Pergamos was an ancient city in Mysia, some sixty miles northeast of Smyrna and the northern most city on the ancient Roman mail route in the Province of Asia. Pergamos is the Latin pronunciation of the Greek Pergamum. The original city was situated atop of a prominent mountain along the Caicus river, which emptied into the Aegean Sea about twenty miles west of the city. Later the city was built at the foot of the mountain, and the city’s temples to various gods stood atop the mount. Its name, Pergamos (G4010) is taken from pergos (G4444), meaning: tower or a fortified structure, so the mountain (viz. tower) formed a citadel, giving the impression that the city’s gods were able to withstand any attack of an enemy. Unlike Smyrna and Ephesus, which were renowned for their trade on the Aegean Sea, Pergamos was known for its culture and refinement, boasting of its large library whose only rival was that of Alexandria in Egypt, and its many temples to the honor of its numerous gods, including Asclepius, the serpent god of medicine and health.
Jesus addressed the church of Pergamos by introducing himself as “he who has the sharp sword with two edges” (Revelation 2:12). We find this sword mentioned first in Revelation 1:16. There, Jesus was described as someone who had a sharp, two edged sword coming from his mouth. Of course, the imagery is symbolic rather than literal. It is a metaphor used here by Jesus to remind believers at Pergamos that he is coming soon as the Judge, both to deliver his persecuted people and punish their enemies (Isaiah 11:4; cp. 2Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 19:13-15).
It seems that Jesus is drawing upon Old Testament imagery (cp. Psalm 2:8-9; 55:21; 57:4; 64:3; 110:1-7; Isaiah 11:1-4; 49:2; Daniel 2:44; Hebrews 4:12). Through Isaiah, the Lord promised the Messiah would arise out of the roots of Jesse, which is a prediction that a King would arise from the fallen Davidic line (Isaiah 11:1). Isaiah said:
“But with righteousness shall He judge the impoverished, and set right with equity for the meek of the earth: and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the blast of His lips shall He slay the lawless one (Isaiah 11:4 – emphasis mine).
The imagery is defined elsewhere in Scripture, showing the sword is the word of God (Isaiah 49:2; Malachi 2:7; Ephesians 6:17), so the Lord will “smite the earth” with his word—the Gospel, and “with the blast of his lips (preaching the Gospel) “shall he slay the lawless one.” Paul drew upon this image when he wrote his epistle to the Thessalonians. There he spoke of the coming of the Lord, just as the Apocalypse is doing. There Paul claimed,
“Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming” (2Thessalonians 2:8).
Therefore, from the very first verse of his letter to the believers at Pergamos, Jesus tells his disciples there that he intends to destroy the one who is causing all this trouble for them, i.e. the Lawless One (2Thessalonians 2:8) or that Man of Sin (2Thessalonians 2:3).
What I believe Jesus is implying through the Apocalypse’s depiction of him with a sharp sword with two edges is that the word (the Gospel) is mightier that the sword. What we preach about Jesus is mightier than what our enemies can say or do against us. Ultimately, it will be proved true that the Gospel is mightier than the power of its enemies.
Jesus depicts his word as a sword that his Kingdom is at war with the world (cp. 1Timothy 1:18), and although we are Jesus’ disciples, we are also soldiers in his army of believers (2Timothy 2:3; cp. Revelation 19:15-21). Yet, our warfare is not modeled after how mankind wages war, in that our weapons are not worldly. That is, they are not literal swords or literal weapons manufactured by worldly craftsmen (2Corinthians 10:4). Rather our only weapon is the word of God, the Gospel of Christ, which is mighty for the pulling down of the strongholds of the minds of men, i.e. to change men’s thoughts toward God from rebellion to submission (2Corinthians 10:4-5). We believe the word of God is just that powerful (Hebrews 4:12) and that there could never be a weapon devised by man either through actual warfare or slander that would have ultimate victory over the Gospel (Isaiah 54:17).