The Church of Pergamos (Pergamum) is the third of seven Churches addressed in Revelation Chapters 2 & 3. It corresponds to the third of seven Kingdom of Heaven parables told by our Lord Jesus in Matthew Chapter 13 which is the Parable of the Mustard Seed. They are one and the same.
Many Christians ask, "Does the Church at Pergamos (Pergamum) exist today?". The answer is definitely - Yes - . Not only does this Church exist, but it is the easiest and most readily identifiable Church among the seven Churches listed in Revelation. This has been true not only throughout Church history, but also at this present time as we shall see. No other Church in the world today displays the character, description, and doctrine to which both the parable and the Revelation letter point.
Before jumping immediately into an expository presentation of any of the Seven Church Letters, It is important and a prerequisite that the reader first review the Introduction to the Seven Churches article before proceeding. Therein, the reader will gain proper understanding of the relationship between each of the seven letters to the Churches and their associated Kingdom of Heaven Parable.
We begin by looking at the third parable in Matthew Chapter 13 - - -
THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED
31 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field,
32 "which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."
Time will only permit us to pick up on this parable with a look at the tree. The issue of the "Mustard Seed" and "The Man" in the parable are discussed in the DVD teaching series.
The parable is telling us that this Church will become the largest of the Seven Churches and can be compared to that of a very large stately tree. The other six Churches develop into herbs, but this Church surpasses herbs and undergoes phenomenal and unparalleled growth. This defines the outward visible character of this Church. This Church will have unchecked growth and dwarf the other six Churches in physical size and world recognition.
Immediately we have an idea of which Christian Church He is talking about, but we must not be hasty. If this is true, then the letter addressed to this Church will confirm our assumption. Most importantly, we are looking for the doctrine which characterizes this Church.
The Bible often uses trees to describe the nature of a man or a nation. We can examine the character of a large tree found in the Old Testament book of Daniel to help us understand the character of this Church. In the book of Daniel King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has a dream about a large tree. The kings tell the prophet Daniel about his dream in hopes that Daniel can interpret its meaning - - -.
10 "These were the visions of my head while on my bed: "I was looking, and behold, A tree in the midst of the earth, And its height was GREAT.
11 The tree GREW and became STRONG; Its HEIGHT reached to the HEAVENS, And it could be seen to the ENDS OF ALL THE EARTH.
12 Its leaves were lovely, Its fruit abundant, And in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, The BIRDS of the heavens dwelt in its branches, And all flesh was fed from it.
We can conclude from Nebuchadnezzar's vision of a tree that a parallel can be made between his tree and the Church at Pergamos. This Church must be recognizable, large, powerful, and most importantly influential throughout the entire world !!! As the tree in the vision represented the worldwide dominion of the Kingdom of Babylon, so the correlation is that this Church also has great power and world wide influence in religious affairs. There is only one Christian Church in the world today that proclaims the doctrine of Jesus Christ that has these credentials. And this Church is undeniably, unequivocally, and unquestionably . . .
- - - THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH - - -
Furthermore, if we continue with the interpretation of the tree in Daniel, the visible characteristics of the Kingdom of Babylon and its King are summarized for us as follows - - -
it is you, O king, who have GROWN and BECOME STRONG; for your GREATNESS has GROWN and REACHES to the HEAVENS, and your DOMINION to the END of the EARTH.
We can also arrive at the same parallel characteristics by reading about the tree found in Ezekiel Chapter 31 and observing similar parallels. This is left as an exercise to the reader.
Christian Churches such as the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Baptists, and other protestant Churches have worldwide recognition, but none of these Churches have the POWER or INFLUENCE to be involved in world affairs. The representative head of the Roman Catholic Pope is given national attention when he visits other countries. No other Church is qualified to receive such worldwide reception as does this Church. Whether a country accepts or rejects the message(s) from this Church, it receives honor and recognition second to no other Church. Other Churches arrive in non-Christian countries to conduct crusades, camp meetings, revivals, and such for the purpose of evangelism, but they do not instill both religious and political influence as does the Roman Catholic Church.
The Roman Catholic Church is the world's largest Christian church, representing over half of all Christians, one sixth of the world's population, and is the largest organized religion. It is made up of one Western and 22 Eastern Catholic churches and divided into 2,782 jurisdictional areas around the world. These churches look to the Pope, currently Pope Benedict XVI, as their highest visible authority in matters of faith, morals, and church governance. The church community is comprised of an ordained ministry and the laity. There are around 1.1 billion Roman Catholics in the world, a number that is growing particularly in Africa and Asia. (From Wikipedia)
Someone, may respond at this point, that to conclude that the Church of Pergamos is the Roman Catholic Church described in the parable is only fanciful given such a short parable. However, this conclusion will be found to be correct when we examine the doctrine that is ascribed to this Church within the letter addressed to it.
It should be noted, that at the time the letter to Pergamos was written approximately AD 90 or so, that this Church was not known as the Roman Catholic Church. It was also not a large tree wherein the birds could lodge, but was a rather small sapling. At that time, this Church was volatile and busy brewing and formulating itself in its unique doctrine, but not yet solidified in all of its doctrine, teaching, traditions, and even its name. The name "Roman Catholic Church" would not be acquired until decades later.
