Imagine a time when seven ancient churches stood at the crossroads of faith, their stories permanently etched into the annals of history and Biblical relevance. Today we begin to peel back the layers and explore some powerful messages and challenges delivered to these congregations in letters directly from the Messiah … a message intended for all churches throughout all ages.
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Unveiling Revelation: The Seven Churches & Letters Part 1 (Ep 41)
Welcome to the My Ministry Mission podcast. We are your hosts, Jason and Laura. In our previous episode, we covered a brief overview and introduction of the book of Revelation. But today, the rubber meets the road. We are jumping in with both feet. We will share with you what we've learned about the seven letters to the seven churches covered in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.
Imagine a time when seven ancient churches stood at the crossroads of faith, their stories permanently etched into the annals of history and biblical relevance. Today we begin to peel back the layers and explore some powerful messages and challenges delivered to these congregations in letters directly from the Messiah.
A message intended for all churches throughout all ages. As Laura and I began to research and document what we wanted to discuss, we soon realized that this was not going to fit into a single episode. So this is part one of the Seven Letters. And to be perfectly honest, if we really wanted to, we could fit enough information to do one episode.
Per letter, but that's a rabbit we didn't exactly want to chase. Now there are some pretty astonishing and amazing well revelations in this episode, so I hope you are paying attention now, I don't know about you, but I'm really excited to explore these sacred letters and get started on this journey. And there our adventure begins now
In biblical times, after Jesus's ascension to heaven, seven churches arose in seven cities in Asia Minor. Which are now known as Turkey or mostly Western Turkey. While the apostle John was exiled on Patmos, he was instructed to write letters to these churches. These letters all followed a similar pattern with slight variations here and there.
They started with the author or Jesus being kind of introduced. And then the letter will describe the characteristic or condition of the church, next a verdict or some sort of condemnation of the church, except for Sardis and Laodicea, then a criticism or command from Jesus, and then some sort of general exhortation or command to listen to the Holy Spirit.
And finally, a commitment to preserving, which held a promise of reward. So an interesting thing to note is that when John sent these letters, they were delivered in the order in which they were written, Ephesus, Myrna, Pergamum, et cetera. I'm not going to say all of them. It's terrible. I just skip over it.
But this order could simply be due because of convenience, because if you look at a map, they go from Patmos to Laodicea in geographic order. It could also be that because of the dispensational view, they each represented a church age from the earliest church until we reach the end of days. So one more quick observation is, is the first passage of just about every letter describes the original author, Jesus, in a manner in which he was described in the previous chapter in Revelation 1.
Laura: And in addition to being actual cities with actual churches that once existed, there are other theories as to who and or what these churches could represent. Going back to that Rhema word we spoke of in the last episode. Words for the actual church it was written to and words for us reading it today with these theories It's important to realize they could all be right, they could all be wrong And well now I kind of want to start singing the greatest showman Or there could be a combination of things from each of them It's like the answer to the age old question How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll Center of a Tootsie Pop?
The world may never know, at least not on this side of heaven. So I am going to go through some of the different theories that I've come across in my research. The first one is that according to the Dispensationalists, the seven churches also correspond to seven church ages. And one of my study Bibles does have a very specific heading for each church.
Ephesus is loyal, representing the Apostolic Church from about AD 33 to 100. The Church of Smyrna is suffering, which is the end of persecution, or the era of persecution under the 10 Caesars, from 100 to about 312. The Church of Pergamum or Pergamus, whichever you prefer is the compromising church, and that was from about AD 312 to 590. The Church of Thyatira was called the overly tolerant church and it spanned the Middle Ages from AD 590 to 1517. Sardis was referred to as the dead church, which came into being around the Protestant Reformation from 1517 to 1750. Philadelphia was the weak but obedient church and that was. the era of the great revival and the great awakening from 1750 to 1925, which did slightly overlap with the church of Laodicea, which was called the lukewarm and uncommitted church from AD 1900 to the rapture or tribulation, depending on one's views when that rapture does occur.
The second theory was that the seven churches depict seven different types of believers. And the third one was that the letters were specifically to the pastors of the churches because each letter did reference the angel. And those angels could represent the church leaders, since if they were actual heavenly angels, they probably would not be receiving reprimands. I mean, what do you think on that one, Jason?
Jason: Yeah. I mean, if nothing else, it would have been done in private.
Laura: That would make sense.
