The Church in Pergamum represents the era when Christianity became the national religion in Rome, from the 4th century to the 7th century. The Church enjoyed a time of peace then—but there was a big problem, it lacked preaching of the truth; too many new believers were added to the Church but there were not enough workers with firm foundations.
SHARP DOUBLE–EDGED SWORD
12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.”
The clear message to this Church is that they need the truth. Heb 4:12 mentions the “double-edged sword”: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
A sharp, double-edged sword was coming out of the Lord’s mouth. This tells us that the biggest failure of this church was the absence of the word. The Church in Ephesus lacked first love, yet they could distinguish the truth and did not let heresy arise in the church. The Church in Smyrna suffered greatly, but their life was abundant. Now, the time of suffering of the church had already passed yet the believers were starving to death spiritually because there were not supplied with the truth.
The double-edged sword represents the two functions of the Word of the God. It can penetrate even to dividing soul and spirit, to the inner parts of a person’s heart to bring him to Christ; and can judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart . If Roman officials could gird themselves with these kinds of double-edged swords, they would be equipped with tremendous power to kill. God’s Word also has the power to
determine a person’s life or death.
If a church does not preach the truth of the Word, then it will have very serious problems. Quakers were once a large denomination but now they are in decline because they abolished preaching in their congregations. God has used preaching since ancient times until now. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways.” (Heb 1:1 )
Christianity is different than other religions. Other religions emphasize sincere worship and think that preaching and explaining the truth is not that important. But Christians often need to eat the spiritual manna. For a very long time the church was filled with ceremonial prayers, many people heard it but did not understand it, like having hidden manna. The Lord said: “To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna .”That is not only our food but our weapon of war against the devil. The spiritual food is like the food for our bodies which we can not do without. Christians must eat often of the true manna.
THE LORD ‘ S COMMENDATIONS – REMAINED TRUE TO THE NAME
13 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.
Even the emperor became a Christian, how come there was still persecution? If we take a closer look at this passage, we will notice that this persecution was different from the persecution of the Church in Smyrna. This was more a regional persecution like during the time of Stephen; it only happened where Satan lived. When we compare the other churches, we find that here it uses the phrase “there are some among you” which means that they were only persecuted by some people, not by every one . Other places used the word “you” which means in its entirety.
How come there was still persecution even after Christianity became the national religion? Constantine was a wise emperor, he reunified Rome. But his territory included the Persian Empire and its people. Persians persecuted Christians. Rome and Persia fought against each other six times; finally Rome lost the war and had to return a large piece of land to Persia. Because the territory of the Roman Empire was too vast at that time, there were some places where Satan’s forces were extremely strong. Some martyrs were put to death in places where Satan lived; it was not a persecution in the entire territory or by the government.
Catholic traditions believe Antipas was a dentist and died a martyr’s death around the year 92. The Catholic Church canonized him as a saint and prays to him for relief from toothaches, and diseases of the teeth. When John wrote the book, Antipas had already been killed. The Lord used his accomplishment to tell of the things to come.
整體上，這教會還算是堅持真理的。最有名的事件，是325 年在尼西亞Nicaea 舉行的普世教會會議，目的為解決兩派之爭。Arius 阿流派與Athanasius 阿他拿修派關於叁位一體神的爭論。結果阿流派被判為異端，他們遠走他鄉，甚至到中國來傳道。在唐朝時稱為景教。後來在中國也消失了。凡不接受基督為神的信仰，必定破產。
Overall, this church is considered to hold fast to the truth. The most famous event was the First Council of Nicaea in the year 325, which was aimed to resolve doctrinal disputes between two groups, Arius and Athanasius, regarding controversies about the Trinity. Arianism was condemned as heresy, yet their teachings traveled to distant parts of the world, even as far as China. During the Tang dynasty that doctrine was called Nestorianism but later on those teachings disintegrated. Any belief that does not recognize Jesus Christ as God will surely fall apart.
THE LORD ‘ S REBUKE – HOLD THE TEACHING OF BALAAM
14 有幾件事[ 不只一件] 我要責備你，因為在你那裡，有人服從了巴蘭的教訓。這巴蘭曾教導巴勒將絆腳石放在以色列人面前，叫他們吃祭偶像之物，行姦淫的事。
14 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.
