Summary: The message to the church in Pergamum teaches us that we are not to be squeezed into the world’s mold.
Revelation 2:12-17 October 26 2003
The Church in Pergamum
Do you remember the movie Liar, Liar? It is this story about a habitual liar played by Jim Carey. On his son’s birthday, the son’s birthday wish is that his dad would have to tell the truth. The wish comes true so that every time Carey opens his mouth to tell another lie, the truth comes out.
Balaam must have felt this way in Numbers 22. The Israelites had come into the land of Moab on their way to the promise land. The king of Moab was terrified of them because of their great numbers, so he hired the prophet Balaam to come and curse them.
You may know the story of how as they are on their way from Balaam’s house back to Moab, an angel stands on the road – the donkey that Balaam is riding sees the angel, but Balaam doesn’t – three times the donkey veers off the road to avoid the angel, making Balaam so angry that he beats him. Finally God opens the donkey’s mouth to ask Balaam why is he beating him, and he open’s Balaam’s eyes to see the angel. Balaam realizes that the donkey wasn’t trying to make a fool out of him, but was trying to save his life. Thus the phrase “if God can use Balaam’s Ass to speak, he could use you too.” The angel doesn’t kill Balaam but reminds him to speak only what God says and nothing else.
Balaam gets to Moab, and king Balak takes him up on a high mountain to curse Isreal, after they make sacrifice, Balaam goes and meets with God, comes back, opens his mouth and instead of cursing Israel he blesses them! This impresses King Balak to no end! They do this three more times – King Balak hopes that Balaam can curse them from different locations, but each time Balaam open’s his mouth and blesses Israel. Balaak offers him more money to curse them, he threatens not to pay him, but each time that he opens his mouth to curse them, he blesses them instead. Finally they part ways, but we find out later in Numbers 31 that although Balaam could not prophetically curse them, he advised King Balak to send Moabite women into the Israelite camp to seduce the men and get them to worship other gods. In Numbers 25 that is exactly what they do and them men are seduced into worshiping the Moabite god, God’s wrath burns against them and before they repent 24,000 of them are killed by a plague.
Read Revelations 2:12-17
They say that if Ephesus was the New York of Asia, Pergamum was the Washington. It was the centre of Roman rule for the area, and it was the first centre for worship of the Emperor. It’s library was second in the world only to Alexandria in Egypt, and it was at Pergamum that Parchment was invented so they wouldn’t have to rely on papyrus from Egypt. There was also a centre for healing at the temple of Aesculapuis, and there was a huge temple to Zeus.
Jesus says that it is in this city that Satan has his throne – whether he is using poetic language to speak of the Roman empire and the centre for worship of the Emperor, or this was the place that Satan truly had his throne – there is often a correlation between what happens in the seen world, and what is going on in the unseen world. Regardless it would have been extremely difficult to be a Christian in this city.
The Image of Jesus
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
In John 1, Jesus is called the Word of God, and in Hebrews 4:12 It’s written… “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
The Good News
13I know where you live-where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city-where Satan lives.
This was a church that endured great persecution, and Jesus praises them for their faithfulness, and mentions Antipas who he calls his faithful witness – a great compliment when you know that he will call himself the faithful witness in the message to Laodica.
If you want to talk about power going to your head – Caesar had decided that he was no mere human, but that he was a god worthy of worship along with all the other gods in the Roman pantheon. Satan was, of course, thrilled with this, because although God would have us Worship no-one by God alone, Satan would have us worship anyone or anything but God.