The Church at Pergamos, Part 1 of 4 (series: Lessons on Revelations)
by John Lowe
The Church at Pergamos
Book of Revelation
By: Tom Lowe Date: 5-12-2015
Lesson: II.C: The Church at Pergamos (Revelation 2:12-17)
Revelation 2:12-17 (NIV)
12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
13 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.
14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.
15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
After leaving Smyrna, a letter carrier traveled along the coast of the Aegean Sea for about 40 miles. Then the road turned northeast along the Caicus River. About 10 miles inland stood the impressive city of Pergamum, built on a hill 1000 feet above the surrounding countryside, creating a natural fortress. Rivaling Ephesus as the leading city in the region, Pergamum had become the capital of the province of Asia and the center of Asian culture. It was proud of its links with Rome.
The city of Pergamos had little or no commerce, but was revered for its institutions of learning. It was a city of refinement, and science—especially medicine. Many kings lived in Pergamos over a period of years. Bible history tells us that the library at Pergamos consisted of 200,000 books! It was in Pergamos that the art of curing skins for writing, was perfected. (The word “parchment” was derived from the process of curing skins to be used for writing.) Ephesus and Smyrna were evil and wicked cities of idolatry, but Pergamos was even worse. It was known as “Satan’s throne,” and also as the place “where Satan dwelleth.”
The letter to Pergamos was addressed to a church which was drifting into worldliness and carnality. There were some who were resisting the general flow of the tide, but the majority were being swept out to sea. The application of this message to our day must be obvious to all. Worldliness has swept into the church. There are some who still hold to the truth of separation, but the majority are content, like Lot, to seek the best of both this
world and the one to come. Marten Luther, with his resounding “Here I stand!” would be a misfit in many Christian congregations today. It is more popular to seek a comfortable compromise with the world.
It is significant that Christ begins His letter with the statement, “I know where you live” (2:13). He knows the environment in which His people live. He is not ignorant of the fact that His Church is in the midst of a religious, non-Christian world. In no other place did the Christians have a more difficult time than in Pergamos, the center of paganism in that day. In Smyrna it is a “synagogue of Satan” (2:9); in Pergamos, it is the throne of Satan, his base of operations.
12 To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
There is a difference in the name of this city in the various translations of the New Testament. The Authorized Version calls it Pergamos, while the Revised Version, and the Revised Standard Version call it “Pergamum.” It was the capital city of Mysia, a Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor. It was situated on the river Caicus. “Pergamum” literally means “citadel.” It was known chiefly for its religion—it was the center for four of the most important gods of that day—Zeus, Athene, Dioiysus, and Asclepius. The city’s chief god was Asclepius, whose symbol was a serpent and who was considered the god of healing. People came to Pergamum from all over the world to seek healing from this god.
As usual, the Lord begins the letter to Pergamos with a reference to Himself and with a word of commendation. He says, “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.” These words were used in the glorious description of Christ in the first vision in Revelation (1:12-16), and are applied several times in the addresses to the churches. This letter was addressed, as were other letters, to the angel or messenger of the church, which was probably the one we would call the pastor. In chapter one, the sword proceeds out of His mouth, while here He is said to have a sharp, two-edged sword. The sword is a symbol of Judgment, and of course, the sword that precedes out of His mouth is the Word of God. Paul tells us that “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV). Every believer knows that the Bible possesses swordlike qualities. It was this weapon that Christ used when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). God’s way to overcome satanic error and opposition is by the faithful setting forth of His Word. Nothing but His truth can defeat error, and we have this divinely inspired weapon of victory. Let us use it fearlessly.