Summary: Congregations today are in peril of being like the Church in Pergamum: confessing Christ in a culture that is unfriendly to Christianity, but embracing the lifestyle of those who are not Christian.
Revelation 2:12-17 Church in the Shadows Pergamum
December 2, 2007
"Pergamum: The Church in the Shadow of Satan’s Throne"
This letter was written "to the angel of the church in Pergamum." As in all the letters, the angel is a divine messenger. This is in keeping with the opening verses of Revelation that tell us the Revelation of Jesus Christ is sent from God through Christ to an angel and then to John to give the message to the churches (Rev 1:1-2).
"To the angel of the church ...(Rev 2:1)" is a reminder that spiritual and divine forces are at work and are watching. Each of the angels of the churches, is a messenger who might be a presbyter/elder/priest, a bishop, or an evangelist is held by Christ (Rev 1:16,20) and lives in the presence of Christ; another reminder that the churches are under the guidance and protection of Christ, through a this-world, human agent.
John was told to write to the angel of seven different churches in Asia Minor. In apocalyptic language, seven is the number of completion or perfection. These seven churches represent all, the complete number of churches of Asia Minor. The seven symbolic churches also represent the full and complete number of all churches of all times and all places including our mission in this place this day. In writing to the church at Pergamum, Jesus also had us in mind.
"To the angel of the church in Indianapolis write...."
Pergamum was a very important political and religious center in the Roman Empire. Politically, it was the capital city of the province of Asia. Religiously, it was a center for pagan and emperor worship. Of the seven cities, Pergamum was the one in Asia in which the church was most likely to clash with the civil and religious authorities at the end of the first century. A person interested in history, reflects on what happens when government is in a position to control religion, or enlist religious leaders to their cause.
That didn’t work well in Europe in the days of Nazi Germany, or in time past when religious leaders, whether from Rome, Geneva or London either proclaimed themselves to be both sovereign in church or state, or held hands with the government. It didn’t matter historically whether it was a Protestant, Roman Catholic or pagan leader, it doesn’t work well for a tyrannical government to control all the engines of a culture.
Pergamum was an unusually difficult environment for a Christian church.
How fitting is the title of Jesus Christ: "These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword" (vs 12). This title, like the titles found comes from the vision of chapter 1: (Rev 1:16) In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. Pergamum, the capital of the Roman province of Asia, was the place of residence of the Roman governor. The power of the sword belongs to the Roman proconsul; he had the right to grant life or death, to pardon or to execute.
"These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword." The Greek says: "These are the words of the One having the sword, the two-edged, the sharp." By this title Jesus reminds the Christians of Pergamum that the Roman governor is not the only one with a sword. By this title Jesus challenges the sword of the Roman governor and the Roman Empire. By this title Jesus remindws the Christians of Pergamum that there is a sword that is greater than that of any earthly power. By this title Jesus reminded the persecuted Christians of Pergamum that ultimate power over life and death belongs to God and not to Caesar.
As God, Christ is everywhere present. He is all-knowing. He is all-seeing. Not only that, but Christ is also the One who "walks among the golden lampstands", that is, He is the One Who walks among the churches (cf Rev 1:12, 20; 2:1). So He can say "I know" to each of the seven churches (cf Rev 2:2, 9, 13, 19, 3:1, 8, 15).
"I know ..." says the risen and glorified Christ. Revelation states that Christ knows three things: the pagan world in which they lived, the faithful witness of the Church, and their Christ-like endurance under persecution.
Christ said: "I know where you live" (Rev 2:13). The word for "live" means is the place where you eat and sleep, conduct business and work, shop, play and raise your children. "I know where you live." Christ knew everything about the environment the Pergamum Christians live in. He knew what they had to endure, what they had to face. He knows the temptations and trials that confront all Christians everywhere. He knows the evil that surrounds us.