Jason: Or cast out. You know, you know what happens then?
Laura: Oh, yes. Yes, I do. And if indeed those letters were written to the pastors, if the pastor didn't heed the words and lead the church as God intended, his lampstand or church congregation would be removed and given to another. And kind of a slight rabbit hole here, this did happen with Moses back in the book of Numbers. If I remember correctly at the end of the 40 years in the wilderness, God told him to Speak to the rock and not strike the rock as he did in the book of Exodus and because he didn't Obey and speak, he was removed as the leader of Israel and was denied leading the people into the promised land. Not because of the disobedience, but because he was portraying God as harsh, angry, and vindictive, even after the judgment had been exhausted.
Jason: And the interesting thing there though, is that he did let him see, you know, he gave him one last view of what he had led them to.
Laura: Right. He absolutely did, but he didn't get the privilege of taking them in.
The fourth theory is that the letters form a single unified message to the churches of today and in all times and all places.
Jason: Nice. So one thing that I noticed just now, which is why we're probably going to be so bad at timing on this, is that I found it ironic that the church of Pergamum or Pergamos is the compromising church, because you can, you can say it either way and it's, it's legitimately correct.
One thing that I found that was interesting was that there was a Pauline letter counterpart to each of these seven letters that John scribed in Revelation. So for example, Ephesus had a Pauline letter from Ephesians. Smyrna was the Pauline letter of Philippians. And then Pergamos was Corinthians. Thyatira was Galatians, Sardis was Romans, Philadelphia Thessalonians, and Laodicea was Colossians. And this is something that I never knew or never even thought of before, but we kind of talked offline and this is like, now we want to compare and contrast them, and that's just a huge rabbit hole. That's like a whole minefield of rabbit holes.
Laura: Those are rabbits we do not want to chase right now.
Jason: Oh definitely not. So before we spend the entire episode, just introducing the topic, let's go ahead and visit the church of Ephesus. So Ephesus was a famous city filled with a lot of travel and a lot of commerce, and I kind of imagined it was this impressive site. At its prime, uh, there's this huge street that ran from, from like the port through the entire city. Many of the streets were lined with marble. They had public baths. You don't think about public bathrooms and baths and stuff like that being a luxury because we have them everywhere now, but back then it was kind of a big deal. They had a theater that could hold tens of thousands of people. I mean, in those times the city was amazing, but it also was dominated by worship of the Roman goddess of fertility, Diana, also known in Greek mythology as Artemis.
And it was in the middle of all of this that Paul established the church at Ephesus. I mean, he actually spent more time there than any other church. You can read through it, Acts 19 and 20. But some 40 years later, now we have this letter addressed to this church in Ephesus. And it starts out with, of course, Jesus introducing himself in the second half of Revelation 2:1.
He says, "There are words of him who hold the seven stars in his right hands and walks among the seven gold lampstands." And that kind of goes back to Revelation 1:16. Now, these images of Christ holding the seven stars and walking among the seven lampstands... Demonstrated his authority and immediate presence of Christ in the church.
Laura: Right, and as I mentioned before, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the lampstands are the churches themselves, which Jason, as you mentioned, did indicate that Jesus holds all of us in his hand. And as I mentioned before, some people do believe that the angels are the pastors or elders of the local churches. But some people do believe that they are actual angels that were tasked with protecting the church.
Jason: Yeah, but again, why is she reprimanded? But in short, Jesus, Jesus was always to be recognized as being the central. part of the faith, the center of the faith and what drives the point home is that the Greek word krateō, which is translated into "holds" is kind of a representation of complete power and mastery and complete ownership.
So then we kind of move on to the, the condition of the church and in Revelation 2 verses 2 through 3, he writes, "I know your deeds, your hard work, and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles, but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name and have not grown weary." So it's interesting, we can't hide our sins from Christ, neither as individuals or even as a church community. He knows , where we do hold his commands and he knows where we fail. And the church at Ephesus was working hard for the Lord and maintain this purity in its pursuit of doctrin And in Acts 20 verses 29 through 31, Paul even warns the Ephesians, you know, he says, "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in amongst you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own numbers, men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw the disciples away from them. So be on your guard. Remember that for three years, I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears." So the Ephesians continued to do this and they showed this tremendous perseverance that we should be imitating in our own lives, in our own church, but by all outward appearances, the Ephesians we're rock solid. So what could Jesus possibly condemn them for?
