Summary: The inland city of Pergamum was located about fifty-five miles north of Smyrna, along the fertile valley of the Caicus River. It was built on the southern slope of a hill that rises almost one thousand feet from the surrounding plain that provided both b
THE REVELATION OF JESUS
PERGAMUM - THE COMPROMISING CHURCH
Revelation 2: 12-17
The inland city of Pergamum was located about fifty-five miles north of Smyrna, along the fertile valley of the Caicus River. It was built on the southern slope of a hill that rises almost one thousand feet from the surrounding plain that provided both breathtaking scenery and military security. Today the modern city of Bergama sits at the foot of this hill
Pergamum (which means citadel in Greek) held the official honor of being the provincial capital of Roman Asia. Ephesus and Smyrna also claimed this title.
Among it’s notable features were its beauty and wealth, it’s library of nearly two hundred thousand volumes (second only to Alexandria), it’s famous sculptures, its temples to Dionysus, Zeus, Athena, Asclepius and Demeter and the three temples to the emperor cult.
(NOTE: The people of Pergamum loved books so much they invented parchment, a way of using animal skins as paper).
Two main religions flourished, the worship of Dionysus, the god of kings, symbolized by the bull. And Asclepius, the savior god of healing, represented by two snakes inner twined around a pole.
Pergamum practiced careful city zoning. The poor lived at the foot of the mountain; the next level was the business district; above that the rich lived in their villas; finally at the top were the important public buildings and temples.
In the lower part of the city was the famous temple to Asclepion. A complex of several buildings served as a combination temple-hospital. Patients came from all over the world expecting to be healed by the god Asclepius.
This great city has another characteristic, Satan has his throne there. We’ll get to that in a minute
Characteristic vs 12
Jesus emphasizes to the believers of Pergamum that he has the sharp, double-edged sword. Through out Revelation the sword symbolizes God’s word. Here, Jesus’ word has the power to judge and conquer his enemies.
The Roman proconsul exercised the power of the sword from his judgment seat in Pergamum. His word held life and death for those before him. He had the power of persecution, but not ultimate power. Only Christ has total power over everything.
This word brought comfort to those who were faithful to Jesus and fear to the Balaamites and the Nicolaitans.
Compliment vs 13
Twice our Lord notes the presence of Satan in the city where these believers lived. The original significance of the throne of Satan is not totally clear. Some scholars believe that the following interpretation to a large degree is representative of the truth.
Satan has a kingdom; Babylon has from earliest times been considered the capital of this kingdom. Idolatry gained its start in Babylon through Nimrod and his mother. As long as Babylon was a dominant power, it made an excellent headquarters for the enemy’s attack on men. It is highly probable that as Babylon declined Satan looked for a new city, choosing Pergamum because of its strong idolatrous religions.
I have entered cities with no gospel witness. The cloud of oppression hangs like a chocking fog. No doubt these were the conditions under which the church at Pergamum was faithfully preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The throne of Satan could also refer to the huge altar to Zeus that overlooked the city. In Smyrna the synagogue of Satan was Jewish, in Pergamum it could be pagan.
Any way you look at it, the devil had used his stronghold in this city to make life miserable for the Christians. One member of the congregation, a faithful witness known as Antipas had made the great sacrifice of being put to death.
While believers in other places might have buckled in the face of such pressure, Christ complimented the believers who did not renounce your faith in me.
Many within the Christian family feel it would be easier to live in some other city where people are more sympathetic to Christianity. They want a convenient Christianity.
The Christian life is not an escape, but conquest. Believers with great conviction willingly stand alone. They will face down any foe. Some will go to the point of death for their Lord.
i.e. many of you have served in the military, willing to give your life for our country. How much more should we be willing to lay it down for Jesus!
Our witness can be costly. It may mean that we live as an outcast of society because we don’t buy into the values of our society. One reason the church has little power is that its hard to tell the difference between the church and the world. Is there conviction today that makes the church distinct from the world?
Criticism vs 14-15
The church at Pergamum apparently had the opposite problem of the Ephesian church. Rather than testing and rejecting false teachers, they had accepted people who hold to the teaching of Balaam. They had coped with the external threat of persecution, but did not deal with the threat from within the church. Satan had infiltrated the church and his servants had introduced destructive heresies.