The Doctrine of Balaam

Wim Malgo (1922-1992)

An interpretation of the last book of the Bible. Part 24. Revelation 2:14-16.


After the Lord’s praise of the church in Pergamos, a stern rebuke followed: “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit formication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing 

I hate. Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (Rev 2:14-16).

The persecution from the authorities and the Jews was unspeakably difficult for the believers in Pergamos. But they were able to persevere, because they had put on the full armor of God, held fast to the name of Jesus, and did not deny their faith. The Lord Himself is the One who wields the sword that pierces the Adversary’s armor. And whoever has this Lord in his heart cannot be defeated. In Christ Jesus, he rises above the throne of Satan and conquers, indeed over every temptation.

Yet, the Lord had “a few things” against them. So, it would seem to be a minor matter, even though it’s so serious; believers can be so fond of downplaying things, to trivialize their inner defeat and failure. But therein lies the shocking seriousness: while the children of God in Pergamos were victoriously resisting the external enemy, they were giving in to the internal enemy. We can see that fatal mixture of victory and defeat; following Jesus to death, and yet surrendering to the inner demands of the flesh. We need to consider verses 14 and 15 in this light.

The doctrine of Balaam had taken hold. Balaam’s doctrine consisted of the counsel that Balaam gave to King Balak (Num 22—25; 31:16). Balaam wanted to curse the people of God, but failed. He realized that Balak wouldn’t achieve anything with his army because Israel was invincible, so he stopped him from fighting them. But he also wanted to destroy the people of Israel. He managed to do so by seducing them to participate in idolatry and the usual connected fornication.

The “minor matter” was a deadly danger for Pergamos, just as the “harmless” dialogue between Eve and the serpent in Paradise was a trap with terrible consequences. And this sexual permissiveness had been elevated to doctrine there in Pergamos, probably through the influence of highly respected church members: “that hold the doctrine of Balaam” (Rev 2:14). That is why this terrible mixture came about in Pergamos: their resolute external adherence to the name of Jesus (v. 13), but then again, their dogged adherence to the teaching of Balaam (v. 14).

Not everyone was joining in. The Lord expressly said, “So hast thou also…” You have a number of people who have succumbed to the inner enemy! But although the others were resolutely following the Lord Jesus, a mixing had arisen in their church structure, because they were tolerating the fleshly ones. Their power was lost. And this has been repeated thousands of times up till today.

The Lord wants to divide with His sharp sword (His Word), because He doesn’t desire fleshly permissiveness, but rather for our flesh to be crucified with Christ. Fleshly fornication was occurring in Pergamos, because they had already been committing spiritual fornication. And this spiritual fornication was expressed through the church’s neutral attitude toward the ones who were straying.

The Lord says of the Ephesian church, “thou hatest the deeds...” (Rev 2:6). They took a clear stand against all heresy and carnal lust. However, in the case of the church in Thyatira, He says, “Thou sufferest [sin]” (Rev 2:20), meaning that it was tolerated. In Pergamos, these two groups and these two teachings (resolutely following Jesus and compromising with the flesh) were simply coexisting. And thus, the Lord judges this church’s inner neutrality most sharply.

Midnight Call - 10/2021

ContactAbout UsPrivacy and Safety