Well, the verdict from Jesus or the condemnation from Jesus was in Revelation 2, verse 4. He says, "Yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken the love you had at first." And I had to, I had to kind of like think and pause on that when I first read it.
I don't know about you, Laura, but, but I was like, what does that even mean? How does that even relate? But it's a sobering reminder that our actions are completely hollow if we're not filled with his love and following his command to love others. The Ephesians were doing all the right things, but they were missing the key ingredient, the love that Christ told us to have.
You can't love God without loving his family, and you can't love his family without loving Him first. And what good is it to share the gospel with others if you don't love them, if you're not wanting them to be part of your spiritual family?
Laura: That kind of ties into one of the churches later, and love is the key ingredient. If I do remember correctly, Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 does say, "Yet the three of these remain faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love."
Jason: Yeah it's amazing. It's amazing how it all ties together. It's amazing how the, the message doesn't really change and it's just centered around that one word.
So now we move on to the command from Jesus. He says, "Consider how far you have fallen, repent and do the things you did at the first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor. You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, as I also hate." so that was Revelation 2, verses 5 and 6. So Christ is asking them to remember where they started. Remember the love and the intent that they had at the beginning. We can't gauge how far we've fallen until we look where we started. In Luke 15, verses 17 through 19, the prodigal son had to first remember what his life was like at his father's home before he could get out of the pig pen and restore his life.
The first step forward is to repent. Now, when we repent, it's not just feeling guilty or feeling anything at all, really. Repentance is about changing our direction, changing our attitudes and our conduct.
Laura: Right. And the word repent used in the Greek comes from the word metanoia, which just means to change your mind. And using that definition, we repent or change our minds quite often from deciding that we really do like pineapple on pizza, and it's the best topping to pair with pepperoni or jalapenos. If you're Jason.
Jason: Jalapenos and pineapples, the best!
Laura: No pepperonis better than jalapenos friend to deciding that we're going to believe that Jesus is in fact the son of God and the only way to the father. and everything in between. All of this technically falls under the definition of metanoia or repentance.
Jason: Right. So Jesus is telling them to change your mind, change your direction, go back to the basics, you know, spend time in his words, pray it with passion, be joyful with other Christians and find that excitement that used to exist when, when talking about Jesus to others, you know, if the Ephesians can cannot do this then Jesus will remove the lampstand, meaning he will remove their light and his presence from their church. Then the letter talks about the Nicolaitans. Now this got my attention. Who are these Nicolaitans? From my research, I found that two early church leaders, Irenaeus and Hippolytus, Hippolytus. I don't know if I'm saying that right.
They recorded some of this. And according to them, the Nicolaitans were the spiritual descendants of Nicholas of Antioch. And I'm like, great, who's Nicholas of Antioch? So I did more digging and this is where, this is my first rabbit hole of this, of this episode. Nicholas of Antioch was one of the men ordained in Acts 6:5. Now, Nicholas was a proselyte of Antioch, which meant he was not born a Jew, but converted to Judaism from paganism. However, according to these early church leaders, Nicholas taught a doctrine that implied there didn't need to be a complete separation from Christianity and their pagan practices. And Jesus hated this doctrine.
So basically Jesus is ending on a high here saying, "Hey guys, no worries. We still have some common ground here." Right? So, so moving on. Now the letter states this general exhortation to all Christians in the first half of Revelation two seven, and this is pretty consistent across all of them. It reads, "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the spirit says to the churches."
And this is a reminder that these letters weren't just written to the church at Ephesus. This is an important message for all of us, at least all of us who are willing to listen. Hence the whoever has ears part. Now the letters, all of these letters are meant to speak to you and me. If we're willing to hear what the Spirit is telling us.
And then finally we end on this promise of reward. The second half of Revelation 2:7 reads, "To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." So for the Ephesians who have overcome their heartless lack of love, is this promise to return to Eden, to restore their eternal life. It's a return to Christ's redeeming love. and an invite to accept their inheritance.
Laura: From Ephesus, our unnamed letter carrier, which very well could have been John after he was released from exile on Patmos, but that's not important at the moment, travels to the church at Smyrna. Smyrna was another rich and beautiful city that was claimed to be the glory of Asia, which is now located within modern day Izmir in Western Turkey.
Now, similar to Ephesus, it was deeply committed to immoral behavior and the worship of the Roman emperor. In fact, there was a famous street called Golden Street where one would find these elaborate temples to Cybele, Apollo, Escal what?
