The Church in Pergamos

Revelation 2:12‑17  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 10
In the message to "the church in Pergamos," the Lord is seen exercising a special form of judicial power, as "He which hath the sharp sword with two edges" (v. 12). We read (Heb. 4): "The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." The Lord is here presented as having this thoroughly piercing power, which judges and discerns the secret workings of the heart and conscience.
"I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is." v. 13. That is where the Church now found itself, where Satan's throne is—for he is the prince of it—in the world. And the faithful may find themselves there too, if the Church be there (Caleb and Joshua had to go the whole round of the wilderness with the rest, though not sharers in their unbelief); we have to separate ourselves from the evil around, though we may not be separate from its results. We may find ourselves to be in feebleness and weakness, as the faithful in this church did; but our comfort like theirs is that the Lord says, "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest."
God in His grace takes full knowledge of all that concerns us, not only of our conduct, our ways, and condition, but also of the circumstances in which we are, saying, as it were, I know that you are where Satan's seat is, and this, even when He may still have "somewhat" against us. There is great comfort in knowing this. We may be placed, by means over which we had no control, in a very trying position, but in one which it might not be at all the mind of the Lord that we should quit, where Christian conduct would be very difficult; as, for instance, a converted child in an ungodly, worldly family, where there is nothing of the Spirit of Christ. The Lord would not merely in such a case judge His child's conduct, as to those things in which she might have failed. He would do that indeed, but He would also take the most thorough knowledge and notice of the circumstances in which she was; yes, of every little circumstance that rendered it trying. He just as well knew the power of Pharaoh and the detail of his tyranny as He did the crying and groans of the Israelites. "I know," He says, "that he will not let you go." There is indeed great comfort in thus seeing the Lord's perfect knowledge as to where we dwell, because it may not be always His will to take us out of the place, nor yet to change the circumstances in which we are. He may choose to have us glorify Him there, and learn through them what, perhaps, we could not learn elsewhere.
We are too apt to think that we must do great works in the Lord's name, in order to glorify Him; there may not always be opportunity for this (there does not appear to have been opportunity for great works in service without to this church). He takes notice if we do but hold fast His name amid circumstances which make even that measure of faithfulness difficult—"Thou holdest fast My name, and hast not denied My faith," etc. v. 13.
The Lord gives His people all this encouragement, and yet says, "I have a few things against thee." (vv. 14, 15.) In the first place, they were slipping back into the world, some of them having already fallen into the habits of it, eating and drinking with the drunken (Matt. 24:4949And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; (Matthew 24:49)). And second, they were beginning to allow of evil in the church, through pretense of liberty. He therefore warns, "Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth." v. 16. Worldliness characterized the danger of this church, and it required the sword with two edges to cut between their evil and the circumstances in which they were; if this were not effected, it is "I... will fight against them with the sword of My mouth."
But at the same time that He thus warns, there is plenty of encouragement given—promises suited to counteract their temptations (v. 17). Were they tempted "to eat things sacrificed unto idols" with the world? the promise to "him that overcometh" is, I will give him "to eat of the hidden manna." If they had grace to separate themselves from the open evil, He would reward them with the unseen blessing of the heavenly places; there should be this feeding on "the hidden manna." Again; were they tempted to deny the name and faith of Christ? the promise given is "a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." To keep them from slipping back into the world, to strengthen them in incurring, as must needs be, in separation, the disapprobation of so many, He promises them inward blessings to cheer their hearts.
The "white stone" seems to mark the individual approbation of Christ; the "new name," peculiar intercourse between Christ and the individual, different from that which all shall share alike, different from the public joy. There is a public joy. All saints will together enjoy the comforts of Christ's love, will enter into the "joy of their Lord," and with one heart and one voice will sound His praise. There will also be joy in seeing the fruit of our labors, as it is said, "What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?" 1 Thess. 2:1919For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? (1 Thessalonians 2:19). And again there will be another joy in seeing the company of the redeemed, all according to Christ's heart in holiness and glory. But besides this public joy, there will be Christ's peculiar private individual recognition and approval—the "white stone" and the "new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."
Christ speaks elsewhere of His own new name as Head of the new creation. There are old names belonging to the Lord Jesus, but His new name is connected with that into which His Father brings Him, when all things which have failed in the hands of man will be established and developed in Him; and having thus Himself a new name, He gives us also a promise of a new name. We are not only to know Jesus and be known of Him according to present circumstances, but to have a special knowledge of Him in glory according to the glory.
Our souls must value this personal approval of Christ, as well as think of the public approval. The latter will be great blessedness, but there is no peculiar affection in it, nothing that stamps peculiar love on the individual. Glory will be common to all, but glory is not affection. This "new name" is a different thing; it is the proof of Christ's value for a person who has been faithful in difficult and trying circumstances, for one who has acted on the knowledge of His mind, and overcome through communion with Him. This will be met by special individual approbation. There is the public joy and approval in various ways, and the manifestation of our being loved by the Father as Jesus is loved. But this is not all that is given for our encouragement in individual conduct through trial, failure, and difficulty; there is also this special private joy of love.
When the common course of the Church is not straight, not in the full energy of the Holy Ghost, though there may be a great deal of faithfulness, yet there is danger of disorder. We find that the Lord then applies Himself more to the walk of individual saints, and suits His promises to the peculiar state in which they are. There is a peculiar value in this. It takes one out of all fancied walking (the especial danger which belongs to such a state of things), each according to his own will, chalking out a path for himself because of the unfaithfulness and disobedient walk of the professing body. What faith has to do in such circumstances is to lay hold intelligently, soberly, and solemnly on the Lord's mind, and to walk according to it, strengthened by the promises which He has attached to such a path as He can own.
But, beloved, are we really content to have an approval which Christ only knows? Let us try ourselves a little. Are we not too desirous of man's commendation of our conduct? or, at least, that he should know and give us credit for the motives which actuate it? Are we content, so long as good is done, that nobody should know anything about us?—even in the Church to be thought nothing of?—that Christ alone should give us the "white stone" of His approval, and the "new name... which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it"? Are we content, I say, to seek nothing else? Oh, think what the terrible evil and treachery of that heart must be that is not satisfied with Christ's special favor, but seeks honor (as we do) one of another instead! I ask you, beloved, which would be most precious to you, which would you prefer?—the Lord's public owning of you as a good and faithful servant, or the private individual love of Christ resting upon you, the secret knowledge of His love and approval. He whose heart is specially attached to Christ will respond, The latter. Both will be ours, if faithful, but we shall value this most, and there is nothing that will carry us so straight on our course as the anticipation of it.