to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." The Word of God exposes both the error of immorality and the error of spiritual pride and priestly superiority. That is one reason why many churches in our time ignore the clear exposition of Scripture.


As we've previously seen, each of the seven churches of Revelation corresponds to a period of church history. The Pergamum stage is that period of time between the accession of Constantine the Great in A.D. 324 to the sixth century, when the era of the popes began. During that period of time, the great councils of the church Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon, and others determined and canonized the true doctrine of the person of Jesus Christ who He was and how He combined in Himself the full nature of God and of man.

But this was also the time of the first "marriage" between church and state, when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. In fact, the name Pergamum means "marriage" and comes from the same root word from which we get such words as monogamy and bigamy.

Despite the seemingly desirable goal of fostering the rise of Christianity by making it the state religion, Constantine was not an orthodox Christian. In fact, he adopted many pagan practices and brought them into the church where they became accepted. By this time in its history the church was enjoying considerable popularity. It had come to be viewed not so much as a family of faith, but as a formal, institutional, worldly kingdom, much like any other kingdom. As the church's political influence grew throughout the Pergamum period of history, its spiritual influence waned.

At the close of His letter to the church at Pergamum, the Lord gives a special promise to the believers of that far-off place and time but also to believers of our own time.

2:17 "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. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it."

This promise is addressed to all those who heed the warnings of this letter, who are vigilant and faithful in the areas of sexual immorality, spiritual superiority, and spiritual pride. If you and I stand fast against the lure of corruption and the lust for power over others, Jesus promises that we will be given several things secret things with a special significance.

First, He says He will give us "hidden manna." Second, He will give us a white stone. Third, upon that stone will be written a new name, known only to ourselves. Here is a beautiful symbolic picture of special intimacy with God.

Manna was the food from heaven with which Moses fed the people of Israel in the wilderness. Jesus Himself is the food from heaven on which you and I may feed. In John 6, Jesus says, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." He is the "hidden manna." He is the food for the inner spirit a food that others do not know about.

In John 4, the Lord sent His disciples into the city of Sychar to get food. When they came back and found He had been ministering to the woman at the well, He said, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about." Jesus fed upon the inner strength He found in His intimate relationship with God the Father. We find that same inner nourishing and strength when we experience true intimacy with God as we resist the lure of moral impurity and spiritual conceit.

Jesus also promises a white stone with our new name a secret name written upon it. The symbol of the white stone is significant because the Romans of John's time used it as a mark of special favor. The secret name written upon the white stone was, of course, another symbol of intimacy, of a special, intimate relationship with God.

A number of years ago, the well-known Christian author Elisabeth Elliot came to speak at Peninsula Bible Church, where I served as pastor. I had read several of her books, including one she wrote about her life with missionary Jim Elliot, who was martyred in Ecuador. In that book, she referred to herself as Betty a number of times, so while she was visiting at PBC, I called her Betty. After a while, she took me aside and said, "Could I ask a favor? Would you please call me Elisabeth? You see, Betty was Jim's private name for me."

I immediately understood. A private name is a special mark of intimacy. The name Betty was a mark of the special relationship Elisabeth Elliot enjoyed with her late husband. She cherished that name and very properly wanted to preserve its special value. From that moment on, I called her Elisabeth.

If we know the Lord Jesus and if we keep our hearts pure from the corrupting influences of the world around us, He has promised to give us a new name, a secret name, a special mark of intimacy with Him. That name signifies not merely a change in what we are called, but a change in what we have become: We are new creatures, with a new nature, heirs to a new and exciting destination in eternity a rich, warm, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ that goes on and on forever.


Judgment and Discipline


The Worldly Church


Revelation 2:18-29

The beginnings of the modern city of Akhisar in western Turkey are shrouded in mystery. No one knows when it was founded. Once it was a little village named Pelopia, nestled in a fertile plain on the banks of the Zab River. Around 300 years before the birth of Christ, it became a Greek colony and was renamed Thyatira the name by which it is known in the book of Revelation. During the time of the writing of Revelation, it was a Roman colony.

Located about 35 miles southeast of Pergamum, Thyatira was a small but bustling commercial center on the main road between Pergamum and Laodicea. In many ways, modern Thyatira, the Turkish city of Akhisar, is much like it was in the days of the apostle John. Akhisar is still a busy commercial center, and even in the 1990 s its most important exports are essentially the same products that ancient Thyatira was known for: cotton and wool cloth, fruits, and dyes.

In fact, the word "dyes" may jog your memory if you are familiar with the New Testament, because in the book of Acts we are introduced to a woman named Lydia, who was led to the Lord by the apostle Paul in the city of Philippi. Lydia was a seller of purple dyes and dyed goods, and she originally came from the city of Thyatira.

It might surprise you to know that Thyatira was a city in which trade unions were very important. You might think that trade unionism had its beginnings in the "sweat shop" factories and coal mines of nineteenth-century England and America, but the truth is that carpenters, dyers, merchants, clothmakers, and other trade workers had organized into fraternal guilds even before the time of Christ. In Thyatira the trades were so strongly unionized that it was difficult to make a living without being a guild member a fact which will soon become very important in our study of the Lord's fourth letter in Revelation.

In this letter, Jesus begins with a word of affirmation.

2:18-19 "To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:

These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first."

I think it is significant that the title "the Son of God" appears in these verses for the first and only time in the entire book of Revelation. Some cults, sects, and nonbelievers claim that Jesus never said He was the Son of God, yet here is one of several New Testament passages where He clearly makes that claim.

In this passage Jesus stresses the fact of His deity and adds to the claim such potent, memorable imagery as "eyes . . . like blazing fire," and "feet . . . like burnished bronze." The picture of eyes like blazing fire suggests His ability to pierce the facades, disguises, and pretensions of His people. Nothing can be hidden from the hot gaze of His truth. The picture of feet like burnished bronze suggests His ability to trample sin and injustice underfoot, His authority to punish evil.

Both the eyes of blazing truth and the bronze feet of justice are needed at the church in Thyatira. Tragically, it is the most corrupt of the seven churches of Revelation.


An Attractive Church

The church at Thyatira was neither dead nor doomed to die. The Lord found many things to affirm in this church. "I know your deeds," He said, "your love and faith, your service and perseverance." These four qualities love, faith, service, and perseverance are inter-related.

Love leads to service. If you love God, you will serve His people. You cannot help it. Service is the visible sign, the outward expression of a heart full of love.

Faith leads to perseverance. If you have faith, you will persevere. You now understand that God is in control of all the circumstances of life and things
will always work out for His good purpose. When you have faith you keep at your work. You do not quit.

Within the fellowship at Thyatira were many believers who loved God, who served His people, who had faith in His word, and who persevered. As they loved God and served others, the church grew. And, as the Lord observed, the church had grown in these qualities since its early days: "you are now doing more than you did at first."

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