Jason: Yeah, Escalope Escalepoise?
Jason: Oh, that's a terrible name for a god.
Laura: Well, I mean, you know, don't use the name of the lord your God in vain. I know they weren't going with that, but. Anyway, Ascolopoi, Aphrodite, and Zeus. However, the worship of these gods were slow, was slowly being replaced with the worship of the emperor. So let's dive into the latter.
Jason: Let's. Okay. So we start with Jesus introducing himself again Revelation 2:8, he says, "These are the words of him who is first and last, who died and came to life again." Which is also a reference back to the first chapter, Revelation 1:17-18. Now Jesus is doing two things here. First, he's affirming his godhood because the first and last, or the Alpha and Omega in other translations, is a title that belongs to the Lord, according to Isaiah 41:4, 44:6, and 48:12. Second, he's reminding the Christians at Smyrna that they were in service to the risen Lord, who was the victor over death.
Laura: Right, and one thing I've learned from a pastor that I watch online is that Jesus, when speaking to John, would not have been speaking Greek as the New Testament is written in. He would have either been speaking Hebrew or Aramaic with his fellow Jew. So instead of saying Alpha and Omega, he would have said, I'm the Aleph and the Tav. Which are the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. You know, something really, really cool is that these two letters are found standing alone and untranslated many times in the Old Testament. Most notably in Genesis 1:1. And in the Hebrew, which I'm not going to even attempt to pronounce, there are seven words in that verse. And the Aleph Tav sits right in the middle, indicating that Jesus is in fact the center of all creation, which does tie back to John 1:1. So then we move into Revelation 2:9, which talks about the church condition, "I know your afflictions and your poverty, yet you are rich. I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan."
And Jesus begins by acknowledging the hardships the church had experienced. Because even though Smyrna was a wealthy city, the Christians lived in abject poverty. These Christians were fired from their jobs, robbed, heavily persecuted, and so on. Yet despite every outward appearance of these hardships and destitution, they were rich in spirit as the purest of the seven churches, which is why they don't have any sort of criticism or judgment from Christ.
Jason: But in Revelation 2:10, Jesus still has a command for the Smyrna church, which we touched on in the last episode, actually. "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you and you will suffer persecution for 10 days, be faithful, even to the point of death. And I will give you life as your victor's crown." Now, clearly the persecution and suffering was not over. Jesus asked the Smyrna Christians to end their fear, but he warns them that the nature of the persecution coming against them was from the devil, but God was going to limit their tribulations. So you will suffer persecution for 10 days, so God is putting a limit on that. Now we already covered the 10 days in the last episode. But just as a reminder, there's some debate whether it literally meant 10 days, 10 years, or the span of 10 Roman emperors.
Laura: Or just for funsies, a combination of the three. Regardless, though, of what the literal meaning is, it's temporary. The tribulations will end one day. as it will for us.
Jason: I think we have a different definition of fundies. I think so too. So understand that the, the prison in those days, it was not meant to rehabilitate people, like modern prisons. They were intended to be harsh punishments. And many times prisoners were there just to wait for their trial and execution.
And I guarantee the punishment for the Christians was harsh. I mean, remember this attack is coming from Satan, but why would God allow the suffering? You know, I think that's a question we have at various times in our lives even, but ideally these Christians could just rebuke Satan, right? They could just stop the attack, but God found a purpose in their suffering.
And this is something to remind us about our own suffering. Now, I know that sounds harsh, but this punishment was a form of purification, as described in 1 Peter 1 verses 6 and 7. It reads, "In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith, of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire, may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
Now their suffering was intended to make them more like Christ. I mean, we see this in Romans 8:17. "Now if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and co heirs with Christ. If indeed we share in his suffering, in order that we may also share in his glory." These commands from Jesus end with, be faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor's crown in Revelations 2:10. And there's an important distinction here. The word translated to crown is "stephanos", and it represents a prize given to winners in public games. But in this context, stephanos represents a sign of eternal blessing given to the genuine servants of God and Christ. This is a high reward for the righteous. Remember, the church in Smyrna received no criticism in their letter at all.
Laura: Right, so from there, we move on to the general exhortation for all the Christians in the first half of Revelation 2:11, "whoever has ears, let them hear what the spirit says to the churches." So here again, Jesus is saying that this message is for anyone who is willing to listen to and receive it.
