What Is The World Coming: Revelation 2:12-17 – Commitment Or Compromise?

Grace For The Journey

As we continue our series of studies verse-by-verse through the book of Revelation, we are dealing with the seven churches in Asia Minor.  Today we are looking at the third of the seven churches.   We have looked at the church of Ephesus and the church of Smyrna.  As we go through the text, we will hear Christ’s pattern as He addresses each church . . . There is a commendation, a condemnation, and a correction.

I remember a T-shirt I saw not long ago.  It was a picture of fish swimming in one direction with a sign of the Christian fish swimming in the opposite direction.  Underneath was the phrase: “Go against the flow.”  That shirt was a reminder to me that Christians were expected to act differently than non-Christians.  There is something about us that is to be different.  Not mean, ugly, arrogant, and prideful.  We have a are to have a sweet-spirit and we are different.  We “go against the flow.”  People should look at the church and see something different; people who act differently, etc.  They should be attracted to the difference.  When Christians go in the same direction as non-Christians they are just “going with the flow” instead of against the flow.  If we are going with the flow rather than against the flow, we have likely compromised something.  The question for us from what Jesus teaches about the church at Pergamum is, “Commitment or Compromise?”

I.  We Must Always Remain Committed.

Sharp two-edged sword.  The sword is a symbol of justice.  The Roman proconsul resided in the city of Pergamum.  The sword was a reminder of who was in control.  The Romans were in control.  Had power to execute.  Jesus says, “I am the True Power.”  I am the one with the double-edged sword.  Seen before in 1:16.  Hebrews 4:12.  Jesus is the true power, the true sovereign.

He says in verse 13, “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.”  Jesus knows.  He knows what we are thinking and feeling . . . He knows what is going on in our lives . . . He knows all about us.  Isn’t that encouraging?  He knows!

Christians at Pergamum dwelt, “where Satan’s throne is.”  Pergamum was the official center in the province of Asia for worship of the emperor.  Once a year every citizen was required to take a pinch of incense and confess, “Caesar is Lord.”  This is why Jesus refers to Pergamum as the place “where Satan’s throne is” and where “Satan dwells.” 

The church is commended for standing firm in Christ.

“… and you hold fast to My name.”  That is, they kept true to Jesus even though they lived in a devilish place.  The church is also commended for staying faithful to Christ.  “and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr (better, ‘witness’), who was killed among you.”

This church was commended for staying faithful to Christ even in the midst of severe persecution.  Antipas – some speculate he was one of the church’s early pastors.   Christian tradition has it that Antipas was locked inside of a brass bull which was heated with flames of fire so that Antipas was literally roasted to death.  Christ referred to Antipas as His “faithful witness.”  Same words applied to Jesus in 1:5.

Jesus says they stood firm and they stayed faithful.  So must we.  Jesus knows where we dwell and what is going on in our lives.  Some work in hellish, difficult, and trying places.  Stand firm in Christ.  Stay faithful to Christ.

II.  We Must Always Reject Compromise.

Verses 14 and 15 go together.  They deal with a condemnation from the Lord, “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.  Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.”  It seems “the doctrine of the Nicolaitans” is tied closely to the “doctrine of Balaam,” so that to “hold to” the doctrine of one is to “hold to” the doctrine of the other.

The doctrine of Balaam is found in the Old Testament (Study Numbers 25 and 31).  These chapters tell the story of Balak, King of Moab.  He wanted to hire Balaam to curse the Israelites.  Every time Balaam opened his mouth, only blessing came out.   Balak wanted Balaam to curse them, but he could only speak what God told him to speak, so only blessing came out.  It seems, however, that Balaam really wanted to collect the money Balak offered him for cursing the Israelites.  So apparently Balaam “taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel,” specifically, by “sacrificing to idols, and committing sexual immorality.”  

