The Church of Total Tolerance – Revelation 2:12-17


Welcome to My Thoughts and the third of seven segments of the Revelation Churches called The Church of the Total Tolerance. This letter goes to the Church at Per-ga-mum. In the first segment, we discussed the Church at Ephesus – The Loveless Church. In the second segment, we talked about the Church at Smyrna – The Persecuted Church.

We live in a world where we are told to be tolerant of everything. According to the current philosophy so prevalent in our culture, we are not supposed to stand for anything, say anything, or do anything that might offend someone who disagrees with us.

We have become so politically correct, even in the church world, that our tolerance has led to weakness, lack of purpose, and utter confusion. We need to understand that there is a great deal of difference between being tolerant and loving someone as Christ loves them.

Apologist, author, and speaker Josh McDowell writes:

  • Tolerance says, “You must approve of what I do.” Love responds, “I must do something harder: I will love you, even when your behavior offends me.”
  • Tolerance says, “You must agree with me.” Love responds, “I must do something harder: I will tell you the truth, because I am convinced ‘the truth will set you free.”’
  • Tolerance says, “You must allow me to have my way.” Love responds, “I must do something harder: I will plead with you to follow the right way because I believe you are worth the risk.”
  • Tolerance seeks to be inoffensive; love takes risks.
  • Tolerance glorifies division; love seeks unity.
  • Tolerance costs nothing; love costs everything.

The Compromising Church

Today, as we consider the church at Pergamum as Jesus sees it, we read about a church in Revelation 2:12-17, that had confused tolerance with love, and therefore quit doing church as God intended.

12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘He who has the sharp two-edged sword:

13 “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast My name, and you did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 

14 But I have a few things against you because you have some there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 

15  Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 

16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. 

17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone,  and on the stone, a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.’

There are five main instructions Jesus gives the church at Pergamum.

  1. Remember Who it is You Follow

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword” – Revelation 2:12.

 We need to remember just who it is that we have pledged our allegiance to. It is not to our culture, it is not to a denominational structure, it is not to a political party, but our allegiance is to Jesus Christ. The Christ we have devoted ourselves to, as individuals and as a church, identifies Himself as the one with “a sharp two-edged sword.”

Roman governors were divided into two classes, those who had the right to the sword and those who had not. Those who had the right of the sword had the power of life and death; on their word, a person could be executed on the spot. The Roman proconsul, who’s headquartered at Pergamum, had this right of the sword, and at any moment he might use it against any Christian.

Jesus reminds us that the last word is still with the Risen Christ, who has a sharp two-edged sword. The power of Rome might be satanically powerful; the power of the Risen Lord is greater yet.

  1. Remain Faithful Under Pressure

“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” – Revelation 2:13.

Wow! Can you imagine living in the place that Jesus says is where Satan’s throne is located? Let me give you a little background on the city of Pergamum:

  • As you entered the city to your right was the temple of Athena.
  • You would also run into the great temples of Caesar Augustus and Hadrian.
  • There is a great altar to the god Zeus with an idol on it near the palace.
  • You would also find the temple of Dionysius, who is the same as Bacchus, the god of wine, the goat god who is depicted with horns, and the upper body of a man, but the lower body of a goat, complete with cloven feet and a tail.
  • There is also the temple of the god Asklepios, who was depicted as a serpent.

I think you can see why Jesus refers to “Satan’s throne” in regard to Pergamum. The Christians in this town were faced with opposition from all sides. The religious culture was certainly against them, as was the morality of those who lived there. We think that we live in an immoral culture, but this is nothing compared to what the believers in Pergamum faced.

Jesus commends them for their loyalty to Him, for their willingness to stick it out, and for their ability to remain faithful, even when one of their own was martyred. I believe the same commendation is in store for us. In our present world, we find that it isn’t very popular to be a Christian, to take a stand, and to not hesitate to state what we believe and why.

We will come under pressure at work, with our friends, and often with our families because we believe that Jesus is truly the Son of God, who died, and who rose again. What we must remember, is that in the end, the throne of Jesus outshines the throne of Satan a thousand-fold. The commendation we receive now pales in comparison to the one to come when the end of all things takes place and we are surrounded by His glory forever.

  1. Reject Those Who Reject Me

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” – Revelation 2:14-15.

