The benefits of refining the church world through external trials and persecutions would be a short-lived realization. Soon after the tribulations ended, the professing church is seen getting comfortable with the world. It would not be long before another notable event occurred in the world associated with the church – Christianity is promoted to the favored religion of the Roman Empire.
The Edict of Milan in 313 by Emperors Licinius and Constantine legalized Christian worship in the Roman Empire. The generalized persecution and martyrdom gradually ended. This was the end of the time of Smyrna and the beginning of Pergamos. At this time there were many changes affecting Christendom, from within and without. One of the major differences was a Christian Emperor within the church taking and holding governmental power and influence. In 380, by edict, the Roman Empire declared Christianity as its official state religion. For good or for bad, these are the general events of importance involving Christendom in the time of Pergamos.
It is an easy task to check the internet or history books to find this information. Man’s opinion of these events is very high, even referring to this time as the ‘Triumph of the Church’. However, as Christians, that which we should defer to and what should have greater significance for us has to be God’s thoughts and opinion on this, especially the moral outcomes and results.
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write,
‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: (13) “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. (14) But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. (15) Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. (16) Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight 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 him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’
Dwelling where Satan’s Throne is
Smyrna represented God keeping the assembly separated from the world by allowing her to be persecuted by the world. Pergamos represented the professing church becoming friendly with the world and allowing the world to enter in. In this time the general assembly becomes worldlier in its character and relationships. Christ says, “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is.” This throne is in the world and part of the world. It is where the assembly was beginning to take up residence, dwelling with the world. This is beyond just being in the world, but rather the beginnings of becoming like the world.
Jesus says to Pergamos, “I know your works, and where you dwell…” He knows all we do, but also all our circumstances. He also knows the thoughts and intentions of the heart so that nothing is hidden from Him. We find the two-edged sword in Pergamos as well. All this should be a comfort to the faithful. He knows all the details about everything. “I know your works…” are the things we do. “…where you live…” are the circumstances we are set under. He takes all into consideration.
The time of Smyrna was when the world persecuted the professing church. But now, with the decrees of the Roman Empire, the world starts courting the church. The circumstances had drastically changed for Pergamos. But it is a comfort that Christ knows our circumstances, He knows our infirmities, and He knows all the things by which we are tempted. He knows where the professing church dwells. He provides His grace in every situation and for every circumstance to the faithful, so that He alone will be their strength (I Cor. 12:8-10).
So often we spend our time planning to do great works in the name of the Lord to glorify Him, thinking these things must be done and this is the will of God. What glorified God in Pergamos were those that remained faithful in the midst of circumstances that made being faithful very difficult. “And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith…” This was the will of God, not the doing of great things. If you do not know how to remain truly faithful to Him and separated from the world, it doesn’t matter what things you think you are doing in His name. And remaining faithful to God is problematic when there is increasing familiarity with the world (I John 2:15-17).
The entrance of the world into the professing church is a definite negative on two distinct fronts.
- The believer is not of the world, just as Christ is not of the world (John 17:14-16). Therefore His body, the church, is not of the world. The believer’s relationship is with a Christ in the heavens, exalted to the right hand of God in glory. When the church was formed, her relationship with Jesus Christ in glory was the same as her individual members (Eph. 1:18-23). So then the assembly has a heavenly calling, a heavenly citizenship, and is seated in heavenly places. The assembly will be the recipient of the fullest measure of spiritual blessings in those heavenly places, as promised to the individual believer (Eph. 1:3).
Christ was rejected by the world when He was here in the flesh. He left the world and ascended up into glory. There He is accepted and exalted far above all principality and power and might and dominion (Eph. 1:20-21). At this time the world is not the place of His acceptance. It is to be exactly the same for the assembly. The church is not to be part of the world, but separated and rejected by the world as Christ was. We are not to find a dwelling place of acceptance with the world. Our place of acceptance is in the heavens. That is where He will eventually return from, coming to take the true church there (Phil. 3:20-21, John 14:1-3). In the world we are to be hated and have tribulation and sufferings. We are not of the world, and only strangers and pilgrims here. But be of good cheer, our Lord has overcome the world and the prince of it (John 16:33, 12:31-32), even though He has yet to take up His power and reign over it (Heb. 10:12-13, Rev. 19:11-16).
- The book of Revelation places a particular emphasis on the phrase ‘those who dwell on the earth’ or ‘inhabitants of the earth’. This is what is apostate from God and on which the wrath of God is poured out (Rev. 3:10, 6:10, 11:10, 12:12, 13:8, 17:2 etc.). When the professing church is noticed by Christ as dwelling where the throne of Satan is, there is the influence to take on the character of the world. The professing church would be tempted to become like those that dwell on the earth, and lose sight of the heavenly calling. Christendom has been ‘living’ where the throne of Satan is from the time of Pergamos.
The book of Revelation often uses prophetic language as allegories or symbols. Christendom committing adultery and fornications is its illicit relationship with the world. It is its worldliness. The true church is betrothed to Christ. Professing Christianity should not be seeking a relationship with the world.
The Judaizing Doctrines
Christ is judging the responsibility and works of the professing church. Which of these allowed the world to come in? If Judaism is God’s religion of the earth, then by the Judaizing of the Christian faith the weak and beggarly elements of the world are invited in (Gal. 4:3, 9, Col. 2:8, 20). The thoughts that create doctrines of papal succession, the cult of saint and angel worship, priesthood, and church authority all originate in Judaism. There are many others from this source, such as the observance of festivals, sabbaths, holy days, and the eating of and restricting from certain foods, along with the use of holy water and incense.
The heathen world had the worship of the mother of the gods. When the professing church declared Mary to be the mother of God at the council of Ephesus in 431, it opened the doors of the church for the heathen. This was a stroke of genius. Relating to popularity and numbers it was a great success. Of course Christendom had to allow heathen feasts and drunken festivals within to please the masses from the world, reasoning it was better to celebrate inside the church walls than outside. The policy of the church authorities was not to tear down heathen temples, but to convert them to places of Christian worship. The sprinkling of holy water and the smoking of incense would be all that was necessary to consecrate their new possessions. All this was the means by which the faith was judaized and the world entered the professing church. And from the time of Pergamos the world has never left her.
The two-edged Sword out of His Mouth
The character of Christ presented to Pergamos is interesting and makes for a valuable lesson for those who have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying. “These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword.” When the professing church had fallen and was increasingly more like the world, her worldliness had her desiring authority and power on earth. To combat the growth of this false and pretentious ecclesiastical authority, which had its beginnings in the time of Pergamos, we have the sword of the Spirit, the true authority of the Word of God:
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
In Pergamos we have the Lord who possesses the piercing power which judges and discerns the secrets of the heart and conscience. The professing church is judged by the Word of God. It is not the professing church as judge. And it certainly isn’t the professing church judging the Word of God. What we have in the messages of Christ to the churches is the individual Christian being impressed to give heed to the judgments pronounced on the corporate body of Christendom – “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The professing church cannot be an authority for me if Christ is asking me to listen and understand His reproofs and judgments of it. When the assembly is judged it cannot be a security of faith for the individual believer, or his guide. God sends the individual back to the Word of God for themselves. I am made aware of the corporate assembly’s condition by the words spoken by the Spirit. It is my responsibility to hear and understand this judgment. The assembly cannot be an authority over me on the Lord’s behalf in its fallen state and condition. The authority of God does not reside in the church, but in His word.
Jesus Christ holds All Authority
God is the only King in the kingdom of heaven. He has not given this position to anyone in His place. God has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Col. 1:13). This is the kingdom of heaven. The character of the kingdom is the King in heaven, and the planting of the wheat all relates to the Son of Man dying and then being glorified (John 12:23-24, 13:31-32). Even though the King is in heaven, it is the King who holds and maintains the authority. As the King, God has given all authority to His Son, as the Son of Man. His death and resurrection were the basis of this.
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
The only one to whom God has given complete authority is the Son of God as the Son of Man. We may go in the name of Jesus and exercise privileges in the authority of that name, but the authority remains with Him. He was the one who was obedient unto death. He is the one who bore the cup of God’s wrath and glorified God in doing so. He is the one who God raised from the dead, justifying it all (Rom. 1:4).
In a higher and more intimate relationship, Christ is Head of the body, the church. Jesus Christ always had the authority and always will. This principle is true for both the kingdom of heaven and the church, even though the two are not the same.
The individual believer’s responsibility is to judge all the teachings and doctrines of Christendom by the two-edged sword of the Word of God. His responsibility is to judge all the works of the church world by the words of Christ and the Spirit.
The Building of Christendom on the Earth
For centuries the church system has wielded ungodly authority on the earth, which it has unrighteously taken. It has declared infallibility for popes and church doctrines alike, and has avowed itself the sole interpreter of Scripture. It has purposely hidden the truth of God from the faithful, and has gained earthly riches and worldly luxuries by its corrupted teachings. It has committed fornication with the kings and governmental authorities of the earth, gaining and wielding civil power against the will and calling of God. It has done all these things in the name of Christ.
The effect of Israel’s sin and rebellion not only proved man to be a lost sinner, but God having placed His name there, it connected sin with God’s name. This is the same with the professing church. In Christianity it is the name of the Father and the Son. By the wickedness and worldliness of the church world their names are being blasphemed.
2 Peter 2:15
“They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.”
In the professing church at this time the Lord says, “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam…” When Balaam could not curse and destroy Israel, he turned and counseled corruption to Israel as a friend. The message from Christ is symbolic in three areas.
1) “…to eat things sacrificed to idols…” is prophetic language for idol worship and the worship of Satan (Rev. 2:14). Idols and idolatry were being introduced into the professing church, along with religious relics and such. The merchandizing of these many objects of worship added wealth to the coffers of the professing church.
2) “…and to commit sexual immorality” is prophetic language for having a relationship with the world (Rev. 2:14). It is the entrance of worldliness into professing Christianity. It is an unholy relationship from which she was originally separated.“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.” (I John 2:15-16) The professing church began to concentrate on loving the world instead of Christ.
3) “…have run greedily in the way of Balaam, for profit…” is all the idolatry and all the worldliness for the gain of earthly riches and luxuries (Jude 1:11). It is hard to comprehend how much the professing church has chased after the wealth and riches of the world. And she has done a fair job in gaining them. When in Smyrna they were despised and poor, but spiritually rich (Rev. 2:9), now they were on their way to becoming accepted and loved by the world. In time the church became rich in earthly treasures, but wretched in spiritual poverty. This reversal for Christendom increases in its dichotomy as it progresses from this point. The spirit of Balaam in the professing church makes her comfortable with the world.
False and Corrupt Doctrines
How much better was this for Satan? Instead of persecutions from without, which tend to push the soul closer to God, he is invited within the professing church to work his lies and deceptions. The wiles of the devil tend to separate the soul from God. These are the doctrines of Balaam now in the church world. When he could not get God to curse Israel, he brings in corruption by association with evil in the world (Num. 25). This is doctrinal corruption, and it was for financial gain.
The Lord also says to Pergamos, “Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.”This is teaching that sanctions evil works and moral misdeeds to be done in the name of Christ and excused by His grace (Jude 4). Now we see the progression of evil in the professing church. Previously in Ephesus the church hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:6). Now within the professing church there are those who embrace this doctrine. With the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans we have corrupt teachings within. This is certainly the beginnings of the ecclesiastical character spoken of by Paul:
2 Timothy 4:3-4
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
With Pergamos it was the ministry embracing and profiting from evil doctrines. The above passage implicates the masses in Christendom as having itching ears, and the teachings that appease their carnal desires. This is the reasoning of this ministry – appeal to the fleshly desires of the masses and give them what they want. That is how you build numbers. Today it is how you build mega churches with satellite campuses. Just make sure the organization and the ministry are financially profiting by it. Do we not see the full ripening of this philosophy today in the church world? Unsound and corrupt doctrines began to enter the church in the time of Pergamos. These doctrines had enough subtlety to still appear religious. If you have enough ignorance of Scriptural truth, many teachings can be passed off as Christian. These corrupt doctrines have only grown from that time.
The condition of the professing church in Pergamos was still a progression from the time of Smyrna. There still remained much good and faithfulness in the church, a holding fast to Christ’s name and not denying faith in Him, even in the face of death. But it certainly was the beginning of internal corruption. Ephesus resisted this, while the time of Pergamos embraced it. Unless those who held and practiced such doctrines repented, He would “…come to you quickly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” This, I believe is the scene of His return and the white horse (Rev. 19:11-15) – “…and His name is called The Word of God.” Then it will be physical judgment by His name and the sharp sword out of His mouth. He would fight against those of Pergamos who embraced these evils and taught others to do the same. He would fight against them and judge by His words (Rev. 2:16). The tares of the church world will be burned, and we see that part of Pergamos is guilty – “Thou hast there them … I will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” It is the believer’s responsibility to judge all by the Word of God.
Hidden Manna and the White Stone
To the overcomer, the individual promise is, “…I will give some of the hidden manna to eat.” This promise points the believer’s eyes to the heavens, the only place where the Christian’s proper hope resides (Col. 1:5). The hidden manna speaks of a heavenly character when the world was entering in to the church. Before entering the Promised Land Israel was instructed to place a pot of manna inside the ark. Once in the land the hidden manna would serve as a memorial of their time spent in the wilderness and God’s daily provision for them that sustained them. In the land they enjoyed the greater blessings of God, much more than a daily sustenance for their wilderness sojourn. Israel being brought into the land is type of the church being brought into the rest of God in glory.
When the church is found living where Satan’s throne is, then Christ comes in and encourages the heavenly character of the believer. Now Jesus Christ is the bread of life, the bread of God that comes down from heaven. The manna with Israel was only a type of Christ, the true bread from God that gives eternal life (John 6:32-35, 48-50). The hidden manna for us speaks of an intimacy we will enjoy personally with Christ in the Father’s house in glory. It is a heavenly character because it is hidden, not necessarily for our time in the wilderness. The manna in the wilderness was not ‘hidden’. That which is hidden is specially reserved for our time with Christ in the rest of God. It is an exhortation from Christ for the true believer to remain heavenly minded, and not to be looking on the things of the world. In reality, the hidden manna will be our personal enjoyment of Christ as He is known in heaven, as having been in humiliation in the wilderness.
