And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’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. 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. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He that hath an ear,let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
In this context, a sword symbolizes the work of the Spirit to separate what is inspired by the thoughts and intents of a man’s own heart and what is inspired by 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,” (Hebrews 4:12).
This is a contrast between the carnal and spiritual natures–and the fruit of these natures–good or evil works. Absent the Spirit’s intervention, man’s mind, will, and emotions always work together to produce sin.
Of course, the letters written to the 7 churches mentioned in Revelation are messages to every believer in every time: for we have been made one body in Christ, and the truths that He is communicating to the saints at Pergamos apply equally to us all.
To extend the comparison between the carnal and natural states, the Lord makes a startling comment: that there is a near relation between where the saints of Pergamos dwell [under God’s wings] and Satan rules [a seat is a place of authority].
How can this be?
Two things are happening in this passage. At one level, the Lord is dealing with literal issues that the saints at Pergamos faced, such as physical intimidation and even death. Pergamos was a geographical center of paganism and Roman politics and a difficult place for believers to live in peace.
However, there is also a deeper, underlying meaning to the text, which is full of spiritual implications that have nothing at all to do with the geography and history of Pergamos.
The seat of the divine influence is the spirit [God indwells our spirit]; and the seat of satanic influence is the soul.
As we walk with God, our mind, will, and emotions are continually conformed to the Lord’s nature and character and those truths about Him that are communicated to us spiritually through the scriptures.
In this passage, the Lord is emphasizing that even believers with real and enduring faith [a faith so strong that they would willingly face death on the basis of their love for the Savior] can suffer from demonic strongholds at work in their minds, wills, and emotions.
He then lists these strongholds and the means by which they were implemented:
Using the gifts of God for personal profit [which is witchcraft] after the example of Baalam who counseled Balac to cause the people of God to stumble in their faith by tempting them with worldly desires, specifically to eat things sacrificed to idols and commit sexual immorality [Numbers 22-24,31]. This allusion tells us that the saints at Pergamos had allowed worldly standards and beliefs to corrupt the simplicity of their faith in Christ by adopting practices that God had condemned.
The name Nikao-laos literally means “to conquer the people.” The root of these false practices was a cleverly disguised division instituted by false teachers who had convinced the saints of their elevated status among the brethren. It is no strange thing that those who seek favoritism will introduce doctrines that serve men rather than God.
We can draw some conclusions from this passage:
Notice, the difficulty of their environment [violent opposition] did nothing to excuse the saints of their sin [following doctrines and practices that God had not authored]. What was their sin? They had developed allegiances to man, as well as to God.
The fact that people have demonic strongholds in their lives does not mean that they do not love God, even love Him to the point of death. This fact requires that we evidence much care for these individuals, as we endeavor to draw them out of these deceptions.
These are the things thatthe Spirit saith unto the churches: God is dealing with bondage that takes place within the churches.
Finally, God will not wholly destroy saints who are sincerely deceived: this is reserved for the false teachers. However, we are judged according to His words [the sword of God], and there are always consequences to disobedience.
The traditions of men are like untempered mortar that cannot stand the test of time and the storms of life: “And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD. Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered morter: Say unto them which daub it with untempered morter, that it shall fall: there shall be an overflowing shower; and ye, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall rend it. Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it not be said unto you, Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed it? Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even rend it with a stormy wind in my fury; and there shall be an overflowing shower in mine anger, and great hailstones in my fury to consume it,” (Ezekiel 13:9-15).