Revelation 2v12-17

SERMON TOPIC: Revelation 2v12-17

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 24 September 2023

Topic Groups: PERGAMUM, PROPHECY, REVELATION

Sermon synopsis: So far, we have looked at:
Ephesus: the doctrinally astute church which had left its first love.
Smyrna: the persecuted, poor – but spiritually rich church.
Now we will examine:
Pergamum: the compromising church.

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REVELATION – chapter 2

(continued)

THE LETTERS to the 7 CHURCHES

The letters to the 7 churches have a similar structure.

An address to a particular church.

An introduction of Jesus.

A statement regarding the condition of the church.

A verdict from Jesus regarding the church.

A command from Jesus to the church.

A general exhortation to all Christians with a promise of reward.

So far, we have looked at:

Ephesus: the doctrinally astute church which had left its first love.

Smyrna: the persecuted, poor – but spiritually rich church.

Now we will examine:

Pergamum: the compromising church.

Revelation 2:12-13 (NIV)

12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.

a) An address to a particular church

12a “To the angel [messenger] of the church in Pergamum …

There is a difference in the name of this city in the different translations of the New Testament. The KJV and NKJV call it Pergamos, while most modern English translations call it Pergamum.

Pergamos (G4010) is the feminine form of the name and Pergamum the neuter. In the ancient world it was known by both forms but Pergamum was much the commoner and the newer translations are right to prefer it. (Barclay)

Pergamum is located 26 km (16 miles) from the modern coastline of the Aegean Sea.

Sir William Ramsay describes Pergamum "Beyond all other cities in Asia Minor, it gives the traveler the impression of a royal city, the home of authority; the rocky hill on which it stands is so huge, and dominates the broad plain of the Caicus so proudly and so boldly.” (Barclay)

The geographical position of Pergamum made the city appear impressive. It was built on a tall conical hill, from the top of which the Aegean Sea could be seen, 26 km away.

Pergamum was a rich and powerful ancient Greek city in Mysia. Pliny called it “by far the most famous city in Asia” (V.xxxiii.126).

During the Hellenistic period, it became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon in 281–133 BC under the Attalid dynasty, who transformed it into one of the major cultural centres of the Greek world. *

* https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Pergamon

It had a library which housed 200,000 volumes and was the second largest in the ancient world after Alexandria.

Pliny speaks of the rivalry between Ptolemy V Epiphanes and Eumenes II Soter of Pergamon and their respective libraries. When Ptolemy prohibited the export of papyrus, parchment was said to have been invented in Pergamon as a substitute. ** The name is a corruption of pergamenos, meaning “from Pergamon”.

** Natural History, XIII.xxi.70

The Attalids became some of the most loyal supporters of Rome in the Hellenistic world. When Attalus III died without an heir in 133 BC, he bequeathed the whole of Pergamon to Rome. *

The city itself was declared free and served briefly as capital of the Roman province of Asia, before this distinction was transferred to Ephesus. * It reached the height of its greatness under Roman Imperial rule and was home to about 200,000 inhabitants.

* https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Pergamon

b) An introduction of Jesus

12b These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.

Earlier (1:16) John had seen Jesus with this sword coming out of his mouth. In Isaiah 49:2 the Servant of the Lord says that God “made my mouth like a sharpened sword”. So the sword is associated with Jesus’ mouth. It is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17).

C) A statement regarding the condition of the church

13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.

THE SEAT OF SATAN

There are different opinions as to why Christ called Pergamum the city “where Satan lives” and “where Satan has his throne”.

Some believe it was because it was a centre for the ancient Babylonian priesthood based on the idea that the priesthood of Babylon fled to Pergamum when Babylon was conquered in 539 BC.

This theory, popularized by Alexander Hislop in his book, The Two Babylons (1857) is highly debatable though.

It had 3 temples dedicated to the Imperial cult.

Some 50 years before Smyrna won the honour of building the first temple to Tiberius, Pergamum won the right to build the first temple to worship Caesar Augustus in the province of Asia.

