IV. THE CHURCH IN PERGAMOS
The church in Pergamos signifies the condition of the church from the fourth century to the seventh century. The greatest persecution from the world could not annihilate the church; therefore, Satan changed his scheme of attack on the church. Here the world no longer opposed the church, instead, the greatest empire of the world, the Roman Empire, accepted Christianity as its state religion.
A. Revelation 2:12
"And to the messenger of the church in Pergamos write: These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword."
According to the original language, the word "Pergamos" has two meanings: (1) united in marriage, which refers to the relationship between the church and the world; and (2) high tower, which refers to the position of the church in the world.
"These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword." The sharp sword has two functions: one is to sever the union between the church and the world, and the other is to judge the church which is united to the world.
B. Revelation 2:13
"I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name and have not denied My faith, even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells."
"I know where you dwell." The church sojourns in this world; she has the nature of a sojourner, just as our Lord was a sojourner on earth. How pitiful it is that the church has now lost her sojourning nature. Instead, she has taken up a dwelling place on this earth and has gained a position here. This is the decline of the church into worldliness. Moreover, her dwelling place in Pergamos is a high tower; it has the greatest position, authority, and glory. Outwardly speaking, the church has greatly expanded, possessing position, power, and glory, but in reality, the church is now corrupted and defeated. The responsibility of the church in the world should be to fight against the enemy, but she now has a dwelling place which has been occupied by the throne of Satan. How pitiful it is that Satan has a position in the church!
"Even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells." In these seven epistles, no other believer’s name is mentioned except that of Antipas. From this we can see that Antipas is very important. Why was Antipas killed? Because he held fast the Lord’s name and refused to forsake the Lord’s word. He was killed because he was faithful to the testimony. "And you hold fast My name and have not denied My faith." While Antipas was alive he faithfully stood alone, yet this caused the entire Body to stand up also. But after he was killed, the entire Body was shaken.
C. Revelation 2:14
"But I have a few things against you, that you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat idol sacrifices and to commit fornication."
Balaam was a prophet who was greedy for wealth. Today there are many people who come out to preach for the sake of money. Balaam’s teaching was intended to cause the Israelites to unite with the Gentiles. Today there are also many people who advocate a union with the world. Balaam was hired by Balak, and in the same way, ever since Constantine joined Christianity, many have been "hired" by rulers. The consequences of Balaam’s teaching were: (1) "to eat idol sacrifices," that is, to mingle with other religions; and (2) "to commit fornication," that is, to make friends with the world.
D. Revelation 2:15
"In the same way you also have some who hold in like manner the teaching of the Nicolaitans."
This period signifies the age when the entire Roman Empire adopted Christianity. Since most of the people did not understand the truths in Christianity, a few had to take over the spiritual affairs. Hierarchy became accepted, and as a consequence, this system also became a kind of teaching.
E. Revelation 2:16
"Repent therefore; but if not, I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war with them with the sword of My mouth."
The sword here, as in verse 12, is the Lord’s word, which is for cutting off our relationship with the world. If we hear the Lord’s word but do not repent and break off from the world, this word will be the sword that judges us.
F. Revelation 2:17
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give of the hidden manna, and to him I will give a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written, which no one knows except he who receives it."
Here are two promises given to the overcomers:
(1)"To him I will give of the hidden manna." Manna typifies Christ (John 6:49-51). The open manna was possessed by all the Israelites, but the hidden manna was kept for Canaan (Exo. 16:33). All believers receive the salvation of Christ, but only the overcomers enjoy the hidden portion of Christ, a portion which the common people cannot enjoy.
(2)"To him I will give a white stone." At the apostles’ time, elections were carried out by placing pieces of white stone into a jar with names written on them. Although the overcomers lose the opportunity to be elected in the world, the Lord will give them a white stone on which a new name is written, a name not known by others. This shows the Lord’s approval of us.
V. THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA
"Thyatira" means "she sacrificed tirelessly." This means she was filled with many sacrifices. The Lord’s word becomes stronger and stronger. All Bible readers recognize that this refers to the Roman Catholic Church.
A. Revelation 2:18
"And to the messenger of the church in Thyatira write: These things says the Son of God, He who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like shining bronze."
Here the Lord identifies Himself as:
(1) "He who has eyes like a flame of fire," which can penetrate and discern all things.
(2) "The Son of God," thus causing the Roman Catholic Church to realize her error of exalting Mary.
(3) He whose "feet are like shining bronze," which are able to carry out judgment. Whatever the eyes condemn, the feet trample.
B. Revelation 2:19
"I know your works and love and faith and service and your endurance and that your last works are more than the first."
We marvel and wonder at this. How is it that the corrupted Roman Catholic Church can have so many good works? We have to realize that this was spoken to a small number of messengers. Although the majority was defeated, there were still a few who were quite good. This can be proved from church history.
[Editor’s note: The portion from here through the end of chapter three is missing in the original manuscript.]
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 16: Study on Revelation, Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)