On the Book of Revelation, Lesson IV, Part 1: THE SEVEN LAMPSTANDS – PERGAMUM

And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These things saith he that hath the sharp two-edged sword: I know where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s throne is; and thou holdest fast my name, and didst not deny my faith, even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there some that hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also some that hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans in like manner. Repent therefore; or else I come to thee quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. To him that overcometh, to him will I give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written, which no one knoweth but he that receiveth it. Revelation 2:12–17

Read More Than Conquerors, pp. 82–87.


A. THE ADDRESS, verse 12a

It is natural that Pergamum is mentioned after Smyrna, for it is located sixty miles north of Smyrna. (The present Bergama is situated near its site.) The name Pergamum Jives on in our English word “parchment” (and even more clearly in the Dutch “perkament”), which article, according to some ancient authorities, was invented by a man from Pergamum. His name, according to these sources, was Eumenes, who is said to have been the founder of the celebrated library here located. It was subsequently removed to Alexandria.

Thus, this city was a center of culture. It was also the “Asiatic” heart of emperor-worship. The oldest temple in the Roman province of “Asia” had been built here, that is, the oldest temple in honor of a Roman emperor (Augustus). Later on a second temple was built here in honor of emperor Trajan and a third for Severus. Satan must have rejoiced!


Christ is here described as the One who wields the sharp two-edged sword. This sword issues from his mouth (Rev. 1:16; 2:16). With that sword he makes war against the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:15).


Two enemies were threatening to destroy the church at Pergamum. One was the foe outside the gate, namely, the pagan persecutor. The other was the foe within the gate, namely, the followers of Balaam or Nicolaitans. Now over against the former the church had shown great courage, even though one of its prominent members, Antipas, had paid for his loyalty to Christ with the price of his blood.

D. THE CONDEMNATION, verses 14, 15

With respect to the foe within the gate the church had, however, shown a certain amount of tolerance. The Nicolaitans or followers of Balaam had been permitted to pursue their wicked conduct without much interference. These Nicolaitans have already been described (see Lesson 3, Part 1, C). Ephesus had tried and rejected them (Rev. 2:2, 6); Pergamum exercised a degree of toleration with respect to them; and Thyatira was perhaps even more indifferent toward them and allowed an important segment of the church to be “seduced” by them (Rev. 2:20).


The entire church is held responsible for the tolerant attitude shown with respect to the immoral compromisers. That is true also today. If in any church or denomination some deviate from the faith and nothing is done about it, the entire membership is by God held responsible. Ignorance is inexcusable. Repentance is called for. “Peace at any price” is a curse to any church or denomination. And as to the Nicolaitans? As always, so also here, Christ’s sword will destroy them, for that sword proceeds out of his mouth.

Just what is meant by this expression, “sword of my mouth”? Let me begin by dropping just one letter; hence, “word of my mouth.” Now the word of Christ’s mouth is no mere utterance, as with us. No, it is effective. For example, it actually creates, brings things into being (Ps. 33:6). But it is also effective in the opposite direction, and then it destroys (Matt. 21:19; cf. II Thess. 2:8), and can therefore be called a sword.


“He that hath an ear let him hear,” etc. See on 2:7a (Lesson III, Part 1 F). When Christ addresses the church it is the Spirit who is speaking to that church. People should remember this!

G. THE PROMISE, verse 17b

To the conqueror will be given: a. the hidden manna, and b. a white stone with a new name inscribed on it, a name whose meaning is hidden from the minds and hearts of all those who do not receive it. That the hidden manna indicates Christ in all his fulness (John 6:33 38) is clear. Could not the new name whose full significance is concealed from those who do not receive it also indicate that same Christ in his new capacity as Conqueror, King of kings and Lord of lords (Phil. 2:10; Rev. 19:16)?

As to the meaning of the name being concealed from the minds and hearts of all outsiders but known to all who have truly found him, is not that implied in such passages as,

“The friendship of Jehovah is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant” (Ps. 25:14), and in such hymns as,

“But what to those who find? Ah this Nor tongue nor pen can show! The love of Jesus, what it is None but his loved ones know.”


1. In connection with verse 13, where is Satan’s throne today?

2. Does living in a very wicked environment lessen a person’s responsibility to show loyalty to Christ?

3. What is meant by “the teaching of Balaam”? Is there such teaching today? If so, what should we do about it?

4. Was Balaam a child of God? If you answer this question in the affirmative, how do you explain the terrible things that are said about him in the New Testament? If you answer the question in the negative, then must we conclude that his wonderful prophecies (Num. 23:9; 24:17, often recited by the children at Christmas-time) were not infallibly inspired?

5. What are the two possible theories with respect to the meaning of the expression, “and upon the stone a new name”?

6. Is there a way of reconciling these two views?

7. “To him that overcometh, to him will I give…” Does this mean that in the realm of salvation man’s act of overcoming precedes God’s act of giving?