The Revelation: Part 4 – Pergamum, Throne Of Satan
Chan Pei Ling (Co-Writer & Mother of Keira)
Situated on fertile land atop a lofty hill, the ancient Greek city of Pergamum was famed for being culturally rich. It had a colossal 10,000 seat amphitheatre, and a library containing a reported 200,000 works.
Pergamum was home to the famous altar of Zeus and was a center of worship for several pagan deities. People flocked to this city to attend pagan festivals held at the temples. After Pergamum came under Roman rule, emperor worship was introduced and it became the first city to erect a temple to an emperor of Rome.
Scholars believed that John called Pergamum the place “where Satan has his throne” (Rev 2:13) because idolatry was so deeply entrenched in this city.
Needless to say, there was intense pressure for the church to compromise in their faith and conform to the worship of Roman and Greek deities.
An Imagery of Jesus:
“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.” (Revelation 2:12)
The image of a double-edged sword was used several times in the New Testament. Here, it signified the command for the Pergamum Christians to discern right from wrong, truth from lies.
Message for the Church in Pergamum:
“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 12:13)
Historical records showed that Antipas was the bishop (or church leader) of the church in Pergamum. John called him “my faithful witness”, which showed that they had a close relationship.
According to traditions, Antipas boldly and faithfully preached to the people in Pergamum to turn them away from idol worship. This greatly enraged some pagan priests, who put him to death in a very cruel manner. His tragic end must have been a huge loss to the Pergamum Christians, but they persevered on in their faith.
“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. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” (Revelation 12:14-15)
Why was eating food that had been sacrificed to idols such a serious offence?
The early Christians suffered heavy persecutions under the Roman rule because they refused to worship the Emperor & pagan gods. To punish Christians for their disobedience, the Roman rulers decreed that every citizen must offer food to the gods in their pagan temples, or face execution.
In order to offer or eat the food that had been given to the idols, the Christians would have entered the temples and likely engaged in the sexual sins that were very rampant in these temples.
Who were the “Nicolaitans"?
The Nicolaitans were followers of the heretic Nicolas, who was once a prominent Christian, but later denounced his faith and enticed many Christians to return to idolatry.
John compared the Nicolaitan sect with Balaam, an Old Testament prophet who led the Israelites into worshipping Baal and committing sexual sins with Midianite women.
It must have been very tempting for the Christians to cave-in to their fears and accept the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which seemed like an easy way out. However, their compromise eventually led them to commit serious sin.
Warnings and Instructions
“Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Revelation 12:16) John challenged the Pergamum church to not turn a blind eye to these sins that have crept into the church, but instead to expect repentance.
Promise to the Overcomers
“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.” (Revelation 2:17)
In the Old Testament, manna was the bread from heaven that fed the Israelites in their camp. It was also put into the ark of the Covenant. This verse meant to say that those who repent would get heavenly bread, the bread of life.
Scholars attribute several meanings to the white stone. Here are two of them:
Firstly, in ancient Greece, a jury was appointed whenever a person is trialed for a crime. Jury members would cast a white stone if the person were found to be innocent. Isn't that amazing? Jesus acquitted us of our sins!
Secondly, it was a Roman custom to award winning athletes with white stones with their names engraved on it.
In Bible times, a person’s name showed his/her character and even foretold what would happen to the person in the future. To be given a new name was a very significant thing.
Wouldn’t it be an absolute honour to be awarded a stone (like a winning athlete) and be given “a new name”, which shows the new life that we have in Jesus?
Keira is 12 years old and an avid fan of Marvel! In her free time, she dances ballet and builds forts out of blankets with her younger brothers.
From Left to Right:
Danny, Keira, Jojo (Josiah), Pei Ling, Titus
(Picture Credit: Chan Pei Ling)