Seven Churches - Pergamos
The third study about the seven churches of Revelation is concerning John's letter to the church in Pergamos.
To the Church in Pergamos - Revelation 2:12-17 .....'And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.'
The Pergamos period of the church is thought to be from around 313 A.D. - 538 A.D.
The city of Pergamum (Pergamos) had been the capital of the Roman province of Asia for two centuries after it's last king ,Attalus III, bequeathed it to Rome in 133B.C. Pergamum was the chief center of cultural and intellectual life of the "Hellenistic" world. Christ says to the church that He knows where they dwell, "where Satan's seat is". Pergamum had distinguished itself in 29 B.C. by becoming the site of the first cult of a living Roman emperor. A temple was built and dedicated to the joint worship of the goddess Roma (a personification of the spirit of the empire) and the emperor Augustus. At the very time John wrote these words, Christians were suffering persecution for refusing to worship the emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96), who insisted on being worshiped as "lord and god." Pergamum was also the religious capital of Asia Minor. It was a center of Hellenistic thought and emperor worship, and had many pagan temples. Its designation as the place "where Satan's seat is" was very appropriate indeed.
The Pergamos period of church history is thought to begin about the time of Constantine's acceptance of the Christian cause, in A.D. 313, or of his supposed conversion, perhaps in 323 or 325. It was during this time that the papacy began to win religious and political leadership of Western Europe and that Satan established his "seat" within the church. The papacy (Roman Catholic Church) was a skillful and deceitful blend of paganism with Christianity, truth and error.
Jesus says that He had people during this time who "held fast His name, and did not deny His faith". These weren't Christians who simply quoted the "name" of Jesus, no, these were Christians who held fast the character of Christ Jesus. They followed in His footsteps. They were meek, mild, loving and held fast to the truth and "faith" in Christ. (See Hebrews 11 and you will see the different experiences of those who had true faith in Christ). Even in the face of great trials, tribulations and persecution, we are to "hold fast the faith" that we proclaim.
"Antipas", it is believed, (although not proven), was a Christian at Pergamum who had been martyred for his faith, presumably for refusing to worship the emperor. So the experience and example of this (unknown) faithful martyr may be considered as typical of the untold thousands who suffered for their faith in later ages, and is set as an example to us, in that we may need to give our lives for Christ when the mark of the beast is enforced (See Revelation 13:15). There is great reward for those who are willing to give their all and even their lives for Jesus.
Also, if we look at the original Greek for 'Antipas', it means 'anti-father', or even 'anti-papas'. So Jesus would also be pointing to the fact that during this church age, His people would be against the new system of the 'fathers' or 'popes' that was being setup. And Jesus commended his people for being against the system of the popes.
Christ rebukes this church for having those (putting up with them) who teach the way of Balaam, bringing wickedness into the church by encouraging practices that were forbidden to Christians. Balaam originally influenced Israel to commit "whoredom with the daughters of Moab", to sacrifice to Moabite gods, and to "eat" presumably of the meat sacrificed to these gods (Num. 25:1,2, 31:16). These two sins led to a mixture of paganism with true religion. Applied to Christian history, this portrayal is appropriate to the situation in the church in the period following the legalization of Christianity by Constantine in A.D. 313 and his nominal conversion about 10 or 12 years later. He pursued a policy of blending paganism and Christianity wherever possible, in an attempt to unite the diverse elements within the empire and thus strengthen it. Under Constantine and his successors, who continued his policy, the church rapidly became a politico-ecclesiastical institution (The Papacy) and lost much of its former pure spirituality. Now we have this "unity" movement happening again today with the Roman Catholic Church at the forefront of "Ecumenism". Rome is saying "we MUST come together for the common good of man and for peace", and yet God is saying COME OUT of her My people.
So the age of great compromise begins with Pergamos and Jesus has a sharp rebuke for His church. We cannot allow compromise to come into our faith, instead we must be no compromise Christians. We cannot "unite" with other religions and faiths, even for the sake of peace. We MUST stay separate and remain in our pure unadulterated faith. This is why God was so "strict" with the Israelites in the Old Testament with regards to mixing with people from other nations and religions. And it is the same today, our faith must remain pure in following the Word and Commands of God alone. As soon as we allow ourselves to compromise for the sake of unity and peace, it will lead down a slippery slope into sin and the rejection of God's Word.
Again the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes continued within the Pergamos church. What doctrine? The doctrine of being free to sin under grace and not needing to keep God's commandments. This doctrine Jesus hates! And He tells the church to repent of this, and allowing this doctrine to continue in the church. What are we to do with false doctrines? We are to first try them against the Word of God. Then we are to reject them, expose them and then cast them out of the church. There is no room for compromise within the true church of Christ. Sadly we have the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes continuing even today, with the misunderstanding of the under grace not under law teaching. Many today believe that being under grace means that we don't need to keep the ten commandments anymore. This Jesus hates!
Today we certainly need to learn from the letter to Pergamos. We CANNOT accept any form of compromise when it comes to our faith. We CANNOT allow false doctrines to continue within our churches. And we CANNOT unite with other faiths and religions for the sake of any "good cause", as God calls us to "Come out from among them and be ye separate and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you." (2 Corinthians 6:17). Stand firm in your most holy faith and in the righteousness of Christ Jesus. Stand with God's end time remnant church.
This concludes the Bible study on the second of the seven churches of Revelation - Pergamos. For the Bible study on the next church, see Seven Churches of Revelation - Thyatira.