Summary: To show how a church may subtlety compromise their witness in the world.
Pergamos - The Compromising Church
Text: Revelation 2:12-17
Introduction: The city of Pergamos was situated 80 miles north of Smyrna twenty miles inland in what is now Western Turkey. In its day it was the capital of Mysia, a Roman province in the NW. of Asia Minor. Unlike the two previous cities we have encountered in our studies of the seven churches, Pergamos was of little commercial significance. It was rather a city of religion and culture. Within its walls you would have found art galleries, gymnasiums, great sports arenas, a 50 000 seater stadium, and a library housing 200 000 volumes which was the envy of the ancient world.
But it wasn’t the arts or the academics or athletics which drew most visitors to the city of Pergamos, it was its religious character. Every year thousands of pilgrims flocked to this city to worship the various deities on display and seek healing , for Pergamos was home to Aescalapius, the Greek god of medicine and healing who was symbolised by a serpent. Indeed the temple housed a living serpent in honour of the god. The presence of Aescalapius was marked by the Aescalapium, an immense area housing the temple, library, a theatre, a porticoed gallery, an amphitheatre, hippodrome and Roman baths.
Did Aescalapius heal? Were there any healing at Pergamos? Indeed there was, for just as today healings are accomplished in places of pagan worship and apostasy so too Aescalapius was accredited with certified healings, in fact large numbers of healings. A dumb man was said to have been given back his speech, a blind girl recovered her sight. History records that one Marcus Aurelius was cured of lung trouble. It was commonly believed that no patient be left uncured, an unlikely record. However, it is true that before you might approach the god for healing your ailment had to be certified as humanly incurable.
Friends, healings and cures prove nothing. The god of this world is well able to produce his own miracles to buoy up falsehood. We must not be duped into believing that a healing, which appears to be a good thing, might not be the vessel of deceit. The devil is very clever, you know! He will do you a little good, if it will lead you into a lot of bad.
Now, let us consider the church which was situated in this hotbed of idolatry and paganism. In vs 12 we read “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges.”
The word Pergamos has within it the same root from which we get the Eng. words for bigamy & polygamy. Of course this was the name of the city, but it was also a fitting name for the church, for here was a church engaged in mixed marriage with the world. It was not on the whole disloyal to Christ, but it was rather a church guilty of bigamy, loving those who hated the Lord. To this church the Lord spoke as “he which hath the sharp sword with two edges.” Of course we know that the two edged sword is a symbol of the Word of God. But there is another element to the imagery which we must not miss.
The sword, in Roman estimation, was the symbol of the highest order of official authority, with which the Proconsul of Asia was invested. The Romans had a saying “jus gladii” which meant the right of the sword, it was equivalent to the power of life & death. When the Lord Jesus spoke of Himself as “he which hath the sharp sword with two edges,” he was making the point that it is He, not Caesar who holds the power of life & death, and it is He who has absolute authority over men. It was in that capacity he addressed the official capital of the Roman province of Mysia.
What then did the Lord have to say to the church at Pergamos? Well, from this letter we find three areas of concern which Jesus addressed. They were;
I. Comfortable In The World. (verse 13)
A. Always the Lord begins by saying “I know.”
1. At Ephesus “I know thy works...”
2. At Smyrna “I know thy tribulation...”
3, At Pergamos “I know where thou dwellest.”
B. And where were they dwelling? They were dwelling where Satan’s seat is.”
1. Friends, that is no place for a Christian to dwell.
C. Of course in a literal sense, the people at Pergamos were involved in snake worship, and we know that Satan is described as “that old serpent, the devil.”
1. So in this regard the Lord describes Pergamos as the city where Satan’s seat (throne) is.
2. But we must not get the idea that Satan’s reign is confined to one place on earth, for we must remember he is the god of this world.