RAMONA LOWE
THE BOOK OF REVELATION ARTIST
   The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2


Page 19

The Church Infiltrated

     Though Ephesus had left its first love, and Smyrna was suffering from attacks both internal and external, both churches had maintained sound doctrine and practice despite all the efforts of false teachers to subvert them and gain control over them.  But Pergamos is another story.  Despite much good in the church, evil influences had gained a real foothold in the church, and they needed to be rebuked.

Revelation 2:12.   And unto the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges. 

     Pergamos was at the center of the province of Asia, sixty miles north of Smyrna.  It was a great religious center, with the cult of the emperor as well as the Greek pagan mysteries, flourishing there.  The great altar of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was located here – the largest altar in the world.  It was also an intellectual center, with a 200,000 volume library – the word “parchment” is derived from its name – as well as a medical center, with the deity of medicine, Aesculapius (whence our word “scalpel) being worshiped, commonly under the sign of a coiled snake on a pole (note Numbers 21:8-9).

     The twin heresies of Nicolaitanism and Balaamism had made sharp inroads in the Pergamos church, so Christ emphasized He must come to them cutting these out, as it were, with the double-edged sword proceeding from His mouth.

Revelation 2:13.   I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

     The Lord Jesus commends the Pergamites because they had maintained the true faith and preached it in the name of the true Christ under extremely trying circumstances and against much temptation to compromise.  One member had been a witness faithful even to death (the words “witness” and “martyr” are the same).  The man Antipas is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture.  Although he was undoubtedly a real martyr at Pergamos, the fact that his name can mean “Against All” may suggest he also represents any believer who has been willing to stand for the true faith in the name of Christ against all opposition, even if it costs his life.

     Satan’s seat (literally “throne”) may have been an expression used to refer to the gigantic temple of Zeus at Pergamos, set on a high hill with its altar towering 800 feet over the plain.  More likely, however, it refers to the fact that Pergamos had become probably the greatest center of pagan religion in the world at that time.  In fact, Alexander Hislop, in his famous book Two Babylons, gave much documentation to show that Pergamos had inherited the religious mantle of ancient Babylon when Babylon fell in the days of Belshazzar.  The priests, who had kept the secrets of the ancient mystery religions centered at Babylon ever since the days of Nimrod, were forced to migrate at that time, transferring what amounted to the headquarters of Satan’s religious system away from Babylon north and west to Pergamos where it endured for several centuries in that great center of evolutionary pantheistic paganism.  Still later, it moved to Rome.  If Hislop’s analysis is correct, “Satan’s throne” becomes a very literal description of the invisible principalities and powers centered at Pergamos.

Revelation 2:14.   But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

     The Pergamites had not kept out the false teachers, as had the churches at Ephesus and Smyrna.  Even though they had not yet embraced their teachings, they had allowed them in the church, and the leaven was beginning to work.

     The meaning of Balaam (Hebrew meaning “not of the people”) is similar to that of the Nicolaitanes (Greek meaning “conquering the people”).  The doctrine of Balaam (who, like the Nicolaitanes, had also been a false prophet) was to gain control over God’s people by seducing them to compromise with the world, especially in sexual sins (Numbers 31:15, 16: Jude 11; 2 Peter 2:15), and in going along with those who worshiped false gods.  This spirit of compromise has surely been one of the greatest evils in the Christian church ever since the days of the church at Pergamos.

Revelation 2:15.   So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. 

     The church at Ephesus had encountered the Nicolaitanes, but had not countenanced them (for the identity and teaching of these false apostles see the comments above on Revelation 2:6).  The difference here was twofold: (1) the Pergamites were allowing the Nicolaitanes to be members of their church and to begin to propagandize their heresies; (2) the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes (or their “teaching”) was a problem at Pergamos, rather than only their “deeds,” as at Ephesus.  Christ, of course, makes it plain that He hates both their deeds and their doctrines.

Revelation 2:16.   Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

     For the sin of harboring and listening to Balaamites and Nicolaitanes in their assembly, Christ must call the church at Pergamos to repentance.  Their minds must be changed (which is the meaning of “repent”) from an attitude of compromise to one of insistence on doctrinal and moral purity.  Otherwise they would face the fearful prospect of judgment by the same verbal sword which will one day smite the nations (Revelation 19:15). 

Revelation 2:17.   He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh 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 knoweth saving he that receiveth it. 

     The promise to the overcomers in Pergamos is striking and unique.  The “hidden manna” alludes to the manna that was hidden in the ark of the covenant (Exodus 16:33; Hebrews 9:4) as a reminder to future generations how God had fed His people in the wilderness.  The Lord Jesus had already made it clear that this hidden manna represented Himself.  “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever” (John 6:51).  The “white stone” also refers to the wilderness experience.  In the breastplate of the high priest were woven twelve different precious stones, each inscribed with the name of one of the twelve tribes (Exodus 28:15-21).  None of these were white stones, however.  The white stone presumably is a sparkling diamond, perhaps answering to the Urim (“lights”) also worn in Aaron’s breastplate (Leviticus 8:8).  In any case, all were worn by the high priest when he would enter into the holy place into the presence of the Lord.  He alone could then have access to the ark of the covenant wherein reposed the hidden manna.

     This promise to those who overcome – particularly those who are unwaveringly faithful to God’s truth in an environment of religious compromise, as at Pergamos – is thus of assured access to God’s presence and faithful provision of all needs.  The most precious promise, however, is that the Lord will give each such faithful one a new name chosen by Himself, a name of special communication and fellowship known only to the Giver and receiver, a name reflecting our service for Him in this world and the world to come.  The names we bear now were chosen by our parents, and may or may not be appropriate.  In the Scriptures, names were chosen (especially new names – Abraham, Israel, etc.) to accord with the character and calling of the one so named.  When we all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, those who are overcomers will have accumulated to their heavenly accounts “gold, silver, precious stones” (1 Corinthians 3:12), and the Lord will “make up [His] jewels” in that day for “them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name” (Malachi 3:16, 17).  Then that new name, inscribed in a beautiful pure white gem, will be worn and borne by us in His name, forever. 

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