12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
13 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.
14 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.
15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.
16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
The 5W1H stands for Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. These methods for asking questions were memorialised by Rudyard Kipling in his poem, which opens with:
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
The city of Pergamos was located in the northwest of Asia Minor. In John’s day, the city was well-known for the invention and manufacture of parchment; a writing material made from animal skin. The city was a learning hub; it had a 200,000-volume library. Pergamos was also well-known for pagan worship. It had a temple dedicated to Aesculapius, the god of medicine, three to Caesar, and a massive altar built to Zeus. Clearly, it was a difficult place to live in for the Christians.
Challenge: Are you surrounded by many non-Christians and find it difficult to witness for Christ?
Jesus is pictured here wielding a sharp sword with two edges. The idea is He is the righteous judge. The church of Pergamos was located in the place “where Satan’s seat is.” Satan is never a righteous judge. We should always trust in Jesus whose judgments “are true and righteous altogether.”
Challenge: Have you been maligned or misunderstood?
In the midst of a very hostile environment, there were faithful men like Antipas. He was willing to die for the faith and not to compromise with heathenistic practices and beliefs. Our time is no better than John’s. There is pressure to compromise our faith in schools, workplaces, and sometimes at homes.
Challenge: What is causing your faith to crack?
Jesus called out to the Christians in Pergamos to repent from their sin of compromise. The act of repenting ought to be immediate. The reason is Jesus is coming quickly; imminent and soon. James says making friendship with the world is making us God’s enemies. He warned the church by saying, “will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”
Challenge: When God spoke to you, did you respond quickly?
Jesus promises the overcomers rewards. He mentions hidden manna, white stone, and a new name. These items are personalised; they will be given to the faithful men individually (with their names inscribed on the white stone). A hymn says, “it will be worth it all when we see Jesus.” Fellow pilgrims, let us be “looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing our great God and Saviour Jesus.”
Challenge: Why are you weary and heavy-hearted?
In the church of Pergamos, there were many that compromised and few that overcame. How is our spiritual standing? The 5W1H is useful because the answers cannot be simply a “yes” or “no”. It shouldn’t be “who is an overcomer?” but rather “how can I be an overcomer?”
Challenge: May the Lord find us faithful not for a season, but till the very end.
“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.”
Combined B-P Conference (2019) Devotional by Ps Lim Chee Boon