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12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satanâ€™s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
The phrase “thy works, and” is not found in the best ancient manuscripts.
“Seat” implies “throne” and is a particularly potent image since later on (ch4) we will be introduced to God’s throne and the contrast between the two rules will become clearer. (This theme is also developed throughout the rest of the book.) Apparently the Lord has a low opinion of Pergamos . . .
“My faith” means “faith in me.”
Calling Antipas a “faithful martyr” is particularly high praise since the same was said of Jesus in 1:5.
14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
Note the role that the sword plays in the Balaam story and that a sword is the part of Christ’s description from Rev 1 that was picked up in v12.
15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
“So” here carries the sense of “likewise.”
“Which thing I hate” isn’t in the best ancient manuscripts but probably was added to harmonize with v6.
So their main sin was pagan assimilation.
16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Note that the part of the description of Jesus picked up from ch1 is the part about the sword coming out of the mouth–see also v12. This is particularly appropriate given that, in the Balaam story just mentioned, he sees an angel with a sword drawn; the power of speech is a significant theme in that story as well. And, as is usually the case with OT quotations in Revelation, there is a politically subversive element: remember that Balak bribed Balaam to curse Israel (much as Roman leaders sometimes offered rewards to Christians who would bow down to idols).
17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
“Hidden manna” probably refers to a remnant of the manna that was placed in the ark of the covenant, which only would have been accessible to the high priest, and only on the one time per year (on the Day of Atonement) when he would enter into the Holy of Holies. So this promise implies that all faithful saints will have the rights that the high priest has, which means that all faithful saints will be permitted into what was the symbolic presence of God.
“Manna” is also an interesting counterpoint to the Balaam story (v14) above, where the people were eating meat sacrificed to idols (see Numbers 25:1f). Almost all (if not all) meat would have been sacrificed in one of the pagan temples (remember when I said that one of the functions of those temples was as a butcher’s shop?), and so to refuse to partake of meat offered to idols was to lock oneself outside the supply chain. But the promise of manna means that God will, in that case, provide for their needs. That’s how it would work on the literal level; on a higher plane, we might say that isolating themselves from the theology and worldview of the pagan temple would mean that God would then be able to (and willing to) fill them with the manna of gospel truths.
What would have been the most immediate frame of reference for the original audience for the white stone? It would have been obvious to them: it was a tessera–a little stone which was used as a ticket to indicate certain privileges such as banquet admission, permission to retire from combat, etc.
Throughout the Bible, knowing someone’s name (or naming someone) is associated with having power over that person. Hence, being given a new name means that no one (except, presumably, the giver of the name) has power over the person. So, in this case, the person who overcomes is given a tessera (which means: permission to do something) with a new name (which means: no other entity has authority over the person).
18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
Thyatira was dominated by trade guilds that required pagan practice for membership; it is as if you couldn’t get a job in a one-plant town today without a union card and you couldn’t get a union card without being a Baptist.
This is the only time that the phrase “Son of God” appears in the Book of Revelation; perhaps it is because Thyatirans worshiped the son of Zeus.
19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
Remember that charity can be translated as “love.”
“And service” is not in the best ancient manuscripts.
“The last to be more than the first” means that they are now doing more than they did at the beginning (a good thing!).
20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
“Sufferest” means “tolerated.”
“Seduce” means “lead astray.”
21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
After “a bed,” add “of sufferings” or “of illness.”
23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
It isn’t clear whether this means her literal children or her followers.
24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
“As they speak” means “so-called.”
25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
Shivers means pieces. The implication of the last phrase is “even as I received authority of my Father.”
This verse seems to borrow language from the second psalm, but instead of applying the imagery (as the psalm does) to the future ruler, it applies it to the people. It is, therefore, a strong testimony that the faithful really will inherit along with Christ all that the Father has.
28 And I will give him the morning star.
Possible meanings of morning star: Lucifer (see Isaiah 14:12), immortality (see Daniel 12:3), or messianic rule (see Revelation 22:16.)
29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Notice that verses 26 and 29 invert the typical order of the letter, where we would have expected the “let him hear” to come before the “he that overcometh.”
Summary thoughts: my two favorite ideas in this section:
(1) Sometimes obedience means locking yourself outside of good things, whether that means sacrificing career opportunities or companionship or physical pleasure or whatever. But I believe the promise of “hidden manna” applies to all those who give up something for the sake of the kingdom.
(2) The image of all faithful people serving as the high priest does and symbolically entering into the presence of God is potent beyond words.
Bonus Link: This website is amazing. Call up any verse in the NT and hover over any word and it will define and parse the Greek for you.