The Church of Pergamum
Read Revelation 2: 12-17
“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.” Revelation 2: 12-13
What would happen if your church became a place of contention and hurt? Why is it so important that our churches be safe havens of rest and comfort so that people can worship and mature in Christ and be secure in Him and in companionship with others?
John in this passage is reminding them and us who Christ is and what He has done. He is depicted here as the One in authority who can look into ourselves, pierce us, and who knows who we are and what we want. Then, Jesus calls us to Him and away from ourselves and selfishness. Just as a sword is sharp and piercing, so are our wayward ways when we seek to make life and run His church by our own means, apart from His ways and commands. Such thoughts and actions separate us from God and others, just as our judgment for sin, without receiving His grace, will separate us for eternity. God doesn’t want us separated, but He will do this to protect His other children, just as He will separate those who seek to harm us. This is His protection, and it is our choice to draw to Him or draw to our inclinations and sin.
Double-edged sword, refers to a small offensive “Thracian” dagger. For the Romans, this sword was the image of power, control, and used to enforce its laws and for capital punishment. In Scripture, the sword also symbolizes war and refers to God’s ability and right to make war on those who seek to fight against Him. It symbolizes God’s ability and right to perform judgment (Isa 49:2; Heb 4:12; Rev. 2:12; 6:4, 8; 13:10, 14; 19:15, 21). (Rev. 1:16; 2:16; 19:13).
Satan has his throne. This referred to either its pagan practices or the seat of the Roman throne for Asia. Pergamum worshiped the god Asclepius, who was Apollo’s son, the god of medicine. In addition, this city was the official center of emperor worship and Rome’s representation in Asia. They also had a huge100 foot+ altar for Zeus. Perhaps Jesus referred to this as Satan’s throne because they worshipped what was false. All its citizens were expected to worship these false gods, including worshiping the emperor. If they refused, they were persecuted by not being allowed to participate in the city life, festivals, and trade. This escalated to the Christians being executed for disloyalty to the emperor. And, this trend was exported to the other providences. Perhaps it was here in Pergamum that martyrdom started in Asia.
Who was Antipas? He was the first martyr in Asia. According to the Early Church Fathers, he was slowly roasted alive in a bronze kettle during the time of Domitian.
So what does this come down to?
The church at Pergamum was tolerating false doctrines and people who were scheming against others, causing them to follow sin, trends, compromise their faith, and not reverence or trust in Christ.
Even though they were faithful in persecution, their steadfastness was wavering to those who were deceptive. They were being what we now call “politically correct,” that is, tolerating other ideas that were wrong or contrary just to be what they thought was mature and wise. Thus, they were in danger of being judged harshly if they did not repent. We have to see that we can be tolerant to a point, as long as it does not counter our character or the Word.
Instead of tolerating false doctrines and people who were scheming we are called to be a Faithful witness.
This is also a name for Jesus, referring that Jesus is reliable. We are to be reliable with His Word and plan. It also refers that Antipas was faithful to Christ in character and disposition, as we are all called to be as we lead others to Him (Psalm 2:7; 89:27; Prov. 14:5, 25; Isa. 8:2; Acts 13:33; Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:20-23; Col. 1:15-18; 1 Tim. 6:13; Rev. 1:5; 2:10-13; 3:14).
Consider this, Jesus knows us intimately; He knows our situation, our struggles and our opportunities. He wants us to take hold of His grace and love so we can focus upon Him and lean on Him both in our jubilations and also in our struggles. The key in this passage is to stay faithful in our Christian identity and our leadership of others, and to remain loyal to Christ. We are not to allow our doubts, fears, or state of affairs to occupy His place in our hearts and minds.
Jesus knows our situation, our struggles, and our opportunities. He wants us to take hold of His grace and love and succeed in our faith and life. How can this help you to inspire others when times are tough?
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