What is the Meaning of Revelation 2.12-17

“Message to Pergamos: Threatening Compromise”

Revelation 2:12-17

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Revelation 2.12-17

Rev. 2. Compromise. Is that a good word or a bad? Are you negotiating over a truck price? Compromise is good. In politics, compromise is good or is it…? What about compromise in the church? Not so much.

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In this case, compromise can be defined as “accepting standards that are lower than is desirable.” In the church, it would be accepting unbiblical doctrines and lifestyles.

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How do we evaluate compromised churches? It seems so many are compromised. How do we evaluate our own church? ANS: By the word of God! Jesus gives a perfect viewpoint in these 2 chapters.

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What about a church that is evangelical but associates with clear false teaching, inviting false teachers to their platform? What about a church that tolerate idolatry or fornication? What is Jesus’ viewpoint?

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Let’s read and find out.

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Revelation 2:12–17 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 Nicolaitans, 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.

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Jesus’ viewpoint of such a church is simply that He threatens a compromised church with war! This may be perhaps an alarming message, but I trust that you’ll understand I’m not attempting to speak, but I’m simply attempting to show you the word of God.

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Despite the fact that Jesus is threatening this church, he does commend them. That’s surprising…

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  1. Commendation (v.13)

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Revelation 2:13 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.

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  1. Where they live: Satan’s throne

EXP: They live literally where Satan’s throne is. That they live where Satan does is mentioned twice in v. 13, at the beginning and at the end. Satan has a sort of rule set up in Pergamos.

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The commentators have attempted to figure out why Pergamos was considered to be the place of Satan’s throne. There have been 3 major suggestions concerning why Pergamos was considered the place where Satan’s throne is. It’s kind of a puzzle, you decide which option you like the most.

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  • First option… Pergamos was home to a huge altar to Zeus, the god of war. The altar was in the form of a horseshoe 120 by 112 feet, a podium 18 feet high…the embellishment under the top structure runs for 446 feet [more than football field], and it depicts the battle of the gods.[1] You can visit it today. The worship of Zeus, is that why Pergamos was called Satan’s throne?
  • 2nd option, Pergamos or Pergamum was home to Asclēpius, the god of healing. Asclēpius’ temple was overrun with snakes, which is perhaps the reference the Lord has in mind regarding Satan’s throne since a serpent is pictured as Satan in Genesis 3 in garden. If the non-poisonous snakes touched you as you were lying in the temple, you were considered healed.
    • ILL: During our vacation, we drove close to an ambulance and I got a better look at it. The symbol on the ambulance was a vertical rod with a snake coiled around it. I was thinking that maybe they were trying to depict Moses and the bronze snake, but it’s not; the symbol of modern medicine is Asclēpius’ rod.
  • Your third option for why Pergamos is considered Satan’s throne, after the altar of Zeus and the home of Asclēpius, is the fact that Pergamos was also the main center for emperor worship. If you declined to say “Ceaser is Lord,” you could be executed. Christians obviously, could never say that.

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But it might not any of those and it may be a reason only the Lord knows. Or it could be one or all of them. We must hold to our opinion loosely because the text doesn’t tell us.

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What we do know is that the Lord has sympathy for them as they are living there. He says, “I know where you dwell.” He knows, He acts, He protects, He guides, He knows all our situations and gives us grace by the day.

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TRANS: He can have sympathy and compassion for them, even though some of the people are tolerating evil. And He commends them for their tenacious faithfulness in the face of persecution.

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  1. Tenacious Faithfulness Despite Persecution
    1. Antipas

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Revelation 2:13 13 [middle of the verse…] 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.

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EXP: Antipas was faithful and a wonderful example…the people along with him are holding fast to Christ and are not denying Jesus even in the face of persecution.

