Summary: 1) Comment & Commendation about the Church (Rev. 2:12-13), 2) Complaint & Call to Repentance for the Church (Rev. 2:14-16), 3) The Command to hear and the Conquering of the Church. (Revelation 2:17).
One of the motivations for many athletes currently competing in the Olympics in South Korea is to make a name for themselves. With public recognition the hope is to land a lucrative sponsorship. Making a name for yourself however is not always positive. One of the most famous cases was with the Canadian Olympian is Ben Johnson. Johnson was stripped of his Olympic gold medal and world record in the 100 meters at the 1988 Seoul Games after testing positive for steroids. Ben Johnson is now trading on his disgraced past, endorsing a sports drink called Cheetah in a TV commercial. In the add, Johnson is asked: "Ben, when you run, do you Cheetah?" "Absolutely," Johnson says. "I Cheetah all the time." (http://www.espn.com/olympics/news/story?id=2382884)
To bear the name “Christian” in Pergamum was a deadly affair. On a certain day in the year every Roman citizen had to come to the Temple of Caesar (slide 1). and had to burn a pinch of incense there, and say: “Caesar is Lord.” When he had done that, he was given a certificate to guarantee that he had done so. After a man had burned his pinch of incense and had acknowledged Caesar as Lord, he could go away and worship any god he liked, so long as the worship did not affect public decency and order. This of course was a great problem for the Christians, who believed that only Jesus is Lord. It lead to great pressure to compromise.
For we here today the pressure is great as well. Society tells us that we must live in harmony with other faiths and any exclusive claim to absolute truth is arrogant. People are allowed to have private beliefs and as in Pergamum we can go away and worship any god we like, so long as the worship did not affect public decency and order. Just as these three churches of Revelation seem to be at different points on the spectrum, so today there are churches at different points of the spectrum. As Jesus addresses the church at Pergamum, the believers there seem to be flirting with evil. They are not openly embracing immorality and idolatry but are not closing the door to it either (Hamilton, J. M., Jr. (2012). Preaching the Word: Revelation—The Spirit Speaks to the Churches. (R. K. Hughes, Ed.) (p. 86). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.)
The message to the Church at Pergamum and the message to us is that Jesus knows our situation and gives us guidance in the 1) Comment & Commendation about the Church (Rev. 2:12-13), 2) Complaint & Call to Repentance for the Church (Rev. 2:14-16), 3) The Command to hear and the Conquering of the Church. (Revelation 2:17).
1) Comment & Commendation about the Church (Rev. 2:12-13)
Revelation 2:12-13 12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. 13 “ ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. (ESV)
This message to “the angel”, like the other letters to the Churches of Asia Minor, were to the “messengers” of the Churches. The word lit. means “messenger.” Since non-human angelic beings are never specified as leading Churchs, these “messengers” must refer to the key elders representing each of those churches.
To understand the particular pressure that the church in this region faced, we need to briefly look at the city itself. Pergamum, also known as Pergamos (modern Bergama), was the capital city of the province of Asia. It’s name means high tower or thoroughly married. It was located about 55 miles northeast of Ephesus (slide 2). The road north from Smyrna follows the coastline some forty miles and then turns inland in a northeasterly direction up the valley of the Caicus River. About ten miles inland from the Aegean Sea stands the impressive capital city of Pergamum. (Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (p. 77). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)
The Kingdom of Pergamum became a Roman province in 130 B.C. It was at Pergamos that parchment was first used as a writing material and here that the Attalid kings built a magnificent library of 200,000 volumes (slide 3). The word parchment, made from the hides of sheep, derived its name from Pergamos. It was remarkable for its learning, refinement, and science, especially medicine. It was a rival of Ephesus in the temples to Athena slide 4), Zeus (slide 5), Dionysus (slide 6). and temple of Asklepios (slide 7), the god of healing. The caduceus (slide 8), the twisted serpent symbol that represents the medical profession, comes from Greek mythology and represents the god Asclepius. In a temple dedicated to him, there was a school of medicine where nonpoisonous snakes crawled all over the floor. The ill would lay on the floor so the snakes could crawl on them. This satanic medical practice was the renoun of the city.