The One Who has the Sharp Two-edged Sword Says This:
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith, even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. ‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality. ‘Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. ‘Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. ‘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 Sword of my mouth…” Imagery– and simple imagery to anyone who has read their Bible. If Jesus had only said, “Sword,” there would probably be some confusion and debate. However, “the sword of my mouth,” uses imagery we clearly understand. Another added bonus to interpret this imagery is that Jesus also says it’s a sharp, two-edged sword. Hebrews reads, “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Jesus is clearly painting the picture to them that his words, the word of God, will do as they always do, either set men free or condemn them.
I think I mentioned briefly how the book of Revelation zooms in, zooms out, hypo-focuses, hyper-focuses, doubles-back, re-tells and many other hyphenated words. Here, Jesus is hyper-focused, he’s zooming in. He has this church under his majestic microscope and we would do well to focus with him. This is also a prime example of how we need to let the Bible interpret the Bible. For instance, Balaam wouldn’t curse the Israelites, I didn’t think he taught Balak anything, I thought it was the other way around.
It is also challenging to rightly divide some information given, of which the rest of the bible is silent. How do we interpret that to which Jesus is alluding when he condemns the teaching of the Nicolaitans, when the only other mention of them is to the church in Ephesus–and that is just as ambiguous, or more so?
Who are these mysterious Nicolaitans? What we’re they teaching and why don’t we know? First, they knew, and Jesus knew. More proof that Revelation was written to them. I know I keep repeating myself but repetition is a great way to learn. The book was written to the first century church, it must have made sense to them. Nevertheless, there are things we can do to attempt to unlock what is locked. But, we must be prepared to be charged with breaking and entering. That is an analogy to say I could be completely wrong on this, and I certainly don’t want to lead others astray, but I think using context, genre, audience and a little help from STRONG’S concordance, we should be ok. Once again, in full disclosure–I’m reaching a bit. Nevertheless, let’s try to investigate. Since we know of and yet are told almost nothing about the Nicolaitans and we can’t find them mentioned anywhere else besides the letter to Ephesus, what is our next move? We could ignore it and move on–honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that approach. We know enough, they were teaching heresy, and Jesus called them out on it. Lesson learned–move on.
However, we have great tools to mine the word of God right at our fingertips. Speaking of this, did I leaned out my NASB edition Strong’s concordance to one of you? I don’t need it back I simply forgot what I did with it…No matter, I have it online and I looked up the word “Nicolaitans;” Strong’s 3532. Not a huge help, so far. There are only 2 occurrence, both in this chapter. One to Ephesus, praising them for hating the Nicolaitan teachings and in our current text condemning those in Pergamum who hold to them. But all is not yet lost. We have the tools, let’s try to mine a little deeper. Just a few words before “Nicolaitans,” we find, “Nike,” Strong’s 3529, and a few words after, “Nikos;” 3534, both translated as”Victory.” Now we’re getting somewhere.
“Niko”= Victory–what’s left of the word? “Laitan,” look closely at the word, see anything? It’s similar to the Greek word for people, Strong’s 2992. Not that most of us study Greek but it also resembles an English word; “Laity.” Since we have an abundance of mining tools at our disposal, and I literally have not done this yet; it could backfire, let’s look up the etymology of, “Laity,” Cool, it worked: From Anglo-Normon laite, from Latin laitas, from Ancient Greek (transliterated) laos, “people.”
Victory over the people. In a previous missive I wrote that Revelation seems to condemns titles such as pastor, deacon etc.. I didn’t mean that, literally. Theologians, yes, literally that is nothing anyone should want to be called. James 3:1. Nevertheless, pastors, deacons, elders are an important part of the church. They help the church function properly and Scripture prescribes them. However, they are servants–deacon literally means table-waiter. They should not be victorious over the people, they should be under the people, serving them. I always describe church government like an upside-down triangle. The people are the wide part, at the top, then the deacons support them. They are supported by the elders and the elders by the pastor who is at the bottom point, supported by Christ and the sharp, two-edged sword of his mouth.
I believe the people of Pergamum had two distinct problems. One, they had admixture in their worship and two, there were some that taught that the pastor and bishops were royalty.
Notice Jesus use of the word stumbling block. It’s used throughout the New Testament. And it is always used to indicate that which causes one to not be in Christ’s ultimate grace. It causes one who is seeking the Lord’s will to trip up, much like Balak asked Balaam to do. incidentally, guess what Balaam’s name means? “Ruler of the people.”
“Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one…But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”
It doesn’t appear that Jesus was critical of them for literally eating food sacrificed to idols, because Paul says there are no idols, just God. But I do believe that some were holding to two things that caused the people to stumble. They had a ruling class and they added immorality of some sort that corrupted and polluted their worship.
No, we don’t know the specifics but we can still learn from them. Once again, though probably not literally once again, the letter was written to them, specifically. Yet, we can certainly glean from this letter.
Our worship and lives should be pure and undefiled. Yes, as Paul has written, we have tremendous liberty. But we are here to serve each other and worship God. We are not to mix worldly pleasure with our worship or worse yet, evil.
I don’t practice Santeria, but many do. That would certainly fall into this category. Jesus and the Bible may be involved but there is much in the way of admixture in their religion.
Hence, the sword of his mouth!