Letters to the Churches in Revelation
Pergamum and Thyatira
The book of Revelation, the last book in our Bible, was written by John, the disciple, around 95 A.D. when he was on the island of Patmos. One day while John is worshipping, his eyes are opened, and he sees the glorified risen Jesus standing there in front of him. John sees Jesus standing among seven candlesticks!
The risen Christ tells John that the “candlesticks” are His churches and He has letters for John to give to each of His seven churches. John faithfully writes down everything that Jesus tells him. Along with the letters to the churches, Jesus also gives John visions concerning the end times. The letters and the visions that John receives all become part of the book of Revelation.
Last week we studied the letters that Jesus gave John for the first two churches, Ephesus and Smyrna. This week we will study two more letters from the risen Christ to the churches of Pergamum and Thyatira.
Here are Jesus’ words to the Church in Pergamum. “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, 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. You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing 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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives.” (Revelation 2:12-17)
Pergamum today is the modern city of Bergama, Turkey. Jesus praises His church in Pergamum because they remain true to Him even while they live in Pergamum, the city where “Satan has his throne”. Satan’s influence is felt throughout the whole world however his “throne,” I would think, would be in a place that is infamous for wickedness, error and cruelty. Pergamum was such a place. It was the official center of emperor worship in Asia at that time, and a Christian in Pergamum would be killed if he or she refused to renounce Christ and worship the Roman emperor.
Jesus mentions Antipas, His faithful witness, who was put to death in Pergamum. Antipas was murdered because he refused to renounce Christ and worship the emperor. According to tradition, Antipas was slowly roasted to death in a bronze kettle during the reign of Domitian. And this did not scare many in the church in Pergamum from continuing their illegal activity of refusing to worship the emperor and only worshipping Christ. When we stand up for Christ and reject what we know is wrong there is often a price to pay. Are we willing to pay the price?
Jesus called His church in Pergamum to repent. They had members in their congregation who had brought heresies into the Christian faith and compromised the Truth with worldliness. It seems that these “wolves in sheep’s clothing” are always around trying to destroy the Christian faith. Jesus encourages His church in Pergamum to be faithful to Him, to “overcome”. Jesus promises to give the “hidden manna” and a white stone with a new name written on it to those who stay faithful and overcome. Christ has wonderful spiritual food “manna” that He gives to His own. This “manna” is “hidden” from the world. Also, there will be a “new name” written down in glory for the overcomers.
Jesus sends a letter to the fourth church, the church in Thyatira. These are His words to the church in Thyatira: “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 prophetess. 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: Only hold on to what you have until I come.” To him who overcomes and does My will to the end, I will give authority over the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery. Just as I have received authority from my Father, I will also give him the Morning Star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:18-29)
In John’s vision, Christ appears before him with a double-edged sword in His mouth, which scholars believe to be a sign that Jesus is coming again as Judge. In Christ’s letters to His churches He speaks of His judgment. To the church in Pergamum Jesus says,” These are the words of Him who has the sharp double-edged sword” (Revelation 2:12b) And after He calls the church in Pergamum to renounce their false doctrines He warns them: “Repent, therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Revelation 2:16)
And it seems that the church in Thyatira is also plagued with false doctrines and false teachers who would try to destroy the Christian faith. Jesus is also coming to this church not only as a Savior but as a Judge. He tells them: “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. … 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.” (Revelation 2:20-22) Jesus, the Judge, is not liberal towards those who would teach heresies to His churches. Or to the churches who tolerate these heresies.
Jesus calls the church in Thyatira and to all His followers to stay true to Him and hold on to what they have until He comes for us. He tells the church in Thyatira: “To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations. “(Revelation 2:26) One of Jesus’ names, according to Bible scholars, is the “Morning Star”. And He also promises to give the Morning Star to those who overcome. (Revelation2:28) Jesus calls each of His seven churches to love Him, to be faithful and stay the course no matter what. To resist false teaching and endure persecution for His sake. And to be among those who will be called the “Overcomers”. Will we be in that number?