Jason: And we don't often suffer the same persecution as Christians did in Smyrna. I mean, it does exist in the world, but the majority of Christians don't suffer quite the same. Now, there is a story of a man named Polycarp, who was a personal disciple of Apostle John, and as an old man, he was a bishop of the church in Smyrna. And in the year after he returned from Rome, a massive persecution of the Christians began and his congregation urged him to flee. So he did, and he stayed with some Christian friends on a farm. And during his time there, he had this vision of his pillow engulfed in flames, and he knew that he must be burnt at the stake.
Laura: Okay, wait a minute. I hate to interrupt, but how on earth does he get, he needs to be burned at the stake from watching his pillow being engulfed in flames.
Jason: I mean, it was his pillow.
Laura: Yeah, but that's a big jump.
Jason: It is a big jump, but God inspires us in ways that we understand. So anyways, the police showed up and arrested him, took him back to the city where they had rounded up all the Christians and put them in an arena with beasts. Maybe not all the Christians, there was a large number of them though.
They offered each Christian their freedom if they burnt a pinch of incense before the statue of Caesar and proclaimed "Caesar is Lord." Most of the Christians refused, and they died an agonizing death by the beast. And I think they were lions. Now, they eventually, brought polycarp out who was an old man, this infirm man, and they offered him his freedom. If he burnt incense and proclaimed "Caesar is Lord." He refused, so they demanded his death, but by then the beasts, the lions, had been retired and they decided to just burn him at the stake. So clearly his ridiculous association with this pillow was correct. When they lit the pile of wood on fire, he was engulfed in flames, but God protected him, put a barrier between him and the flames. And when the executioner saw that he would not burn, he just stabbed him and his blood spilled out and extinguished the flames. But witnesses claim that a dove flew out from the smoke and into heaven. Now, I mentioned this because, as I said before, we don't often see this kind of persecution in modern times of Christians.
However, in 1994, there was a pastor in central India who took the name Paul James, who was killed by a crowd of extremists as he spoke in a field. Eyewitnesses claim they heard him call out, "Jesus, forgive them" as his attackers cut off his hands and his legs and severed his torso.
So here's the rub though. This hatred and violence left many Indians wanting to emulate the love that he had at his death. And as a result, hundreds of conversions to Christianity happened. Now, look, Jesus tasks us to love each other as he loved us. When we do this, we're welcomed into the kingdom with honors, but we also have the opportunity to touch the lives of those who are left here in this world.
God doesn't allow persecution for no reason. There's always a purpose. It's unfortunate that anyone has to suffer for any reason. It's the greatest honor to fulfill his purpose, the best honor that we could hope for. But what does Jesus promise as Christians at Smyrna?
Laura: Well, I'm glad you asked in the second half of Revelation 2:11, it reads, "the one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death." Now for those who overcome their suffering and their persecution at Satan's hands, everlasting life awaits them. The second death is basically what we would call hell and it's the lake of fire and we will get there in future episodes so let's not spend too much time on that. And the second death to the Jews was a complete extinction of the wicked.
Jason: So that's Smyrna moving on to the church in Pergamum or Pergamos. Pergamos was the political capital of the Roman province of that area and was known for its culture and education. In fact, Pergamos had one of the most extensive libraries of that time, definitely a place I would have enjoyed if it were not for all the, you know, heresy and immorality.
Pergamos was also, right, it was also considered a city that was highly religious, for the Greek pantheon at least, including temples to Dionysus, Athena, Demeter and Zeus, it also had three separate temples dedicated to the worship of the Roman emperor. The city was also known for its medical school located in the Asclepios temple, who was the Roman god of healing.
Now, many who are sick and diseased made their way to Pergamos for treatment. I can't say that their methods were entirely scientific. You see, Asclepios was symbolized by the serpent. And there were tamed snakes in the temple and those who spent the night there, well, if a snake happened to touch them in the middle of the night, it was considered being touched by the God and was believed to bring healing.
Laura: Wow that is.
Laura: You learn something new every day. Well, to start off the letter to the church at Pergamos, Jesus introduces himself as the one who has the sharp double edged sword from Revelation 2:12, which again, references back to Revelation 1:16 and ties into Hebrews 4:12, which reads, "For the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."
Jason: Right. Commentaries on this talk about the reference of the two edged sword that was intended to create like a separation between Christians and Pergamos, right?
