Drawing of Ancient Pergamum - Public domain - From Wikipedia


THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST

Previous: Revelation 2:10-11

To Pergamum 2:12-17 ("Married"/ Compromised Church - AD 312 to AD 476)

"And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, 'These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 13 "I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. 17 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it."' - Revelation 2:12-17

This letter was to be given to the pastor of the church in Pergamos. "And to the angel," See notes on "angel" in chapter 2, v. 1. "Of the church in Pergamos write... " Pergamos, also known as Pergamum, had a colorful history as the ruling city of a large portion of Asia Minor after the fall of the Kingdom of Thrace in 281 BC. It was controlled by kings from the Attalid family from 241 to133 BC. They were apparently good administrators, cultivating special relationships with Rome, and establishing a culture that included a university and a great library with some 200,000 books. This library was second only to the one in Alexandria. Parchment was invented there because jealous Alexandrians would not allow the shipment of papyrus to them. The city hosted the Panathenaea games, which were considered equal to the Olympic contests.

Pergamum was steeped in pagan idolatry, serpent worship, and Caesar worship. Most of the temples were located on the top of its hill. The greatest of these was the Temple of Zeus, the chief god of the Greek panoply. Other Greek/Roman temples there included those dedicated to Athena and Dionysus.

Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing was the patron god of the city. His image, with a serpent-entwined staff, was worshipped in the Asclepion, a large area in the lower part of the city where people came to bathe in its sacred pool, touch tame snakes, and hopefully be healed. The modern symbol for medicine is snakes wrapped around a pole. This imagery comes from this Greek mythological character, but the true origin of the connection between snakes and healing undoubtedly originated with the Bible's story of the fiery serpents in the wilderness. God allowed venomous snakes to bite the Israelites when they grumbled against Moses and the Lord (Numbers 21). God told Moses to fashion a brass snake and put it on a pole. When the rebels would repent and look at the serpent, the symbol of their sin, they would be healed. This story became the background for Jesus' own teaching about His crucifixion.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. - John 3:14-16

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die. - John 12:32-33

Pergamum was also a focal point for the newer religion of Caesar Worship. It had been chosen for the site of the Temple to Octavius in 29 BC. "Each citizen was required to offer incense to the emperor once a year and declare that Caesar was Lord." (Hal Lindsey, There's A New World Coming, p. 52).

The name Pergamos, or Pergamum, comes from two Greek words. The first is purgos, meaning "fortified," and the second is gamos, meaning "married." It was indeed an unholy union of various religions and cultures with the great Roman Empire.

This city of Pergamum and the experiences of its growing Christian community are prophetic of the third age of the Church, from the time of the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine, to the fall of the Roman Empire (AD 312-476). During this time the Church became "married" to the world and was weakened considerably by its compromises with Satan's evil world system that began with the building of Babylon (Genesis 10:8-12) shortly after the Flood of Noah's time, and will come to a climax during the end-times (Revelation 17 & 18).

Constantine the Great was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. In AD 312 he saw a vision of a cross in the sky and the words, "In this sign conquer." This was just before his victorious battle against Maxentius. He reversed the persecutions of the former emperor Diocletian. In 313 he and Licinius issued the Decree of Milan, which granted complete freedom to Christians throughout the empire, and religious liberty to all.

Constantine undoubtedly meant well when he issued this decree, but because of this favorable treatment people adopted Christianity in name, but most of them still clung to their worldly beliefs and lifestyles. This actually caused much damage to the Church.

Connection

'These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:' - Revelation 2:12b

To this church Jesus revealed Himself as "he who has the sharp two-edged sword" proceeding from His mouth. See the notes on chapter 1, verse 16. Hebrews 4:12 calls God's Word a double-edged sword, able to divide even between soul and spirit. In the same book Jesus is considered God's ultimate Word (Hebrews 1:1-2). In John's own writings Jesus is called The Word (John 1:1, 14). If the church would follow Jesus and His Word, they would be able to separate the truth from the pagan influences that had come in like a flood.

When Jesus returns at the Battle of Armageddon His weapon of mass destruction will be His words, symbolized by a sharp sword out of His mouth (Revelation 19:15, 21).


Next: Revelation 2:13a-c


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