This series is based on the video produced by Appian Media. Trial & Triumph explores the seven churches of Asia from the book of Revelation. Travel with Jeremy Dehut and watch the video as we explore the seven churches.
In the letter to the church at Pergamum, Jesus identifies the city as the place where "Satan dwells."
Pergamum, like Ephesus, was a wealthy city. A city immersed in pagan cult worship and Roman emperor worship. Christians in Pergamum faced the challenge of compromising and accommodating their culture. Tolerant of evil and immorality, Jesus, in the letter, is described as the One who has the sharp double-edged sword. A symbolic representation of God's Word and the ability to separate Christians from the world, sin, and salvation.
"And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: “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. 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. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. “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.” ’
Pressure to Accept
The landscape of Pergamum was filled with a hill that rose to 1000 ft. above sea level and had many temples. The temple of Asclepios, the god of healing, was prominent in Pergamum. In the upper city stood a massive altar, where the smoke of sacrifices would fill the skies. Temples for Athena, Dionysus, and Zeus were erected in this ancient city. Atop the hill was a temple complex built in honor of the Roman emperors. Pergamum had the first temple in the area dedicated to Augustus and Rome and became the center of Roman emperor worship in the province. As both a political and religious center, Pergamum created conflict for Christians. Titles such as Lord, Savior, and God were constantly applied to the emperor of Rome. Christians were left in a position to resist the culture around them or conform.
External pressure to conform had risen to the extent that Christians were martyred for their faith and confession of Jesus as Lord (Rev. 2:12). Internally, some within the church were holding and appealing a false teaching, similar to Balaam's in (Num. 31:16), permitting moral compromise. Such compromise would have lessened hostility from non-believers in the surrounding culture.
Christians in Pergamum were called to repent from following false teaching. They were called to remain faithful to their confession of Christ, as the letter to the Hebrews reminds us:
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works"
Idols do not need to be formed from wood or stone. Idols can take many forms as they pull us away from faithfully walking with the Lord. Pressure to conform exists for Christians today as it did with the church at Pergamum.
What idols exist in our lives?
In what ways are Christians today pressured to conform?
How can Christians remain faithful in a hostile culture?
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
handout: PERGAMUM: Compromise