Summary: The Message to the Church of Pergamum is :"There is no comprise. Either Jesus is Lord or Caesar is Lord" The Choice is yours
The Church at Pergamum
We have been looking as a series at the Seven churches of the Apocalypse in the Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation was written in AD 95 or 96 probably by the Apostle John when banished to the Island of Patmos.
The seven churches of Revelation are
1.) Ephesus Rev 2:1-7
2.) Smyrna Rev. 2:8-11
3.) Pergamum Rev. 2:12-17
4.) Thyatira Rev. 2:18-29
5.) Sardis Rev. 3:1-6
6.) Philadelphia Rev.3:7-13
7.) Laodicea Rev. 3:14-22
All the churches are in about a 100-mile radius of each other.
Why the number seven? The number seven was considered by the people of the time to be the perfect number.
John uses it 54 times in the Book of Revelation. (William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Revised Edition Vol 1 page 28)
The Angel of the Church is I believe the Bishop or the leader of the Church in the particular place
Two weeks ago we looked at the first Church of the Apocalypse- The Church of Ephesus and drew the lesson that we must come back to our first love.
It is good to have a Christian orthodoxy but in the end it the love of Christ that counts
Last week we looked at the Church of Smyrna and drew the lesson that loyalty to Christ is important even if it means we die, as Polycarp the Bishop of Smyrna did in 155 AD in the flames
Today we are looking at the third church of the Apocalypse, the Church at Pergamum
And the catchword today is
“Caesar or Christ
There is no compromise”
But first let us look at the background of the Church at Pergamum
Pergamum was the capital city of the Province of Asia.
It wasn’t on any trade route but was easily defendable. Its position was impressive
It was built on a tall conical hill which dominated the valley of the River Caicus
Sir William Ramsey described it like this
"Beyond all other cities in Asia Minor it gives the traveller the impression of a royal city, the home of authority; the rocky hill on which it stands is so huge and dominates the broad plain of the Caicus so proudly and boldly"
(William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Revelation of John Vol 1 p.87)
Although Pergamum was not the commercial success that Ephesus or Smyrna were , it was the imperial capital and the Roman Governor had "ius gladii", the right of the sword. His headquarters was in Pergamum and he could execute whom he chose to.
Although not as religious as Ephesus or Smyrna, Pergamum was the first city to build a temple to then Emperor Augustus – the first "Caesar worship" temple in Asia.
It also as full of pagan temples the temples of Athena and Zeus being the most prominent.
It is called the throne of Satan because the city of Pergamum was at the heart of Emperor worship enforced by the Roman Consul.
So while the proconsul might have the right of the sword, Jesus is described here as having “the sharp, double-edged sword”
In other words, although the Consul wields the sword, the last word will be with Jesus who wields the double-edged sword (ibid p.90).
You could not sacrifice to Caesar and spit on Christ and still be a Christian.
Who were the Nicolaitans, who are so heavily criticised by Jesus?
William Barclay says:
"We may note that the Nicolaitans and those who hold to the teaching of Balaam were in fact one and the same.
The name Nicolaus the founder of the Nicolaitans is made up of two Greek words "nikan" meaning to conquer and "laos" meaning the people (from which we get the word laity). Balaam can be derived from two Hebrew words "bela" to conquer and "ha’am" the people.
But first let us look at what the prophet Balaam who is recorded in the book of Numbers taught - to get an idea of what the Nicolaitans were preaching.
Balaam was the prophet who told Balak (the King of the Moabites) that if he wanted to defeat Israel, he could only do this if he got Israel to sin against God’s laws and worship other gods as well as YHWH.
And Balaam suggested to Balak that Balak use the Moabite women to seduce the men of the Israel to worship pagan gods.
Let me read the sad story in Numbers 25:1-5
25 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods.
The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods.
3 So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the LORD’s anger burned against them.
4 The LORD said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the LORD, so that the LORD’s fierce anger may turn away from Israel.”