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On Revelation 2:12-15
12. "And in (or: to; for) the agent which is (or: For the messenger belonging to; In the person with the message which corresponds to; For the agent of) the called‑out community within Pergamos (or: Pergamum), write:
'The One constantly holding (having) the sharp, two‑mouthed broadsword is
presently laying out and saying these things:
That He stresses that He is the one with the sharp sword would suggest His readiness to use it – to do battle, to slay the adversary, to cut off our flesh, to overcome on the community's behalf, as He states in vs. 16, below. We should keep in mind Eph. 6:17b, that,
“the Spirit's sword (the short sword from the Attitude; or: the dagger which is spirit; the dirk which is the Breath-effect) – [is] the one being God's gush-effect
(or: which is the result of the flow from God; the one existing [as] a result of a flux or an effect of a continuous movement, the source of which is God; or: which is a spoken Word of God; or: that being an utterance or declaration which is God).”
“As we consider the Spirit's sword (note the genitive of possession; it is God's sword), observe that the
‘sword’ is a response to a ‘flow from God’; it is ‘God’s gush-effect’ and God gushes Love to His adversaries, His useful kindness converting them. This “dirk” is the Breath-effect, a blowing of the essence of God. The ‘short sword from the Attitude [of God]’ is ‘a result of a flux or an effect of a continuous movement, the source of which is God.’ This can be manifested as a ‘spoken Word of God,’ or, ‘an utterance or declaration which is God.’ Once again, it is the result or effect of a movement that God makes. The only sword that we handle is something that gushes forth from God Himself. We see this in the apocalyptic symbolism that is pictured as, ‘a sharp two‑edged broadsword [that] repeatedly goes out (issues forth; proceeds) from His mouth’ (Rev. 19:15a), which is a figure of His speaking. Paul may again be echoing Isa. in these last phrases. Isa. 11:4-5 promised, concerning the Branch and Root from Jesse (King David's father) upon Whom the Spirit of God would rest (vss. 1-2),
‘He will progressively administer justice to [the] low person (make decisions in and for a humble or depressed one) and will continue testing (or: working conviction from a proof for) the low and humbled folks of the Land (or: earth). And then He will proceed to strike the Land (or: the earth; the ground) with the Word of His mouth, and in a Breath by means of (or: through) His lips He will continue lifting up (or: taking back; choosing again) the impious person that lacks shame and awe. And so He will continue being girded (tied or belted around the waist) with eschatological deliverance into rightwised relationships in the Way pointed out, and with [His] sides (ribs) wrapped with Truth and Reality.’ (LXX, JM)….
“In 2 Thes. 2:8 Paul offers another situation where the Spirit's sword is effective,
‘the lawless person (the unlawful one; the one without law; the man who violates the Law; the person being contrary to custom) will be uncovered (unveiled; disclosed), whom the Lord Jesus will take back up again (or: lift up; [reading anairew with Nestle, Tasker & Concordant texts; Griesbach & other MSS read analiskw: consume, use up, expend]) by the Spirit of (or: the Breath-effect from) His mouth, and will deactivate (render inoperative and useless; make inert) by the manifestation (the bringing of light upon and setting in full and clear view, causing an appearance) of his (or: its; or: His) presence.’” (from my commentary, Peter’s Encore & Later Paul, comments on Second Peter & Ephesians, Harper Brown, 2016, pp 252-3)
13. I have seen, and thus know (am aware of) where you are continually dwelling (settling down for an abode) – where satan’s seat (or: the adversary's throne and place of power) [is]! – and yet you are constantly strong in (or: getting into your power) My Name, and did not deny (disown) My faithfulness (or: trust) in the days in which Antipas, My faithful witness (or: martyr), who was killed alongside you folks: where satan presently dwells (where the adversary continuously has his abode).
We see in vs. 13 that He is also aware of the company that they were keeping, i.e., where they were residing – living their lives – and it is a place, or realm, where satan's influence, or control/domination, is being exercised: "the authority of the Darkness" (Col. 1:13). Now that community in Pergamos had been transported out of that authority and into the reign/kingdom of the Son of His love, just as the community in Colossae had been: what had happened? Just as some of the company of Israel in the desert wished to return to Egypt, had Pergamos fulfilled that type and returned to dwell where satan's throne is – under the influence of the System of culture, religion, politics and government (perhaps by Judaizing)? Apparently so. This would no doubt be a place of bondage, as well.
But this verse continues with His noting that "and yet you are constantly strong in (or: getting into your power) My Name, and did not deny (disown) My faithfulness." The adversary had slain at least one of their brothers there. We are not told who, or what group, had killed Antipas, or whether this name, also, is a symbol or code. It may not even be a name. If we read the text as anti pas, i.e., as separate words, we could read it: “within those days – representative of, or in opposition to, everyone – in which My faithful testimony (or: the loyal witness about Me) was killed at your side, i.e., in the place the opponent is presently dwelling!”
