Because the city of Pergamum was the capital of Asia it was the administrative home of the Roman Governor. Roman governors were divided into two categories those who had the “Right of the Sword” and those who didn’t. Those who had the “Right of the Sword” literally had the power of life and death, on their word a person could be executed on the spot. The pro-consul who had his office in Pergamum had this right of the sword and at any moment could use it against the church. Apparently it was used against Antipas.
John Stott describes the probable scene this way, "It is not hard to reconstruct the scene which probably saw the death of Antipas. Known to be a Christian, he was summoned before the Proconsul of the Province. This civil leader was also chief priest of the imperial cult. A bust of the emperor was set on a plinth, and sacred fire burned before it. To sacrifice to the genius of Rome and the divine Emperor was a simple matter. All he had to do was sprinkle a few grains of incense on the fire and say, "Kurious Kaisar," (which means) Caesar is Lord. Then he would be released. But how could he deny Christ’s name and faith? Had he not at his baptism been proud to affirm his faith? Had he not at his baptism been proud to affirm his faith in the simple words, "Kurious Iesous", "Jesus is Lord." Had he not been instructed that God had exalted Jesus to His own right hand and set Him far above all principality and power and every name that is named, and given him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father? Had his teachers not assured him that to say "Jesus is Lord" was a sign of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, whereas no man can say "Jesus be cursed" when speaking by the Spirit of God? Such thoughts as these will have invaded the mind of Antipas as his Christian faith was exposed to its supreme test. Whether he wavered or not we cannot say. All we know is that he was given more grace to stand firm, to hold fast Christ’s name and not to deny Christ’s faith. He would indeed render to Caesar the things that were Caesar’s but he must also remember to render to God the things that are God’s. (Antipas) could not bring himself to give to Caesar the title that belonged to Christ. Christ was his Lord, not Caesar, even if it meant the whip, the sword, the lions or the stake. And because Antipas would not deny Jesus, he was killed.”
Do you ever wonder how you would’ve acted if you had been in Antipas’ shoes? Do you ever wonder if you’d be strong enough to endure what he endured? We can and should thank God that we live in a country where we have freedom of worship. And hopefully the day will never come that we’ll be told to deny Jesus or be killed. Chances are it won’t. But we may find that our faith in Christ is about to cost us a friend or a job promotion---if that happens I hope we’ll show the courage of Antipas.