Others maintain that it was because it was the political centre of the Roman Imperial cult.

CITY OF FALSE RELIGION

Others believe it is because it was a centre of pagan religion, particularly of Asclepios.

This was a city entrenched in false religion with temples to the Greek gods Dionysus, Demeter, Zeus and Athena, and the Greco-Egyptian deity Serapis.

Asclepios

Pergamum was particularly connected with the worship of Asclepios, so much so that Asclepios was known as “the Pergamene god.” (Barclay)

When the physician Galen of Pergamum (129 – 216 AD) “was mentioning favourite oaths, he said that people commonly swore by Artemis of Ephesus, or Apollo of Delphi, or Asclepios of Pergamum.” (Barclay)

Asclepios was the god of healing and knowledge. There was a medical school at his temple in Pergamum. Because of the famous temple to the Roman god of healing, sick and diseased people from all over the Roman Empire flocked to Pergamum for relief. *

Asclepios was represented by a serpent. Because of the association of the serpent with Satan it might well be that the Christians regarded the religion which took the serpent as its emblem as a Satanic cult.

* https:// enduringword.com/ bible-commentary/ revelation-2

“Sufferers were allowed to spend the night in the darkness of the temple… In the night the sufferer might be touched by one of these … snakes as it glided over the ground on which he lay. The touch of the snake was held to be the touch of the god himself, and the touch was held to bring health and healing.” (Barclay)

A particular type of non-venomous snake was often used in the temple healing rituals, and they slithered around freely on the floor in dormitories where the sick and injured slept.

Still others believe it was because the city had a huge throne-like altar dedicated to Zeus. They maintain that the Pergamum Altar is the “Seat of Satan” referred to by Jesus.

The Pergamum Altar depicted here reconstructed in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin.

As a point of interest, this is the Zeppelin Grandstand in Nuremberg, around 1938. The Nazis used this as the central venue for staging their party rallies. Albert Speer, the architect, was inspired by the ancient Pergamum Altar and used it as a model for the grandstand.

Despite living in such a wicked and idolatrous city, Jesus commends the Christians saying, “Yet you remain true to my name”.

He adds, “You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness [martys], who was put to death in your city —where Satan lives.”

The word translated “witness” is the Greek word transliterated in English as “martyr”.

The NKJV renders it as “and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr”.

This same title was used of Jesus (Rev 1:5).

WHAT JESUS KNOWS ABOUT THE CHURCH

ANTIPAS – My FAITHFUL MARTYR

Antipas lived in a city which was the seat of Satan but he stood firm against the evil all around him. He was a faithful witness of Christ in both his life and his martyrdom.

There is no early information on Antipas. According to late Christian tradition (possibly conjecture), John ordained him as bishop of Pergamum during the reign of Nero. The traditional accounts go on to say Antipas was a victim of an early clash between pagan worshippers and Christians.

During the reign of Domitian (AD 92) an angry pagan mob is said to have burned Antipas alive in front of the temple inside a brazen bull-shaped altar which represented the bull god Apis. *

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pergamon, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antipas_of_Pergamum

.

Revelation 2:14-15 (NIV)

14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.

15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

D) A verdict from Jesus regarding the church

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you:

Unfortunately, the word “nevertheless” indicates that all is not well. Jesus has some issues with the Christians in Pergamum.

The Christians in Pergamos were rightly praised for holding fast to the name of Jesus and keeping his faith. At the same time, their difficult environment did not excuse the few things Jesus had against them. (Guzik)

Balaam was a prototype of all corrupt teachers. According to Numbers 22-24 and 31, Balaam combined the sins of immorality and idolatry to please Balak, the king of Moab, because he could not curse Israel directly. (Guzik)

There are some among you who hold to the teaching (doctrine) of Balaam …

What was the doctrine of Balaam?

Balak, the king of Moab, instructs the elders of Moab to request Balaam to come and curse Israel.

Numbers 22:12-13 (NIV) But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.” The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s officials, “Go back to your own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.”

The Bible indicates that Balaam was a man who loved money and whose “principles” could be bought:

Jude 1:11 … they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error…

2 Pet 2:15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness.

But when Balak offers Balaam money (22:17) he subsequently goes to Balak (22:20).

Balaam encounters God’s angel who states, “I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me” (22:32).

Balaam is allowed to continue to Balak and he complies with God’s will by refusing repeatedly to curse Israel

But his subsequent actions still undermine God’s perfect plan for blessing Israel. In a subsequent act of sabotage, he informs Balak how to get the Israelites to curse themselves.

ENTRAPMENT

Rev 2:14 … Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.

Balaam’s advice for Balak is to entice Israel to commit sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols (Rev 2:14), resulting in a judgement of God on Israel.

Num 31:16 They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the LORD in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people.

Balaam’s method was a slow and subtle compromise. He came up with a scheme to use Moabite women to slowly seduce the people to sin, turning them to idolatry.

The Israelites knew the practice of idolatry was forbidden and would have rejected it if openly presented with it; but they willingly accepted the idea when they were seduced to sin and followed the evil and selfish desires of their hearts. *

* https:// agfaithchapel.org/ sermons-messages/ lessons-from-revelations-7-churches-part-3-pergamum-a-call-not-to-compromise

slow and SUBTLE compromise

In Pergamum, the ungodly and powerful authorities of the day promoted the worship of idols and false teachings. They encouraged the participation of spiritually wrong acts that were sinful in God’s eyes. Just because a powerful government makes a law that says something is legal, it doesn’t make it spiritually OK when the word of God clearly says it’s wrong. *

It appears that some of the believers in Pergamum were being led astray and embracing this ungodly idolatry as a way of life – and encouraging others to do the same.

* Ibid.

THE DOCTRINE OF THE NICOLAITANS

v15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching (doctrine) of the Nicolaitans.

Earlier Jesus had commended the Church in Ephesus, saying “You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans which I also hate.” (v6) In contrast this church had compromised doctrinally.

We saw that Irenaeus identified the Nicolaitans with a heretical group that had been founded by Nicolas (Acts 6:5) one of the first 7 deacons – from whose name the movement’s name was derived.

LICENSE

Irenaeus said that the members of the Nicolaitans “lead lives of unrestrained indulgence.”

The character of these men is plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.” [Against Heresies, Bk. 1, Ch. 26.]

LICENSE

When Balaam counseled Balak, he  taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel. The  stumbling block was connected with idolatry (to eat things sacrificed to idols) and sexual immorality. If the church in Pergamos had those who did hold the doctrine of Balaam, it showed they had tendencies towards both idolatry and immorality. [Guzik]

Jesus groups the doctrine of Balaam with the immoral sect called the Nicolaitans who “sought to persuade Christians that there was nothing wrong with a prudent conformity to the world's standards.” [Barclay]

THE DISCONNECT

At the Lausanne 2010 Conference, Peter Tarantal, an African mission leader spoke on the disconnect between what African Christians are taught and how they live.

In 1900, there were 8 million Christians in Africa. Today, there are 500 million Christians in Africa and in some countries 90 percent or more of the population is Christian. *

Although Africa currently has the highest Christian growth rate in the world, it also has the highest levels of HIV, conflict, poverty, and corruption, said Tarantal. *

* http:// christianpost.com/ news/ african-churches-need-to-connect-bible-to-life-says-mission-leader-47294

South Africa has the largest population of people with HIV of any country in the world (even though we are only the 25th largest country in the world).

The solution to the AIDS crisis is not more condoms. It is in teaching Christian morality.

The challenge before us is despite as a church having grown so much, we need to teach people what it means to live as people of God,” said Tarantal.

CHRISTIAN MORALITY

THE MORAL LAW

What does the Bible say about sexual sin? One of the Ten Commandments given to Moses was “do not commit adultery”.

Jesus would reiterate the moral law when the rich young ruler asked him, “what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” In his reply he included, “do not commit adultery” (Matt 19:16-19)

Despite the liberty granted to the Gentiles regarding issues like circumcision, sexual immorality was still prohibited in the New Covenant:

Act 21:25 “As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain … from sexual immorality.”