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Now, we don’t know much about Antipas. We do know that His name means “against all.” Everything else is written here. But he is wonderfully described as literally “My witness, my faithful one.” Not only is that in and of itself a wonderful description that any of God servants would want to have, this is also the description of Jesus Christ Himself in Rev. 1:5… “Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness.”

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Christ clearly views this man very highly.

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ILL: We rightly uplift those who sacrificed all for Christ. John Rogers was a man of that stature. Educated as a Roman Catholic priest, John Rogers of England met William Tyndale in the 1530s and was truly converted to Christ. After publishing the Matthew Bible, he married, and was teaching when Queen Mary Tudor, a Catholic, ascended the throne. He preached anti-catholic sermons and was summoned before the council and was ordered under house arrest with his wife and 10 children.

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After a long imprisonment in his own house, the Bishop of London caused him to be committed to prison among thieves and murderers. On 4 February 1555, he was warned to prepare himself for execution. He requested that he might speak to his wife before his execution, but it was denied.

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He was brought to the place of his execution, to Smithfield. Mr. Woodroofe, the sheriff, asked him to recant his polemics against the Catholic Church and was called upon to deny the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. John Rogers answered, “that which I have preached I will seal with my blood.”

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As he was brought to Smithfield, the people were rejoicing at his faithfulness to Christ. As he went to the place of his execution, his wife and children now numbering 11, met him along the way and they exchanged words. Yet he remained faithful and constant and refused to compromise.

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When he was attached to the post, the fire was put under him, and when it had taken hold of his legs and shoulders, he, as if feeling no pain, washed his hands in the flame. Keeping his hands in the flame until the fire devoured them, he then lifted what was left of his arms to heaven and was received into everlasting habitations.[2]

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“My witness, my faithful one.”

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And during the days of Antipas, there were others in the church who remained faithful also. They held fast to the name of Christ and did not deny him. They were tenaciously faithful in the face of persecution.

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APP: May we be as faithful as Antipas.

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TRANS: Even though they were tenaciously faithful in the face of persecution, the Lord has some things against them. And it is amazing to think that a citywide church so faithful also has the kinds of problems that the Lord mentions in verses 14-15.

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  1. Condemnation (vv.14-15)

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Revelation 2:14–15 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 Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

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A couple of things need clarifying here, but both of them have to do with the main issue at the end of verse 14: idolatry and fornication. In Numbers chapters 22-25, we have the story of Balaam and Balac. Balaam counseled King Balak to cause Israel to sin by committing fornication with Moabite women. Idolatry was also involved.

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That’s similar to the Nicolaitans. The Nicolaitans we saw back in Christ’s letter to the Ephesians in Revelation chapter 2:6. We don’t know much about this group and their doctrine other than it is wicked and it too is associated with idolatry and fornication.

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Pergamos didn’t hate the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, but the church in Ephesus did resist it.

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Christ writes to the Ephesian in Rev. 2:6…

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Revelation 2:6 6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

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But those Christians in Pergamos did not entirely reject it; some of them received the doctrine.

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Revelation 2:15 15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

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So some of those in Pergamos clearly received that doctrine, which again likely has reference to idolatry and fornication.

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So the main issue here is that those who are committing idolatry and fornication are allowed to remain in the church. That is intolerable to Christ and the Lord is going to hold them to account.

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  1. Tolerating Idolatry

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So, they were tolerating idolatry. The graphic picture of Balaam and later Jezebel indicates that actual idolatry was taking place, perhaps with reference to temple feasts and perhaps honoring Caesar as God and Savior.

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This is going on amongst those professing to be Christians in the city of Pergamos. And this kind of thing is going on in our city also. You could think of the idolatry of any Catholic Church.

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In the Ineffabilis Deus in 1854, Pope Pius IX defined the false dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, Jesus’ mother.

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“Let all the children of the Catholic Church, who are so very dear to us, hear

these words of ours. With a still more ardent zeal for piety, religion and love, let

them continue to venerate, invoke and pray to the most Blessed Virgin Mary,

Mother of God, conceived without original sin. Let them fly with utter

confidence to this most sweet Mother of mercy and grace in all dangers,

difficulties, needs, doubts and fears. Under her guidance, under her patronage,

under her kindness and protection, nothing is to be feared; nothing is hopeless.

Because, while bearing toward us a truly motherly affection and having in her

care the work of our salvation, she is solicitous about the whole human race.

And since she has been appointed by God to be the Queen of heaven and earth,

and is exalted above all the choirs of angels and saints, and even stands at the

right hand of her only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, she presents our

petitions in a most efficacious manner. What she asks, she obtains. Her pleas can

never be unheard.”

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This is idolatry. They do worship her, although they claim not to. What would you call someone who

  1. Is sinless (2 Co. 5:21)
  2. You must pray to (Ps. 5:2)
  3. You must fly to when afraid (Ps. 56:3)
  4. Under whose care is our salvation (Acts 4:10-12)
  5. Has been appointed a ruler (Acts 2:36)
  6. And sits at God’s right hand (Ps. 110:1)

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This is God. The Scripture assigns these qualities to God alone. Ascribing these qualities to anyone else other than God is idolatry. Our city tolerates idolatry. As Christ indicates in our text, it is not ok to embrace these folks as regenerated followers of Christ.

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TRANS: Not only was the church at Pergamos tolerating idolatry, they were also tolerating fornication.

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  1. Tolerating Fornication
    1. EXP: fornication

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Revelation 2:14 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.

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They are those there in the church, those who taught that fornication was acceptable. What is fornication? Fornication is a sexual relation committed by single people that is outside of the bond of a marriage between one man and one woman.

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Fornication is a sexual relation committed by single people that is outside of scriptural marriage. I’d like to survey some NT verses on this sin briefly…

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Paul teaches that to avoid fornication before marriage, you should marry.

1 Corinthians 7:2 2 …, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

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Marriage prevents fornication.

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Hebrews 13:4 also teaches that …. 4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers [fornicators] and adulterers God will judge.

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Judgment is reserved for fornicators, those who live that lifestyle.

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Those practicing fornication do not inherit kingdom:

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Galatians 5:19–21 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication… and he lists other sins like drunkenness and then Paul says …. “of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

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Are those who live a life of fornication saved? No. They are not Christians and shall not inherit Christ’s kingdom. In case you didn’t get it Paul says again…

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Ephesians 5:3–5 3 …. 5 For this ye know, [you know this…] that no whoremonger [again, that’s simply the word for fornicator…no fornicator … hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

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1 Corinthians 6:9–18 9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, … and he lists other sins… like drunkards… none of these shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God

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Christians used to practice those things… such were some of you …, but they do not do those things after truly coming to Christ.

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Christ has washed them! He delivered them, sanctified them, declared them righteous by faith in Him! And they now do not live a life of fornication.

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Colossians 3:5–6 5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication… and he lists other sins…. And then he says … : 6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:

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God’s wrath is reserved for those who fornicate.

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[I realize this is kind of harsh … but let’s be honest…God is not nice and God is not safe. Christ’s work is required for our wellbeing! And I am committed to your spiritual wellbeing for all eternity because I know this. If you are living in idolatry or fornication, we have to deal with it,… graciously, compassionately, but deal with it we must. Also, it is not safe for our church to tolerate fornication in our midst. Christ is the one who has the sharp two edged sword! “Oh pastor, speak to us nice words, and pleasant words. This is so harsh.” Is this not the text of Scripture?

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But this sin tolerated in the church broadly speaking….

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  1. ILL toleration in the church:

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The Methodist Church in the UK has voted just a month ago to approve of cohabitation and same sex marriage.

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The Methodist Conference has voted to allow same sex weddings on Methodist premises by Methodist ministers and affirm couples who are not married, but living together.

