Drawing of Ancient Pergamum - Public domain - From Wikipedia


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"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." - Revelation 2:13

Jesus told the Pergamum Christians, "I know your works, and where you dwell." Their "good works" were primarily holding on to the truth and not giving in to the spread of evil. They also faced persecution, but not to the extent experienced by the Church at Smyrna. The thing that kept them from being a powerful witness for Christ was the overpowering presence of wickedness and a spirit of compromise - combining Christian beliefs with those of false religions.

It was brave of them to live "where Satan's throne is." The name Satan means "accuser." It is used 7 times in the Book of Revelation, four of these in the messages to the seven churches (2:9, 13, 24; 3:9), and three other times (12:9; 20:2,7). He is also named in the rest of the book under a variety of other appellations: "devil" (Revelation 2:10; 12:9, 12; 20:2,10); "accuser of the brethren" (12:10); "serpent" (12:9, 14,15; 20:2); and "dragon" (12:3, 4, 7, 9, 13, 16, 17; 13:2, 4, 11; 16:13, 20:2). He is also known by many other names and descriptions in the rest of the Bible, including "Lucifer" meaning "shining one," or "light-bearer" (Isaiah 14:12); "angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14); "tempter" (Matthew 4:3), and more.

Did Satan actually have a throne in Pergamum? If so, why would his throne be there instead of Rome or some other great city? There was no place actually called "Satan's Throne" there. However, he did reign over the evil kingdoms of the world, and there was a temple in Pergamum that Jesus would have identified as his throne.

We are going to need to take some extra time here to look at some of the extensive information that is available about Satan and false religions, both in the Bible and in human history. This part of our commentary will be a little longer than normal, but we will gain essential insight that will help us understand the rest of the Revelation.

First, let's consider Satan's power on this planet. Do you remember Jesus' temptation just before He began His public ministry? In Matthew, chapter 4, we read that Jesus went up on a mountain and fasted 40 days. When He had reached the physical low-point of His human endurance Satan tempted Him to turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger. Then he tried to entice Him to leap from the high-point of the Temple to prove that He was the Son of God, because if He were, angels would surely catch Him. He resisted the evil one by quoting Scripture. This, by the way, is a powerful lesson to us about how we should respond when we are tempted. We need to remember what the Bible teaches and state it aloud if possible.

Then Satan tempted Jesus a third time.

8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me." - Matthew 4:8-9

Jesus didn't want to rule over the sin-corrupted decaying nations of the world! He had come to bring new life, and to eventually establish a righteous world-wide kingdom on earth. But how could Satan even be offering Him all the kingdoms of the world? How was that a legitimate offer?

Actually, the Bible does teach that the devil has temporary dominion over these kingdoms because of the sinful condition of mankind, and the rebellion of so many of them against God's own good plan for them.

First let's look at what the Bible says about Satan's earthly powers, and then we will consider how this situation developed. God created angels before He created humans. They were perfectly formed spirit beings , but like the humans God would design later, they were given the ability to choose good or evil (Jude 1:6; 2 Peter 2:4): to love God and follow His will, or to rebel against His goodness. In the case of Satan, in Isaiah 14:12ff., and Ezekiel 28:11ff, he became prideful and wanted to be worshipped like God Himself. Notice that these passages in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 were written to the earthly kings of Babylon and Tyre, but in both cases, the focus shifts to Satan, the evil spirit behind the scenes that energized them. These things could not be said of mere human kings.

According to Revelation 12, Satan and a third of the angels were cast out of heaven and thrown to earth.

3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. - Revelation 12:3-4

We will see that these "stars" were demons - fallen angels - when we get to that chapter later.

7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. - Revelation 12:7-9

Many theologians think that the time that Satan and his followers might have come to earth was described at the beginning of Genesis.

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. - Genesis 1:1-2

The thought is that whenever God creates something it is created perfect. That's why, at the end of the creative days, God "saw that it was good," and after the sixth day He declared that everything He had made was "very good" (Genesis 1:31). But there seems to have been a lapse of time between the original creation of the universe (the heavens and the earth) and the special work of fashioning our planet to the way it is now in six literal days.

After God created the universe, including the original form of the earth (Isaiah 45:18), something must have happened that resulted in it becoming a dark place that was without form. This could have been caused by the expulsion of Satan and the demons to the earth. Please note that there is no reason to believe that any pre-Adamic people existed during that time because the Bible makes it clear that Adam and Eve were the first humans.

In any case, while Adam and Eve were still in the Garden of Eden, they were affected by spiritual warfare. This is the battle between good and evil. See the notes about this conflict in our commentary on Revelation 2:10. Adam and Eve were allowed to be tested, but they could have resisted the temptation to sin. Unfortunately, they chose to disobey their Creator (Genesis 3). They passed on the propensity to sin to their children (Romans 5:12), and sin spread throughout the whole human race. From the time of our first parents until now, God provided a way of salvation for those who would believe in His provision of a substitute payment for sin. That is why God introduced the concept of a covering made from animal skins (Genesis 3:21). The first family practiced sacrifices (Genesis 4:1-5). The Law prescribed the details for sacrifices later(Exodus 29; Leviticus chapters 1 through 7). And Jesus died as the sacrificial lamb to pay for sin once and for all (Hebrews 10:1-18).

Meanwhile, those who rebelled against God and rejected His provision for salvation gathered together in cities. The first city recorded in the Bible was built by Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, after he had killed his brother and been banished from the family (Genesis 4:16-17). Spiritual warfare raged until, at the time of Noah's flood, the thoughts and actions of most humans were "only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5).

Satan might have thought that he had won the spiritual battle for the souls of men, but God chose a tiny remnant of eight people - Noah and his family - to live through the Great Flood and begin again (Genesis chapters 6 through 8).

Noah's family members were all true believers, and they obeyed God when He told them to move out in various directions and replenish the earth (Genesis 9:1). However, it wasn't long after that new beginning that one of Noah's great-grandsons, Nimrod, began a new rebellion. He was a "mighty hunter before the Lord," understood by most commentators to mean he was the leader of a new rebellion against God's plans (Genesis 10:8-9). He established a number of cities where people could stay together to build their own religious structures instead of obeying God, and worshipping only Him. Two of the cities he built were Babylon and Nineveh, both of which would become capital cities of the enemies of God's chosen people hundreds of years later (Genesis 10:10-12).

The worst part of Nimrod's influence was the beginning of false religions to take the place of the worship of the One True God. The Tower of Babel was built for astrology, and for people to try on their own to reach into the heavens (Genesis 11:1-9). This was the beginning of the occult, of idolatry, and the perversion of the truth.

Spiritual warfare became intense once again. Over the course of time false religions grew and spread from these cities, from one generation to another, in the mythology of various people. In his fascinating book, The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop, a Church of Scotland preacher in the 1800's explained this process. The memory of Nimrod became the mythical god Marduk to the Babylonians. (If you remove the "N" from Nimrod you are left with the consonants M-R-D - which then became Marduk). Nimrod was also symbolized in the constellation of Orion the Hunter. Over the course of the next 2000 years. these mythological gods of Babylonian culture would morph into Tammuz of the Sumerians, Bel of the Chaldeans, The Ammonite Moloch, Osiris in Egypt, Adonis, Kronos and Apollo in Greece, Mars and Vulcan in Rome, Odin in Scandinavia, and more!

A pdf file of Hislop's book is available at http://arcticbeacon.com/books/Alexander_Hislop-The_Two_Babylons-1853-MER.pdf

Now, back to the matter of Satan's throne, and the question of whether or not he could offer Jesus the kingdoms of the world...

Next: Revelation 2:13 d-f


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