Summary: Pergamos: The church of the undecided
Pergamos: The Church of The Undecided
Revelation 2:12-17, “"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: "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. And yet I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you who are like Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to worship idols by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. In the same way, you have some Nicolaitans among you--people who follow the same teaching and commit the same sins. Repent, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth." Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Everyone who is victorious will eat of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
The road from Ephesus led north along the sea coast for about forty miles; then it turned inland to the north-east; and fifteen miles inland, it lead to the valley of the Caicus, which there stood the city of Pergamos. Unlike Ephesus and Smyrna, Pergamos was a capital city with an air and atmosphere all its own. It had been the capital of the Attalid kingdom, which was one of the parts into which the empire of Alexander the Great broke up. In 133 B.C. the dying king of Pergamos willed it into possession of the Roman Empire thus it never went to war with Rome. Rome immediately made her the capital of the province of Asia an honor, which the city retained until 133 AD. The greatness of Pergamos was not found in its commercial eminence and commanding trade position that Ephesus, and Smyrna had; rather it was found in its historical greatness. There were a few things that made Pergamos truly great. Those were its library, and religion.
Pergamos had one of the most famous libraries in the ancient world. History has told us that it contained no fewer than two hundred thousand books, an astonishing number considering that in that day they had to write everything out by hand. The word parchment was taken from Pergamos because of its great literary activity.
Pergamos was also internationally famous for being a center of religious activity. John uses the words, “Where Satan’s seat dwells”, which was a reference to the altar of Zeus. The altar was eight hundred feet above up the hillside, ninety square feet, and twenty feet high. This was not believed to be the reason why the Apostle John uses this language to describe this altar. It is because of the Caesar worship in Pergamos that John says that this is the Seat of Satan. The worship of Caesar was centered in Pergamos just as Smyrna was. When a temple to a god was made that city would be given the title, which in the Greek is neokoros, meaning temple sweeper. Literally that city would be the temple sweepers of that particular god. The sweeping of the temple was obviously the most menial and humbling of all the religious duties. It was the city’s greatest privilege to render service to god who had taken up residence within it. Pergamos though was a city where the worship of Caesar was the most intense. Even more so than Smyrna, to be a Christian in Pergamos literally meant more than taken your life into your own hands; it meant making a decision between having the Lord of all or the Lord of none. The Christians in Pergamos either were Decided for the Lord, or Undecided for the Lord. Many in Pergamos who had called themselves Christians under persecution denied that they were Christians, but many also did not.
In the backdrop of all of this was a temple of worship to Asklepios, or as the Romans like to call it Aesculapius meaning the god of healing. This god’s temple was called the Asklepeion where suffers from all over the ancient world came to be healed. In this temple they had a medical school, priests, and medical wards. The word Asklepios was Asklepios Soter, or Asklepios the Savior. Now Soter means Savior, and is the Name in, which Christians uniquely and exclusively call out to for Salvation. It is no wonder that the Christians there felt that the application of this title to a heathen God was indeed a satanic perversion of the truth. There is more to the worship of Asklepios though than catches the eye. The emblem of Asklepios is the serpent. The serpent in the Bible is a reference to Satan. This is why the Apostle John refers to this city as the place where Satan’s throne is. Satan tries with all his power to lead us away from God, but Jesus Christ stands before the Father in defense for all those who call out on the name of Jesus. Jesus fights Satan on our behalf. Satan was a member of God’s very inner court, but as a result of Satan’s pride and jealous in wanting to become like the Most High Himself he was booted out of heaven. This temple of Satan was so closely related to Pergamos that it was often said that Asklepios was the Pergamene god. The Devil tries with all his might to torment those who call out on the Name of Jesus Christ and yet while he may try; he is not as powerful as the One who stands at our defense. It is because of His Death on the Cross that we are no longer condemned to die, but are able to now have life and eternal redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ, so that we would no longer suffer in the eternal wrath of God but share in the joy of knowing Him who died for us.