The Altar of Zeus in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin
Copyright Raimond Spekking / CC-BY-SA-3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)


Previous: Revelation 2:12

"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 d-f

Let's return now to the matter of Satan's throne, and the question of whether or not he could offer Jesus the kingdoms of the world. Jesus repeatedly referred to Satan as the "ruler of this world" (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). The Apostle Paul called him the "god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the "prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2)." This sad condition was the result of spiritual warfare, especially in the great population centers where evil grew the most. Jesus was aware of the extent of evil when He said,

13 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." - Matthew 7:13-14

Satan was obviously behind the perverted religion that began in Nimrod's Babylon and gradually spread to the great cities of all the major empires of world history. By Jesus' time the major empires had been the Egyptian Empire, the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire, the Greek Empire, and the Roman Empire. As we noted above, false mystery religions had spread from Babylon throughout the world, changing slightly to adapt to each new culture.

Alexander Hislop, whom we mentioned above, explained the transfer of a counterfeit religious system from Babylon to other cultures all over the ancient world. The city of Babylon was the center of false religions. The Medes and Persians conquered Babylon in 538 BC. They came back later, in 487 BC to destroy the city. At that time, the Babylonian Magi relocated to Pergamum, a small city at the time, but in a strategic location. Hislop quoted historians from the mid-19th Century, who wrote, "The defeated Chaldeans fled to Asia Minor, and fixed their central college at Pergamos." (William Barker and William Ainsworth, Lares and Penates of Cilicia, 1853, pp 232-234).

Incidentally, we know from the Bible that later, when Jesus was born, there were some godly Magi (Wise Men). They believed the Scriptures and followed the star that announced the Savior's birth (Matthew 2:1-12). That means there were two kinds of Magi. This is probably best explained by something that happened in the days of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel hundreds of years earlier. The original Magi were ungodly astrologers and occultists. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon asked his wise men to tell him what he had dreamed and what it meant. They were not able to tell him what he had dreamed. God revealed the dream to Daniel and gave him the interpretation of it. (Daniel 2). Because of this, Nebuchadnezzar made Daniel "ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon." (Daniel 2:46-49, especially v. 48) No doubt, Daniel reformed the thinking and practices of those wise men and taught them what the Bible had to say, including his own prophecies, which would become the Book of Daniel.

A group of the Magi evidently reverted back to the old Babylonian doctrines. These are the ones who moved to Pergamum, while the Bible-believers moved to Persia.

Hislop wrote, "Thus the vacant seat of Belshazzar was filled, and the broken chain of the Chaldean succession renewed." (Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, pp. 189-190.) He said that the leader of the group was the "Pontifex Maximus," the Latin name for "greatest pontiff (bridge-builder)" or chief priest.

When Attalus III, the last king of Pergamum died in 133 BC he bequeathed all of Pergamum to the Roman government.

The title "Pontifex Maximus" had been used by the head of Roman religion for some time when Julius Caesar accepted the title in 63 BC. When he became ruler of the Roman Republic in 49 BC the leadership of both the government and Roman religions were vested in the same person. We will come back to this subject later.

We still need to determine what was meant by Satan's throne. Where was the center of evil in the city of Pergamum? Some would suggest the Asclepion, where serpents were worshipped. But the greatest symbol of pagan religion in the city was the Altar of Zeus on the acropolis above the city. It was a massive marble structure 117 ft. wide by 110 feet deep, and it was 40 feet high. Since the structure was a gigantic altar, it is thought that there were endless sacrifices offered there.

The base of the edifice is covered by high-relief friezes that depict the epic mythical battle between the Giants with serpent-legs and the Olympian gods. The site was excavated between 1878 and1886 by German archaeologists, and the massive panels of the friezes were taken to Berlin, where a museum was built to replicate the entire structure.

