Summary: The end times?
Letter three. To the Church in Pergamum.
Reading Revelation 1:9-11 & 2:12-17
We have seen over the last couple of weeks that the Apostle John was told by Jesus to write to the seven major Churches in Asia. We have already looked at the first two, the letter to Ephesus and the letter to Smyrna. Today we will look at the third letter, to the Church in Pergamum.
Pergamum was just like Smyrna and Ephesus in a lot of ways. It was a large city about 65 miles north of Smyrna. This was the ancient capital of Asia and was built on a hill 1000ft above the surrounding area.
Unlike Ephesus and Smyrna, Pergamum was not a port as it was 20 miles form the sea.
It had been an important town in the area for about 500 years before this letter was written, and the last ruler of the area was King Attalus the third, who died in 138 BC.
Attalus had little interest in ruling Pergamon, and gave most of his time to studying medicine, botany, and gardening. He had no children or heirs of his own, and in his will he left the kingdom to the Roman Republic. After his death the town was taken over by the Romans and continued to be one of the chief cities of the area.
It was particularly famous for four things. The first was it's altar to the Greek god Zeus, the god of the sky and ruler of all the other Greek gods.
It wasn’t a tiny little table, it was a huge building.
The Romans accepted Zeus without question as he was also a Roman god but was known by them as Jupiter.
The second thing that made it famous was it's huge library. King Attalus the first had made the city the artistic and literary capital of the entire middle east in competition with the library in Alexandria in Egypt. At the time that our letter was written the library in Pergamum was reported to house over two hundred thousand books and scrolls. This was a massive amount of books to have in those days.
The third thing that made it famous was it's massive temple to the goddess Athena which was built near the top of the hill, close to the altar to Zeus.
And the fourth thing which brought fame to Pergamum was the invention of parchment, made of calf skin. This was made necessary because of a shortage of papyrus.
There was also a temple built to honour the Emperor Augustus, as Emperor worship was also rife in this area as well as in Smyrna. While yet another temple was built in honour of the god Asclepius, the snake god of healing.
Asclepius was born as a mortal and was taught to be a surgeon. He was made a god and became immortal for all he had done for medicine.
He was later killed by the god Zeus for raising the dead back to life.
This god Asclepius gave Pergamum a reputation similar to that of Lourdes today.
People would make pilgrimages to the town to see if the god would heal them. The people were very superstitious and would worship any god if they thought some harm may come to them if they didn't. Or if they thought that they would gain from it in any way.
It appears from all of this that the anti-christ could be more plainly seen here than Christ.
Now that's the history lesson over lets get back to the text.
You may have noticed that this letter starts a bit differently than the last two. Here we see Jesus describing Himself as the "one with the sharp double edged sword"
Ephesians 6:17 mentions this sword,
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
and again in Hebrews 4:12
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.
The sword is seen as a symbol of divine judgment and this is what Jesus is reminding the Church in Pergamum about. He is reminding them that they will be judged on all that they have done when they reach heaven.
Then Jesus goes on to say "I know where you live"
Now this isn't a threat, it's not a case of "watch yourself, I've got a big sword and I'm going to get you, I know where you live big man! No, He says this because His knowledge of the Churches depends on His presence among them. He knows them because He walks among them. His knowledge extends beyond the good works that we saw in Ephesus and even beyond the suffering we saw in Smyrna.