Verse 10: He tells these embattled believers not to fear even though they will soon enter a season of greater persecution. Though human beings will be the agents who cast some into prison, this is a spiritual assault and their real enemy is the devil himself. And though he may afflict them for a brief season of time (for ten days), he cannot reach beyond the grave. The worst he can do is kill them, but if they remain faithful, refusing to renounce Christ, they will be victorious over the devil, and Jesus will reward them with eternal life. By promising I will give you the crown of life, the Lord pictures the moment when He will honor them openly like a successful warrior or athlete. In ancient Greek culture a laurel wreath was placed on the victors head, but Jesus will crown His overcomers with eternal fellowship with God and a resurrected body (Jas 1:12). And who can doubt that He has the power to do so since He Himself is the great overcomer who was dead, and has come to life (v 8).
Verse 11: At first it might seem odd to tell these believers do not fear what you are about to suffer (v 10), and then to assure them they were entering a period of intense testing by the devil. But God intends to comfort them, not by hiding the truth from them, but by putting it into perspective. He wants them to see that the religious persecution they would soon face, as painful as it might be, pales when compared to the second death. Thats the danger to be feared above all else (Mt 10:26-28). The devil might torment us and even kill us, but the object that truly deserves to be feared is the second death, which as well discover later on in these prophesies involves the lake of fire (Rev 20:14; 21:8). The first death is physical death, which is the separation of the human spirit from the body. The second death is spiritual death, which is the eternal separation of the human spirit from God. Anyone willing to humbly listen to the Spirits warning will be strengthened by these words and stand firm in the face of persecution.
Verse 12: The Lords third charge is to the church in Pergamum. It is the northernmost of the seven cities, located about 45 miles north of Smyrna on the coast road which runs through both Ephesus and Smyrna. It is interesting to note that from Pergamum onward each of the remaining five cities mentioned progress in order from north to south down a main interior road that also connected to Pergamum. In other words, the seven cities are addressed in the same natural order that a traveler would experience if one started at Ephesus and headed north through Smyrna and then turned inland and south at Pergamum. Since John had lived for years in Ephesus as a pastor, he probably walked that same route numerous times visiting congregations.
Revelation 2:12, 13
Verses 12, 13: The Lord introduced Himself to this church as the one having the sharp two-edged sword. Believers in that city had already faced the threat of the Roman two-edged sword. One of their members named Antipas had died a martyrs death very likely because he refused to participate in the worship of the Roman emperor. Pergamum hosted the first temple in Asia (built about 29 B.C.) dedicated to the worship of the Roman emperor, and participation in that worship was considered a loyalty test to Rome (M.J.S. Rudwick on Pergamum in the New Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, ed., Erdmans, pp. 967-968, 1962). Anyone refusing to do so was considered a traitor, so the church constantly lived under the threat of the sword.
Revelation 2:12, 13
Verses 12, 13 (continued): But the Lord who confronts this church presents Himself as an even more dangerous opponent than their Roman oppressors. He too wields a sharp two-edged sword, only His is not a physical weapon it is the word of judgment which He will speak against some in the church if they do not repent. And they must do this soon because He us coming with that sword quickly (v 16). Verse 13: He wants the church to know that He understands the severe pressure they are experiencing. He tells them they are living in a terribly oppressive environment. He says, I know where you dwell, where Satans throne is
. There were in Pergamum numerous temples to various pagan gods and goddesses (Zeus, Asciepius, Athena, Dionysus) but such temples existed in every city in the region. Their presence did not make Pergamum unusual. What set that city apart was its temple to the worship of the Roman Emperor (Rudwick, op. cit., p. 968).
Verse 13 (continued): The deification of a political leader combined with the threat of physical violence if anyone does not worship that leader is, of course, the very essence of the spirit of antichrist. In fact, it is the final and most extreme oppression of this antichrist spirit, which will be pictured so vividly to John in chapters four through 22 (Rev 13:11-18). So, Pergamum, in particular, was enduring a foretaste of that antichrist spirit which will someday be manifest for a short season over all the earth. Verse 13 (continued): Jesus also described their city as a place where Satan dwells emphasizing that a strong, active demonic presence hovered over that place. All false religion is attended by demonic activity (1Co 10:20; Lv 17:7; Dt 32:17), but where Satan has been able to manifest the antichrist spirit, that presence is especially intense. One of the marks of the last days will be an absolute saturation of demonic presence (Rev 9:1-3). Pergamum was also getting a foretaste of that terrible spiritual climate.
Verse 13 (continued): Believers in that city should be aware that they were living in a stifling environment, yet in spite of this, had been victorious over Satan. Jesus affirms that they had stood firm and not withered under pressure. Neither persecution nor spiritual oppression had been able to make them deny Him as Lord. He says,
you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you
. Verses 14, 15: Though they had a very positive history, a serious situation had arisen involving some, but not all, of the church members. Those affected had been seduced by a false teaching, which came in the guise of a prophetic insight. The heresy had become a movement, which was spreading from church to church. Very likely it had been started by a man named Nicolas who, hopefully, was not the deacon mentioned in Acts chapter six (Ac 6:5). The Lord calls it the teaching of the Nicolaitans (followers of Nicolas), but He also calls it the teaching of Balaam who was a corrupt prophet who helped to bring severe judgment on Gods people (Nu 22-25).