Spiritually speaking, it was unwise to cart so much of this massive structure all the way to Germany and glorify it by restoring it in this way. Do Satan and his demons attach themselves to evil artifacts like these? They certainly can if they want to. And maybe it is just a coincidence, but World War I was partly fomented by Germany shortly after the Museum was built. In fairness, the other countries involved share some guilt for that "war to end all wars," but when it was over, the victors - The U.S., Britain, France and Italy - in the Treaty of Versailles - required Germany to accept responsibility for the outbreak of hostilities. It was a horrendous conflict, using deadly new weapons like machine guns, tanks, airplanes, submarines, and poison gas. Worst of all, the civilian population became a target of war. Of the nearly 17 million deaths during the fighting, about 7 million were civilians!

The foundation of the original Pergamon museum in Berlin was weak, and the whole building needed to be enlarged, so a second museum was built in 1930, and in that one the explorers also built a replica of the Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon!

A few years after the completion of the second Pergamon Museum Adolph Hitler sparked the beginning of World War II. Again, maybe it is coincidence, but there is evidence, like that of the History Channel's documentary Hitler and the Occult, that supernatural evil was a part of this horrible scenario. World War II resulted in more than 60 million deaths and marked the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare.

We will discuss much more about Babylon, false religions, the occult and a final world-wide religious movement when we get to Revelation chapters 17 and 18.

Jesus commended the believers at Pergamum this way: "And you hold fast to My name." Believers in Christ did not originally call themselves "Christians." The first name for the movement was "The Way" (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:22). This was very appropriate since Jesus said,

"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." - John 14:6

It wasn't until Christians were scattered from Jerusalem and were being persecuted that they were called "Christians" (Acts 11:26). Those who first used this name probably meant it to be an insult. Whether or not that is true, believers have always been willing to accept the name, happy to be associated with their Savior!

The name of "Jesus" is especially meaningful to all who understand who Jesus is and what He has done for them. See the notes about "Jesus" and "Christ" in Revelation 1:1.

Jesus then added, "and did not deny My faith." "My faith" would certainly mean faith, or belief, in Jesus Himself: that He was who He claimed to be, especially as Messiah/Savior; and that He accomplished what He said He would do, to die for them and rise again the third day. This "faith" could also refer to the belief system itself: all that He had taught them. The goal of the persecutor is to cause the victim to deny his faith. This made it most difficult for most martyrs because they knew they could go on living and helping their needy families if they would just say that they renounced their belief in Christ. Just imagine having to make that decision. Wouldn't people understand that they didn't mean it if they recanted the faith? Wouldn't it be the most loving thing to do for the sake of their families?

The Apostle Peter, who would one day be willing to die for his faith in Jesus, wrote:

Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. - 1 Peter 4:16

Jesus then gave a glowing example of a person who did not deny the faith... "even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr who was killed among you." Antipas has been one of my favorite Bible characters since my first year in at Biola. I was living in the dorms at the Biola Hotel next to the Church of the Open Door. Dr. J. Vernon McGee was pastor then, and I had enjoyed his live radio program for years before that time. He was speaking on Wednesday nights, so I naturally wanted to hear him in person. When he reached this verse, he asked, "Who was Antipas?" I didn't know, and I was trying to think of any connection. As I remember it, Dr. McGee said, "Nobody knows! There is no other record or mention of this man's name in history. But listen, friends, Jesus knew, and He was pleased with him and called him 'My faithful martyr.' That's all that really matters. Other people don't need to be impressed with your life. But oh, how wonderful it will be if Jesus is pleased with you."

Jesus concluded His commendation of the believers at Pergamum and of Antipas, the faithful by acknowledging again that this was a most difficult place to be a Christian because it was "where Satan dwells." Sometimes I think Jesus would say the same thing about where we live in Southern California in these evil days. He would probably say the same thing about wherever you live too. But the amazing thing is this - and the faithful believers at Pergamum proved it - Satan is strong, but Jesus is stronger!

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. - 1 John 4:4

Next: Revelation 2:14-15


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