Pergamos still held to their faith in Jesus, trusting in Jesus and standing firm in Jesus’s name. But among them were a growing number of believers who were holding to wrong teaching—in fact, teaching that was so wrong Jesus hated the works that came from it. Some among the Pergamenian believers were also engaging in practices that stemmed back to the ancient Canaanites, thousands of years before their time, practices so abhorrent to God that in judgment, a plague had broken out among God’s people, killing tens of thousands.


Turn Back

Jesus warned the assembly in Pergamos, Therefore, repent: but if not, I am coming to you quickly, and I will do battle with them with the sword in My mouth.

It would not be the whole church Jesus battled with, but rather those who were engaging in feasts with food sacrificed to idols, and in illicit sex of some kind. The sword in Jesus’s mouth was sharp and two-edged, and undoubtedly referred to the words of God. But it was also a subtle reference to the same short, sharp, two-edged sword every Roman soldier carried in his belt. It was the most lethal of his weapons, and with a simple thrust and twist could kill instantly. Whatever Jesus intended, it would be swift and sure, and it would rid the assembly of these wrong doctrines and practices that were harming the church.

To Those Who Overcome

Once again, Jesus called upon those who still were sensitive to the Spirit’s guidance and teaching.

Earthly Feast or Heavenly Manna


Agape feast | Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34653178

Rather than feasting on meat sacrificed to idols—meaning, involving themselves in festivals to false gods—Jesus would give them manna.

What that would have immediately recalled to mind for John’s original audience was Jesus’s teaching concerning Himself, and the Bread of Heaven.

Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 

Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 

John 6:31-36 (NRSV)
Fresco of a banquet[a] at a tomb in the Catacomb of Saints Marcellinus and PeterVia Labicana, Rome. | By Unknown author – http://liceokant.gioventudigitale.net/english/ss-marcellino/ssmarcellino.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=566560

It would be a contrast of opposites.

  • Rather than feasting on the food of idols, they would feast on the bread of heaven.
  • Rather than engaging in the celebration of false gods, they would be enjoying the life-giving Spirit of the One True God.
  • Rather than consorting with demons, they would be communing with their Lord and Savior, Jesus.
  • Rather than gathering around the Seat of Satan, they would be gathered to the Throne of God.

White Stone

But there was more.

Jesus promised, I will give to them a white stone, and upon the stone a new name that has been written, which not even one perceives except the one who receives (it).

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

What is this white stone with a secret name no one will know except for the person who receives that stone?

Vindication

Some commentators[1] posit Jesus was speaking of a token of vindication. Evidently, in that day, judges would hand down their ruling in the form of a black or white stone. A black stone meant the defendant had been judged against, they were condemned. But a white stone meant they had been acquitted of the crimes they had been accused of.

If this was Jesus’s intent, and Antipas had been martyred by Roman authorities, then every believer in Pergamos who resisted the pull of the Nicolaitans and the teaching that permitted idolatrous practices, might face condemnation in a Roman court, but would be found innocent in the courtroom of heaven.

Heavenly Reward

Other theologians look to the ancient Greek games, when a white stone was given to each of the athletes as they completed their contests. Once the games were over, each participant could turn in their white stone for their actual reward.

If this was Jesus’s meaning, then the white stone represented heavenly rewards in the face of earthly trials and suffering.

Kingdom Feast

Many scholars believe having each individual’s name etched into the stone is significant. This would have been the equivalent of a personal invitation, or pass, to an event, such as a feast to a god. If this is true, then then those who refused to accept invitations to earthly festivals celebrating gods that stood in opposition to the One Ture and Living God, would be issued personalized invitations to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in eternity.

No one else can use this pass, for it has been prepared specially by Jesus for each individual.

Possible Implications

There is little doubt John meant these letters to go to real people living in his day, and contained messages intended to be read, understood, and applied by the churches to whom they were addressed.

But is there more to this?

Remember, there are three basic approached to reading Revelation.

Historical

The writer was referencing their own place and time, disclosing the truth about what was happening then, using symbolical language.

Idealistic

The writer was speaking about themes and truths that transcend time and place, seeking to convey spiritual truth that would encourage believers in every era.

Futuristic

The writer’s main purpose was to write of what will come, and to encourage especially those believers who will find themselves living in that cataclysmic time.

SCOFIELD BIBLE FUTURIST UNDERSTANDING OF THE LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES IN REVELATION

RevelationChurchEraTimeframe, Years C.E.
2:1-7EphesusApostolic Era33-64
2:8-11SmyrnaPeriod of Persecution64-313
2:12-17PergamumEra of Official Patronage313-606
2:18-29ThyatiraMiddle Ages606-1520
3:1-6SardisProtestant Reformation1520-1750
3:7-13PhiladelphiaMissionary Era1750-1900
3:14-22LaodiceaModern Period1900 to present

IF The church in Ephesus represented the apostolic era, and IF the church in Smyrna represented that two hundred year span between the first-century church and the advent of Constantine, THEN the church at Pergamos represents the transformational time when the church transitioned from a heavily persecuted movement on the fringes of society to the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire, complete with all the trappings of wealth and political power.

This is the contention, for example, of Robert Caringola in his book The Present Reign of Jesus Christ: A Historical Interpretation of the Book of Revelation, who contends that the word Pergamos means married to power.

There is little question Constantine was seeking to combine the pagan elements of Rome’s traditional religion with Christianity. To have a new imperial religion required certain trappings and accommodations that would not only support the emperor and the throne, but that would also accommodate itself to the peoples of the empire.

It is during this time that the church became decidedly more hierarchical in nature, when wealth and status became more pronounced among church leadership, when the Order of Widows was done away with, and women as leaders within the church faded away.

Yet it was also the time of the desert Mothers and Fathers, when persecution ceased, and great waves of conversion spread throughout the known world. The works of Christian writers were preserved rather than burned, the canon of scripture acknowledged, and the councils that determined the creeds and dogma of our faith were established.


[1] Many thanks to Revelation: Four Views, A Parallel Commentary, edited by Steve Gregg, for the research behind these several theories.


Agape Feast | Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=566557

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s