Summary: examines the church of Pergamum to learn how it relates to us and the church today.
“Revealing Revelations - III
The Church of Pergamum (The indulgent church)
September 13, 2009
The city of Pergamum (or Pergamos in the KJV) was the center of an imperial cult. There were many cults and religions here – but ‘Gnosticism’ probably influenced them all – including the church. We’ll talk about that more in a little bit. The name of the city means “Fortress”. It was made famous for its library of 200,000 scrolls. Pergamum popularized writing on goatskin sheets and it was also known for its Altar of Zeus and its large theater.
1. Christ’s Greeting:
12 "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ’These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword…’
This greeting is a little different from the first two greetings. To the church is Ephesus and Smyrna the greeting was a kind of “Hi! Howareya!” This greeting included the threat of Christ’s wrath for their actions. Jesus was not messing around. He comes right to the point. He reminds this church that He has a sword that cuts both ways. The sword is a Rhomphaia, a large, long sword which came crashing down on its opponent. There was no slice and dice to this sword. There was no fancy kata to it. It was destruction. It cut right to the bone quickly with no messing around. The implication is that Jesus Christ was and is able to bring judgment on his church. The introduction to His talk includes a reference to take warning.
I think that’s good advice for us as we study these Scriptures. It calls for introspection. We ought to do that every so often – shouldn’t we? Listen:
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves…”
2 Cor 13:5
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1
The Christian needs to be alert and on his toe. There are a lot of false prophets and preachers and teachers out there. Most of them probably are sincere and think they know the truth – but the lie has slipped into almost all religions and denominations today. Gnosticism has infiltrated even our modern day doctrines and theology. We need to test the spirits; test the theology; test the teacher – and even test ourselves to see if we have not been corrupted in our thinking.
2. The Commendation
13 "I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
These words have kind of a two edged sword effect to them. I like the truth that Jesus knows my works. He said we can’t even give a glass of water in his name without it being noticed and reward one day. I like that! He says He know where we live. He knows that we are faithful. Plus minus plus.
Jesus understood the opposition this church faced by being so close to Satan’s power. Jesus takes this into account with the Church of Pergamum. Christ acknowledges their location. He understands where they – and we -are at.
The church thrives under persecution. The last Emperor to persecute these Christians was Galerius, who died an excruciating death. His body rotted from the inside out while he was still alive. Days before his death, he recanted his orders of Christian persecution and then died. Following his rule was Constantine. As a new, novice, enthusiastic Christian, He made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. Being a new Christian, he was willing to make compromises to the pagans. He allowed mass conversions, and allowed pagan priests to become Christian priests. His attitude was “can’t we all just get along?” As ruler he wanted peace – not strife. Rather than being ‘intolerant’ toward false doctrine – he wanted tolerance. That’s one of the problems with many churches and Christians today. They are tolerant toward evil and sin. They want to be inclusive. So Constantine, because he had the power, gather the masses together, read them the “sinner prayer’ and saved them. They said the words. We are saved solely by grace. So what’s the problem?
The problem was many of these conversions were more convenient - than real. Pagan practices were just repackaged with Christian names, keeping many of the older rites. An example is Easter. The name is pagan in origin, but in order to help pagans feel more at home with the “Resurrection Sunday”, the name Easter remained. Other, practices such as bunny rabbits, white dresses and eggs also stayed and were packaged for Christian consumption.