“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.” ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ -Revelation 2:12-17
Jesus has a mighty weapon which is the weapon of His warfare, the sword of His mouth, the very Word of God. He is coming soon and will bring one, final, holy war down upon all they who follow after the teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. Will you be among the slain? Before we can answer this, we first need to know what these teachings are which earn the Lord’s wrath that He would bring against them the mighty sword of His mouth.
But before we look at these false and apparently very dangerous teachings, a word about the true teaching of the Christian faith, which you have already read several times if you have been following this series. The true Christian faith teaches this: You are a sinner. You’re more sinful than you can imagine. This is terrible news because Scripture teaches that the wages of sin. Is. Death.
I’m not talking, "kinda death." I’m talking horrifying, end-of-life-as-you-know-it, final, and total absence of being. Existence snuffed out. It’s what Jesus refers to as the second death. Like really, really, dead, dead and gone. Only, unlike the first death, there’s no coming back; no resurrection; no being preserved by God for the raising of all flesh on the Day of the Lord. You’re gone, truly and utterly cut off from the Creator and Sustainer of life, and lost forever to the void. It doesn’t get any worse than that.
False teaching, leading to false belief, leading to idolatry and unchecked, unrepentant sin, leads to this kind of death. A false belief about God or concerning false gods leads to death for it leads away from God who is life. This is why false teaching is so awful, so vile, so atrocious. It’s why, in every letter to the seven churches, the thing that Jesus has against the churches can be traced back to, or narrowed down to, false teaching and belief.
But there is good news. God has had mercy upon you and has sent His only begotten Son to die for you. For His sake, He forgives you all your sins. Your death is swallowed up in His death; your sin exchanged for His perfect righteousness. What’s more, He has taught and made provision for you to continue to continue in this truth and what it means that Christ is for you. Having been born of the virgin, suffered, died and buried, then rising on the third day, He has provided substitution for you! He has satisfied the wrath of God that would have fallen on you, even the very sword of His mouth which He will bring to war against all those who falsely teach with twisted words and lies that other words which are not God’s Word are true. He brings you to faith through His Word, through baptism, through the Lord’s Supper, and keeps, sustains, and preserves you in this faith through the same.
I hope that these last two paragraphs help you understand the weight and gravity of the dilemma that faces us within this letter to the Church in Pergamum. It is no insignificant matter. Eternal life and death, your life or death, hang in the balance. That is why Jesus would speak so sternly as to posit this incredibly harsh warning. He is coming to war against them—them being the those who deal falsely with the truth, the Word, even Jesus Himself—with the sword of His mouth. The question is, will you be among them, or are you in Christ?
Do you wonder what it means for Christ to come and war against you with the sword of His mouth? I have already said that the sword of Christ’s mouth is that double-edged sword of the Spirit, the Word of God—one side being the Law, the other the Gospel.
If you have read Christ Hold Fast, listened to the podcasts, or been to any of the conferences and City Events that Christ Hold Fast contributors have spoken at, you have likely come face to face with the absolute beauty, and had your breath taken away by the awesome power of the unadulterated, unconditional Gospel of Jesu Christ. You also know that the Law is an unrelenting, unmerciful, vicious minister of death which always accuses. Yet, in the Gospel, the Law’s accusations are silenced.
Now imagine that you reject this Word of the Gospel, of Christ for you. Imagine that you deny it, proudly and perpetually trusting in your own ability to save yourself, refusing to repent of your works, all stained by sin, like filthy rags. When you refuse to hear the Gospel, rejecting the truth of Christ as a lie, then, when Christ comes to you with the sword of the Word, and you refuse to hear and receive the Gospel of that sword, all that is left is the other edge of that sword, the Law. And without the Gospel, the other side, the Law, will do what it was never intended to do to you: utterly and eternally condemn you to death, even to die twice, finally and forever in what He calls the second death.
Do you take issue with this? Has not God made every provision that He might preserve you from this fate? Jesus has said by His very death on the cross, “Over my dead body will you be condemned to death for your sins.” And would those who intentionally step over Christ’s dead body to throw themselves into the bottomless pit of hades blame God? The day is drawing close when Jesus will come to bring war on the earth with the sword of His mouth. And all those who have rejected His word of Gospel will have no one to blame but themselves. See, Jesus has come and continues to come to us in mercy and with repentance and faith as a gift in hand that it might be ours.
And by this Word of the Gospel, all its blessings and promises—faith, forgiveness, salvation, justification, eternal life, innocence, righteousness, favor, mercy, sanctification, a new heart, and the gift of the Holy Spirit—are yours. All these are yours for Christ’s sake, earned by His finished work, received by faith, and preserved by His work alone.
To be continued…
Brandon is married to Becky and together they have two daughters and a son. Previously, he has served in the armed forces as an infantryman for seven years, from 2001-2008. In 2004, and again in 2007, he was mobilized for overseas deployments to combat zones where he ran force protection and peacekeeping missions, and would tell you he is still learning from those experiences. He has served in children and youth ministry, jail outreach, and as an officer on boards for evangelism and missions. In his spare time Brandon likes to read books about sin, grace, and faith. He also writes for the CHF blog, enjoys thought-provoking movies and shows, and has actually sipped craft beer so good he hopes it's the micro brew they serve in heaven. But his true passion, even if expressed in great weakness, is and always will be sharing the scandalous message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. None of us deserve it, but we are forgiven. This is most certainly true.