Summary: This is the third in an eight part series on the seven churches of the Revelation
It was the third of seven. The city of Pergamum, or Pergamos as it is called by some translations (It’s the same name simply the masculine and feminine forms) didn’t have the beauty of Smyrna nor the commerce of Ephesus however it was still a great city in it’s own right, a city of culture and government. If we pull up a map we can see that it was located about sixty kilometres north of Smyrna and fifteen kilometres from the Aegean Sea, Pergamum was the official capital of the province of Asia Minor. Located on a three hundred meter high conical hill it commanded the surrounded area with it’s presence. And from the city you could see the Mediterranean Sea twenty kilometres in the distance. The Roman Historian Pliny called it “By far the most famous city in Asia.”
Pergamum was known for several things, probably it’s greatest accomplishment was the huge library that had been built. Considered to be the second largest library in the world outside of Alexandria, it contained over 200,000 parchment scrolls. Here is a picture of what is left of the Library, if it was like every other library I probably had outstanding fines. It was actually the library that led to the second thing Pergamum was known for. The story goes that 300 years before Christ a ruler of Pergamum seeking to expand the great library wooed Aristophanes of Byzantium, who was the librarian at Alexandria to come to work for him. However Ptolemy who was the ruler of Egypt was a little cranky when he discovered that he could lose this outstanding scholar. So he threw the librarian in chains, that’s what you call job security and then he imposed an embargo on the shipment of papyrus to Pergamum. Papyrus you might recall was the primary medium for writing in that day. Well as they say; necessity is the mother of invention, and if Pergamum was going to continue to have a great library they would need something different the papyrus to make their scrolls with.
And so the great minds of Pergamum got together and developed a technique to smooth and polish tanned animal skins to develop what came to be known as the Pergamum material or in the Latin – parchment which of course finally replaced papyrus completely.
And so it was to the church in Pergamum that Jesus spoke saying Revelation 2:12 “ Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum. This is the message from the one who has a sharp two-edged sword:
Perhaps you’ve noticed the different titles that Jesus uses for the different churches. To the church in Ephesus he described himself as the one who walks among the churches, to the church in Smyrna, a city that had been destroyed and rebuilt he describes himself as the one who died and is alive. And here in Pergamum his description is the one who has a sharp two-edged sword. So what? Good question. 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. However Christ is reminding those believers that the last word is still with Him, he has the sharp two edged sword. Rome might be powerful but Christ is more powerful.
And so Christ begins with the COMMENDATION he has for this church. Revelation 2:13 “ I know that you live in the city where that great throne of Satan is located, and yet you have remained loyal to me. And you refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you by Satan’s followers.
Three things we need to note
1) I know that you live in the city where that great throne of Satan is located The city of Pergamum had three primary religious philosophies when this letter was written. 800 feet up the hill the city stood on was a forty foot altar used to present sacrifices to Zeus, the king of the Greek gods. This altar looked like a throne carved into the side of the mountain. At the base of the altar was an incredible carving depicting the Battle of the Giants, which in mythology was when the Greek Gods defeated the giants of the Mother Earth. By this time though the religion of Zeus was in it’s twilight so that probably wasn’t what Jesus was referring to as the great throne of Satan.