The Church at Pergamos, Part 4 of 4 (series: Lessons on Revelations)
by John Lowe
16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Repent therefore! Not only the Nicolaitanes, but the whole Church of Pergamos is called on to repent for not having hated the Nicolaitans teaching and practice. It is a sin to not hate what God hates. If the church did not repent of its sin and deal with the compromisers, then God would come and do it—and that would be disastrous.
What a mistake we make if we think that the church has the authority to decide what is right and what is wrong. The true church is made up of believers in Jesus Christ, and they form what Scripture calls the body of Christ. They are to be lights in the world. And if we are going to be lights in this dark world, we need to be careful to identify with the person of Jesus Christ and to recognize, not the church, but the Word of God as our authority.
He comes straight to the point. The Lord says, “I will soon come to you and will fight against them.” The church is still His, but those who are defiling it, He disowns. Against them, in fact, He declares war. Truly the Lord knows them that are His. He knows how two separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. He promised that judgment would come “soon” which here means “suddenly” (1:1; 22:7, 12, 20).
“The sword of my mouth” refers to the judging power of the Word of God. “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day” (John 12:48). The Word of God is a sword, able to slay both sin and sinners. It turns and cuts every way; but the believer does not need to fear this sword; yet this confidence cannot be supported without steady obedience.
17 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.
“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.” Three things marked the heresy at Pergamos—idolatry, immorality, and infidelity. The overcomer in the church “kept from all three, and his reward is commensurate with his conduct. “To the one who is victorious” refers to the Christian who is an “overcomer;” that is the definition of a genuine Christian. WE OVERCOME BY THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB. Never are “we” overcomers, but we’ve overcome by His shed blood. We know that the victory was won by Christ and not by ourselves. Overcoming the world, the flesh, and the devil is an individual matter. We MUST be overcomers. Overcoming refers to individuals, not to a group. To him, the Lord said, “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.” To the overcomers at Pergamos Christ says, “I will give some of the hidden manna.” The manna was angel’s food, poured down from heaven in miraculous provision for the children of Israel throughout their wilderness journey. A pot of that manna was hidden by Moses in the Ark of the Covenant in the holy of holies of the tabernacle. The overcomers will be given the hidden manna to eat to express in a symbolic way that the overcomer may feast upon Christ in the hidden place. The “hidden manna” referred to here is to be given to the overcomers in Heaven. The wicked would prefer the luxurious banquet of the world, spread with all that would appeal to carnal appetite, and which is deliberately served to insult the living God. The saint of God would prefer to be alone with the Lord enjoying spiritual food.
The overcomer kept himself from immorality and refused to partake in the loose living of the cult. The Lord says, “I will also give that person a white stone.” This, surely, if nothing else, is a symbol of changeless purity. Christ is that White Stone, the “stone cut without hands,” the stone of dazzling purity.
Small stones served many purposes in ancient times. Some were given to the poor to help them obtain food, like food stamps. Some were used as invitations to a banquet. The invited person would bring along the stone in order to be admitted. Each stone would have an invited person’s name on it. For those who refused to go to the pagan banquets, a place was reserved at the Messiah’s banquet in heaven.
The Lord says, “I will also give that person . . . a new name.” The stones may be significant because each will bear the “new name” of every person who truly believes in Christ. Alternately, the new name may be Christ’s name as it will be fully revealed (19:129). Or perhaps, because a person’s name represented his or her character, it may be that the new name signifies the believer’s
transformed life and character because of Christ’s saving work. The new name may be the evidence that a person has been accepted by God and declared worthy to receive eternal life. In any case, we know that God will give believers new names and new hearts. We will enter God’s glory without spot or wrinkle, without anything at all against us, completely free from any and all sin. The overcomer will have a new name written on the white stone. No one will know the name but the happy person who receives it. “I will also give that person a white stone with a new name.”
The overcomer is given evidence that he has entered into a knowledge of the Lord Jesus as the victor over every defiling thing. The overcomer kept himself from infidelity. The Nicolaitanes were setting up the names of men in the place of His all-sufficient name. The overcomer refused to have any part of that. The Lord, in the white stone He bestows, will give the overcomer “a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” The name is secret. The overcomer and the Lord are so close that the Lord can give him a knowledge of Himself no one else can share: some new revelation of Himself which shall hereafter be imparted to His people, and which they alone are capable of receiving.
Each victorious Christian is to have an eternal secret with God. There is a central sanctuary in each personality which only God shares. God completely cleanses a man’s life. So the stone he gives him is a “white stone.” The “new name” represents the individual personality achieved only through the grace of Christ. He is a new man; but he is not a new man just like every other new man. He is eternally something individual, and different, and eternally prized by God.
One of the features of the Old Testament is the giving to a man of a new name to mark a new status. So Abram becomes Abraham when the great promise is made that he will be the father of many nations and when he, as it were, acquires a new status in the plan of God for men (Genesis 17:5). So after the wrestling at Peniel, Jacob becomes Israel, which means the prince of God, because he had prevailed with God (Genesis 32:28). Isaiah hears the promise of God to the nation of Israel: “The nations shall see your vindication, and all the king’s your glory; and you shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will give” (Isaiah 62:2).
This custom of giving a new name to mark a new status was known in the heathen world as well. The name of the first of the Roman Emperors was Octavius; but when he became Emperor he was given the name Augustus to mark his new status.
Taken as a whole, the message to the church in Pergamum is a warning against compromise in morals or teaching and against deviating from the purity of doctrine required of Christians.
Special Notes: 1
(2 Corinthians 4:4, KJV) “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”2
(John 4:3-4, KJV) “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”3
(Revelation 20:10, KJV) “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”4
(Revelation 1:5, GW) “and from Jesus Christ, the witness, the trustworthy one, the first to come back to life, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. Glory and power forever and ever belong to the one who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood5
(2 Peter 2:15, GW) “These false teachers have left the straight path and wandered off to follow the path of Balaam, son of Beor. Balaam loved what his wrongdoing earned him.”6
(Acts 15:20, NIV) “Instead, we should write a letter telling them to keep away from things polluted by false gods, from sexual sins, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from eating bloody meat.7
(Acts 15:29, NIV) “by keeping away from food sacrificed to false gods, from eating bloody meat, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual sins. If you avoid these things, you will be doing what’s right.8
(Jude 1:11, NIV) “How horrible it will be for them! They have followed the path of Cain. They have rushed into Balaam’s error to make a profit. They have rebelled like Korah and destroyed themselves. 9
(Revelation 19:12, ESV) “His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.”