"And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; 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." (Revelation 2:12-13)
In stark contrast to the steadfast and pure church of Smyrna, the reader finds the corrupted church at Pergamos. The Sword represents the living Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Christ's Word would judge the sin in this church.
The Lord begins by acknowledging their difficult position. In the city of Pergamos (Pergamum) stood an image of the Greek god Zeus which stood fifty feet high and rested on a base of one hundred square feet. Many believe that this is the seat of Satan to which the text refers. Regardless, this was a wicked town with many pitfalls and temptations.
"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. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate."
Nevertheless, the Lord does not overlook the need for purity in the assembly. A difficult situation never justifies bad doctrine. Balaam's counsel to Balac when he feared the encroaching Israelites was to bring God's curse upon them through idolatrous and immoral relationships with the Moabites (Numbers 25:1, 31:16). In a similar fashion, false teachers in the church of Pergamos were teaching that Christians need put no difference between the idolatrous love feasts of their day and the pure worship of Jesus Christ. They boldly taught that a man could have fellowship with both devils and Christ - something against which Paul gave warning (I Corinthians 10:20-21). Sometime later in his book Against Heresies, Irenaeus would write against these seducers.
Wherefore also it comes to pass, that the most perfect among them addict themselves without fear to all those kinds of forbidden deeds of which the Scriptures assure us that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21). For instance, they make no scruple about eating meats offered in sacrifice to idols, imagining that they in this way can contract no defilement. Then, again, at every heathen festival celebrated in honor of the idols, these men are the first to assemble; and to such a pitch do they go, that some of them do not even keep away from that bloody spectacle hateful to both God and men, in which gladiators either fight with wild beasts, or singly encounter one another. Others of them yield themselves up to the lusts of the flesh with the utmost greediness, maintaining that carnal things should be allowed to the carnal nature, while spiritual things are provided for the spiritual. Some of them, moreover, are in the habit of defiling those women to whom they have taught the above doctrine, as has frequently been confessed by those women who have been led astray by certain of them, on their returning to the Church of God, and acknowledging this along with the rest of their errors...(Chapter 6:3).
Irenaeus' description might well fit any number of today's religious people. On every front, false teachers are blurring the lines between the world's music, dress and entertainment. Thousands of Christians have been led astray and numerous people, saved and lost, have been irrevocably turned away from the things of God due to such hypocrisy. The word separation has become a hated word, reserved for those who have been labeled as "troublemakers" by the ungodly and the ignorant.
"Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 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." (Revelation 2:16-17)
To such people, Christ gives but one option, "Repent." Change your mind and your actions, and return to Me. The Lord was not open for dialogue concerning impurity then; and He is not open to dialogue concerning impurity now. The Lord promised that His Word would prevail.
Christ gives a promise of encouragement at the end. The white stone is actually a stone of acquittal. In that day, a white stone indicated innocence while a black stone indicated guilt in a court of law. The Lord promised that His true child would ultimately be justified by none other than God Himself. "...If God be for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?" The false teachers could continue to corrupt and damage if they so chose to; however, ultimately, God will justify the righteous and condemn the wicked. False doctrine will destroy a church; it should be immediately extinguished and its teachers excommunicated from God's assembly. The cost is too high to permit its continuation.