INTRODUCTION:  The book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John in 95 AD, on the Island of Patmos, a bare rocky Greek island in the Aegean Sea, located off the western coast of Turkey. 

All the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3 were all located in Asia Minor, Modern day Turkey.  The Apostle was banished to the Island because of his Christian faith. There the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him in a vision and dictated to him the seven letters to the seven churches.  These were not John’s letters but Christ’s letters to His churches. 

The Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church, which he purchased by His precious blood walks in and among His churches (Rev. 2:1).  He knows their works, love, faith, labour, troubles, heart etc.  These letters to the seven churches are just as relevant to each individual Christian, each local assembly, and all church ages, since the Lord Himself says repeatedly: “He who has an   ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”  And  “To him who overcomes.”  May all followers of Christ and all local assemblies heed His word, more so, as His coming is at the very door.

The compromising church (Rev. 2:12-17).

Pergamos at the time the letter was written.

The ancient city of Pergamum or Pergamon also referred to by its Modern Greek form Pergamos was situated 50 miles north of Smyrna.  A city known as Bergama in present day Turkey occupies part of the ancient site.   During John’s days Pergamum had a population of about 200,000 inhabitants. It was a wealthy city and was considered the most beautiful city in Asia.  It was also the capital city of the entire Roman province of Asia and was known as the centre of culture.  The city had a theatre which seats 10,000 people and a library containing 200,000 volumes. The very steepy theater remains on the ancient site till date.

Pergamum was the centre of medical science and healing in the ancient world.  It was famous for its hospital, healing sanctuary dedicated to the god Asclepius- savior, healer.  People came to the city from all over the Mediterranean for medical treatments.

It was the centre for the worship of four prominent Greek gods:  Zeus the chief god, Dionysus- god of wine and drama, Athena- goddess of wisdom in the art, Asclepius- god of healing and health.

The city was not just the headquarters of emperor worship and other pagan gods, it was the first imperial cult centre in the east; the first to erect a temple to the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus and the serpent god Asclepius.  The temple ruin of Asclepius can still be seen today.

In the other cities every citizen only needed to burn a pinch of incense on the fire that burnt before the emperor’s statue, but in Pergamum it was an everyday affair; the incense had to be burnt 365 days of the year.      

The people of Pergamum were known as the ‘temple keepers’ of Asia. Pagan temples, shrines, statues and altars filled the city.  A gigantic throne-like altar was built on a hill which overlooked the city for the Greek god Zeus- the god of the sky and thunder.  The altar was four stories high, 800 feet above the city.  This thrown-like structure can be seen in the Pergamum Museum, city of Berlin today.  The city of Pergamum was indeed the chief centre for pagan worship in the ancient world.


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. (vs.13).

The Lord was not playing on words or using metaphorical language here.  This church dwelt in the most spiritually dark environment in the east.  The location where Satan then had chosen to set up his throne.  It was a satanically infused environment, Satan held sway there. It was the centre for evil, the very regional headquarters of Satan.  This city superceded the others in paganism.  This was the environment these Christians lived, where Satan also lived. The Lord told them: “I know that you live in exactly the same environment Satan lives and has his throne.  I am aware of this.”  This should comfort every believer.  That the Lord is aware of every of our state of affairs.  He is neither ignorant, nor unmindful of them and is with us in all circumstances. 

In spite of the fact that this church lived in an environment which atmosphere was saturated with satanic presence they held fast to the name of Christ.  They refused to deny Him.  Remember that in Pergamos it was an everyday affair for her citizens to burn a pinch of incense on the fire that burnt before the emperor’s statue and to call him lord.  Refusal to do this meant death, but these Christians refused to deny Christ’s name and would not worship and call the emperor lord.  Imagine how difficult it must have been for the Christians to buy and sell at the market place without compromising their faith.