他們的兩個錯誤都與不認識真理有關。真道的根基不穩，不能分辨真假，很容易就會跟隨異端。當時有兩個教訓在滋長，成了羅馬大公教與希臘東正教世世代代的歪風。後來羅馬再加上崇拜耶洗別，就是崇拜教皇( 下一時期的教會就看到這毒瘤出現) ，奪取了神的權柄。這種種敗壞人心的教導，影響教會超過一千年。
The two mistakes they made were related to not being able to recognize the truth. Their foundation on the true Word of God was unsound; they could not distinguish between true and false doctrines which made it easy to fall into the dangers of heresy. At that time there were two unhealthy heretic teachings that were passed from generation to generation by the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church. Later on, Rome added another heresy which was the worshiping of Jezebel that is, worshiping the Pope (this malignant tumor would appear in the next church era), snatching away God’s authority. These different kinds of teachings that corrode the hearts of people influenced the church for more than a thousand years.
巴蘭先知是舊約中有名的先知，他說的話都會應驗，可說是金口先知。以色列人出埃及經過曠野，有幾個民族非常害怕他們。先是以東人不讓以色列經過，要繞道而行。經過南邊迦南人的地，他們來攻擊以色列，結果反被以色列所滅。亞摩利人，照樣不讓他們過去，結果也是敗給以色列( 民22-23) 。摩押人、米甸人就聯合請了巴蘭來咒詛以色列。
Balaam was a well-known prophet from the Old Testament. Whatever he prophesied came true. When the Israelites came out of Egypt and passed through the wilderness, there were a few groups of people who were very afraid of them. First, the Edomites did not let the Israelites go through their territory so they had to make a detour. When the Israelites went through the land of Canaan, the Canaanites attacked the Israelites but the Israelites fought back and destroyed them. The Amorites also did not let the Israelites pass through their territory, and they were also defeated (Numbers Chapters 22-23). The Moabites and the Midianites joined together to asked Balaam to curse the Israelites.
結果巴蘭看見以色列人安營的方式，知道無法加害他們，因為他們包圍著神的寶座安營。凡以神為中心的生活方式，｢住在至高者隱密處的，必住在全能者的蔭下。｣( 詩91:1) 巴蘭因為貪財，所以想出一個毒計，就是叫摩押人派美女進去以色列營，迷惑他們、引誘他們拜偶像，把以色列人陷在拜摩押偶像的風氣中，而受咒詛，破壞了蒙保守的籬笆( 民22-25 章) 。當他們失去忠於主的心，也失去了主的保守。敬畏主的家庭，事奉主的教會，雖然有人想破壞、攻擊，也不能得手，因為有主恩典包圍著。巴蘭的教訓，就是拜偶像的教訓，把神的子民陷在罪裡。
As a result, when Balaam saw the way the Israelites were encamping, he knew he could not curse them because they were camping around the throne of God. Whoever has God as the center of his life, “whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1). Because Balaam was greedy for riches, he thought of an evil scheme, which was to send beautiful women into the camp of the Israelites to bewilder them and entice them to worship idols, deceiving the Israelites into adopting the culture of the Moabites which was to worship idols and thus becoming cursed, destroying God’s protective barrier (Numbers Chapters 22-25). When the Israelites lost their loyalty towards the Lord, they also lost God’s protection. The household that worships God, the church that serves the Lord, though some people might want to attack and destroy it, will not succeed because God’s grace surrounds it. The teachings of Balaam were the teachings to worship idols, luring God’s people to sin.
THE LORD ‘ S REBUKE–HOLDING THE TEACHING OF THE NICOLAITANS
15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
The teachings of the Nicolaitans had already appeared during the first century, which was during the time of the Church in Ephesus, but their ideas were not accepted until the time of the Church in Pergamum. The Nicolaitans believed that when God created human beings they were given a human nature which made them do things beyond their control. Therefore, they led lives of unrestrained indulgence and assumed that it was God’s will. If while enjoying life, someone committed a sin, the only thing that person had to do was to confess his sin and he would be forgiven and still be able to go to heaven and enjoy his reward.
After the Israelites sinned, they lost God’s grace and protection. The same goes for Christians. Paul said: “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
This evil teaching developed in their midst. “Some among you” meant that not everyone followed those teachings. But Satan’s malevolent ideas had already infiltrated the church. Today Catholics are still very focused on enjoying a lifestyle of pleasures. They look at fine wine and parties as things that they must have in their lives.
