Revelation 2:12-17 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. According to the Lord Jesus, where does the church in Pergamum live? See Revelation 2:13a (printed below) What do you think this means?

I know where you live—the place where Satan’s throne is located. Yet you remain true to my name and have not renounced your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my witness—my faithful one—who was put to death in your city, the place where Satan lives. (Revelation 2:13)

The Lord Jesus assures the church in Pergamum that He know where she dwells, namely, “where Satan’s throne is located.” Our Lord identifies Pergamum as the seat of Satanic power, a focal point of Satanic presence and activity. This description is applied to Pergamum not only because it was a center for various types of pagan cults and religions, but especially because Pergamum was an official center for the cult of emperor worship.

2. For what does the Lord commend this church? See Revelation 2:13b (printed above under question #1)

The Lord Jesus assures His church that He knows her faithfulness: “you remain (present tense) true to my name.” The church at Pergamum was steadfastly continuing to hold onto its profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ despite the Satanic opposition of the world around them. The church at Pergamum was remaining faithful despite a recent outburst of persecution; during which time one of their members, Antipas, was martyred for the sake of Christ.

3. For what does the Lord Jesus rebuke this church? See Revelation 2:14-15 (printed below) What do you think Jesus means? Hint: The false prophet Balaam counseled the Moabites to seduce Israel into compromising their commitment to the Lord.

Nevertheless, I hold a few things against you, because you have some people there who adhere to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the children of Israel to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. (15) Similar to that, you have some people who adhere to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. (Revelation 2:14-15)

What the Lord has against this church is the fact that they were tolerating those who adhered to “the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” “The teaching of the Nicolaitans” is compared to the teaching of the Old Testament false prophet, Balaam. Balaam had taught Balak, the king of Moab, to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual immorality (cp. Numbers 25:1-2; 31:16). In a similar way, the Nicolaitans appear to have been teaching the church that it was permissible for Christians to offer the required sacrifice to the emperor (and maybe even to engage in sexual immorality).

4. What does the Lord exhort the church to do? See Revelation 2:16 (printed below)

Therefore, repent; or else I will come to you swiftly and wage war against them with the sword of my mouth. (Revelation 2:16)

At every age of church history there are those within the church who would advocate a policy of accommodation. But what does our Lord say concerning such accommodation and compromise? He commands the church, “Repent; or else I will come to you swiftly and wage war against them with the sword of my mouth.” Here our Lord’s warning to those who advocate and accept a course of compromise. The language in verse 16 is that of a king declaring war against his enemies. There is a spiritual warfare being waged between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the world; and there can be no neutrality. Despite your convictions, if by your actions you indicate you are siding with the world, Christ will view you as being aligned with the world and treat you accordingly (note Matthew 10:32-33).

5. What promise does the Lord make to those who heed His command and are found faithful to Him? See Revelation 2:17 (printed below) What do you think this means? Hint: Notice the emphasis on the hiddenness, the intimacy, of the things the Lord promises.

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 the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:17)

The warning our Lord issues is counterbalanced with a word of promise He makes to those who are found faithful (in heart and in life). In verse 17 there is the promise of unspeakable reward (“known only to the one who receives it”) reserved for those who are faithful.