Pergamum was the Roman capital of Asia, the seat of Roman authority and of Emperor Worship. It was also the center for the worship of the Roman god of healing that was symbolized by a serpent, an image you might recognize today as being connected with healing. Pergamum was also the home of the great altar to Zeus.
To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
Notice the way Jesus is described as the one wielding the sharp two-edged sword (the Word of God).
Historical Prologue (2:13-15)
I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
We begin here with quite a commendation; even though this congregation is located in the city where none other than Satan has his throne, they have remained faithful to the name of Christ. Commentators differ on what is meant by the reference to the throne of Satan being present in the city, but one thing is clear; these brothers and sisters were holding valiantly to the truth in the face of heavy opposition. Even so, there were compromises being made, and this was a serious problem. They allowed worshippers of Balaam and Nicolaitans in their midst, with the associated behaviors, and that must be put to an end. My only comment to that is that it should give us food for thought as we look at what is going on today in our midst.
Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
If they do not either cause the offenders to repent or put them out of the congregation, the Lord would take action “with the sword of my mouth”. Yes, it’s a curious thing to say, but let’s not rush by too quickly. The sword represents the Word of God that proceeds from His mouth; that is the mouth of the Word who became flesh. This doesn’t mean Jesus will throw a Bible at anyone, nor does it mean that He is going to start yelling. What it does mean is that the Word of God is pure power; it is what caused the universe to come into existence, and it is what holds all of creation together. The people He is referring to are like wolves in the sheep pen, and Jesus our Good Shepherd will do what is necessary to protect those of the flock who have remained faithful to Him in such difficult circumstance. By telling them this, however, He is giving everyone involved the chance to correct the problems on their own before He steps in.
I’m thinking that should serve as food for thought as well!
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
This one isn’t so easy to understand. In the interests of brevity, those who receive “hidden manna” are servants of the Lord who will have a seat at His banquet table in the Kingdom. White and black stones were used in the Greco-Roman world when a jury cast its vote for the guilt or innocence of a defendant: White was for innocent, black for guilty. A white stone here would be indicative of being innocent on the Day of Judgment, i.e. having our sins taken away. When combined with the “new name known only to the one who receives it” we have symbolized the Christians of Pergamum being set free entirely from those who oppress and persecute them.
Next time, the letter to Thyatira.