THE LORD ‘ S WARNING – REPENT, OTHERWISE THEY WILL BE PUNISHED BY GOD ‘ S WORD
16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
The Word of God is a double-edged sword. His Word is our daily bread which can help us grow spiritually mature. But, if we do things that are not in accordance with God’s Word, yet we claim to have His Word in us, like the Pharisees, then we will have to face God’s judgment. God’s Word also has another side to it which deals with deceitful people. Moses said to the Israelites, obey God’s Word and you will be blessed but if you do not obey the Lord, curses will come to you.
THE LORD ‘ S PROMISE – THOSE WHO SEARCH GOD ‘ S WORD WILL RECEIVE THE HIDDEN MANNA
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.
When the Israelites were wandering in the dessert for forty years, God gave them manna to eat so they could stay alive; that manna was visible. Later on, manna was put in a golden can and placed inside the Ark of the Covenant which was in the Holy of Holies and so it became hidden manna. What the Church in Pergamum lack the most was God’s Word, which was detrimental to the churches of the next two eras. Their liturgies were all performed in Latin, which was one hundred percent hidden manna . Keeping God’s Word hidden will not satisfy the spiritual hunger of the people.
The description of the famine at the end of the world in the book of Amos chapter 8 depicts the situation these people were in. Their famine was not due to the lack of food nor their thirst to the lack of water but to the lack for God’s Word. People staggered from sea to sea and wandered from north to east, searching for the Word of the Lord, but they did not find it. Young men and women were so thirsty that they became mentally deranged and hurt their own bodies, because they lack the Word.
Throughout history, we can see that a number of spiritual revivals started with the reading of God’s Word. When King Josiah accidentally found the long lost Book of the Law, he read it to his people. After the people heard God’s Word, they repented.
美國早期的移民稱為清教徒，英國清教徒怎樣興起？十六世紀初，英國教會腐敗，牧師不講道，主日只重狂歡喝酒。他們穿舞衣做禮拜，念完禱文就去跳舞、喝酒。一位青年 Tindale 在牛津Oxford 與劍橋Cambridge 唸大學，成了希臘文學者，後來進猶太學校學希伯來文，之後跟幾位信徒一同翻譯聖經，出版了幾本新約聖經，放在一些教堂門口。教堂把聖經鎖在門前，每天有好多人好奇地來翻讀。到後來，想讀的人多，就找聲音洪亮的，當眾的朗讀出來。不久之後，全國流行這方式來讀經。人聽見主的話大受感動，一邊聽一邊流淚，清教徒的複興就這樣開始了。有真道纔有新生命。
The early American settlers were called Puritans. How did the Puritans from England come about? Early in the sixteenth century there was a lot of corruption in the church in England, the pastors did not preach the Word of God. On Sundays, the people had drinking parties, they would wear their party dresses to church and afterward they would go dancing and drinking. A young man named Tyndale, who graduated from Oxford and Cambridge University and was an expert in Greek and Hebrew literature, translated the Bible into English together with a few other Bible scholars. After the Bibles were published, he put them in at the front door of some churches. The Bibles were locked at the entrance of the churches and every day many people who were curious would pass by and read it. Later on, when more people wanted to read it, it was read out loud to the public by someone who had a strong and loud voice. Soon after, this became a popular way to read the Bible. While people were listening to the Word of the Lord, they were so deeply moved that tears would come out streaming from their eyes. This is how the Puritan revival started. Only the truth can bring out a new life.
THOSE WHO SEARCH GOD’S WORD WILL OBTAIN AN INVITATION TO GOD’S SALVATION.
17 並賜他一塊白石，石上寫著新名，除了那領受的以外，沒有人能認識。17 I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
It was customary during the times of the Roman Empire, when very important people were about to hold a banquet, to write the names of the guests on small smooth stones. These were their invitation cards. Now our Lord, the King of the Kingdom of Heaven, wants to invite those who have the true Word of God and enjoy His life to attend His great banquet. The names of these people are the new life that they have obtained; they are the only ones who know whether or not they have this new life. When the influential people of the world send out invitations to others, they do it according to the person’s reputation and popularity. When the Lord invites people to His banquet, He does it according to the life that the person has received. Only those who already have the Lord’s salvation and the manna from heaven will be the guests in the Lord’s banquet.