Pergamum: Hell's Headquarters

Revelation 2:12-17

Pergamum was an illustrious city of Mysia.
This was a city of wealth and fashion.
Pergamum was the headquarters for emperor worship.
It was the chief city of the province, and the "concilia" was located here.
The concilia was in charge of the matters of state religion and of the incense offering before the image of the emperor.

The city had always been loyal to Rome, so it was expected that they would be unrelenting
in their persecution of the Christians.
We know nothing of the origin of this church.

His identification, 2:12

The Lord identifies Himself as the one who has "the sharp two-eged sword."
This may have a twofold symbolism.

It may picture His ability to protect them even in the midst of persecution
when many would be martyrs to the cause of Christ.
It may also symbolize the power of discerning judgment.
This church was harboring evil, so He comes with the sword of His mouth.
This sword provides keen and accurate judgment on the deeds of the church,
and to deal with the false teachers.

His Commendation, 2:13

Christ commends the church for its fidelity under extreme difficulty.
They dwell "where Satan's throne is."
In 29 B.C. there had been erected an altar in Pergamum for the worship of Augustus.
The city continued to serve as the center of state religion.
Therefore, it is spoken of as the place where Satan's throne was located.

The reference to the death of Antipas is a reference to a well-known martyr.
Many others were being martyred.
This man was outstanding enough to bring a reference from the Lord.
It has been suggested, because of the term "my faithful witness,"
that Antipas may have been pastor of the Christian congregation at Pergamum.
We do not know this for certain.

The Christians at Pergamum had held fast the name of Christ.
His name stands for His personality.
The name, Kurios Kaisaros (Lord Caesar), over against the name, Kurios Kristos (Lord Christ),
was the test given to every Christian.
This was the big test.

To acknowledge the Lord Caesar was to escape persecution.
To acknowledge the Lord Christ meant persecution.
This proved loyalty to Christ and for doing so the Christians were commended.
They were commended for not denying the faith of Christ.

Their faith has reference to the scope of their religion,
and their belief in His atoning work and supremacy.
The Lord commends them for their loyalty, even when it meant death.

His Complaint, 2:14-15

Sad to say, not all the church members were as loyal as the group Christ commended.
Heresy had entered the congregation.
There were some in the group who were following "the teachings of Balaam."

In Numbers 23-24, we read and that Balaam was willing to make material gain at the cost of spiritual loss.
He led the way to idol worship and impure living for Israel.
There are some people at Pergamum who are doing the same.

They are willing to make spiritual compromise in order to further their material safety.
They promoted idol (emperor) worship as a means of safety.
They taught evil living as a means of being friends to the Romans, and thereby, escaping persecution.
Their story has been told in the phrase, "wrong creed -- wrong conduct".
This has often been true in church history.

At Pergamum the combination of heretical teachings of the Balaamites
and the heretical living of the Nicolaitans had created a bad condition within the church.
It was one which would not be tolerated by the Lord and He warns those who had been faithful to His name
not to be tolerant of those were teaching and living in evil heresy.

His Warning, 2:16,17a

He warns the church to repent of its attitude of leniency and toleration toward the present sinfulness.
If they do not take action to eliminate the evil, the Lord is determined
that He will personally "make war against them" with the sword of His mouth.
Just what action He will take is not indicated.
But He leaves no doubt as to His ability to deal with the situation that has developed.
"He that hath an ear, let him hear..."

His Promise, 2:17b

The promise from Christ for the overcoming life is twofold.
"I will give the the hidden manna."

As the needs of Israel in the wilderness were divinely provided,
the Lord will also provide for the needs of his faithful Christians.
He will give them "hidden manna" -- spiritual sustenance which the world cannot understand.

"I will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written."

Let's try to determine the symbolism of that statement.

Pergamum was engaged in the mining of white stone and the use of it as a commercial product.
The use of a piece of this stone with a name on it was varied.

Here are some possibilities to which the Lord had reference.

  1. The white stone was given to a man who had been tried and justly acquitted.
    He carried it as a sign that he was free of charge of crime which had been placed against him.
  2. The white stone was given to a man who was freed from slavery and had been made a citizen of the province.
    He carried the stone as an indication of his citizenship.
  3. The white stone was given to the winner of a race or contest as an indication that he had overcomed opposition.
  4. The white stone was given to a warrior returning from battle after victory over the enemy.
The application of one or all of these usages is evident.

The promise may have had reference to one of these,
but it may have been something else understood by the Christians at Pergamum.
It was a sacred promise to them, and one calculated to increase their efforts of loyalty.

Adapted from, Worthy Is the Lamb, by Ray Summers