Revelation 2:12-17

Writing to the church at Pergamum in Revelation 2:12-17, Christ confronts a congregation that had become too open-minded for its own good. What do we learn when we read this letter from Jesus?


The church at Pergamum certainly had a great heritage. During days of intense persecution, a man named Antipas had paid the ultimate price for his faith (Rev. 2:13). We know nothing more about Antipas than what is said here. What matters is that Jesus knows his name and knows that he would not give in to the pressure around him. Though forgotten on earth, he is remembered in heaven.

So it is for all the brave martyrs, most of them unnamed and unknown to the church at large. Their blood has become the seed of the church worldwide. But where there is heroic virtue, great danger lurks. A church with such a great past may assume that it is meeting the challenge of the present. Was the church at Pergamum guilty of honoring Antipas while neglecting to follow his godly example? It is right and good for a church to honor those who came before, but where are the heroes like those of the past?


We should not miss the good words Christ has to say about this church (Rev. 2:13).

Pergamum was located 65 miles north of Smyrna. As the ancient capital city of Asia Minor, it was filled with beautiful palaces and pagan temples. Taking center stage was the massive altar to Zeus, the god of all gods. Pergamum combined a toxic mix of political power, pagan ritual, Greek philosophy, and the worship of Caesar. Once a year, every citizen was expected to offer incense and declare that “Caesar is Lord.” No Christian could do that in good conscience. Thus the stage was set for all-out spiritual conflict.

When Jesus says that Satan had his “throne” there, He meant that Satan had found a place where he could exercise diabolical influence over an entire region. Through some combination of idol-worship and sensual pleasure, Satan held sway over that city. It was a region covered with a dark cloud of evil.

I believe Satan still has his “thrones” today. It was not easy to be a Christian in Pergamum, and it is not easy in many places to be a Christian today.

A great battle rages between the god of this world and the God of the Bible. In that battle, the believers at Pergamum had not yet yielded ground. What, then, was their great failing?


In Revelation 2:14 and 15, Jesus points to the great weakness of this church: They would not practice church discipline. In the misguided name of love, they refused to cast out those who held the “teaching of Balaam” and the “teaching of the Nicolaitans.” Both phrases evidently refer to the same general tendency. There were some in the church who advocated a loose doctrine and an even looser morality. In the name of being “openminded,” they held that the Christian church should be an exceedingly broad fellowship.

It is very seductive. We all like the idea of the “church of the open door.” Come one, come all, come just as you are. But when that is pressed too far, the church becomes a mixture of truth and error, purity and impurity, and sooner or later, evil tends to spread so that sin no longer seems very sinful. The end result is a church that receives both a commendation and a harsh warning from the Lord.


That brings us to the Lord’s call in verse 16. Christ takes personal offense when His church harbors immorality in its midst. He threatens to pay a personal visit to Pergamum and fight against the evil teachers.

This verse raises an interesting question. Who exactly is supposed to do the repenting? Certainly the false teachers need to repent.

In the name of “open-mindedness” and “toleration” and even “building common ground,” many churches have subtly compromised the gospel. I believe the Lord Jesus is speaking more to the church itself than to the false teachers. Pastors, elders, deacons, and each one of us must repent.

The church must decide what it wants to be. Jesus warns that if the church doesn’t take strong action, He will do it Himself. The same Jesus who says, “Come to me” also says, “Depart from me.”

It’s a frightening thing when Jesus says, “I will fight against you.”


Christ’s message ends in a series of wonderful promises to those who overcome by faith (Rev. 2:17). In contrast to the pagans who offered hidden mysteries, Jesus offers something much greater to those who follow him. Hidden manna speaks of personal communion with the Lord. Jesus is saying, “I am greater than all the allurements of the world. Those who eat the Living Bread and drink the Living Water will never hunger or thirst again.”

The white stone speaks of acquittal and purity. But what is the “new name written on it, known only to him who receives it”? No one knows for certain because no one living has ever received that white stone with the new name on it. That awaits us in heaven.

Our text offers us a wonderful assurance. Jesus will call us by a name that only we will know. In heaven no one will ever be lost in the crowd. Despite the great throngs, we will say of the Lord, “I am my beloved’s, and He is mine.”


It is not enough to be orthodox in our theology. It is not even enough to have courage in the face of community opposition. We must go beyond that to say that we will not tolerate in the church those who threaten the purity of its testimony to the world.

We cannot help sinners by saying that sin is not sinful. Christ came to save sinners, but if the church no longer believes in sin, we have nothing to offer to the world. Where sin is winked at or renamed or where the church turns a blind eye to moral compromise in its midst, precisely to that extent, the church commits spiritual suicide.

This is the message of our Lord to the church at Pergamum, and it is His message to our church today. If people call us narrow-minded, let us take it as a compliment and stay the course. Let’s be as narrow as God’s truth is narrow and as broad as God’s grace is broad! May God help us to stand strong for the gospel in this age of moral compromise!