Learning from Pergamos
I grew up before gaming systems, streaming movies, and personal computers were in every house. There were no smart phones or tablets to mindlessly occupy my mind as a child. Instead, we had this novel approach: Use your imagination as you play outside!
In this distant past, bikes were transformed into CHiPS motorcycle pursuits. Sticks became guns, swords, and lightsabers. Rocks, unfortunately at times, became hand grenades, missiles, and personal weapons of mass destruction. We’d play for hours out under God’s great big sky enjoying His creation.
While I played with rocks, I’ve never been much of a rock collector. But if I were to ever become one, I’d have to say that Armstrong’s moon rocks would be something I’d much like to have! Yet, truth be told, I’ve just never really been excited by rocks being collected on a shelf…until I came to the promise given to the church at Pergamos.
In Revelation 2.12-17, John continues to address all the churches, but specifically his focus moves to Pergamos. If Ephesus were the New York of Asia, then Pergamum / Pergamos was its Washington. It was here at Pergamos that the Roman imperial power had its seat of government.
This city was known as one of the greatest cultural centers during the Hellenistic era. An early geographer named Strabo called the area around Pergamum the richest land in Mysia.
Here, one would find the Altar of Zeus (which stood at forty feet high) situated on hill about 800 feet above the city and visible for miles. Not only were pagan deities worshipped here (Zeus, Athena, Dionysus, and Asclepius), but also this city was the center of the imperial cult worship in Asia Minor (meaning, this was the primary place where citizens worshipped and prayed to the Roman Emperor as to a god).
This city rivaled Alexandria, Ephesus, and Antioch in the ancient world. Its library was the equal, or perhaps even more magnificent than the famed one in Alexandria. Toward the end of the first century, the city also began to make strides in the field of medicine.
The city was inextricably linked to the Roman Empire – as the Empire rose or fell in prominence, so did Pergamos. Its thoroughly Hellenized culture – complete with temples, theaters, and library – stood as an anathema to all the Church of Christ stood for. The wickedness was so embedded into the culture that John described it as holding “Satan’s throne” and the “place where Satan dwells.”
It’s within this context that the Lord states, “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is.” He rebuked them for holding the doctrine of Balaam as well as the Nicolaitans. After being challenged to repent, the promise comes in the form of “hidden manna” and a “white stone” – a rock with a new name written. What is He talking about?
In the next post, we’ll start to unpack the message given here.
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