The Footsteps of Paul Blog

A Walk Through The 7 Churches – Pergamum

Posted By: Chris Posted In: Blog, The Seven Churches Date Posted: June 7th, 2012 Comments: 7

Photo (Chris D.) Arched support under the Temple of Trajan, Pergamum.

Issue #18 – “Epitaph to Doctrinal Compromise”

What we know about Pergamum is that it was a major city in Asia Minor being the capitol of the Kingdom of Pergamon in the Hellenistic period of the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. It was a major centre of idol worship, be it to the Roman Emperor, the Greek god Zeus or any one of the dozens of deities worshipped in that place.

Photo (Chris D.): Remains of theatre Pergamum, overlooking modern day Bergama, Turkey

Revelation 2:12-13 has often been quoted – out of context – as a mafia like threat! “These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live….”

2:13 continues…”where Satan has his throne.”

Well, where does Satan have his throne? For the sake of the geographical and historical context we can surmise that Jesus is referring to either the massive statue to Zeus that stood on the top of a high hill overlooking the city or else to the massive altar dedicated to Emperor worship that was located nearby. The ruins of both are still in evidence today.

Photo (Chris D.): This pedestal is all that remains of the gigantic statue to Zeus that once stood high above the city of Pergamum

Local guides say it refers to Zeus. However, Diocletian was the emperor at the time – a nasty piece of work who delighted in killing Christians and insisted on being acknowledged as the Most High God and worshipped. Those who refused would be put to death. One such martyr who is specifically mentioned in verse 13 was Antipas. Tradition holds that he was roasted alive in a bronze bowl.

So, this church was commended for holding firm to the faith even when under severe persecution. Nevertheless, the Pergamum church had an internal problem which is pointed out in the letter- doctrinal compromise that had led to worldly morals and godless leadership styles.

“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. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth”. Revelation 2 :14-16

I mentioned last week that the appropriate character trait of the One John saw in his vision is the remedy for the ills of the church addressed.

The “double-edged sword” here in Revelation 2:12 refers back to the vision in Revelation 1:16, of the One – “coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword”.

Only obedience to the word of God, the plumb-line of divine, authoritative truth, would remedy their problems and ours, when it comes to doctrinal compromise.

The word of God is often referred to as a sword in scripture:

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:17

“Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.” Revelation 19:15

The church is censured for tolerating two specific doctrines: the teachings of Balaam and the teachings of the Nicolatians. The former refers to sexual immorality, the latter to a style of leadership.

The teaching of Balaam
What we as Judeo-Christians would call sexual immorality was part and parcel of life in the early centuries of the Roman empire. [By early, I mean prior to Emperor Constantine and the rise of the Eastern Roman Empire, more commonly known as the Christian, Byzantine Empire].

One of the major struggles the early church had was to persuade the gentile believers that fornication, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality and prostitution was not OK in God’s eyes. The Jewish converts had had the 10 commandments and the rest of the law to form their lifestyle for centuries previous, but not the gentiles. At the time of these 7 letters sexual immorality was not just recreational but considered spiritual!

I have been shocked recently that young believers, I would have considered mature, have suggested that pre-marital sex is OK – that the Bible is not specifically against that. I am saddened to observe, over the past 20 years, certain sectors of the western church that also compromise the scriptures to the point of tolerating homosexuality as an acceptable, alternative lifestyle. There is no space here to present what the Bible says about all of this – but it says a lot and is quite clear that neither is acceptable in God’s eyes. It is sin and needs to be repented of.

Compromise in these areas of illicit sexual activity, including internet porn is the single greatest threat to the survival of the worldwide church of Jesus Christ, in my opinion. This letter is for the church today. This letter is for you.

The teaching of the Nicolatians
In Greek, nico – “vanquish” and laos “laity/people”.
This church saw the rise of a hierarchical system of leadership that was opposed by the early church but was tolerated in Pergamum and sadly became the norm from the 3rd century right through until the 16th century when reformers like Martin Luther stood up for the Biblical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Many such reformers were martyred by the church for their stand on doctrinal purity. We praise the Lord for their bravery in bringing the church out of the “Dark Ages” into the refreshing light of reformation.

Any church leadership structure that in any way elevates the leader as superior or with greater access to God than the regular members of the congregation is compromising Biblical truth with the teachings of the Nicolations, and needs to repent.

“Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 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 2:16-17

“manna” – the daily food requirement for the Israelites as they travelled through the wilderness for 40 years.

Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

“hidden manna” – A regular, daily intake of the word of God is an essential requirement for Christians to grow and mature as they journey through this life.

“a white stone” – black and white stoned were frequently used to designate yes/no, good/bad, invited/not invited. A white stone was used as a ticket to the theatre! In this case a ticket to eternity for those who “overcome”.

“a new name written on it” – a new name was quite common both in the Old and New Testaments after a regenerative encounter with God: Abram/Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Saul/Paul. In nations that are not culturally Christian, very often new believers will take on a “Christian” name at their baptism.

You can see there is such a lot to write about this particular message to the Church in Pergamum and I could write a whole lot more. I’m sure as you meditate upon these 6 verses, the Holy Spirit will continue to teach you and highlight the parts that he would have you personally heed.

Photo (Chris D.): The Red Church in Pergamum – all that remains of a church that would not repent

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A Walk Through the 7 Churches – Thyatira » »

let the discussion begin!

  • Lloyd Carey - 9 June, 2012 at 2:22 am - Reply

    Really appreciate your teaching Unfortunatly have to agree with your comments about sexual issues in the church. The church now seems o be accepting the worlds standards not Gods. We have to continue to pray and ask God to intervene. Standing up and protesting is not doing any good as I t just turns people off us. Don’t really have any aswers but it breaks my heart to see the way we are going and I am sure it breaks Gods as well. Please Lord we need an outpouring of your spirit.

  • Olive Macleod - 10 June, 2012 at 2:20 am - Reply

    I see children,12 and 13 year olds who are no longer innocent. If only we could ban the “soft porn” on TV it would be the start of cleaning young minds. But how do we get young people into the church or house groups when their parents are oblivious of the need for Jesus Christ in their lives. Does it have to be a real calamity to have people turning to God? Idon’t think even the earthquake did that.

  • Esther - 11 June, 2012 at 1:02 am - Reply

    Good article. I would question the name change you mentioned with Saul/Paul. Rebbe Saul didn’t have his name changed by Yeshua; Saul’s name in the diaspora was Paul. Polos in Greek. Paul in English. Saul in Hebrew. Peter had the same type of names given him. Peter was his diaspora name; Cephas was his Hebrew name.

    On the other hand Abram & Jacob actually have recorded in the scriptures their name changes and the reasons G-d changed them.

  • Heather - 12 June, 2012 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    Always enjoy reading your blog, appreciate the ‘plug’ at the family gathering last month. Rich in wisdom and from the heart is how this read. Thank you for being commited to teaching and training. I really appreciate it.

  • Tommy Cole - 15 June, 2012 at 10:51 pm - Reply

    Thank You, I really enjoyed reading your Blog! JESUS is my Savior!

  • tutu skirts - 4 July, 2012 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    Good day! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this page to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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