Jesus Addresses Pergamos
This message to the church at Pergamos is a rebuke from Jesus for the congregation’s willingness to open its doors to ungodly men with carnal doctrines. This “carnal” church is warned to repent or else He will fight against them.
v.12-13 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 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.”
The “sharp two-edged sword” Jesus holds is the Word (Heb.4:12). By His use of the symbol here, Jesus is letting the pastors know that He has used His Word of truth to cut into their doctrinal heart, and in the light of holy doctrine has carefully examined them.
As a result, Jesus acknowledges the church’s courage to hold fast to His name; recognizing that they had suffered martyrdom because they were dwelling in a demonic stronghold “where Satan’s throne is”. Moreover, to this church’s credit, though apparently surrounded by temples and shrines and innumerable idols in the darkest center of pagan abominations, Jesus commends them for keeping the idols out of the church.
v.14-15 “But I have a few things against you, because you have those who hold to 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. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.”
With the same two-edged sword by which He exposed all that was good and commendable, Jesus also uncovers that which He finds deplorable. In spite of all their success to keep the idols out, Pergamos had failed miserably to keep the ungodly doctrines of the idol worshipers out.
The first doctrine Jesus identifies is “…the doctrine of Balaam”.
According to the Biblical record, Balaam was a soothsayer (Josh.13:22) with some knowledge of God, though Scripture never refers to him as a prophet. Because of his fame, Balaam was offered a huge sum of money by Balaak the king of Moab to use his powers of divination to help Balaak defeat Israel (Num.22:5-7). Though warned by God to speak only the words God gave him to speak (Num.22:35), the magician’s wanton greed for reward and honor drove him to ignore God and align himself with the heathen king instead. As a result, the nation of Israel was introduced to both the idolatry and fornication that eventually caused her to stumble into depravity (Num.31:16). And thus, it was with Pergamos. The church allowed insincere (perhaps greedy) teachers to introduce worldly doctrines that caused many in the congregation to stumble into carnality (perhaps out of greed).
The second doctrine Jesus identifies is “…the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.”
This also surrounds the practice of idols and idolatrous worship, and at the same time might include a form of tyrannical lordship over the church (see notes—Rev.2:6).