasize only their own individual relationship with the Lord, but publicly participated and even tolerated those things contrary to God's Word (the doctrines of the Balaam and the Nicolaitans). So they kept their orthodox worship private and tolerated (at best) and celebrated (at worst) unacceptable practices of worship in the public sphere out of fear and self-preservation. Jesus responds by saying that He would use His unrelenting sword to fight and cut down this compromise if the church of Pergamos did not repent. The culture will follow the church in her repentance. This I'm sure of. But the church must lead the way.
This section ends with a hopeful promise- the secret manna of God. Jesus promises to give them His food as they repent and stay the course of orthodoxy. What an important promise. Jesus reminds this church that He sees them, is near to them, and will provide for them.
Jesus is our bread. Jesus is our life. And as we persevere by His grace, our new name is etched in stone never to perish. So as the church of Pergamos was called to perseverance in orthodoxy, so are we. We must not compromise in any way no matter the drifts of the culture. The unchanging double-edged sword of Jesus- namely, His unchanging Word dictates the gospel, sin, righteousness, and unrighteousness. And as His completed canon of Scripture unfolds this for us, our only response should be "amen Lord Jesus, amen."