Osborne, Grant R. Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002. Location: Ellis BS 2825.53.O73 2002
II. Churches Addressed (1:9-3:22) pp. 77-217.
B. Letters to the Seven Churches (2:1-3:22) pp. 104-217.
“3. Letter to Pergamum (2:12-17)” pp. 138-150.
Pergamum, the addressee of the third letter in Revelation, was a major city which had been developed as a military fortress by Alexander the Great. The city subsequently grew as a place of great strategic importance. In the second century B.C. it also became an intellectual center, with a great library (Osborne 2002, 138). The city was also home to many important temples, including those dedicated to human rulers. The importance of the imperial court may be responsible for the persecution of Christians, who not only refused pagan worship but appeared hostile to the Roman government (Osborne 2002, 139).
In Revelation 2:12 Christ is described as having a double-edged sword, which Osborne recognizes as a typical Roman instrument of justice. Since it is also a sign of sovereignty, the scene shows Christ as the sovereign who can excecute justice, even as the superior to the Roman government (Osborne 2002, 140).
In verse 13, the Christ knows the world the people live in, the witness of the people, and how they endure. Osborne notes the fact that the church is permanently resident where Satan rules (Osborne 2002, 141). This would likely refer not so much to the various temples in Pergamum but rather to the “Roman opposition and persecution of Christians” as central (Osborne 2002, 141). Rather than giving in to opposition, the church holds firmly to the name of God. Osborne notes the forceful language used here. The Christians claim Christ as their identity. They are apparently not willing to retreat from their position (Osborne 2002, 142). Though the term “witness” did not necessarily have the connotation of one who died for his faith at the time of Revelation, Osborne notes that death as a result of a Christian testimony was certainly not uncommon (Osborne 2002, 142).
Revelation 2:14-15 attacks the church at Pergamum for tolerating the Nicolaitan heresy. Osborne notes that this would endanger the whole local church, as the attack came from within (Osborne 2002, 143). The nature of the Nicolaitan heresy is defined here as the teaching of Balaam. In Numbers 25:1-3 the Israelites fall prey to immorality and idolatry (Osborne 2002, 143-144). While the doctrines of the Nicolaitans are not made plain, Osborne suggests the problem was probably related to practices, and likely those of idol or emperor worship.
The solution to the problem at Pergamum is presented in Revelation 2:16. The people are called to repent and change their ways (Osborne 2002, 146). If they do not do so, the Lord will come swiftly with judgment. Osborne notes that the church can go to war against the heretics or the Lord will do so, but he will have a broader effect (Osborne 2002, 146). He will bring the sword of His mouth, eventually bringing peace throgh His Word (Osborne 2002, 147).
Verse 17 calls the hearers to listen and overcome. Those who hear will be faithful and will receive the gifts of God, particularly “hidden manna” (Osborne 2002, 147). While the specific meaning of hidden manna is unclear, Osborne thinks it may have a relation both to the idea of the eucharist and to God’s eternal provision for His people (Osborne 2002, 148). The identity of the “white stone” promised is quite elusive. Osborne considers numerous possible interpretations but does not settle on any one of them (Osborne 2002, 149). However, both the hidden manna and the white stone are signs of God’s good favor in the eschaton.