Having concluded His letter to the church at Smyrna, He now turns His attention to the church at Pergamum. He tells John,
"And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: 'The words of Him who has the sharp two-edged sword. (Revelation 2:12)
Recall from a previous post that we think "the angel" is likely the person who would be reading this aloud (1:3) to the church in Pergamum, likely one of the pastors of the church.
What do we know about Pergamum? Pergamum was a city in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). It was a significant cultural and religious center, complete with several temples dedicated to pagan gods. It was also a center of emperor worship and the first known place to establish a medical school, which was associated with the worship of the god Asclepius.
So Christ's church in that city had unique challenges. It is to this church that Jesus has John write, "The words of Him who has the sharp two-edged sword" (v. 12).
Earlier in 1:16, John saw in this vision given to him a sharp-two edged sword coming out of Jesus' mouth. We concluded in the post on that verse that this sword was the word of God, which Hebrews 4:12 says is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.
Why mention this sword to the church at Pergamum? It's because Jesus will judge by His word. He need not swing a literal sword in order to judge. He will judge based on His authoritative word.
In our next posts, we'll see exactly what Jesus wrote to this church. But for now, let's just focus on the reality that the Lord judges by His word. He judges based on His word, and He judges with His word.
In the same way that the church at Pergamum was being called to examine their practices under threat of divine discipline, so should our churches examine ourselves based on God's word. Christ is holy, and we are to be holy as He is holy, and since we represent Him, He will hold us accountable for how we behave ourselves, including what doctrines and practices we allow into our church families.
Remember that Christ is gracious. He has forgiven every sin of those who believe in Him. But that's not the emphasis of this particular verse. Christ is also zealous for God's house. He was not too gracious to turn over tables and swing a whip at people when God's temple was being defiled. Let's bear that in mind as we strive to follow Him faithfully with our churches.