Christians ought to behave decently in this regard:

Rom 13:13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.

THE NEW COVENANT

It is improper behaviour for Christians:

Eph 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity… because these are improper for God’s holy people.

1 Cor 10:8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did…

Heb 12:16 See that no one is sexually immoral…

THE NEW COVENANT

Jesus says that sexual sin makes you unclean before God.

Luke 7:21-23 “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery… lewdness [being very sexual or lustful in an offensive way] … All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”

UNCLEAN

Continuing to sin in this way is to give in to the flesh (sinful nature) as opposed to walking by the Spirit.

Gal 5:16-21 (NIV) So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want…

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery [excessive indulgence in sex]; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies [a sex party where guests freely engage in open sexual activity or group sex], and the like.

I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Like our modern Western world, sexual immorality was considered normal in the ancient Roman Empire.

To paraphrase the Roman statesman Cicero, cited in Barclay: “If there is anyone who thinks that young men should not be allowed the love of many women, he is extremely severe. I am not able to deny the principle he stands on. But he contradicts, not only with the freedom our age allows, but also with the customs and allowances of our ancestors. When indeed was this not done? When did anyone find fault with it? When was such permission denied? When was it that what is now allowed was not allowed?”

Paul writes of the pagans that since they had denied the creator God, they had been given over to sexual perversion:

Rom 1:24-27 (NIV) Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men …

SEXUAL IMMORALITY & IDOLATRY

Sexual immorality and idolatry marked the whole culture of the ancient Roman Empire. Sexual immorality “was simply taken for granted, and the person who lived by Biblical standards of purity was considered strange. To keep from sexual immorality in that culture, you really had to swim against the current.” (Guzik)

Pagans have always heaped abuse on Christians because of their standards in sexual morality:

1 Pet 4:3-5 (NIV) For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

ABUSE FROM PAGANS

WHAT IS SEXUAL SIN?

Modern culture has tried to redefine sexuality as a personal right to be exercised any way an individual wishes. Sexual behaviour is considered a personal choice, akin to the decision of whether to buy a house or rent a condo. At the same time, popular opinion has all but removed the word sin from our culture’s vocabulary. *

The only sexual expression considered “wrong” is what is deemed distasteful to the definer. However, social acceptability varies so greatly that even the vilest of acts would be considered justified by many. *

* https:// gotquestions.org/ sexual-sin.html

It is both ridiculous and tragic how our modern permissive culture keeps expanding sexual definitions. LGBTQ is now only short for LGBTTQQIAAPPK (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual, polygamous, kinkiness).

Ps 119:9 (NASB) How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.

We live in a world that wants us to believe the opposite. Our culture bombards us with words, images, advertisements, movies, television, pictures that sex before marriage is fun, freeing, and fulfilling. It would be easy to get sucked into that lie, to be overwhelmed by culture’s onslaught, if we were not people of the Word. God’s Word sanctifies us and keeps our way pure. *

* https:// lifeway.com/ en/ articles/ sermon-sexual-purity-proverbs-7

SEXUAL SIN

So, before we can determine why sexual sin is such a big deal, we have to define sexual sin. *

Fortunately, man has never been given the privilege of defining sin. The One who created sexuality also has the right to set the boundaries for it, and the Bible is clear about the guidelines. *

Jesus made it clear that Adam and Eve were a pattern of the marriage covenant. (Mark 10:6-7)

* https:// gotquestions.org/ sexual-sin.html

When God created Adam and Eve, he joined them in marriage and pronounced it “very good”. But what God creates as good, Satan perverts.

At that time, God introduced sexuality and set the boundaries for its expression. God created a union between a husband and wife that He called “becoming one flesh”… He then defined any sexual activity outside of the husband-wife relationship as a violation of His gift. *

IN SHORT: The Bible teaches that sex is only permissible in marriage and that it is between a natural man and woman.

