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Summary: SMYRNA WAS A SMALL BUT DEDICATED CHURCH. THEY COURAGEOUSLY FACE PERSECUTION AND ARE REMINDED OF THE PROMISED REWARDS OF FAITHFULNESS. THE SECOND OF SEVEN IN THE SERIES.

CHRIST CALL’S FOR MORAL COURAGE

REVELATION 2:12-17

TODAY WE LOOK AT THE THIRD OF SEVEN MESSAGES THAT GOD GIVES THE CHURCH THROUGH HIS SERVANT JOHN. EPHESUS WAS A CHURCH THAT HAD LOST IT’S FIRST LOVE, SMYRNA WAS A STRUGGLING CHURCH THAT KEPT THE FAITH IN SPITE OF GREAT PERSECUTION. PERGAMOS WAS A CHURCH THAT FACED THE FAR GREATER THREAT OF COMPROMISE OF THEIR SPIRITUAL VALUES.

PERGAMOS WAS LOCATED ABOUT 60 KMS. NORTH OF SMYRNA AND 15KMS. FROM THE AEGEAN SEA. IT WAS THE OFFICIAL CAPITAL OF THE PROVINCE OF ASIA MINOR. HISTORIAN PLINY CALLED IT, “BY FAR THE MOST FAMOUS CITY IN ASIA.” IT IS PRESENT DAY THE CITY OF BERGAMA IN TURKEY WAS A CITY BUILT ON A HILL AND STOOD 1000

FEET ABOVE THE SURROUNDING COUNTRYSIDE.

IT WAS A CITY KNOWN FOR THREE THINGS:

1 IT’S INTELLECTUAL ACHIEVEMENT: IT HAD THE SECOND LARGEST LIBRARY IN THE WORLD WITH OVER 200,000 VOLUMES. EVERY BOOK WAS WRITTEN BY HAND ON PAPYRUS OR PARCHMENT. IT WAS AT PERGAMOS THAT A TECHNIQUE TO SMOOTH AND POLISH TANNED ANIMAL SKINS WHICH WOULD BE KNOWN AS “PARCHMENT” WAS DEVELOPED. IT WAS MUCH STRONGER THAN PAPYRUS WHICH WAS MADE OF REEDS AND WOULD ONE DAY REPLACE PAPYRUS COMPLETELY.

2 IT’S POLITICAL POWER:

PERGAMUM WAS A CITY BUILT ON A HILL AND STOOD 1000 ABOVE THE SURROUNDING COUNTRYSIDE. THIS MADE IT A NATURAL FORTRESS AGAINST ATTACK. IT HAD EASY ACCESS TO BOTH THE MEDITERRANEAN AND AEGEAN SEAS WHICH MADE IT VERY IMPORTANT AS A TRADE CENTER. BECAUSE OF ITS DEFENSIVE LOCATION AND ITS IMPORTANCE AS A TRADE CENTER, IT BECAME VERY IMPORTANT TO THE ROMANS POLITICALLY AND GOVERNMENT WAS ESTABLISHED THERE.

3 IT’S PAGAN WORSHIP:

PERGAMOS WAS A CITY OF MANY TEMPLES AND IDOLATRY. THE ROMANS DIDN’T CARE WHAT GOD OR GODS YOU WORSHIPPED AS LONG AS YOU WERE WILLING TO WORSHIP CAESAR AND ACTUALLY PLACE HIM ABOVE ALL OTHER GODS. EVERY YEAR THE PEOPLE WOULD GO TO ONE OF THREE TEMPLES DEVOTED TO EMPEROR WORSHIP, PUT A PINCH OF INCENSE ON THE ALTAR AND SAY “CAESAR IS LORD”. IF PEOPLE DID NOT DO THIS THEY COULD BE EXECUTED.

