“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.”
This text contains a part of the message which John was commanded to send to the angel of the church of Pergamos, one of the seven churches of Asia. This church had her dwelling, or location, where Satan’s seat was, consequently was exposed to many temptations and much persecution. She is commended for holding fast the name of him that hath the sharp sword with two edges, and for not denying the faith, in the trying hour in which one of their number had suffered martyrdom. Still there were some things in this church reproved; the doctrine of Balaam, and the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes was held by some who were in some way connected with the church. Under these circumstances the church is addressed and encouraged to hold fast that which is approved of God, and to still stem the torrent of persecution, and admonished most solemnly to put away from them those things which the Lord hates. This message is addressed, like all other divine communications, to all who have an ear to hear. No man in an unregenerated state ever had an ear to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they &e spiritually discerned.” These words were used by our Lord, (Matt. xi. 15,) and they are prefixed to several important communications addressed to the churches in this book, from which we learn, first, that all the communications of the Spirit of God, in the gospel, or under the dispensation of the gospel, are addressed to the church, or body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and not to the world at large, and secondly, that all who have an ear to hear the communications of the Spirit, are born of God, and have a vital interest in the kingdom of Christ, and are subject to the reproofs, and made welcome to the consolations thereof. What the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law; but what the Spirit saith unto the churches, or what the ministration of the Spirit addresses to the body of Christ, is addressed to all who have ears to hear. The communication of the Spirit to the church of Pergamos, in this case is, “To him that overcometh, will I give,” &c. These words imply a conflict, a warfare, a struggle; and the connection explains the nature of the strife, the parties engaged, and the matter in dispute. The parties are the church on the one side, and Satan and his legions on the other; the war is between truth and error; the doctrine and order of the gospel contended for by the church and saints of God on the one hand, opposed by the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitanes on the other. The doctrine of Balaam was that in which he taught Balac, the king of the Midianites, to cast a stumbling block before Israel, to cause the Israelites to sin.
The doctrine of the Nicolaitanes is supposed, by Dr. Gill and others, to have reference to heresies in the church of Rome, in which they forbid their priests to marry, and recommend celibacy to virgins, which led to the most extravagant licentiousness, and for which pardons and indulgences were given by the Romish church. This doctrine, it seems, had been insinuated to some extent in the church of Pergamos, and of this church was admonished to repent.
“To him that overcometh” these temptations, heresies and abominations, and bare with patience the persecution to which they were exposed, by their steadfastness in the truth, should be given to eat of the hidden manna. Allusion is here made evidently to the manna on which Israel was fed in the wilderness, and which was laid up in the golden pot, and kept in the most holy place. As when God brought out his chosen tribes from the abominations of Egypt, and fed them on manna sent down to them from heaven, so those who should be delivered from the idolatry, heresy and abomination set forth in the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitanes, shall be fed on the pure gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of eating the things offered to idols, they should eat that bread which comes down from heaven, live by faith upon the Son of God, who is the true and living bread. This is truly a hidden manna; a food of which all are strangers until they are born of God.
“And I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” White stones, it is said, were given to the conquerors in the Olympic games, with their names written upon them, and the value of their prize. As the apostles have sometimes borrowed figures from the usages at the Olympic games, it has been thought that this figure is thus appropriated in this case to show that the conquerors in this spiritual conflict with the man of sin, shall after that similitude receive expressions of the divine approbation.
Whatever period or state of the christian church may have been especially designed by the Pergamos church, we cannot flatter ourselves that the present state of the church is perfectly free from the corruptions set forth as staining the fair reputation of the church of Pergamos. Jude speaks of those characters as having crept into the christian profession and become associated with the saints, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into licentiousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. These, he says, are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear. He calls them clouds without water, carried about of winds, trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots, raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame, wandering stars to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. Of these he says, “Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for a reward, and perished in the gainsayings of Core.” Balaam seems to be a striking type of those hireling prophets and false teachers who have ever been seeking for the patronage of earthly potentates and human governments, and goaded on by excessive love of princely honors and emolument, have always been ready to betray the cause of truth, and lay plans for seducing the saints of God from the pure doctrine, practice and order of the church of the living God. The Baptist church has been beset with these lovers of the wages of unrighteousness for the last half century. And although by their counsel, many have gone out from us, yet it is to be feared there are still some remaining, if not in direct communication with the church of God, who are at least permitted to spot, stain and pollute, our feasts of charity. By the counsel of these Balaams, the fair daughters of Midian flourish their gaudy dresses of Benevolence, Temperance, Missionism, to allure, decoy and seduce, if possible, the sons of Zion. And if there are none of these Midianish women brought into our camp, entailing plagues and judgments upon us, we have much cause to rejoice. To oppose these and to keep from being contaminated by them, requires a constant vigilance and much hard fighting, (but not with carnal weapons). And have not those who have overcome in these conflicts truly been fed on heavenly manna, such as the world and anti-christ know not of? Have they not received divine manifestations of the approbation of their Lord and Master?
From our subject, let us be admonished to depart from all iniquity, to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, to fight the good fight, and confidently look for that final victory, in which our God will make us more than conquerors through him that loved us.
December 15, 1856.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 412 - 415