The second promise is more individually intimate and special. The white stone is given to the individual believer, and “on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” (Rev. 2:17) This is Christ’s personal vote of approval, the secret mark of favor.
There are many spiritual blessings in glory that will be common to the entire church. On the earth we presently share many joys in Christ. But Jesus would have our individual affections as well as the corporate and mutual affection of the body of Christ. All seven messages to the churches are spoken to the corporate professing church. In the time of Ephesus the corporate love for Christ was lost. However, all the promises in the messages are individual; “…to him who overcomes…” And the white stone has a name that only Christ and I will know. It is the expression of intimacy and affection we personally share between each other. This will be true for every believer, yet individually different in your joy and communion with Christ.
All the promises in the seven messages will only be true after Christ comes to take the church. They all form parts of our Christian hope and will only be realized with Christ in glory. The white stone and hidden manna are for such a time. We who have such hopes purify ourselves, even as He is pure (I John 3:3). You will not know the name written on the stone until in glory, but these hopes become a source of strength and joy and blessing now.
Pergamos is the time of the professing church progressing on from Constantine.
Chapter 8: Endnotes
 Roman Catholicism would have to be considered a form of Christianity that has been completely judaized. There is even in the Roman system the constant sacrifices, and the continual remembrance of sins as is at the heart of Judaism (Heb. 10:10-12). It is so earthy, it is so sensual. Yet this judaized system of Christianity remains the largest part of the professing church today. Its beginnings and doctrines are in Pergamos, but a fuller growth and ripening of its evil is Jezebel in Thyatira.
 The kingdom of heaven is presently the kingdom of the Son of His love. It is the kingdom that every believer has been translated into (Col. 1:13). The kingdom of heaven currently involves all the time of the slain Lamb is in the midst of the throne (Rev. 5:6). This is all the time that Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, is sitting on His Father’s throne (Rev. 3:21). However this time will not last forever. Eventually, in His Father’s timing, He will rise up from His Father’s throne, and take up His power and reign on the earth, sitting as the Son of Man and King of kings on His own throne (Matt. 25:31), ruling over the earth.
 The kingdom of heaven exists presently as the spoiled crop in the field of the world (Matt. 13:24-26). The kingdom will experience a significant change and upheaval at the end of the age by the judgment of the tares and the removal of the wheat into the heavens (Matt. 13:30). The church is the body of Christ, and is the wheat in the crop in the field at this time. When the wheat is removed from the field and into the heavens, it will exist there throughout the millennium (Eph. 2:7, 3:10-11). The body of Christ never comes to an end, but will eternally exist as the habitation and tabernacle of God and the Lamb in the heavens, or in the eternal state as come down from heaven and now dwelling among men.
The kingdom of heaven eventually becomes the kingdom of the Father in the heavens (Matt. 13:43) and the kingdom of the Son of Man on the earth (Luke 22:28-30, Matt. 19:28). This is during the time of the millennium. After this, and after the great white throne judgment of the dead, the Son of Man gives up His kingdom to God, thus ending the last reign of man on the earth (I Cor. 15:24-28). In the eternal state, which is in the new heavens and the new earth, God is all in all in the divine glory. I say God is all in all as in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I will make this one ecclesiastical correction: Peter was given the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:19). He was not given the keys to the church, the body of Christ. There is a huge difference between the two. The kingdom and the church are not the same. And further, you never build anything with keys.
 In contemporary Christendom the definition of words like corrupt, false, unsound, evil, apostasy, ungodly, etc. has changed. We tend to reserve these just for the devil or very extreme cases in the world. We would never think to use them in reference to Christendom or so called Christian teachings. Yet we simply have diminishing value for the word of God today. If our teachings appear close enough then they are good enough. We don’t think twice about compromising the word of God, as long as it is working and growing and profiting – then we can say, “Look, God is really blessing this. We have money, numbers, and growth. God is with us in this and our prospering proves it.”
This attitude sounds like it could be right and it sounds religious, but it is really worldliness and Jewish thinking. In the Jewish mind the measure of how much they prospered in a monetary and physical way was always the measure of their favor with Jehovah. The question becomes whether that is the measure of the blessing of God in Christianity? I know it is the Jewish measure, because they are dependent on a walk by sight. But is that Christianity? Is this truly the way God wants us to measure His favor? (Please see Luke 12:16-21. I believe Jesus told this parable to condemn and set aside this Jewish mindset by contrasting it with proper Christian thinking – being rich toward God.)