The Letter to Pergamum
12This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Pergamum:
I am the one who has the sharp double-edged sword! Listen to what I say.
13I know you live where Satan has his throne. But you have kept true to my name. Right there where Satan lives, my faithful witness Antipas was taken from you and put to death. Even then you did not give up your faith in me.
14 I do have a few things against you. Some of you are following the teaching of Balaam. Long ago he told Balak to teach the people of Israel to eat food that had been offered to idols and to be immoral. 15Now some of you are following the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16Turn back! If you don't, I will come quickly and fight against these people. And my words will cut like a sword.
17 If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. To everyone who wins the victory, I will give some of the hidden food. I will also give each one a white stone with a new name written on it. No one will know that name except the one who is given the stone.
The Letter to Thyatira
18This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Thyatira:
I am the Son of God! My eyes are like flames of fire, and my feet are like bronze. Listen to what I say.
19I know everything about you, including your love, your faith, your service, and how you have endured. I know you are doing more now than you have ever done before. 20 But I still have something against you because of that woman Jezebel. She calls herself a prophet, and you let her teach and mislead my servants to do immoral things and to eat food offered to idols. 21I gave her a chance to turn from her sins, but she did not want to stop doing these immoral things.
22I am going to strike down Jezebel. Everyone who does these immoral things with her will also be punished, if they don't stop. 23 I will even kill her followers. Then all the churches will see that I know everyone's thoughts and feelings. I will treat each of you as you deserve.
24Some of you in Thyatira don't follow Jezebel's teaching. You don't know anything about what her followers call the “deep secrets of Satan.” So I won't burden you down with any other commands. 25But until I come, you must hold firmly to the teaching you have.
26 I will give power over the nations to everyone who wins the victory and keeps on obeying me until the end. 27-28I will give each of them the same power my Father has given me. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash those nations to pieces like clay pots. I will also give them the morning star.
29If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.
Pergamum – the challenged church. Despite the fact that the Pergamum believers stayed true to Christ’s name, they’re condemned for idolatry and immorality (vv.14-15). There were two doctrinal errors in this church; the doctrine of Balaam (see Numbers 22-25) and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. The error of Balaam is the practice of pornography, fornication, cohabitation, and adultery. Little is known of the Nicolaitans. (The early church associated them with the Nichlaus of Acts 6:5, but that connection is inherently improbable). They may have supported a compromise with pagan practices that kept them safe from persecution. Taken together, the two doctrines in practice taught that a little compromise of the truth couldn’t really hurt anyone.
There are two promises to the Pergamum believers; the promise of sustenance and the promise of the white stone.
The promise of the “hidden food” (v.17a) is the promise of Jesus being the food from heaven upon which his people can feed (see John 6:25-59). It’s the promise of inner nourishment and strength for all those who know true intimacy with God.
The promise of the white stone (v.17b) could mean several things. One explanation that captured my attention was a friendship stone which, when produced and matched with its opposite half, made the other person duty bound to help. This signifies how Christ comes to our aid whenever we call on Him.
Thyatira – the compromising church. It’s commended for its labour, love and longevity (v.19). But there’s a serious problem caused by a woman symbolically called Jezebel (see 1 Kings 16:31). She was encouraging believers to compromise their beliefs and practice through participation in the trade guilds which involved practices of fornication and eating food sacrificed to idols (see Rev. 2:20).
Christ wants holiness over cultural accommodation. Yet the Thyatira believers submitted to cultural pressures, choosing social acceptance over spiritual integrity.
To the believers who had not succumbed to the immoral woman’s bad influence, Christ made two promises: First, He promised “power over the nations” (v.26) (see Psalm 2:8-9). It probably refers to the rule of Christ in the earthly kingdom of the Millennium and should not be confused with His ultimate rule over the new heaven and the new earth. Second, He promised the “morning star” (v.28) a reference to Jesus Himself (see Rev. 22:16), and the privilege of sharing his rule.
Lord, help us to be holy and stay true to you. Keep us from compromising our beliefs or practices. Amen.