Amos 2:1-3:15; Revelation 2:8-17; Psalms 128:5-6; Proverbs 28:2
NT: ““Write to the angel of the church in Smyrna: Thus says the First and the Last, the one who was dead and came to life: I know your affliction and poverty, but you are rich. I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will experience affliction for ten days. Be faithful to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. “Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will never be harmed by the second death. “Write to the angel of the church in Pergamum: Thus says the one who has the sharp, double-edged sword: I know where you live — where Satan’s throne is. Yet you are holding on to my name and did not deny your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness who was put to death among you, where Satan lives. But I have a few things against you. You have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to place a stumbling block in front of the Israelites: to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality. In the same way, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. So repent! Otherwise, I will come to you quickly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth. “Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it.”” (Revelation 2:8-17 CSB)
The Lord had an encouraging word to give to the church in Smyrna. That church was about to endure persecution and suffering, and the Lord wanted them to know, that though they thought they were poor and lacking, they were actually rich in Him. When you go through trials that test your faith and your endurance, you begin to wonder if you have what it takes to come out the other side victorious. In our own strength, we don’t have what it takes – but in the Lord and by His grace, we have everything we need in abundance. The Lord Christ told the church to not be afraid, but to be faithful… even to the point of death. The victory isn’t determined by whether you live or die. The victory is determined by whether you remain in the faith. To those who conquer the enemy by not losing faith in Christ will never be harmed by the fires of hell.
The Lord had a different word for the Church in Pergamum. There were many who were holding on to the name of Christ and were not denying their faith – even in the midst of severe persecution and death. However, the Lord had a warning for some. Apparently, there were some in the Pergamum church who were holding to the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which the Lord hates.
Who were the Nicolaitans? Not much in known about them, but scholars have concluded this about them: They were likely followers of a man named Nicolas who was once a believer in Christ, but fell away from the faith due to the pressures of persecution. Instead of remaining sanctified from the world, he compromised and in the name of not being “canceled,” he accepted and allowed pagan practices and beliefs into his life. The Lord likened the Nicolaitans to Balaam. Balaam was a character who led the nation of Israel into sin by enticing them to compromise their sanctified status by engaging in pagan sexual rituals with Midianite women. The Nicolaitans were attempting to do the same with the church in Pergamum. Though they claimed to be friendly to the Christian believers, they were enticing them to compromise their faith by engaging in aspects of pagan worship.
To the church in Pergamum, Christ referred to Himself as the one with the sharp, double-edged sword. That sharp double-edged sword is the word of truth that is living and effective at judging the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). The Lord said that if the people who were engaging in compromise didn’t repent, He would quickly fight against them and expose them with His word of truth. To those who conquered the onslaught of compromise, Christ would give them hidden manna (unfailing daily wisdom and sustenance from Him) and give them a new righteous identity.
The church today is much like the church in Pergamum. We have many in our midst who have capitulated to society in the name of being accepted and not cancelled. The Lord does not call us to be acceptable to the world. He calls us to live in the world but not of it… to remain holy as He is holy. The word of truth will both give us discernment to know what is of God and not of God, as well as expose those who engage in compromise and attempt to lead us astray. If we remain faithful to Him, we will have access to the Truth that never grows old… never grows stale… never becomes outdated – and we will be given a new name and the grace to live up to it.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You for Your word of truth – the sharp, double-edged sword that is not swayed by popular opinion and the philosophies of the day – that will always lead me on the path of truth and righteousness if I heed it and remain faithful. Help me by Your grace to remain in spotted from the world and to remain faithful to You until the end. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.