The Seven Churches of Asia
"And to the angel of the Church in Pergamos write; These things saith He which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast My name, and hast not denied My faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." — Rev. 2:12-17.
We spoke of Ephesus; Christ had this against her, that she had left her first love, and He took away her candlestick, and now there is not one Christian in Ephesus. We spoke of Smyrna, in which even the eye of Christ saw nothing to blame; and now we come to Pergamos, in which He saw something to approve, and something also to blame. Jesus says of it, it is where Satan’s seat is — or, it should be, where Satan’s throne is. Pergamos was the capital of one of the provinces of Asia Minor; it was a very flourishing town; there was a great deal of riches there, it was there that the king lived, and it was the seat of much learning. There was a library in it containing two hundred thousand books. It was at Pergamos that parchment first was made, and hence it got its name. It was the seat of riches, of royalty, and of learning, and yet it was where Satan’s throne was; and so it is very often, wherever there are riches or much human wisdom, it is there that the devil holds his court.
Jesus said of Smyma, "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)" but it was very different with Pergamos. Christ removed the candlestick from Ephesus, but He did not do that with Pergamos: He said, if it did not repent, He would come and fight against it; and so Pergamos is standing to this day. The last traveler that was there in 1820 tells us, that there are in it fifteen thousand inhabitants, and the tenth of these are nominally Christians, who have two churches; so the lamp is yet burning there, although but dimly.
But let us see now the character that Christ takes to Himself here. He takes one always suited to the Church to which He writes. He says, "These things saith He which hath the sharp sword with two edges." Old divines say that this two-edged sword is grace; because they say that grace cannot come out of any mouth but out of Christ’s; and they take this passage, "Thou art fairer than the children of men, grace is poured into Thy lips" and this — in the Song of Solomon, "His mouth is most sweet, yea, He is altogether lovely." And the sword has two edges; the one edge convinces of sin, the other gives peace; the one rends the veil that hides your sins from you, the other edge tends the veil that hides Christ from you, and reveals Him unto you; the one edge wounds the soul, the other shows the Physician, and lets the healing balm flow over the wounded soul. Those of you who like the way that the old divines explain it, may keep it. But now this sword is thought to be the sword of judgment. Read with me in the nineteenth chapter of Revelation, the eleventh verse, "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew but He Himself; And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood; and His name is called the Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS." It says here, that He out of whose mouth cometh the sword shall smite the nations; and in the fourth chapter of Hebrews, at the eleventh verse, it is written, "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." What I notice from this is, that Christ has two characters; He is a Saviour, and also a Destroyer; He is all Saviour now, but He will one day smite the nations. What I wish is, that you would now be convinced with that sword, and brought to peace by it, and you would not fall under it then.
Let us now see the charge that Christ gives to the Church of Pergamos. First, their danger: "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is." This is very comforting, that a believer cannot go to any place but Jesus knows it. Do you live in an ungodly family, a lily among many thorns? Christ says to you, I know where thou dwellest. Do you live in an ungodly neighbourhood! Christ says to you, I know where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is. The devil had his throne at Pergamos, and is he not in this town too? He holds his court here; he has many ambassadors; he sways his sceptre here. Why do so many sit hardened under the word, but by the power of the devil! Why do so many keep away from the house of God altogether, but by his power! It has been often noticed, that in many places, for the sake of Christians who have gone before, God still preserves a seed. So it is with Pergamos; there were some faithful Christians there, and there are some Christians there yet; and this is perhaps the reason that God is preserving a few believers here, for there were once faithful Christian men in this place — the lamp is still burning here, although but dimly.
Let us see what Christ says in their praise. "And thou holdest fast My name" — hold fast by Jesus; and again, "hast not denied my faith." This is the grand secret, to hold fast Jesus’ name, and then you will not deny His faith; there is nothing can give boldness like that. To keep close to Christ in secret, have near communion with God; there is nothing can give boldness like that. It is said the righteous are bold as a lion; keep close then to Christ, hold Him fast, or rather He will hold you. "Even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth." Who is this Antipas — who ever heard of him — who is he? There is no other book mentions his name — we have quite forgotten him, but Christ remembers his name, it is written on His heart. "My faithful martyr Antipas!" Perhaps there are some believers among you who are very poor — who were never half a mile from home — who, when they go out, do not see twelve persons that you think would shed a tear over your grave; but Jesus knows you — He has written you upon His heart. I often wonder that we so soon forget each other. In our little company of Christians, some have been taken away; and although we think of them sometimes, yet when we remember their bright countenances, and the way that they looked up listening to the word, they were very dear Christians; and yet how little we remember them! How soon have we forgotten them! But Christ does not forget them — He remembers them. That is what is meant when it is said, "The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance." They are written upon His heart, and Jesus knows their name — "My faithful martyr Antipas!"
But Christ had also something in them to blame. "But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication." Balaam dared not curse Israel, when God had blessed; but he caused Balac to put a stumblingblock before them. And are there not some of us, are there not some of you, who have respect for ordinances, for the preached word, for the bread and wine, who dare not openly oppose Christians, but who put a stumblingblock in their way? "So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate." And are there any of you who have in your house those who are not Christians? Parents, you may be Christians yourselves; but if you speak only to your children, you are like old Eli, who spoke to his children, but who did not restrain them. Are there some of you, who have for your companions those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans? Take care, this was the sin of Pergamos. Say you unto them, "Depart from me, for God hath heard the voice of my weeping." And what is the judgment that Christ threatens? He says, "Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth."
And last, what is the reward to them that overcome! "I will give him to eat of the hidden manna." You will find this explained in the sixteenth chapter of Exodus: "And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. And Moses said, This is the thing which the Lord commandeth, Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt. And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations. As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept." And so Christ is the hidden manna; He is hidden from us just now, but we shall yet eat of the hidden manna, we shall feed upon Christ. He says, I will give you myself. And what could He give us more? And again, "I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." At the Grecian games, those who won the race got a white stone, and there was a name written on it, which no man knew but the person who got it: and so, if we overcome, we will get a white stone; but we get it even here, for who can tell the peace that a believer feels! Others know nothing of it; no man can know but those whose sins are forgiven, what it is to feel the peace of forgiveness of sins. The world thinks that we are sour-tempered when we will not join with them — when we look solemn; but they do not know the peace that is within. Oh, then, dear anxious souls, come to Christ, and you will have this peace, too. But believers will yet get a white stone. Oh! Who can tell the peace that we shall have when Christ shall put a crown on our head? Oh! Who can tell the joy that will burn in our bosom, when we feel that our hearts are quite clean, when we see that we are dressed in a white robe, in linen clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints? And no one will know that peace, except he who has it. Those who are standing on the left side of the Judge will know nothing of it. We are in a warfare just now, but is it not a race worth running? Let us overcome, and we will eat of the hidden manna, and we will get a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.