“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 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.
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. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
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.
“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’
To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations — that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’ —just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
John now records a message to the church in Pergamum. Jesus commends this church for several things. First, He recognizes that these believers were living in a very difficult place. Pergamum was known for its many religious temples made to honor pagan gods. In his commentary on Revelation, J.V. McGee writes, “Religion was big business in Pergamum and Satan’s headquarters were located there.” Wherever there is false religion, Satan is alive and working to counter the truth of the Word of God. Despite this prevalent paganism, the church at Pergamum was faithful in their defense of the deity of Christ. They held true to the foundational biblical truths that were passed on to them. They refused to deny their faith in Jesus despite severe pressure and persecution.
Then Christ points out two things that He is not happy about. They had tolerated the “teaching of Balaam.” Just as Balaam enticed the Israelites to intermarry with foreign woman, the church at Pergamum was allowing idolatry and fornication to creep into the church. The culture was beginning to influence the church instead of the church influencing the culture. Then He mentions the “teaching of the Nicolaitans.” Scholars believe that this teaching advocated license in matters of Christian conduct. Either way, they were beginning to tolerate other doctrines that were not biblical.
Jesus’ instruction to this church was to “repent.” Like the church at Ephesus, they were instructed to repent and to return to biblical orthodoxy when it came to these false teachings. If they would not repent, Jesus promised He would fight against them with the Word of God. Those who would repent would overcome and experience deep intimacy with Christ.
The next church mentioned was Thyatira. Jesus commends this church for six things: “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” These six virtues are produced within the believer by the Holy Spirit. These six virtues also describe a church that is being led by the Spirit.
Like some of the other churches, there was something in this church that displeased Jesus. “You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess.” Jezebel had brought paganism into the northern kingdom of Israel. Evidently, there was a woman in the local church at Thyatira who had a reputation as a prophetess who behaved in a pattern similar to that of Jezebel. This church was tolerating her false teachings that were leading some people astray. Jesus issues a harsh warning to the church, this woman, and those who would follow in her false teachings. Jesus would bring harsh and swift punishment to those who followed in her deceptions. According to the text, Jesus had given her time to repent but she was unwilling. Jesus’ hand of discipline was getting ready to fall on this Jezebel and her followers. He also promises to those who do not hold to her teachings that they would overcome and one day would rule with Him and exercise authority over the nations.
Questions to Ponder
Do you find it difficult to remain true to Christ in this post-truth culture? How does it make you feel to know that Jesus is aware that we are living in difficult times, as our culture rejects the truth of the gospel? How does the way Jesus uses the world “tolerate” differ from the way it’s used in our culture today? Does your life reflect deeds, love, faith, service, perseverance, and growth? If not, what must you do to make these virtues more of a reality in your life?
- Worship the Lord as Mighty God, Strong Tower, and All-Knowing.
- Confess unfaithfulness to Him in allowing culture to influence us. Repent and return to the Lord.
- Pray that we will be a people who are wise, discerning, watchful, and prayerful. That we would be ones in the world but not of it.
- Invite Holy Spirit to “tend the garden of your heart,” – to speak to you through conviction, encouragement, areas of growing in Him, etc.
Faithful Lord, thank You for understanding and knowing that we live in difficult times. You know what it is like to be rejected. Thank You for overcoming evil by the work of the cross. Eternal God, I pray you would enable us, Your body, to be strong in You and in Your mighty power. Lead us into Your Truth and Your Word. Help us individually and as a body to be repenting and returning to You. Lead us in Your Word, oh God, that we may know You better and cause our lives to reflect You. I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.