PERGAMOS WAS THE ADMINISTRATIVE HOME OF THE ROMAN GOVERNOR. ROMAN GOVERNORS WERE DIVIDED INTO TWO CATAGORIES:

1. THOSE WHO HAD THE “RIGHT OF THE SWORD”, WHICH MEANT THAT THEY HAD THE RIGHT TO EXECUTE A PERSON ON THE SPOT.

2. THOSE WHO DID NOT HAVE “THE RIGHT OF THE SWORD.”

THE ROMAN GOVERNOR IN PERGAMOS HAD THE RIGHT OF THE SWORD AND WOULD USE IT ON THE CHURCH.

PERGAMUM WAS THE HOME OF OTHER TEMPLES TWO OF WHICH ARE:

ASCLEPIOS: THE GOD OF HEALING AND MEDICINE. HIS TEMPLE WAS FILLED WITH SNAKES AND WHEN SOMEONE NEEDED HEALING THEY WOULD SPEND THE NIGHT ON THE FLOOR IN THE TEMPLE. IF A SNAKE CRAWLED ACROSS THEM DURING THEIR STAY THEY WERE CONSIDERED HEALED. SOUNDS FAR FETCHED BUT THE SYMBOL OF THIS GOD WAS A SNAKE ENTWINED AROUND A STAFF. IT IS THE SYMBOL OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION TODAY.

DIONYSUS: THE GOD OF WINE AND ORGY. THE PEOPLE WOULD COME TO PLAYS IN A MASSIVE OPEN-AIR THEATER THAT WOULD HOLD 10,000 PEOPLE. THEY WOULD THEN GO NEXT DOOR AND EAT AND DRINK UNTIL THEY THREW UP AND FOUND THEMSELVES IN A STATE OF SEMICONSCIOUSNESS. THEN THEY WOULD HAVE SEX WITH THE TEMPLE PROSTITUTES. THIS WORSHIP WAS SO IMMORAL THAT IT WAS FINALLY OUTLAWED BY THE ROMANS.

DEMETER: THE GODDESS OF GRAIN.

IT IS TO THIS CITY, FILLED WITH IDOLATRY, TEMPLE PROSTITUTION AND EMPEROR WORSHIP, THAT JOHN’S THIRD LETTER IS WRITTEN TO.

REVELATION 2:12: TO THE ANGEL OF THE CHURCH IN PERGAMUM WRITE: THESE ARE THE WORDS OF HIM WHO HAS THE SHARP, DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD.

CHRIST HAS UNIQUE WAYS OF INTRODUCING HIMSELF TO EACH OF THESE CHURCHES. HE IS THE ONE IN EPHESUS “WHO HOLDS THE SEVEN STARS IN HIS RIGHT HAND AND WALKS AMONG THE SEVEN GOLDEN LAMPSTANDS”. HE IS THE FIRST AND THE LAST, WHO DIED AND CAME TO LIFE AGAIN, FOR SMYRNA. HERE IN PERGAMUM HE IS THE ONE WHO HAS THE SHARP, DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD AND BEGS THE QUESTION WHY?

A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD IS A WEAPON OF WAR. THEY ARE DESIGNED TO GIVE THE PERSON WIELDING IT THE OPPORTUNITY TO DEFEND AGAINST ATTACKS COMING FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE ATTACKER. IT IS EQUALLY DEADLY FROM EITHER SIDE.

IN ENGLISH WE HAVE DEVELOPED THE EXPRESSION THAT SOMETHING “CUTS BOTH WAYS” IN RELATIONSHIP TO THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD. SO WHY DOES JESUS USE THIS DANGEROUS WEAPON TO DESCRIBE HIMSELF?

THE CHURCH AT PERGAMUM WAS A GOOD CHURCH, BUT IT HAD ALLOWED THE POISON OF COMPROMISE TO GAIN ENTRY IN ITS RANKS. COMPROMISE IN SOME THINGS CAN BE ALL RIGHT. I CAN COMPROMISE ON THE COLOR OF CAR WE BUY, WHERE WE EAT ON FRIDAY NIGHT OR WHAT WE WATCH ON T.V. BUT WE CANNOT COMPROMISE ON THE BASICS OF THE FAITH. LIGHT AND DARKNESS CANNOT MIX, NOR CAN THE THINGS OF GOD MIX WITH THE THINGS OF THE WORLD.

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