Summary: Pergamos is the third church that Jesus addresses in Revelation 2. It is a church like so many today that have compromised the Word of God.
Pergamos: Satan’s Throne
Pergamos was about one hundred miles north of Ephesus, with Smyrna located about halfway in between. Unlike Ephesus and Smyrna, Pergamos was not a port city but was located about fifteen miles inland from the Aegean Sea. Not was it on any of the major trade routes. Yet, as its ancient capital, Pergamos was considered Asia’s greatest city. By the time John wrote this section of Revelation, Pergamos had been Asia’s capital for almost 250 years. It still survives today as the Turkish city of Bergama.
Much of Pergamos was built on a large, conical hill towering some one thousand feet about the plains. Which made it a heavy will fortified city.
Pergamos was as home to a huge library with approximately 200,000 handwritten volumes, which was only second to the library in Alexandria. Because of its library, Pergamos was an important center of culture and learning. The physician Galen, second only in prominence to Hippocrates, was born and studied in Pergamos. The city saw itself as the defender of Greek culture in Asia Minor.
Pergamos was an important center of worship for four of the main deities of the Greco-Roman world, and temples dedicated to Athena, Asklepios, Dionysos, and Zeus were located there. But overshadowing the worship of all those deities was Pergamos’ devotion to the cult of emperor worship. Pergamos built the first temple devoted to emperor worship in Asia, in honor of Emperor Augustus. Later they built two more temples to other emperors. Those it became the center of emperor worship in the province, and there, more than in any other city in Asia. Christians were in danger of harm from the emperor worship cult. Elsewhere Christians were primarily in danger on the one day per year they were required to offer sacrifices to the emperor; in Pergamos they were in danger every day. It is likely that the martyr Antipas was executed for refusing to worship the emperor. The church at Pergamos was one that lived and served in the shadow of Satan’s headquarters.
Notice with me the introduction Jesus used to introduce himself to Pergamos as the one “which has the sharp double-edged sword” (v. 12). In ancient times, the highest symbol of authority was the sword. It represented the greatest authority that people knew. It represented absolute authority. His introduction leads one to believe that God was not all that happy with the church. But let’s see what Jesus had to say to them.
I. Dedication (v. 13)
a. Notice the dedication of this church.
i. Here was a church in the shadow of Satan’s throne and Jesus noted their dedication.
ii. Imagine their struggle
iii. The headquarters of Satan is a strategic place where he can best use his influence.
b. Jesus tells them, “You remain true to my name.”
i. To remain true to the name of Jesus means they were loyal to the person of Jesus.
ii. The name is a symbol of the Person.
c. Then Jesus goes on to say, “You did not renounce your faith in me.”
i. That means they had not denied the purpose for which Jesus came
ii. They had not turned their back on the gospel.
d. Despite the difficult circumstances in which they found themselves, the believers at Pergamos courageously maintained their faith in Jesus Christ.
II. Détente (vv. 14-15)
a. There was problem in Pergamos.
i. It is a problem that exists today as well, perhaps more strongly than ever in history.
ii. Notice their détente.
1. Détente means: an easing of friction between two parties.
2. It means compromising so as not to muddy the waters.
b. The church was faithful; it believed in Jesus
i. It was a strong church, an orthodox church.
ii. They had not denied his faith, but they were tolerating false views.
iii. They tolerated what should have been expelled from the church.
iv. The church didn’t hold false doctrine.
v. It was a proper, orthodox, fundamental church.
vi. But it held fellowship with those who did.
vii. That was the thing Jesus attacked.
c. What did they allow in their fellowship?
i. First of all, they allowed the doctrine of Balaam.
1. Balaam was called by a king to curse Israel in Numbers 22-23.
2. Balaam did not try to change the theology or to curse the nation.
3. He just encouraged them to compromise the purposes of God.
4. He polluted the people socially and spiritually.
5. The end result is seen in verse 14, a stumbling block before the children of Israel, and it resulted in the eating of things scarified to idols and committing immorality.
6. They taught that orthodoxy gave license to sin.
a. Believe the right thing and you can do anything you want to do.