Summary: It was a church with a bad environment. Its virtues were perseverence in an evil environment but it is reproved for its tolerance of wrong doctrine and heretics.
The Letter to the Church at Pergamum
Rev. 2: 12-17
We started to look at the letters written to the Seven Churches in Asia as a series. Let us just refresh our memory on the seven churches.
1) Ephesus Rev. 2:1-7
It was an orthodox church, with good works, patience, sound doctrine, church discipline and hatred of evil. But it suffered from backsliding and loss of its first love.
Catchword: First Love
2) Symrna Rev. 2:8-11
This was the poor, rich church, that we looked at last time. It had spiritual endurance and heavenly treasure and is one of the two churches (the other being that of Philadelphia) to have no reproof.
3) Pergamum Rev. 2:12-17
It was a church with a bad environment. Its virtues were perseverence in an evil environment but it is reproved for its tolerance of wrong doctrine and heretics.
4) Thyatira (pronounced Thy’at’ira) Rev. 2:18-29
Thyatira, the church of the evil prophetess, was commended for its love, spiritual service, faith and patience but reproved for its lax discipline and tolerance of a corrupt prophetess.
5) Sardis Rev. 3:1-6
It was the dying church. For most of its members there was nothing to commend it for, though some were commended for purity. It was reproved for extreme formalism, imminent spiritual death and inactivity.
6) Philadelphia Rev.3:7-13
It was a weak but loyal church and was commended for its witness and faithfulness to God’s Word. It received no reproof.
7) Laodicea Rev. 3:14-22
It had nothing to recommend it. On the contrary it was condemned for its lukewarmness, spiritual conceit, no conscious need, spiritual poverty and spiritual blindness.
Historically it represents the Last Days and today it represents popular self satisfied worldly churches.
A small town Bergama stands on the site of Pergamum today. This was a city in the west of Asiatic Turkey. It occupied a commanding position near the seaward end of the valley of Caicus. It became important only after 282 BC when Phil’et’aerus revolted against Ly’sim’achus of thrace and made it his capital of what was to become the At’tal’id kingdom which was bequeathed by Attalus III in 133 BC to the Romans who formed the province of Asia from it.
The first Temple of the Imperial cult, where the Roman Emperor was worshipped as a god was built in about 29 BC in honour of Augustus and Rome. The city boasted a religous supremacy in the province, though Ephesus was the commercial capital of the region.
Where in the letter the Lord speaks about satan’s throne, He refers to the complex of pagan cults, of Zeus, Athena, Dionysus and As’clep’ius.
It was here where worship of the divine emperor was made the touchstone of civic loyalty under Domitian. It marked a crisis for the church in Asia. Probably Antipas was the first brought to judgement and executed.
The Nicolaitans were probably an early church group who took their name from Nicolas of Antioch and who thought that they could work out a compromise with paganism to enable Christians to take part in some of the religious and social activities of the close-knit society. Here, in this letter, the Nicolatains are emphatically equated with Balaam. If this is the case, then the Nicolaitans could be derived from a Greek version of the Hebrew "Balaam" and therefore the name is allegorical of the policy of the sect being likened to that of the O.T.corrupter of Israel (Nu.22). In that case the Nicolaitans can be identified as one of the groups attacked by Peter in 2 Pet 2:15 for their advocacy within the church of pagan sexual laxity.