Laura: Right. And there are so many uses for the imagery of the double edged sword. Which doesn't always include dividing right from wrong or good from bad. Sometimes it can be used to separate things that by themselves are good and right. But combined, they may cause confusion.
Jason: So, as far as the church condition goes, in Revelation 2:13, Jesus provides context about what he knows of the church in Pergamos.
Laura: Oh, come on, Jason. Let's be honest. Jesus knows everything.
Jason: Point taken. 2:13 he, he wrote, "I know where you live, where Satan has his throne." And that, that seems ominous but it goes on to say, "yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith to me. Not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness who was put to death in your city where Satan lives."
So there's a couple of theories about why Pergamos was considered Satan's throne. Now, one such belief was that there was a sanctuary of Asclepios called the Asclepios Soter or Asclepios savior. Another theory suggested it was because there was a throne like altar dedicated to Zeus. Pergamos was also believed to be a center of the ancient Babylonian priesthood, but it's not really confirmed.
So honestly, I mean, it could be any combination of the above. Regardless, Jesus obviously considered Pergamos to be a hotbed of satanic activity. And in the midst of that, the Christians of Pergamos held onto their faith in Jesus. I mean, it's also interesting that Jesus specifically referred to Antipas who was martyred there. Also interesting to note that he refers to Antipas as his faithful witness, which is the title that he also held in Revelation 1:5.
So who is Antipas? That's probably a topic for another episode, but in short, he was a bishop of the church of Pergamos and led people away from their idolatry. He told the pagan priests that the pagan gods were the works of human hands. Now the enraged priest dragged Antipas to the temple of Artemis and threw him in this red hot copper bull, which is where they put their sacrifices. While he was in there, he prayed loudly to God and he ended up going to the Lord peacefully. During the night, the Christians removed his body and noticed that it was untouched by the fires. So they buried him at Pergamos and his tomb ended up being a place where miracles and healing happened. Kind of a neat story.
Laura: That is kind of a neat story. And I'm getting like Images from several different Bible stories, the first being Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when they were thrown into the fiery furnace, they came out and the fire hadn't touched them. But then on the flip side of that. I'm also getting images of Jesus didn't actually die on the cross until he was done, until he released his spirit, which almost sounds like what Antipas did here.
Jason: Right. There's a lot of correlation there and a lot of rabbit holes that we are trying to avoid.
Laura: But that one's kind of, that, honestly, that rabbit hole was not planned. It just kind of showed up on the map and I was, let's follow that. Now, back on topic. Come on, Laura. You can't do this.
All right. So moving on, we're getting into Revelation chapter 2 verses 14 and 15, which is the verdict or condemnation from Jesus to the church. Nevertheless, "I have a few things against you. There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teachings of the Nicolaitans." Oh, that don't sound good. While the Christians at Pergamos were praised for holding on to the name of Jesus and keeping his faith, they had gone In the completely wrong direction, Balaam had taught Balak to put these entacements out there for the Israelites to get them to sin against God, which was connected to idolatry and sexual immorality. So Jesus used this letter to let them know that they have that tendency towards both. Unfortunately, sexual immorality was a common cultural theme within the ancient Roman Empire. So anyone who lived according to biblical standards of purity were considered weirdos. So staying away from immoral behavior was very much an uphill struggle for Christians as it seems to remain today. And Jason you mentioned the Nicolaitans earlier in regards to the church at Ephesus.
Jason: Yes, but you let me say it wrong. I was calling it Nicolaitans.
Laura: Well, yee. Who's to say I'm right? I mean, it could be a Pergamum pergamos issue. Come on. but in contrast to Ephesus, it seems that Pergamos embraced the blasphemous doctrines, whereas Ephesus rejected them.
Sexual immorality was also addressed in 1 Corinthians 5:1-9, and Paul rebuked them for tolerating that behavior. And I guess living where the throne of Satan is doesn't exactly excuse sin. Right?
Jason: Right. So, yeah, the question is, what did Jesus command the Pergamos church to do? Well, it's kind of answered in Revelation 2:16, he says that "repent, therefore, otherwise I soon will come to you and we'll fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Yikes. That seems Bad. Five of these seven churches were commanded to repent, but this is something that is relevant to all Christians past, present, and future. Jesus warns them that the judgment will begin at the house of God. And he will destroy them with his words. Now, God spoke the universe into existence. So I imagine Jesus can speak a terrible damage into existence as well. This isn't like I'm writing you an angry letter. This is like, Jesus is going to blow you down.
