When It’s Hard to Say No

A pivotal choice

Now these Christians are confronted with a monumental decision: “Repent, therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (v. 16). Jesus began his letter to Pergamum with the same image: “These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword” (v. 12).

This is the same sword which came “out of his mouth” in his earlier vision to John (1.16). This is an image for the word of God which is “sharper than any two-edged sword’ and “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4.12). With the sharp sword of his mouth, Jesus will conquer all nations (Revelation 19.15) and will cleanse his church in Satan’s capitol.

Those who repent and return to Jesus will have the “hidden manna” (v. 17a). The Jews believed that when the Messiah comes, he will bring with him more of the wilderness manna first given to Israel in the days of Moses. Here Jesus promises to replace the food they’ve sacrificed to idols with the feast of the Messiah.

And they will also receive “a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it” (v. 17b). This probably refers to the tessera, invitation stones on which were engraved the names of people invited to special feats and functions.

Jesus promises that his people, restored to doctrinal purity, will have a new name. This promise fulfills the prediction of old: “You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow” (Isaiah 62.2).

We will suffer for our faith. But Jesus promises that the results of our faithfulness will always be worth their price.

The church at Pergamum illustrates the fact that idolatry is a constant temptation for believers. We learn here also that heresy is a perennial enemy of the faith. And we discover that God rewards faithfulness beyond all that it costs.