Wednesday

03 September 2014

“These are the words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.” (v. 12)


Background

The two-edged sword (verses 12, 16) had been introduced in Revelation 1:16. It comes from the mouth of Christ as an indication that it is his words that judge his people.

Pergamum is here called the place "where Satan's throne is" (v. 13). This might be a reference to the huge altar of Zeus which overlooked the city being seen as a symbol of the idolatry that held sway in the city and which was increasingly taking the form of the emperor cult. The reference to "holding fast" (v. 3) suggests that this situation has already caused conflict for the church. We don't know any more about Antipas but the word "witness" used to describe him is the word that gives us "martyr" for others who similarly lay down their lives in the cause of the gospel (the good news of Jesus).

The story of Balaam is found in Numbers 22-24, and John sees the Nicolaitans as wreaking similar havoc in leading Christians into immorality and idolatry; but so far removed from the time and place we cannot now with certainty be more specific.

The form of the promise to those who take the message of this mini-letter to heart offers "hidden manna" and a "white stone" (v. 17). Manna was the food of Israel in the nation's early days of wandering in the desert, provided daily by God; the Jews anticipated that manna would be provided again when God's kingdom was re-established. Moses had instructed that a pot of it be kept for all time as a symbol (Exodus 16:32-33) but it had been lost six centuries earlier when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem.

The white stone could mean several different things but the reference to the name written on it, and the ancient belief in the power of a name, perhaps make most likely the idea that it is a kind of amulet/keepsake inscribed with the name of God.


To Ponder

  • The church is urged to repent (verse 16). Repentance is always part of the process of first becoming a Christian, but that is not the end of the matter. In what ways and for what reasons do Christians and the Church of today need to repent?
  • What forms does idolatry take in today's world? Which of its trappings are hardest to avoid in the course of going about your daily life?
  • What precious thing(s) do you possess that preserve for you a special link with the giver?


Bible notes author:
  The Revd Dr Stephen Mosedale

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