“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.’” Revelation 2:12 (ESV)

The city of Pergamum was the headquarters of the Roman government in Asia. It was also the home of several Roman cults. There was a terrace above the streets of the city that was lined with government buildings and temples of the cults. One cult in particular honored the god Askleios who was famous for healing. This belief drew many people to the city seeking relief from their infirmities. With such a presence of cultish activity, we might understand why Jesus referred to Pergamum as the place “where Satan’s throne is.”

Because Pergamum was the place “where Satan’s throne is,” the church in Pergamum was experiencing some degree of persecution. Unlike Smyrna where the persecution seemed to be coming from Jews, the Pergamum Christians were being persecuted from outside of religious walls. It is interesting to note that regardless of where the persecution arises the ultimate source is Satan (Revelation 2:9-10, 13). Jesus praises the church in Pergamum for holding fast to his name even in the face of martyrdom; which we see had already affected the church through Christ’s faithful witness Antipas.

Jesus rebuked the church at Pergamum for having some among them who held to the teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. Balaam supposed himself to be a prophet of God. On one occasion he was summoned by Balak the king of Moab to curse God’s people Israel. Balaam, after being told by God not to go was later given permission, but insisted to Balak that he could only speak as God directed him. Unable by God’s direction to curse Israel, Balaam advised Balak (Numbers 31:16) to have the women of Moab to invite the men of Israel to their feasts in honor of their gods. These feasts were held in temples. Food was served that had been sacrificed to idols and acts of sexual immorality were prevalent. Balaam was likely implicit in persuading the Israelites that such behavior was permitted by God.

The Nicolaitans held to the same false teaching as Balaam. They were most likely teaching those in the church at Pergamum that it was prudent to blend in with the society around them; that their Christian faith would not be compromised by participating in these cultish activities. They likely taught the Christians that persecution would be lessened if they embraced the Roman culture. This teaching was a stumbling block to some in Pergamum just as it was to many in Israel during the time of Balaam.

The church begins to blend with the culture when doctrinal error is taught that accommodates compromise with worldly standards. And to our shame this is happening in many churches today. Grace is taught as a license to sin. Cultural norms have begun to dictate Christian behavior and God’s word, if not totally ignored, has been altered to fit the world’s narrative. Many in the church believe it is safer to conform to the world’s standards than to contend for the faith for the sake of Christ and face persecution.

 If we gain the whole world and lose our souls our lives and witness are worthless (Matthew 16:26). Holding fast to Jesus and obeying his infallible word is imperative if the church hopes to reach the world with the gospel instead of becoming like the world. Through his word we come to know and love God. And really knowing and loving God will provide strength to stand fast in the hour of trial and persecution.

Do you contend for the faith or play it safe by compromising with the culture of this world?  

Scriptures for meditation:
Matthew 10:39

Copyright © 2024 Steve Pruitt/lovnJesus.com

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