Jesus' Words To The Church In Pergamum
Over the last two weeks we have looked at Jesus’ words to the church in Ephesus and the church in Smyrna.
Both competed with each other for status, recognition and honor.
Ephesus and Smyrna were rich and successful because of trade routes.
Today we are going to consider Jesus’ words to the church in Pergamum.
Pergamum is not able to compete with Ephesus or Smyrna in regards to trade.
However, Pergamum was important because it was the capital of Asia for over 400 years at the time of the writing of this letter to them.
Some have described it in this way, “If Smyrna is compared to the city of New York, then Pergamum is to be likened to Washington DC.”
William Barclay, in his commentary on Revelation says, “History and honor gathered around Pergamum”.
Pergamum was a city with a rich geographical, cultural, religious and political history.
Pergamum led Asia Minor in religious influence in two ways. First, through their worship of the Greek gods. Secondly, in their worship of the Roman Emperors.
The city considered itself the
protector of the Greek way of life
and a defender of Greek worship.
In 240 BC the city won a great victory against the Gaul’s. In response to this battle the city built a great altar to Zeus right in front of the temple of Athene. It was placed 800 feet high upon the cities elevation.
The altar stood 40 feet high and projected far out upon a projecting ledge on the side of the hill giving it an appearance of the throne on the hillside. All day long it would smoke with the smoke of the offerings that were offered to Zeus.
Pergamum was also connected to the Temple of Asclepios, so much so, that this diety became known as the Pergamum god.
Asclepios was known as the healing god so people would come from all over the known world to find healing here.
They believed that healing was partly the work of doctors, partly the work of priests and partly the work of Asclepios.
There were two characteristics of the worship of Asclepios that would have been offensive to Christians.
First, the title that was often said of this god was, “Asclepios – the saviour”. To the Christian, Jesus Christ is alone the Savior of the world.
Secondly, the emblem that was associated with this Greek god, and was often found upon the coins in this city, was a serpent.
For these reasons we can see why Christians and Jews considered this a Satanic cult and also the place where Satan dwells.
Pergamum was also at the epicenter of the worship of the Roman Caesar’s
Pergamum was the political and administrative center of Asia Minor.
People had to swear, by penalty of death, that Caesar is Lord. As we have already seen, this is something that Christians would not do and it cost many believers their lives. Because of this, many believe that this is why Jesus says that this is where Satan dwells.
This city had become important culturally because it had a famous library that was second only to the library in Antioch. It contained over 200,000 scrolls. This city had developed a new material that was used for writing that over time displaced papyrus as the primary means of paper. This product was named after the meaning of the name Pergamum and it was called Parchment.