Here is where the rebuke comes in. The church at Pergamum, while they loved Jesus and had stuck with the faith, at the same time they tolerated the intolerable. It is not necessarily that they participated in activities that were contrary to God’s word, but they tolerated those activities and teachings, knowing they were wrong. Some were involved in idol worship, some in sexual sin, and others were engaged in things contrary to what God had taught them.

It is one thing to show love to those who differ from us, it is quite another to allow those teachings and activities that are contrary to God’s will into the program of the church. While I’m all for loving the sinner and hating the sin, I also realize that there is a line that can be crossed that cannot be tolerated by the church of Christ.

Today we see it in many venues. We have people telling us that it is wrong not to allow homosexuals places of leadership in the church when God’s Word clearly tells us that those who engage in homosexual sex are committing sin. We have others telling us that it is wrong to insist on Jesus being the exclusive way to heaven and that we should tolerate other means, such as through Buddha, Confucius, Transcendental Meditation, Self-Worship, and so on.

Yet Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6. While we want to love all people, even those who strongly disagree with us, and even those who would try to persecute us, we cannot ever let down our guard or allow those promoting false views of God into the church.

We’re not talking here about differences in music styles, how to dress, or how long or short your hair should be. We’re talking about people who are chopping away at the foundation of Christianity. Jesus clearly tells us not to tolerate that type of thing.

  1. Repent of Total Tolerance

“Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth” – Revelation 2:16.

To “repent” means to change direction, to do a U-Turn with your life. In this case, He is calling the church to change direction and quit tolerating the false teachings and activities that have been going on. Interestingly enough, Jesus returns to the sword. He will come against, not the church as a whole, but the false teachers, with the sword of (His) mouth.”

The “sword” is used symbolically to describe Jesus as the Word of God. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intention of the heart” – Hebrews 4:12.

Paul speaks of the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” – Ephesians 6:17b. The sword of Christ is the word of Christ.

Jesus is reminding the church at Pergamum, as well as our church, that He is the one who wrote the script, who discerns truth and error, and who judges right and wrong. We need to always remember that our instruction comes from the Word of God, even when that instruction conflicts with the tolerance in the world.  The purpose of not tolerating those who opposed God is not only keeping the church pure but also eventually winning them over by the love of God found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  1. Receive Your Reward

“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 2:17.

As Jesus did in the previous churches, He gives the church at Pergamum, and us, encouragement for the days to come when we find ourselves tempted to give into total tolerance. There is a reward coming in particular, the manna of heaven, and a white stone engraved with a new name, known only to its recipient.

There are many interpretations of what these gifts are that Jesus offers to the church, and I’d rather not speculate on all the possibilities. Instead, let’s consider what we know to be true:

In the Old Testament, when the children of Israel had nothing to eat, God miraculously gave them a continuous supply of manna to eat. A pot of the manna was kept in the Ark of the Covenant and placed before the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and the temple. Here Jesus refers to the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. I believe He is referring to Himself, the bread of life, the manna of our salvation. Once some people asked Jesus to give them manna like Moses had given their ancestors in the wilderness.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven, but my Father gives the true bread from heaven. For the true bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” – John 6:32-33.

The point is that our reward is to be with Jesus forever, where we will never thirst or hunger again. Jesus also promises us a white stone with a unique name written on it, known only to the person who receives it.

It’s helpful to learn that the people of Asia Minor to whom John was writing had a custom of giving to intimate friends a tessera, a cube or rectangular block of stone or ivory, with words or symbols engraved on it. It was a secret, private possession of the one who received it. Christ says that He is going to give each of His own a stone with a new name engraved upon it.

I’m pretty sure that it won’t be a new name for you and me, but instead, it will be a new name for Him. I believe that each name will be different because He means something different to each one of us. Jesus is promising each of us a name by which He can be summoned, and it will be a name unique to the one who has been given the stone. It is a name only known by you and the Lord who gave it to you.


The choice comes to each of us individually, and also corporately as a church —will we be tolerant of all who come against God’s Word, or will we be faithful to the one who gives us His promise?

At this church we have already chosen — we choose to follow God and His Word, no matter who opposes us, and no matter what they might try to do to us. It is because we know that God knows what He is doing and that He will always come through those who are faithful to Him, Amen!

I am Dale Van De Bogart and I fully agree with God’s Word!

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