* https:// gotquestions.org/ sexual-sin.html

MARRIAGE

THE NEW COVENANT

In fact the requirement of Jesus is even stricter than that given under the Mosaic law.

Matt 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

It seems that the church, and church leaders, were aware of the spiritual compromise that was happening among the congregation.

You have those there… you also have those: The rebuke was not only against those who hold the doctrines of Balaam and those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. The rebuke was also against those who allowed them to continue (you have there those… you have those). (Guzik)

OVERLOOKING COMPROMISE

The Christians of Pergamos were like the Christians of Corinth as Paul wrote to them in 1 Corinthians 5:1-9. They were too tolerant and accepting of false doctrines and immoral living, and Jesus had to rebuke them. Satan couldn’t accomplish much by persecution, because many did hold fast, like Antipas. So Satan tried to accomplish his goals by using deception. The strategy was first violence, then alliance. (Guzik)

SYNCRETISM

Another aspect of Balaam’s doctrine is that he invoked God’s name, but he also practiced sorcery.

Num 24:1 (NIV) Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not resort to sorcery as at other times, but turned his face toward the desert.

This is called syncretism.

Syncretism is the amalgamation (merging) or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.

An example of modern syncretism in our own country is the Zion Christian Church (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship).

Members of the ZCC generally believe that a person may contact God through direct prayer, or through intercession by Christ, bishops of the ZCC and the ancestor spirits.

modern Syncretism

However we see in our own age attempts to make Jesus more “acceptable” by synthesizing Christianity with contemporary culture.

An example of modern syncretism is the prosperity doctrine, which tries to synthesize Western materialism with the Gospel - in an attempt to justify and Christianize our greed and opulent lifestyles.

Of course, if we had lived in those days, we wouldn’t have been swayed by all this.

COMPROMISE

A difficult environment never justifies compromise. It is easy for a church in such difficulty to justify this compromise in the name of “we need all the help we can get” – but no church needs that kind of help. (Guzik)

HOLINESS

The fault of the Nicolaitans was that they were following a policy of compromise solely to save themselves from trouble. (Barclay)

The man who is not prepared to be different need not start on the Christian way at all. The commonest word for the Christian in the New Testament is hagios whose basic meaning is different or separate. The Temple is hagios because it is different from other buildings; the Sabbath day is hagios because it is different from other days; God is supremely hagios because he is totally different from men; and the Christian is hagios because he is different from other men. (Barclay)

COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM

We must be clear what this difference means, for there is a paradox in it. It is Paul's summons to the Corinthians that they should be different from the world. "Come out from among them" (2 Cor 6:17). This difference from the world does not involve separation from it nor hatred for it. Paul says in writing to the very same Church: "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (1 Cor 9:22).

It was Paul's claim that he could get alongside all men; but--and here is the point--his getting alongside them was that he might save some. It was not a question of bringing Christianity down to their level; it was a question of bringing them up.

Revelation 2:16-17 (NIV)

16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

What does Jesus want the church at Pergamum to do?

v16 Repent therefore!

The simple word repent stands out. Five of the seven churches are commanded to repent. Repent is a command that applies to Christians, not only to those who first come to Jesus. (Guzik)

e) A command from Jesus to the church

THE SWORD OF MY MOUTH

Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

Unless they repent, the Christians of Pergamum would face Jesus who will confront them with his Word.

It is “the word of God” which “is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Heb 4:12)

THE SWORD OF MY MOUTH

Jesus is going to use this sword from his mouth to do some separating of the Christians in Pergamum. They are about to feel some pain from the sharp edges.

v17a Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

He who has an ear: The danger of false teaching and immoral conduct still faces the church today. So does the danger of allowing false teaching and immorality, as was the problem with the Christians in Pergamos. (Guzik)

F) A GENERAL EXHORTATION TO ALL CHRISTIANS WITH A PROMISE OF REWARD

Manna is “the bread which the Lord has given you to eat” (Ex 16:15). It is called "grain of heaven" and it is the "bread of the angels" (Ps 78:24-25).