This is what Jesus means by referring to the doctrine of Balaam.  Since Balaam could not curse the Israelites, he apparently told Balak that the best way to get to the Israelites was by getting the Moabite women to go after the Israelite men.  Thus, by intermingling with the women, the Israelites would become fragmented and weak.  They were drawn away to false gods – idolatry.  They were drawn away to sexual immorality – by committing fornication and adultery.  These two sins of idolatry and sexual immorality are apparently the chief sins of the Nicolaitans. 

Jesus condemns the church at Pergamum because there are some within the church who have been led away to follow the teaching of the Nicolaitans, namely idolatry and sexual immorality.

Point of application: 

Never Compromise

Your Loyalty


Never Compromise

Your Integrity.

“Pergamos” means “thoroughly married.”  Fitting since this church has become “married to the world.”  Pergamum was proud of . . .

  • Its library, 200,000 volumes (before printing press, photocopiers, internet!). 
  • Of its temples dedicated to different gods, including Asclepius (the god of healing (you see the symbol of Asclepius in much of modern medicine; the symbol of a serpent entwined around a staff). 
  • Its three temples which were dedicated to Roman emperors.

Apparently some within the church were teaching that it was okay to compromise their Christian beliefs in the face of emperor worship.  “What harm is there in taking a little pinch of incense and saying ‘Caesar is Lord?  Or be involved with the temple feasts in honor of Caesar.”

The issue is loyalty.  Idols have many faces.  They may be a mixing of our faith with elements of other faiths.   The problem with this compromise was that it clouded the truth that Jesus is the only way and confused the teaching of the Word of God, the Bible.

Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennesee served on the Peace Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention during the time of “The Battle For The Bible.”  He told about an intense incident during a Committee Meeting, “One man said to me in that Peace Committee, he said, ‘Adrian, if you don’t compromise we’ll never get together.’  I said to that dear friend, ‘We don’t have to get together.  The Southern Baptist Convention doesn’t have to survive.  I don’t have to be the pastor of Bellevue.  I don’t have to live.  But I am not going to compromise the Word of God.’”

Compromise causes us

To live too much in the world


Look too much like the world.

The issue is also about integrity.  This church is condemned by our Lord for the behavior of some within; not all.  There are some within who have done ungodly things.  Compromising the moral commands of Scripture to be chaste and pure.  They have gone the way of the doctrine of Balaam, committing sexual immorality with others.  What will happen to these folks? 

Verse 16 tells us, “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.”  Who is Jesus speaking to?  The church in Pergamos.  Jesus tells them they needed to repent or else He would come to them quickly and will fight against whom?  Those sinning in the church!  Think of it!  Some of you who are in trouble this morning; fighting with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Never compromise your loyalty and integrity.  Some are tempted to compromise at work, in social life, and personal life.

III.  We Must Always Receive Correction.

 Correction Begins With Repentance.  The word mean “turn; change of mind; change of heart; change of behavior.”  Not just being sorry.

Correction Ends With Reward

Verse 17 says, “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 to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”  Feasts would be observed in the name of the emperor.  Jesus says do not partake of that.  Remain committed to Christ.  Refuse to compromise Christ.

Jesus uses two symbols that speak against the pagan feasts of the city of Pergamum. 

1) Hidden manna refers to the manna Moses told the people to place in a jar and placed inside the ark of the covenant.  Spiritually, God feeds His people in ways the world does not know. 

2) White stone.  Alludes to practice of giving a stone to special people such as victors of the Roman games or elite members of certain guilds.  They would receive a stone that was used as a ticket to feasts held in the city of Pergamum.  New name no one knows.  This should be taken with Revelation 19:12 where it speaks of the Second Coming of our Lord, who will come having “a name written no one knew except Himself.”  Whatever this new name means, it is to be connected with Jesus.  He knows us.  He possesses us.   As the hymn goes, “Now I belong to Jesus.  Jesus belongs to me.  Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.”

Compromise or commitment?  Going against the flow?  Vance Havner said, “What we live is what we really believe.  Everything else is just religious talk.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.