Now we examine the letter to the Church at Pergamos - - -
"And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, "These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:
The sharp two-edged sword is referring to - "THE WORD OF GOD" (The Bible) as noted in the following verses - - -
And take the helmet of salvation, and the SWORD of the Spirit, which is the WORD of GOD;
For the WORD of GOD is living and powerful, and sharper than any TWO-EDGED SWORD, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Now out of His mouth goes a sharp SWORD, that with it He should STRIKE the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
Our Lord's appearance to this Church carrying a sharp two-edged sword implicates them immediately because they are not aware of the Sword. This Church is caught in a quite embarrassing position. This knowledge of "The Sword", that is the "Word of God" is somehow amazingly absent in this Church. Therefore, we can be certain that this Church's doctrine is lacking proper instruction, interpretation, and application of "The Word of God". We can safely assume even from this first verse, that the indictment against this Church is going to center around teaching that is not contained within or supported by "The Word of God." Therefore, this Church shall carry the title "The Wordless Church" as we shall see.
If this Church is deficient the "Word of God", then it can certainly be reasoned that the doctrine and teaching found in this Church is unsound, unbiblical, and contrary to the Word of God. It is not necessary that a Bible Student list and research all of the unsound doctrines and practices found in this Church. Many others have done so and therefore, a great deal of time can be saved if the Bible Student skips down to about item 500 on the list of unsound doctrines and practices found in this Church and continues from there. Jesus, is therefore, saying to this Church - - -
And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
It is not the intent of this article to address the unbiblical practices and doctrines including the office of Pope, prayers to Mary, confessions to Priests, annulment of marriages etc., but to reveal the concern that Jesus has for this Church by his personal letter.
Continuing on . . .
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.
Satan is opposed to the Word of God and where the "Word of God" is lacking, there we find Satan's throne. For Satan is a liar and the father of it. There are members within this Church who hold fast to His name, meaning that they have not denied Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This means that there are "Saved" members within this Church. Obviously this must be the case or it wouldn't be a Church to begin with. However, keep in mind that within each of these seven Churches, there are both Wheat and Tares, Saved and Unsaved members.
The man named Antipas in this Church is the same man in the parable who planted the mustard seed. Antipas was a real character at the time the letter was written of which the scriptures and history is silent. However, it is not necessary to know of his person, but it is important to know what he is doing and what he represents. This man plays an integral part in the development, growth, and continuation of this Church. We look at this man in detail in the DVD study series.
14 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 (Fornication).
Now Jesus is candidly stating His concern and objection. There are members within this Church who hold the doctrine of Balaam. Jesus is referring to the time when the Prophet Balaam was summoned by the King of Moab to prophesy AGAINST and CURSE the Children of Israel because the King was afraid of them. However, as Balaam was enroute to the King, the donkey on which he was riding wandered from the road because it saw an obstruction in its way. Balaam began to beat the donkey and God caused the Donkey to speak to Balaam of the situation. Balaam was so engrossed and obsessed with the opportunity to curse the Children of Israel for PROFIT that he failed to realize and marvel that he was carrying on a conversation with a dumb Donkey. The donkey was able to see the Lord before him, but Balaam could not see Him. Also, we notice what the Angel had in His hand - - -
Now the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn SWORD in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road.
This account of Balaam is found in the book of Numbers Chapter 22. The motivating force behind Balaam's action was - - - "Covetousness" (Greed)
Therefore we learn that the motivating force behind this SPECIFIC teaching that exists in this Church is greed. We are warned of false teachers who teach this particular doctrine. The New Testament sums it up as follows and notice the writer who gives this particular warning - - - (Quite ironic)
2 Peter 2:3
By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
Peter is on target with this situation - - -
2 Peter 2:16
. . . but he (Balaam) was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man's voice restrained the madness of the prophet.
Therefore, we learn that the basis for the teaching (by the teachers) is greed. They accomplish their goal by introducing a stumbling block.
The stumbling block He is referring to has to do as we would expect, The Word of God. Balaam taught that it was OK for the Children of Israel to interact and marry the Moabite women (Fornication). The basis for doing this is referred to as "eat things sacrificed to idols". It is a twisting and perverting of the Word of God to make it say something which it does not. This is the problem of this Church.
Technically, the phrase "eat things sacrificed to idols" as a standalone phrase simply means to teach the Word of God in error.
Everyone is dull-hearted, without knowledge; Every metalsmith is put to shame by an image; For his molded image (IDOL) is FALSEHOOD, And there is no breath in them
This false teaching could apply to anything and everything which is contained in scripture. This certainly typifies the Bible teaching found within this Church and is of primary concern. That is why it is listed first. However, when this phrase is coupled with the next phrase "commit sexual immorality (Fornication)", then we now have a SPECIFIC doctrinal error. The issue now is not one of general misinterpretation and misapplication of scripture, but it is focusing on the erroneous teaching which says that it is OK and doctrinally correct to commit (Spiritual) Fornication which is an "Act" based on a "False Doctrine". This is what angers our Lord Jesus the most.
