Summary: The church at Pergamum
The Church at Pergamum: A Compromising Church - Revelation 2 - 1/24/10
Turn with me this morning to the last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation, chapter 2. We want to continue on today, looking at the question, “What does God think of His church?” Here in Revelation 1, we find the disciple John, living on an island off the coast of Turkey, writing about 95 AD, some 65 years after Jesus has died and resurrected. He is given a vision of Christ, and Jesus gives John a message in chapters 2 & 3 for 7 churches in Asia Minor, the area we know today as Turkey. Jesus has words of encouragement and words of rebuke for these churches. And we want to look at these churches to see what message God might have for us as well.
First we looked at the church of Ephesus. It was a CARELESS church. This was a large church, an active, working church, a well-taught church, a weathered church, they hard faced trials -- yet it was a church that faced a rebuke. We often look at large, active churches as healthy churches, but often they are not. Jesus told the church at Ephesus they had lost their passionate love for God. And we want to make sure that we are always more concerned about who we ARE, in our hearts, than just being concerned about what we DO.
Then, we looked at the second church, the church at Smyrna. It was a CRUSHED church and a CROWNED church. They faced pressure and poverty and putdowns, but they faithfully endured, and so they received commendation from the Lord. The Lord tells them that persecution will come, but to continue to live faithfully and He would reward them greatly.
Today we go on to look at the church at Pergamum. It is a COMPROMISING church. Let’s read the message to this church in Rev. 2:12 -17. READ - PRAY.
As John writes to these 7 churches, he writes in the geographical order that the regional mailcarrier would have taken in going from town to town. After leaving Smyrna, a letter carrier traveled along the coast of the Aegean Sea for about forty miles. Then the road turned northeast along the Caicus River. About ten miles inland stood the impressive city of Pergamum, a citadel city built on a hill one thousand feet above the surrounding countryside, creating a natural fortress. Located on a high conical hill it commanded the surrounded area with it’s presence. And from the city you could see the Mediterranean Sea 10 miles in the distance. The Roman Historian Pliny called it “By far the most famous city in Asia.” It is the present city of Bergama in Turkey. The city of Pergamum, or Pergamos as it is called by some translations (It’s the same name simply the masculine and feminine forms) didn’t have the beauty of Smyrna nor the commerce of Ephesus, however it was still a great city in it’s own right, a city of culture and government. Rivaling Ephesus as the leading city in the region, Pergamum had become the capital of the province of Asia Minor. The city was wealthy and cultured and educated.
Three things characterized the city: It was renowned for its intellectual achievement, its political power, and its pagan worship. Intellectually, they were well-known for their library which was the 2nd largest library in the world, 2nd only to the library of Alexandria in Egypt. There was a 200,000 volume library there. That may not sound like many books to us, but when you consider that every page of every book was handwritten on papyrus and parchment, it was quite an achievement. These were scrolls, not like the books that we have today.
Along those same lines, Pergamos was the place where parchment was invented. Parchment was a type of writing material developed from animal skins and far stronger than papyrus, which was made from reeds. The story goes that 300 years before Christ, a ruler of Pergamum seeking to expand the great library wooed Aristophanes of Byzantium, who was the librarian at Alexandria, to come to work for him. However Ptolemy who was the ruler of Egypt became irritated when he thought that he could lose this outstanding scholar. So he threw the librarian in chains, and then he imposed an embargo on the shipment of papyrus to Pergamum. Papyrus was the primary medium for writing in that day. And so the great minds of Pergamum got together and developed a technique to smooth and polish tanned animal skins to develop what came to be known as the Pergamum material or in the Latin – parchment, which of course finally replaced papyrus completely.
1st - intellectual achievement - then Pergamum was also known for its political power. The first temple of the imperial cult was built in Pergamum in honor of Rome and Augustus. The city thus boasted a religious primacy in the province, even though Ephesus became its main commercial center. Pergamum was very wealthy, and the center of emperor worship with many temples devoted to idolatry.