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The resolution reads: “The Conference consents in principle to the marriage of same-sex couples on Methodist premises throughout the Connexion and by Methodist ministers, probationers or members in so far as the law of the relevant jurisdiction permits or requires and subject to compliance with such further requirements, if any, as that law imposes.”

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The Conference also affirmed cohabitation, saying: “The Church recognises that the love of God is present within the love of human beings who are drawn to each other, and who enter freely into some form of life-enhancing committed relationship with each other, whether that be through informal cohabitation or a more formal commitment entered into publicly.”[3]

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The church in North America isn’t much better.

In IL, btw, common law marriages are not recognized.

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ILL: David J. Ayers writes in an article…

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Living together in sexual union outside of marriage is now accepted by most evangelicals. Those people who declare themselves that they are following Christ and are saved by his grace through faith alone… Most of those people believe that living together in sexual union outside of marriage is acceptable.

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Most evangelicals under the age of 45 have practiced cohabitation, or they plan to cohabitate with someone in the future, or they are open to the possibility.

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A Pew Research Center study in 2019 documented the acceptance of cohabitation among most Evangelicals. Specifics that I received directly from the authors, says Ayers, showed that 58% of white Evangelicals say they believe that cohabiting is acceptable if a couple plans to marry.”[4]

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Those are the stats. But we can’t accept the practice of cohabiting at Bethany Baptist Church and that’s because of at least the great temptation to sin and also because of the assumption of committing this sin of fornication. It is against Christ.

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Paul commands the church at Corinth not to associate with a fornicating so-called brother:

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1 Corinthians 5:11 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

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Paul specifically teaches not to associate with or even to eat with a fornicator who claims to be a Christian.

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TRANS: And if this sounds severe to you, that makes me happy because that is in keeping with severity of the text we’re studying .

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  1. Threat (v.12,16)

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Revelation 2:12 12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;

Revelation 2:16 16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” That literally refers to making war against them that are practicing idolatry and fornication.

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I dare say we don’t want to stand in Christ’s way on this. We need to obey the Bible immediately.

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CONCLUSION/PROMISE (v.17)

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Nevertheless, there is hope for those who are seeking Christ.

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Revelation 2:17 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.

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Jesus promises two gifts to the overcome, the victorious one. This is speaking of the Christian. To the true believer who has been redeemed in his life shows it, Jesus will give to him to eat first of the hidden manna and secondly Jesus will give to him a white stone with a new name written on it.

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The commentators are across the board on each of them.

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The Hidden Manna

Manna was the bread God miraculously gave to His people Israel in the wilderness. It came down from heaven. And Jesus refers to Himself as bread that has come down from heaven in John 6. This is why some think that this is spiritual food received in glory. And it is hidden because the unbelievers will never partake of it. It could be that, but we don’t know for sure.

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The White Stone

In an ancient court of law, when defendants were condemned, they received a black stone with their name on it. If they were acquitted, they received a white stone. So, it could be that the idea is that those who have trusted Jesus Christ for salvation will be ceremoniously acquitted in some fashion.

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Another explanation comes from the ancient Olympic games. When athletes won, they were awarded a white stone, which was a token of honor.[5]

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Either way, it is an honor … not just to receive it, but to receive it from Christ.

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Now, if you are tolerating any idolatry or fornication in your life, you need to know that you can receive mercy from God. Confess and forsake your sin, and you’ll find mercy from God. “God, be merciful to me the sinner!”

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Go to BibleTrove.com Home Page

Go to New Testament Books Page

Go to Revelation Main Page

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  1. Mac 7 churches page 93.

  2. https://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2005/john-rogers-of-england/

  3. https://premierchristian.news/en/news/article/methodist-church-votes-to-accept-same-sex-marriage-and-affirm-cohabitation

  4. https://ifstudies.org/blog/cohabitation-among-evangelicals-a-new-norm

  5. https://odb.org/US/2005/05/11/a-white-stone

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