The situation calls to mind Lot in Sodom (2 Pet. 2:7-8). This is a remarkable description of a church! It is satan's home and headquarters. Note that satan's work is normally in the realm of the religious. Even so, they had not denied His faithfulness – which speaks of His work of faith in enduring His cross. Beale (ibid p 247) points out the contrast in this verse between the first clause, where He says, “I have seen, and thus know where you are continually dwelling,” and the last clause, “where satan presently dwells.” The death of His witness in this context suggests that both are dwelling in the same place.
And let us remember, as we today look around at similar situations, that these folks were still His called-out community – just as Israel was still His people even while dwelling in Babylon.
14. But still I am holding down a few things against you: you have there
those continuously strong to be retaining the teaching of Balaam, who
instructed Balak to thrust a snare in the sight of the sons of Israel to eat
things offered to forms (or: sacrificed to idols), and thus, to commit prostitution
As we move to vs. 14 we can see why the adversary ruled and lived in their environment. Those holding Balaam's teachings would then be like Balak: enemies of God's people. Why else would they want to ensnare the believers to bring God's judgment upon them as in the days of Balaam? (see Num. 25:1-9; 31:15-16; 2 Pet. 2:15; Jude 11) The introduction of idolatry (as in the days of Balaam) was through the bringing into Christianity elements of pagan religions. This echoes Isa. 1:21, "How is the faithful city become a prostitute! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers." God had termed Israel's turning to pagan idolatry as committing prostitution. This brings spiritual death – it murders the inner life of the people.
Borg instructs us,
“The communities in Pergamum and Thyatira are charged with eating food that has been sacrificed to idols, a symptom of accommodation…. Cumulatively, John’s negative indictments portray communities that no longer differentiate themselves from the world of empire” (ibid pp 288-290).
But what is today's counterpart? What are the forms or external appearances (which is the root meaning of the word for "idol") that the adversary holds out for the church to partake of, or to co-habit with, in place of the Holy Spirit or in place of Christ’s teachings? With Pergamos the problem was false teachings. It would be wisdom to challenge traditional teachings of the church, to see if they align with what is revealed about God in Jesus Christ, and to assess their congruence with His teachings as we follow Paul’s teaching:
“For though habitually walking about and ordering our behavior within [the] flesh (= in a physical body; or: = in the human condition), we are not waging warfare (or: performing military service) in correspondence and accord to flesh (= on the level of estranged or enslaved humanity, or in line with human condition; or: = in the sphere of old covenant Jewish reasonings), for you see, the tools and weapons of our military service and warfare [are] not fleshly (= do not pertain to our human condition; [“are not the weapons of the Domination System” – Walter Wink]), but rather, [are] powerful ones and capable ones in God (or: by God), [focused] toward [the] pulling down (demolition) of effects of fortifications (or: strongholds; strongly entrenched positions [of the “Domination System” – Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers]), progressively tearing down and demolishing conceptions (concepts; the effects of thoughts, calculations, imaginations, reasonings and reflections) and every height (or: high position; high-effect) and lofty [attitude, purpose or obstacle] that is habitually lifting itself up against (or: elevating itself up on so as to put down) the intimate and experiential knowledge of God, and then taking captive every thought – one after another – and leading them prisoner into the hearing obedience of the Christ (or: the humble attentive listening, which comes from the Anointed One; or: the submissive paying attention, which is the Anointing), even continuously holding [them] in a ready state and prepared condition to support fairness and equity, while maintaining rightwised relationships from out of the Way pointed out, for every mishearing (or: hearing-aside; setting of our attention to the side; or: disobedience) – whenever your hearing obedience may be made full (or: as soon as the humble attentive listening and submissive paying attention has been brought to full measure, from, and with regard to, you folks)!” (2 Cor. 10:3-6).
15. Thus, you also constantly have those being continuously strong in, and
retaining, the teaching of the Nicolaitans, likewise.
These folks also had the teachings of the Nicolaitans, as we saw in vs. 6, above. It is apparent that this teaching had spread in Asia Minor during the 1st century. From the very beginning, false prophets and false teachers (with their false concepts and flat, literal readings of Scripture) have been the adversaries (the satans, the opponents) of the message of the Christ. And they have brought controlling domination in their systems of theology which have engendered division and hate in the place of unity and love. We can hear in this verse what must have frustrated the risen Christ, just as the Judaizers had frustrated Paul. If this name is symbolic, the teaching that had “conquered the people” would have taken their freedom in Christ (Gal. 5:1). I second the admonition of Brian D. McLaren when he says,
“In the tradition of Menno Simons and the Anabaptists, we can learn to proceed less by loud disputation and bitter polemics and more by quietly building communities of peace and practice rooted in the teaching and example of Jesus…. In the tradition of the early Pentecostals, we can experience the fire of the Holy Spirit so powerfully that the dividing walls between races, classes and denomination will burn away” (A New Kind of Christianity, Ten Questions That are Transforming the Faith, Harper One, 2010, p 227-8).
Let us have no more Nicolaitans.
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GOD'S MESSAGE OF
WHICH BRINGS GOD'S
GIFTS OF HIS SPIRIT,
HIS LIFE, HIS GRACE,
HIS POWER, HIS
FAIRNESS, HIS PEACE
AND HIS LOVE