The third church (of the seven churches of Asia) that Jesus addressed through the pen of John is the church in Pergamos. The message is recorded in Revelation 2:12-17, saying —
12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, [even] where Satan’s seat [is]: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas [was] my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth [it].
Pergamos was a church most of us can relate to because they had some good and some bad, some things to celebrate and some things to work on. We can learn from both sides of their evaluation, so let’s examine lessons from what Jesus said was right and what was wrong in Pergamos.
Lesson 1: No matter where you are, stick with truth!
After letting the churches know who was talking (“These saith he…” – v. 12) and the “I know thy works” (v. 13) statement made to every church, the first thing Jesus told Pergamos is that He knew “where thou dwellest, [even] where Satan’s seat is” (v. 13). Wow! When Jesus says your church is in the place “where Satan dwelleth” (v. 13), that is definitely saying something about the spiritual state of the city of Pergamos!
History says that Pergamos, a capital of a Roman province, was the site of temples to Athena, Zeus, and Asklepios (the Greco-Roman god of medicine and healing). Pergamos was also a center of Emperor Worship. Despite their location, Jesus commended the church for holding fast His name and not denying His faith in a crazy place AND a time when one believer (Antipas) was martyred (killed for Christ) among them.
Pergamos reminds us that no matter WHERE we are and WHAT people believe around us, we have to stick with truth! Hold on to the name of Jesus! It still is the only name that saves (Acts 4:12)! It still has power! Don’t deny His faith! Believe God anyway! Stand on His Word! Philippians 2:15-16 spoke of us being “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life…” No matter where you are and the religions, cultures, and beliefs around you, stick with truth!
Lesson 2: Doctrine matters to God!
After addressing the good in this church (v. 13), Jesus said words that any believer should pay close attention to: “But I have a few things against thee” (v. 14). He loved Pergamos (and us) enough to let us know that His problem with them was that in their church, they still had people who held false doctrines! Specifically, he named two:
- “…thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication” (v. 14).
- “So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” (v. 15).
We have to learn that doctrine matters to God! Doctrine speaks of instruction or teaching, and it influences what we believe and how we live! We cannot hold to, believe, hear, teach, or share just anything, even if it sounds “right,” feels “good” to us, or makes “sense” to us. Does it line up with the principles of the doctrine of Christ, which make up our foundation? Is it consistent with His teachings?
As that short clip illustrates, DOCTRINE IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! 2 John 9-11 establishes if someone comes to us and they don’t bring the doctrine of Christ, we are not to receive them into our house or bid them God speed! Don’t accept every doctrine or teaching, and remember, the Bible says, “in the latter times some shall depart from the faith.”
How? The scripture says, “giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1). You can’t listen to everything! Be careful of the teaching, preaching, and doctrine you allow in your church, house, ear, mind, or heart because in a world where everything goes, and we have access to all kinds of teachings on everything, doctrine still matters to God!
Lesson 3: Jesus is serious about His Word!
To Pergamos, Jesus introduced Himself as the one who “hath the sharp sword with two edges” (v. 12). Hebrews 4:12 tells us “the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” He came with His Word!
Once Jesus laid out His issue with the other doctrines, Jesus told them, “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (v. 16). The sword of His mouth is what Jesus will use in Rev. 19:15, 21 to smite and slay those who fight against Him, and if Pergamos didn’t repent and get right the doctrines in their church, He’d use that sword to fight against them!
To a church in a wicked place where some still held to false doctrines, Jesus came with His Word and if they didn’t repent, He’d fight with His sword! It has to be about the Word of God! Can you see how serious He was? Can you see He’s not playing? Doctrine matters and Jesus is very serious about His Word! How serious are you about His Word? Do you learn it and live it? What He says matters most!
Pergamos prompts us to consider the questions: What doctrine is influencing you? What are you listening to? What teaching, philosophy, or logic do you let affect (or infect) you? What shapes your behavior? What is the basis of your perspective? His Word is truth (John 17:17), and it must be our focus. No other doctrine will do.
What did you learn from the church in Pergamos? What stands out to you? Share your comments below!