The one who overcomes this spirit of compromise or accommodation (to false teaching and unholy living) will receive “hidden manna to eat”. This is the provision for our spiritual sustenance, “the true bread from heaven” (John 6:41).

To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. (NKJV)

A WHITE STONE

And I will give him a white stone [psephon]:

The Greek word psephon properly means “pebble,” not “stone.” The imagery of a white stone had many associations in John’s day. To the Greeks, it was a symbol of good fortune and prosperity.

In the ancient world objects called tesserae were much used. A tessera was a little tablet made of wood or metal or stone; it had writing on it; and, generally speaking, the possession of a tessera conferred some kind of privilege upon a man. [Barclay]

TESSERAE

VERDICT OF ACQUITTAL

In the ancient law courts white and black stones were used for registering the verdict of juries, black for condemnation, white for acquittal. This would mean that the Christian is acquitted in the sight of God because of the work of Jesus Christ. [Barclay]

EVIDENCE OF HAVING BEEN COUNTED

Stones were also used to prove that a person had been counted.

2 Tim 2:19 (NIV) Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his” …

1 Cor 8:3 (ESV) But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

John 10:14 (ESV) I am the good shepherd. I know my own …

CONQUERORS

There may be an allusion to a practice … of conferring upon the victors in the games a little tile with a name inscribed upon it, which gave admission to the public festivals. [MacLaren]

Arethas writes that such a stone was given to wrestlers at games.

TICKET OF ADMISSION

There were tesserae conviviales, which corresponded “to our cards of invitation, or tickets of admission to a public feast or banquet; when the person invited produced his tessera he was admitted” [Clarke]

Jesus promises the overcomer entrance to the victory celebration in heaven. The white stone with the new name is our passport at the door.

RIGHT TO FREE GIFTS

In Rome the great houses had their clients, dependents who every morning received from their patron food and money for the day.

They were often given a tessera by which they identified themselves as having the right to the free gifts.

This would mean that the Christian has the right to the free gifts for life which Christ can give. [Barclay]

BADGE OF FRIENDSHIP

Then there were the Tesserae hospitales, which gave to its possessor a claim of hospitality from him who gave it.

They “were given as badges of friendship and alliance, and on which some device was engraved, as a testimony that a contract of friendship had been made between the parties.” [Clarke]

James 2:23 (ESV) and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.

John 15:15 (NIV) “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

Jesus might have had any one of these meanings in mind, but what is certain is that the white stone gives the overcomer the assurance of blessing.

So in conclusion, a white stone, particularly as described in Revelation 2:17, signifies a decisive vote in one’s favour, a judgment of innocence (or new innocence), a reprieve from death, a covenant of safe passage, celebratory welcome, honour with free privileges, a new and lasting identity known only by and intimately in God, and finally an eternal hospitality with God. *

* https://whitestone.clinic/about-us/why-the-name-whitestone

A NEW NAME

And on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it:

What is this new, secret name promised to overcomers?

Some say it is God’s name. But how can no one know it except the one who receives it? Surely all overcomers would know it.

It is probably the believer’s new name.

One idea behind this new, secret name is that it shows what an intimate relationship we have with God. When a couple is close, they often have “pet names” for each other. This is probably the same idea. (Guzik)

Another idea associated with the new name is simply the assurance it gives of our heavenly destination. Your name is there, waiting for you. It is as if your “reservation” in heaven is made. (Guzik)

The giving of new names is not uncommon in the Bible: e.g., Abraham, Sarah, Israel, Peter.

… Scripture attaches, in accordance with Eastern habit, large importance to names, which are intended to be significant of character, or circumstances, or parental hopes or desires.

So that, both in reference to God and man, names come to be the condensed expression of the character and the personality.

When we read, ‘I will give him a stone, on which there is a new name written,’ we infer that the main suggestion made in that promise is of a change in the self, something new in the personality and the character. [MacLaren]

Our names are linked to our personal identity (and inferentially a new name is proof of a renovated, enduring nature).

In heaven, Christians are promised to arrive at a fuller knowledge of Christ that ‘transforms’ their identity. They discover their true identity, their new name.




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