12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. 13 “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve. 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
A few thoughts for meditation:
1) Pergamum was the Roman capital of the province of Asia (modern day Turkey). It was also a major pagan religious center, featuring a prominent altar devoted to Zeus, the worship of Aesculapius (the god of healing, who took the form of a serpent) and a center of emperor worship (where Caesar was worshiped with the creed “Caesar is Lord”). Spiritually, it very much seemed like “Satan’s throne” or dwelling place to early Christians. In the midst of this toxic pagan culture, Jesus commended many here for holding fast to the faith even when there brother “Antipas” was martyred. Clearly, some were ready to die for Christ. But Jesus rebuked them for a serious problem; they did not remove the Nicolaitans from their churches. This group claimed to be Christians but continued pagan worship and sexual immorality. Jesus compared them to Balaam, who caused Israel to fall into the same sins in the wilderness (Num 31:16) and brought God’s judgment on them. Such would happen again if this church did not repent and remove these members. Being immersed in this pagan culture, the temptation to compromise was great. But God promised those who remained faithful a “hidden manna” and a “new name”, secret blessings of sustenance and honor from God which the world could not understand. Like Israel in the wilderness, this church was called to resist compromise and sin and keep their eyes upon the ultimate prize, life with their Redeemer in the new creation. And like Israel, God promised to sustain them in the journey there. The towers of pagan greatness may seem intimidating and formidable when dominating the culture, but in the end, they will crumble to dust, and only Christ and those who loved him to the end will endure for eternity into the new heavens and earth.
2) Thyatira was a major trading center on the way to Pergamum, and hosted a garrison to protect that capital. The church was tempted to compromise as well, but this time through a seductive woman leader who Jesus called “Jezebel”. He was deliberating calling back to mind the evil wife of king Ahab, who mainstreamed Canaanite idolatry and immorality in Israel again and persecuted the prophets of God. Jesus commended many believers there who grew in love, faithfulness, and endurance. But the church “tolerated” the teaching and practices introduced by this new Jezebel. Unlike Pergamum, where the temptation to compromise came primarily from intimidation, here the temptation primarily came from seduction. She led many into pagan worship and immorality through it’s pleasures. In fact, her appeal seemed to be that you cannot understand sin unless you experience it, what Jesus called here “the deep ways of Satan”. Her appeal may have been, “how are you to going to judge the ways of sin unless you experience them?” But that is really just an excuse. We do not need to experience a particular sin to know whether it is wrong or not or to gain a right to speak about it. King Jesus tells us what is right or wrong in his Word. As our Creator and Redeemer he designed and called us to live a certain way for our good. And we all have already experienced enough sin in life to know that disobeying God is not a good thing. How may kinds of flames must we touch to know that fire burns? How many times must we touch the stove to know that mom was right to slap our hand before touching it? Sin may look attractive through the wiles of a Jezebel, but in the end it burns. And Jesus himself with the eyes “of fire” will be the one turning up the heat if we do not repent and turn away from evil, no matter how attractive it may look. Jesus quoted from Psalm 2; he will rule with a rod of iron and smash the earthen vessels. There is great persuasive power to turn from sin by remembering the undeserved love and mercy of Christ for us. But often, the spell of temptation is broken simply by remembering that Jesus will righteously smash those who refuse to repent or make light of sin. His love is a holy love and jealousy. He will not stand by idly while his Bride commits adultery, no matter what excuses she makes about it. So reflect over what causes you to compromise into sin. Is it intimidation and the fear of man? Or is it the pleasures of sin? How can the warnings and promises of Jesus help you here?