The third church who received a warning in the revelation of John was the Church at Pergamum. Again Jesus defines Himself as the judge over their weakness by the way in which He chooses to identify Himself. He calls Himself “The One who has the sharp two-edges sword”.
“Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”
– Heb 4.11-13
Jesus is the Word of God (John 1.1-3), and He also wields the sword of the Word in judgment (Rev 2.12). The written Word of God, the Bible, is the standard by which we will all be judged at the end, and Jesus will be that final and perfect judge. He will judge with impartiality as to what was commanded in Scripture and the Gospel offered by His death and resurrection. The Church at Pergamum was standing strong in the midst of persecution within the kingdom of Satan. Satan has been given a level of power in the World until the end of the age. He is called the “god of this world (2 Cor 4.4), Jesus calls him the “ruler of this world (John 12.31), the Devil himself understands that God has given him a level of domain (Luke 4.6), and John even says that the whole world lies in the power of Satan (1 John 5.19).
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it’.”
– Rev 2.12-17
So Jesus identifies Himself as the judge who has the power of judgment in and through the Word of God. He commends the Church for maintaining the faith through persecution while suffering in the domain of Satan. But then He makes a strange accusation, referencing a story from the Old Testament. Balak was the king of Moab who was fearful of the Israelites who were taking over Canaan, the promised land. He was desperate and asked Balaam, a diviner, to curse the Israelites so that they would not be able to defeat Moab. God spoke to Balaam and warned him not to curse the Israelites because they were blessed by him, but Balak was persistent and continued to ask. Balaam ultimately blessed the Israelites, enraging Balak and declaring their fate (Num 22-24). Balaam, however, returned to the king and counseled him how to deceive the Israelites and to bring upon themselves the curse of God: by tempting them with prostitutes and food which was unclean – having been offered to idols (Num 31.16).
Jesus used this story as an analogy to the sins being preformed and tolerated within the Church: holding the teaching of the Nicolaitans. As I noted with Jesus’ warning to the Church as Ephesus, it is uncertain what exactly the Nicolaitans were teaching, but the context both here and in the previous warning allude to having made peace with sin: cheapening grace and allowing sin to continue and expecting Jesus to forgive, no matter what. They were believed to be denying the Moral Law of Scripture based on the salvation offered by Jesus by grace alone through faith alone.
It is possible that the church was participating in idol worship and eating food sacrificed to idols, or it could be an analogy to other tolerated sins. Irregardless, Jesus sternly warns the church to stop immediately what they were doing, or else He would judge and kill them with the sword of His mouth, the sword of His word. Jesus promises that the one who obeys will receive manna from Heaven – He will provide a pure and perfect food, if He will stop eating the defiled food. If we will stop pleasuring ourselves with the ways of the world and wickedness, Jesus will give us the joy that is unspeakable and full of glory. Jesus gives true peace, true happiness, and true joy. We will not find it in the things of this world. But if we continue to look for it here, we will never find it in Jesus and will be judged eternally.
What are you allowing in your life today? Have you made peace with sin, and thus robbing the ransom of Jesus of its glory? Lay your sins down today, and turn to Jesus for Heavenly manna, for Heavenly joy, and He will give you a new name and He will welcome you into His kingdom.