Jesus is now addressing a primary and secondary concern. They are stated in matter of importance and it must be noted that they are listed in reverse order in the Church at Thyatira.
sexual immorality (Fornication)" is a RESULT of members in this Church "eating things sacrificed to idols". The phrase "Sexual Immorality" should actually be translated "Fornication" because there is a difference. The (Spiritual) Fornication to which it refers tells us that "Saved" members within the Church are doing it. When we come across references to (Spiritual) Adultery, then we know that "Unsaved" members in the Church are doing it. As other Bible Topic Studies on this website have shown, spiritual Fornication has to do with the belief, propagation, and practice of Signs, Wonders, and Miracles by members of the Church. This act is Biblically phrased and condemned as - - -
"Turning the GRACE of God into LEWDNESS"
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the GRACE OF OUR GOD INTO LEWDNESS and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
So the problem has now been identified - - -
15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Jesus is now saying that the doctrine of Balaam is one and the same as the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. Therefore, the historical search for origination and practice of the Nicolaitans is now a mute point for Jesus has Himself told us what it is. The specific doctrine that so angers our Lord in this Church is that the false teaching of the "Word of God" is so oriented that it allows, permits, condones, and even instructs members to practice (Spiritual) Fornication. Jesus gives this unique doctrine its own name - - -
DOCTRINE OF THE NICOLAITANS
The Nicolaitans were identified in the letter to the Church at Ephesus as having three undesirable characteristics. We can now add a fourth item to the list previously developed. The Nicolaitans are therefore - - -
We now determine that the SOURCE of the Nicolaitans is in this Church of Pergamos because this is where the teaching originates. In the Church at Ephesus, those members hated the DEEDS of the Nicolaitans and would not allow them in their midst. However, we will find that Pergamos is NOT the home of the Nicolaitans because in this Church we find the DOCTRINE, but not the DEEDS. Much like a military boot camp trains soldiers, the location of the majority of soldiers is not at boot camp but at military installations around the world. Similarly, the majority of Nicolaitans is not found in this Church but is found in the Church at Thyatira.
16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
The appeal to the Believers in this Church is twofold - - -
The phrase "will fight against them with the sword of My mouth" is not referring to the SPIRITUAL FORNICATORS in this Church because they are Believers. Jesus will fight against the SPIRITUAL ADULTERERS in this Church who are Unbelievers. The practice of SPIRITUAL FORNICATION and SPIRITUAL ADULTERY is outwardly one and the same. Jesus never arrives to fight against his own children. Instead, He will reprove, rebuke, and chasten his own children, but never FIGHT against them.
17 "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."
Since this Church is teaching as doctrine the commandments of men, then the Word of God is considered scarce and hard to come by. Therefore, Jesus is telling the members that they can find the Word of God if they diligently seek it and long for it. Since the manna of the Old Testament was a type of the Word of God, Jesus is saying that He will provide the Word of God to them although it is hidden from the rest of the Church members.
7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
8 "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
"He who rejects Me, and does not receive My WORDS, has that which judges him--the WORD that I have spoken will JUDGE him in the last day.
Remember the issue is the Word of God to this Church and Jesus is pleading that they FIND the Word of God which is hidden in this Church. To those who become Born Again because they find it, they will have a new name.
1 For Zion's sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, And her salvation as a lamp that burns.
2 The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory. You shall be called by a NEW NAME, Which the mouth of the LORD will name.
14 Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, But you shall cry for sorrow of heart, And wail for grief of spirit.
15 You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; For the Lord GOD will slay you, And call His servants by ANOTHER NAME;
Why a new name? Because the current name of true "Born Again" Believers has been tainted by the fact that UNBELIEVERS have also been called by that name. Therefore, a NEW and HOLY name never previously used will be given by which Jesus will call His Saints. Therefore, a most interesting question is, "What is the ONE name by which our Lord calls His own today which has become contaminated or made unholy?" (Answer: In the DVD teaching series)
It can be argued that many other Churches teach doctrines that are contrary to the Word of God and could therefore, fit this scenario. However, only the Church at Pergamos fulfills all of these requirements set forth in the Kingdom of Heaven parable and the letter - - -
It must be kept in mind that with all of the above problems which draw our Lord's rebuke, they also proclaim that salvation is by Faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, since they are one of the Seven Churches, quantitatively speaking, other born again Believers MUST accept these as members of the body of Christ.
This Church is also unique in that it is one of only two Churches which will be found in what is commonly called the seven year Tribulation period. The other Church to share this distinction is the Church at Thyatira. The Church at Pergamos will provide "The Religious System" and the Church at Thyatira will provide "The Religious Doctrine". Rest assured that at that time, only Not-Born-Again members who have missed the Rapture will endure the Tribulation period. These two Churches will no longer be Churches but Institutions and are described in the remainder of the book of Revelation. A discussion and review of this event plus many others will be included in the DVD teaching series. Other topics of interest concerning this Church will include - - -