According to tradition Antipas was a bishop of the Pergamum church who was killed by being burnt in a copper bull-shaped altar at the temple of Dionysus during the reign of the emperor, Nero.   Despite this horrific incident they did not compromise or deny Christ’s name.  They were willing to die for His name’s sake. 


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. (vs.14).

Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. (vs.15).

I believe this church walked in love unlike the church at Ephesus, otherwise the Lord would have reproofed them for it, they also had good works for the Lord; they refused to deny His name, and endured persecution for His name.  Christ’s controversy with this church was the allowance and tolerance of two groups of people who held and were spreading false doctrines in the church. They chose not to deal with this sin probably in the name of love or because the church leaders didn’t want to offend or step on certain toes.

Right from the days of the early apostles the church had been threatened by the infiltration of false doctrines both internally and externally. 

Doctrine of Balaam: This group of people held unto the doctrine of Balaam.  You can find the story of Balaam in the book of Numbers chapters 22-31.

Balaam was a gentile prophet who taught King Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel causing them to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality with the Moabites (Num.25: 1-3, 31:15-16).

Doctrine of the Nicolaitans:  The Bible tells us nothing about the Nicolaitans and their doctrine, only that the Lord hated their doctrine.   It is believed by many that the doctrine of the Nicolaitans was similar to that of Balaam -involving idolatry and sexual immorality.

 The Ephesian church was commended by the Lord for not permitting the Nicolaitans doctrines in the church.  Here He reproofs the Pergamene Church for tolerating them. It will be right to say that the church at Ephesus elevated truth above love, that the Pergamum church elevated love above truth. These were unacceptable to the Lord.  Love and truth must go hand in hand.  You cannot take one and leave the other.

These two groups taught a doctrine of hyper-grace which was the freedom or license to sin since they were under grace.  In other words, it doesn’t matter how one lived the grace of Christ covers it all.  So it was alright to eat things sacrificed to idols, after all the idols are no gods.   It was alright to attend pagan feasts just to keep one’s trade, have access to one’s basic needs at the market place and have the neighbours  acceptance to avoid accusations and reports to authorities – after all the Lord understands.   Life has been tough, so it was alright to give in just a little bit here and there in order to have a bit of respite. They were diluting, and adulterating the gospel message with new and strange doctrines causing believers to begin to compromise the faith. 

There are many false doctrines going round the churches today.  And the internet makes them spread fast.  It’s heart breaking, l sometimes weep to see and hear the types of messages preached on the social media and TV.  Messages that are very misleading, leading people away from God and the true gospel.  Like the church at Pergamum the Lord is calling the church today to go back to pure and sound biblical doctrines.

Call to repentance

Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. (vs.16).

The Lord calls the church to repentance concerning their tolerance of false doctrines among them.  Their repentance will include confronting these two groups and excommunicating them if they refuse to repent.  If the church refuses to repent the Lord was going to come quickly with His judgement on those two groups “and will fight against them with the sword…’

Promises of rewards

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 a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”(vs.17)

This message applies to every local church, every minister, and every individual believer.  Just as the Lord hated the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitans there are many popular doctrines in the church today that He hates.  And He is calling His church to repent and put away false doctrines.  To do this we will need to go back to God’s word and sift away man-made doctrines and other false doctrines.

Do you invite preachers with false doctrines to your church?  As a preacher do you just copy and follow after the trendy doctrines being propagated today?  Or do you cling to pure, sound and simple doctrines of the Bible?  As a believer do you examine every doctrine under the microscope of God’s word?

The Lord promises rewards for those who repent and overcome. They were not invited to feasts held by formal friends, relatives and neighbours.  They were ostracized by society and the government, but they will receive from the Lord the invitation to His magnificent supper; they will feast with Him at the Feast of feasts – the messianic banquet (Rev.19:6-10).  He will give them of the hidden manner to eat, which the Bible calls angelic food (Psalm 78:25).

 For those who choose to continue in false doctrines He will come and fight against them with the double edged sword from His mouth.

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