Laura: Okay. Big bad wolf. No , sorry.
Jason: Jesus is gonna huff and puff and blow your church down. It's gonna happen.
Laura: Oh no, I,
Jason: Is that blasphemy? Like should I,
Laura: I don't,
Jason: should I not let that go through
Laura: I honestly don't know. But you know, Jesus does have a sense of humor. I mean,
Jason: I think he does.
Laura: He created a platypus for crying out loud. That is one of the most ridiculous looking things I've ever seen. Oh the baby platypuses are so cute.
Anyway, sorry, squirrel. Alright, back on topic. We got this. So, once Jesus commanded the church to repent, he then had the same general exhortation that he had to the other churches. In the first part of Revelation 2:17, he says, "anyone who has ears to hear, let him hear." Now, unfortunately, there are Christians who still don't listen. Because they continue to live in immoral behavior and false teachings do still exist within the churches, even today.
Jason: Right. Then we have towards the end of Revelation 2:17, Jesus offers the following reward for those who are victorious. "I will give some of the manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it." So the white stone could have multiple meanings. It could represent an invitation to a banquet, a symbol of friendship, a sign of acquittal in a court of law, or simply evidence of being counted. I mean, Jesus could have meant any combination of these, or even something more significant that we don't even know, but I'm positive it would have counted as a blessing at the very least. So, as for the new name, this was a very interesting topic for me. A secret name can be used to show intimacy between the receiver and God, maybe it was God's name. I mean, does God really have a name? Does he have a formal name?
Laura: Actually yes, he does. He did reveal,
Jason: of course he does.
Laura: Of course he does because it's God. Not Chuck, by the way.
Jason: Playing on my supernatural, reference. I was going to leave that out, but we'll roll with it, Chuck.
Laura: Hey, I did not say what it was from. I just threw in the fact that you wrote it down. Anyway God actually revealed his name to Moses at the burning bush when Moses asked who he should say sent him and God started off with, "I am that I am", but then went on to say, Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob has sent me to you. So going down another rabbit trail, but I promise this one's actually really fun.
Let's go from there and fast forward a few thousand years from Moses to where Jesus is hanging on the cross. Now it was Roman tradition to attach a sign over the criminal's head with his or her crime. So over Jesus head, there were three different signs or three different inscriptions. One in Hebrew, one in Greek, one in Roman or Roman, Latin, Latin. It was in Latin and the one in Hebrew, and if there are any Hebrew speakers listening, please forgive my pronunciation. In Hebrew, the sign read Yeshua, Hanazari, Wemelech, Hayahudim.
Jason: That was impressive.
Laura: I've actually heard somebody else pronounce it. So I'm just kind of repeating what I remember him saying.
So the Jews would have seen an acrostic because each part of that phrase, which Does mean Jesus, the Nazarene, King of the Jews, and the beginning letter of each of those lines would have read Yud Heh Vav Heh, which is Hebrew, which is Yahweh, and that's the name of God. And for anybody who , remembers in this, in that part of the story, the Jews demanded that Pilate changed the sign and Pilate's like what I've written, I've written, I'm not changing it.
Get over it. Okay. Maybe he didn't say get over it, but you know what I mean?
Jason: He meant it
Laura: right. They demanded that pilate changed it because that sign was basically declaring that Jesus was God.
Jason: Jesus was God. I think that's a perfect place to end this. I hope this has been entertaining. I hope it's been informative, and I hope you've been inspired to read your Bible more.
In our next episode covering the book of Revelation, Laura and I will cover the last four churches and letters. So be sure to come back in two weeks for that thrilling and interesting conclusion to this part of the series. If you would like to read ahead, grab your Bible and read Revelation 2 verses 18 through 29 and Revelation chapter 3.
If you're looking for good commentary to help you out, I highly recommend visiting blueletterbible.org. That's dot O R G not dot com. I'll drop a link in the show notes so you can grab it there. If you haven't noticed, I've started inviting guests onto my podcast to talk about Jesus. You don't need an unbelievable testimony or some outstanding achievement, I just want to talk to others about our Lord. So if you're interested, visit https://myministrymission.com/guest and fill out the guest interest form and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.
Now get out there and live your life the way Jesus commanded. And until next time, be kind to each other and may the Lord bless you and keep you.
God bless everyone.