Summary: Sermon Four of a series
The Church of Tolerance
Let us now look at the third church, the church at Pergamus. The dictation of the Lord was penned and sent to this church. Though these letters can apply literally and dispensational, in this study we are dealing mostly with the practical. Practically, all letters apply to the church today.
The city of Pergamos was a capital of the region under Roman rule. It was the farthest
north of the Seven Churches. It was a city once the capital of the kingdom of Pergamum, which was great and flourishing when John Wrote. This city was situated sixty-four miles north of Smyrna. It still exists with a population of about 14,000, known today as Bergamo. Bergamos is found in north-easterly direction from Smyrna in the Caicus Valley, some fifty-five miles away, in Mysia, on a lofty hill, and was a great political and religious center. Ramsay called it "the royal city, the city of authority." Eumenes II extended it and embellished it with many great buildings, including a library with 200,000 volumes, a library second only to the one in Alexandria. The Kingdom of Pergamum became a Roman province B.C. 130.
Pergamos would rival Ephesus for being a center of world religions. There were temples to Zeus, Athena, Dionysos, in the great grove Nicephorium (the glory of the city). Next to this was the grove and temple of Asklepios, the god of healing, called the god of Pergamum, with a university for medical study. Pergamum was the first city in Asia (A.D. 29) with a temple for the worship of Augustus (Octavius Caesar), hence in the Apocalypse Pergamum is the very centre of emperor-worship.
The church faced great opposition. They were not merely in a satanic place, but the very seat of Satan. This definition was either given for the idol worship or the presence of the ungodly rule of Rome. Revelation 17 speaks of a city on seven hills, and that would seem to point to the city. Whatever the cause of the name, the city was so wicked that the Lord said it was Satan’s seat of rule.
The church was also in a very strategic place. Where else should or will the church be? We will be among those that hate the Gospel. We will be among those that choose darkness rather than light. The world hates the Gospel, but we are IN the world, not Of the world. In John 17, we find the prayer of the Lord. As Jesus prayed, he prayed for his disciples until he came to verse 20, where He prayed for every one that would ever be redeemed. In His prayer, He reveals that the world would hate those that follow Him. It says in verses 13-20,
13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. 20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
This church dwelt in this wicked place possessing the commission of the Lord. Our circumstances do not relieve us from our responsibility as children of God. The commission of Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8 were valid for this church. Sometimes we want to relinquish responsibility based upon our environment, but God’s command stands.
As we continue this study, let us consider the communication from the Lord. In verse 12, Jesus comes with “the sharp sword.” This sword is the Word of God. It is used by the church, and rightfully should be. But the Word of God is for us, and to us, but it does not belong to us, it is the possession of Christ. That is why we must handle the Word very carefully. Today many do not think it much to water down the Word, and even to lower its standards. We must never forget reverently and fearfully, it is God’s Word, it belongs to Him. We must carefully and prayerfully expound its teachings, but never demean its value. Modern English translations have attempted to modernize it by omitting doctrinal verses, or even making it “gender neutral.” Sadly, man has attempted to play God and has caused confusion instead of enhancing the study of the Word. Why has this happened? In my opinion, modern religion has forgotten to whom the Word of God belongs.