Pergamum, Part 3
Dec 14, 2015
Revelation 2:16 says,
16 Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.
The overcomers repented; the rest of the church did not. In 410 A.D. Rome was sacked by Alaric the Goth, which began a series of divine judgments involving war. This traumatic event occurred just 30 years after the emperor Theodosius had made Christianity the state religion in 380 A.D. The next year, Augustine, bishop of Hippo (near Carthage in North Africa) wrote his influential book, City of God, explaining that Rome was not the New Jerusalem, but that the “City of God” was a spiritual city. In other words, the Goths had not overthrown the New Jerusalem.
While his basic premise was certainly true, the inescapable truth was that God allowed a Christian Empire to come under divine judgment. This could be explained only by apostasy, which most church officials probably did not comprehend. The Spirit’s message to the church at Pergamum helps explain why God judged Rome.
As we will see later, Alaric the Goth, was the first judgment upon Christian Rome when the angel sounded the first trumpet in Revelation 8:7.
The sword coming from God’s mouth is His word—that is, the sword of the Spirit. God’s tongue is likened to a fiery sword. The metaphor is pictured in physical terms, but it is actually a matter of His word. His word is law. His word is a decree from the court of heaven, which is then enforced by men on earth. In this case, God raised up Alaric the Goth to enforce divine judgment against “Christian Rome” for its apostasy. Alaric and his army used physical swords to sack Rome.
The rewards for overcoming are given in Revelation 2:17,
17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.
The “hidden manna” is a reference to the pot of manna that Moses put into the Ark of the Covenant, along with the tables of the law and Aaron’s rod. Hebrews 9:3, 4 says,
3 And behind the second veil there was a tabernacle, which is called the Holy of Holies, 4 having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant.
Apparently, Moses set aside manna on the first day that the manna was sent from heaven, although the Ark itself had not yet been built. Exodus 16:31-34 says,
31 And the house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white; and its taste was like wafers with honey. 32 Then Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded, ‘Let an omerful of it be kept throughout your generations, that they may see the bread that I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt’.” 33 And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omerful of manna in it, and place it before the Lord, to be kept throughout your generations. 34 As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the Testimony, to be kept.
The manna was a type of the word of God, which the people were to eat daily so that they are able to grow spiritually. But the church in the wilderness under Moses soon became tired of manna, desiring meat (flesh) instead. The story is given in Numbers 11, where the people said in verse 6, “there is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”
Manna represents the word of God. The people wanted flesh to eat. The lesson here is that the church ought not to desire “flesh” to be dispensed from the pulpits. They should desire the true word of God, so that they may eat Christ’s flesh and drink His blood, so to speak. This is also represented in the bread and wine of Communion.
The manna represented Christ Himself, for Jesus said in John 6:48-51,
48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.
We can say, therefore, that the Israelites who rejected the manna in the wilderness were actually rejecting Christ without realizing it. In the New Testament church, we find a similar pattern. So the overcomers are given the “hidden manna,” and this implies that the rest of the church, like the Israelite church in the wilderness, were to reject Christ in the same manner. Their leaders became increasingly religious and fleshly, and their message came not by revelation but by mental study of Scripture.
Whereas Moses and Aaron simply put manna in a jar and later placed it in the Ark, the Spirit of Counsel interpreted this as “hidden manna.” In other words, we are to understand that in the Pergamum era of the church, the word of God would be hidden from the church as a whole. Only the overcomers would have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the church. This implies that from 313-529 A.D. church policy openly began to forbid people to hear God for themselves.
History shows that the church began to set up Church Councils to draw up official creeds to define true believers, rather than their love. The power to establish Church membership thus passed from God to men and came to reflect the values of religious men, rather than God’s values. No longer would true believers be defined by their enrollment in the heavenly records (Hebrews 12:23). Now men would give themselves the right to record and erase men’s names on earth and then claim that heaven followed their lead.
The abuse of authority is in thinking that God gave the church authority to determine the will of God, rather than allowing the will of God to determine their own actions.
The same had been done in Judaism, where, for example, the temple priests cast out (or excommunicated) the man whom Jesus had healed of blindness (John 9:34). Those that were cast out were considered “sinners” and barred from worshiping in the temple. Those priests did not act according to the will of God, but thought that God had given them the authority to act according to their own understanding (i.e., the traditions of men).
The church followed the lead of the church in the wilderness, not realizing that their abhorrence of manna had disqualified them from knowing the will of God.
The overcomers, however, are those who know the truth when they hear it. They love the word of God because they love Christ who is the Word made flesh. Whoever does not love the word of God does not really know Christ either. One must know the written word (Bible) by the revelation of the word. To put it in legal terms, one must eat clean spiritual food. One must eat (read or hear) the Scripture and then chew the cud (Leviticus 11:3) in order to allow the Holy Spirit to turn it from flesh to spirit—or from a carnal, mental exercise into revelation.
In this way the overcomers have access to the hidden manna that is in the Ark of the Covenant.
The White Stone
As we quoted earlier, Revelation 2:17 also says that the overcomers will be given “a white stone.” When judges met to decide a case, it was customary to cast their ballots for guilt or innocence by using either a white stone or a black stone. A white stone signified innocence. A black stone indicated guilt.
Here God gives the overcomers a white stone. Once again, this implies that the church as a whole did NOT receive a white stone, but rather a black stone. The guilty verdict is seen in the warning to the church and the call to repentance (Revelation 2:17).
The New Name
The white stone given to an overcomer has “a new name written on the stone.” What name is this? We are not told, and the name is deliberately veiled, for “no one knows but he who receives it.”
I believe that it is the name of the New Creation Man that has been begotten in us by the word of God. It is one’s spiritual name, the name that is recognized in the heavenly record as a son of God. Hence, 1 Peter 2:4, 5 calls us “living stones” in the spiritual temple that God is constructing. Each living stone is a piece of the foundation stone of this temple (Ephesians 2:20).
Our “old man,” that is, the fleshly man, was named at birth. Even so, our “new man” also has a name that is known only by divine revelation. The purpose of a name is to reveal one’s nature. Names were thus given and sometimes changed later to testify of a change in one's life. Stephen is the name given to my Adamic man, but the name of my Spirit-begotten New Creation Man is different. So it is with all of us, if indeed we have been begotten of God.
Each person is responsible to know who they are in Christ, their calling, their purpose on earth, and their destiny. They need to know their place in the body of Christ and their place in the temple of God. All of this is revealed in their new name.
I believe that our new name is revealed by the name of our angel (or angels), those who are assigned to minister through us to the world at large. Angels are messengers of the word of God. At least one angel is assigned to all of us, but in many cases they remain as external helpers or protectors. It is only when we absorb them and become one with them that we take on the nature of our angel and begin to manifest the word (name) that is in that angel.
This is part 21 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones