Churches of Revelation: The Church in Pergamos


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Papal crest in Vatican museum

12And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;

13I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

14But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

15So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.

16Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

17He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. (Revelation 2:12-17, King James Version)

Like Smyrna, the Church in Pergamos had to combat the Nicolaitans, but we now also see they are contending with the doctrine of Balaam. Balak is mentioned as well. Obviously, Balak, King of Moab, was no longer alive, so this was meant in a spiritual sense. Balak contacted Balaam of Beor in order to have Balaam curse the Israelites.

According to Strongs H1109, “Bil’am” means “not of the people”, and the Greek is just the Hebrew word transliterated. As discussed last time, “Nikolaos” means “victor of the people”. Both mean a putting down of the common people, which has led some, including JH Allen, to conclude that hierarchical government is the act being criticized.

However, Balaam’s sin was not in setting himself up in authority over the people, but rather for enticing Israel into perverse idolatry. Since Jesus states, “So hast thou also” indicates that the Nicolaitans and the doctrine of Balaam don’t have to be the same group. What likely is occurring is two false groups operating at the same time with the true believers caught in the middle. Most likely, the Nicolaitans were seeking power while those following the doctrines of Balaam were steeped in syncretism. Since Satan seeks total control and to pollute the truth both, this two-pronged attack might seem effective.

One tie-in to the idolatry of Balaam was the rampant pagan idolatary of the city. One cult, that of Dionysus, was so wild that Rome outlawed it for a time. Some believe this to be the reason why Jesus called it where Satan’s throne sits.

“Satan” is mentioned twice in this passage. Pergamos dwells “where Satan’s seat is” and there was martyrdom “where Satan dwelleth”. “Satan’s seat” would be his throne (lit. “thronos”), and where he dwells would be his palace.

Satan is called the “god of this world” (2Co 4:4) and “the prince of the power of the air” (Ep 2:2). It is evident that he was given a throne over the earth. He told Jesus that the thrones of earth were his to give to whomever (trying to entice Jesus to bow down and worship him in exchange for rulership over the nations of this world). His kingdom consists of this present world. So, where is his throne?

Before Pergamos, it would have been in Babylon. It is out of Babylon that almost all practices of the major religions have come into being. They were the first to introduce the idea of a “trinity” and rebelled early on against God by building a tower to keep everyone together rather than spread out over the earth.

According to Dr Walter J Veith, “Pergamos inherited the ancient system of sun worship from Babylon” (The Seven Churches – A Letter to Pergamos). He further states, “The leader of Pergamos used the same ancient title and vestments as Babylonian priests.”

There should be little doubt where Satan’s throne was and now is, as you will soon see.

HWA stated in MOA, Chapter 7, “Prophecy uses ‘mountain’ as a symbol of a major nation, and ‘hills’ as a symbol of smaller nations.”

According to Strong’s G4010, “Pergamos” means “height or elevation”. Coincidence?

Do you want to know something really interesting? Pergamos built a temple to Emperor Augustus. It was so steeped in emperor worship that anyone not worshipping Caesar during certain festivals could be put to death.

Pergamos became the capital city of the Roman Asian province. As such, it became a large political and religious center in Asia.

As time went on, of course, more and more power was given over to Rome. In particular, Emperor Constantine gave land and other benefits to the Roman bishop, and thus we have the formal beginnings of the Catholic Church. He also setup his own power base in Constantinople (so-called “New Rome”). However, the syncretism was there long before Constantine, and we see Jesus warning the Church about this.

Today, of course, the Roman Catholic Church and its pope wield a vast amount of power throughout the world. While the Orthodox Church is also a power to be reckoned with, it continues to decline in power. Even the city of Constantinople is now Istanbul, and the majority of the country of Turkey is Muslim.

We don’t know much about Antipas. Strong’s G493 says it means “like the father”. However, the root words are “anti” and “pater”. Therefore, a more likely translation is “against the father”. It is worth noting that Catholic priests like to be called “Father”.