The Orthodoxy of the Church, Chap 4, Section 1 of 4




Scripture Reading: Rev. 2:12-17

The church in Ephesus was the church at the end of the apostolic age, the church before the apostle John passed away, the church which John himself referred to as in the last time, and the church spoken of in 2 Peter and 2 Timothy. This we have seen. Then we saw in the preceding chapter, the age wherein the church was persecuted, which is the prophecy of the church in Smyrna as shown to us by the Lord. Now we will look at the church in Pergamos.

The name Pergamos means “marriage” or “union.” Here we see how the church has taken a turn. I think the believers at that time, when they read concerning Pergamos, probably did not understand what this letter meant. But when we look back upon the history of the church it is quite clear. Gibbon, a historian, said that if they had killed all the Christians in the city of Rome, the city would have become uninhabited. The greatest persecution in the entire world was not able to destroy the church. Therefore, Satan changed his method of attack. The world not only ceased to oppose the church, but even the greatest empire on this earth—Rome—accepted Christianity as the state religion. It is said that Constantine had a dream in which he saw a cross with the words written on it, “By this sign conquer.” He discovered that the cross was a sign of Christianity; so he accepted Christianity as the state religion. He encouraged people to be baptized, and whoever was baptized was given two white robes and a few pieces of silver. The church was united with the world; therefore, the church became fallen. In the previous chapter we read that the church of Smyrna was the church of suffering and that the Lord had nothing to say against her. Here Pergamos and the world are united to become the biggest state religion. According to men, this would be an advancement; yet the Lord is displeased. When the church unites herself with the world, the testimony of the church is wrecked. The church is a sojourner in the world. It is all right for the boat to be on the water, but not for the water to be in the boat.

“He who has the sharp two-edged sword…” (Rev. 2:12). The Lord speaks of Himself as the One who has the sword with two edges. Here is judgment.

The church has fallen, but this does not mean that the church in that age had no testimony at all. No matter what circumstance she is in, the reality of the church is always there. Pergamos is the church which continues immediately after Smyrna. In what kind of situation is she? In verse 13 the Lord said, “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is.” The Lord recognizes the difficulty of Pergamos’s situation. Since she dwells in the very place of Satan’s throne, it is rather difficult for her to maintain a testimony. Here is a person who is very special, that is, “Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you.” We cannot find his name in history; therefore, since this is a prophecy, we must discover the meaning from the name itself. Anti means “against”; pas means “all.” Antipas is a faithful man who is against all; he opposes all things. This does not mean that he intentionally creates troubles regardless of the situation, but that he stands on the side of God to oppose all things. Of course, this person must become a martyr. History does not know his name, but the Lord knows.

Regarding this faithful man who is slain, in verse 13 the Lord said, “You hold fast My name and have not denied My faith.” Two matters are mentioned: the Lord’s name and the Lord’s faith. The children of God are those whom God has chosen out from among the Gentiles unto the name of the Lord. There is a basic difference between the church and religion. In religion it is sufficient to accept teachings, but in the church it is meaningless if one does not believe in the Lord. The name of the Lord represents the Lord Himself. This is a special feature. Not only so, this name also tells us that He has been here and has gone back, He died and lives again; therefore, He leaves a name in our midst. If we lose the name of our Lord, we no longer have the testimony. Pergamos receives the name of the Lord. There is one thing to which the children of God must especially take heed: We must manifest ourselves as those who are in the name of the Lord. This name is a special name, a name which will keep us from losing the testimony.

He also said, “You…have not denied My faith.” The word “faith” here in Greek is pistin. The meaning of this word is “belief.” It is not an ordinary belief, but the unique belief, the belief which is distinct from all other beliefs. The Lord said that Pergamos had not denied His unique faith. The church is not something of philosophy, natural science, ethics, or psychology. These are not things of the church. The church is something of belief, something of faith. “You…have not denied My faith.” What does this mean? This means, “You have not denied believing in Me.” The children of God must maintain this belief. Our belief in the Lord Jesus must not change at all. This faith is what separates us from the world. So “You hold fast My name and have not denied My faith”—these two points are the things for which the Lord praised her.

© Living Stream Ministry, 2021, used by permission