"The Compromising Church"
"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."' (NKJV)
A city of Mysia, three miles N. of the River Caicus built a beautiful city round an impregnable castle on "the pine-coned rock." Attalus II bequeathed his kingdom to Rome 133 B.C. The library was its great boast; founded by Earaches and destroyed by Caliph Omar. The prepared sheepskins were called pergamena charta from whence our "parchment" is derived. The Nicephorium, or thank offering grove for victory over Antiochus, had an assemblage of temples of idols, Zeus, Athene, Apollo, Aesculapius, Dionysus, Aphrodite. Aesculapius the healing god (Tacitus, Ann. 3:63) was the prominent Pergamean idol (Martial); the Pergamenes on coins are called "the principal temple-care-takers (neokoroi) of Asia," and their ritual is made by Pausanias a standard. The grove of Aesculapius was recognized by the Roman senate under Tiberius as having right of sanctuary. The serpent (Satan's image) was sacred to him, charms and incantations were among medical agencies then, and Aesculapius was called "saviour." How appropriately the address to the Pergamos church says, "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat (throne) is," etc.
II. Christ's Message to Pergamos
Jesus addressed this church as "He that has the sharp sword with 2 edges". Jesus wanted the Church at Pergamos to know His word to them was sharp, poingant, and will cut deep to the heart of the issues he had with the way this church conducted itself. The Church of Pergamos was infested with men of corrupt minds, who did what they could to corrupt both the faith and manners of the church Jesus Christ, being resolved to fight against them by "the sword of his word", takes the title of "Him that hath the sharp sword with two edges". There were 3 valid reqasons why this was true:
(1.) The word of God is a sword; it is a weapon both offensive and defensive, it is, in the hand of God, able to slay both sin and sinners.
(2.) It is a sharp sword. No heart is so hard but it is able to cut it; it can divide asunder between the soul and the spirit, that is, between the soul and those sinful habits that by custom have become another soul, or seem to be essential to it.
(3.) It is a sword with two edges; it turns and cuts every way. There is the edge of the law against the transgressors of that dispensation, and the edge of the gospel against the despisers of that dispensation; there is an edge to make a wound, and an edge to open a festered wound in order to its healing. There is no escaping the edge of this sword: if you turn aside to the right hand, it has an edge on that side; if on the left hand, you fall upon the edge of the sword on that side; it turns every way.
In verse 13, Jesus begans to address their works by letting them know the good things He observed: He says: "I know thy works, and where you dwell and where Satan's seat is and you still hold fast to may name and has not denied the faith, even in the days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr who was slain among you where Satan's dwells"
III. What Christ had against this Church
A. Under Constantine's regime, The church became a "state" church, as Constantine sought to merge Pagan cultists with the Christain that lived in the Roman Empire into "one" people. Pergamos became the capital of Rome.
Not only was Pergamos a government center with three imperial temples, but it was also the site of the "temple of Asklepios" (the Greco-Roman god of medicine and healing), and the medical center where the physician Galen worked (about A.D. 160). Here also was a temple to "Athena" and a temple to "Zeus" with an altar showing Zeus defeating "snake-like giants". The Apostle John spoke of Pergamos as the place "where Satan's throne is" in verse 13 because there existed a cult practice of "Emporer worship". Pergamos was a center where this form of loyalty was pledged to the emperor of the Roman Empire. In adddition, there were 2 "cultic doctrines" that emerged within the Christian church: the "Doctrine" of Balaam and the "Doctrine" of the Nicolatanes.
1. Doctrine of Balaam (taken from Nelson's Bible Commentary)
The New Testament mentions Balaam in three passages. The Apostle Peter speaks of false teachers who "have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following "the way of Balaam" (2 Peter 2:15). Jude speaks of backsliders who "have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit" (Jude 11). Balaam's error was greed or covetousness; he was well paid to bring a curse upon the people of Israel.
The nature of Balaam's curse is made clear by John in the Book of Revelation. It refers to some members of the church in Pergamos who held "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" (Revelation 2:14).
Before leaving Balak, Balaam apparently told the Moabite leader that Israel could be defeated if its people were seduced to worship Baal, "to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality" (Revelation 2:14). Indeed, this was exactly what happened: The people [of Israel] began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifice of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel" (Numbers 25:1-3).
In condemning "the way of Balaam," the New Testament condemns the greed of all who are well paid to tempt God's people to compromise their moral standards. Tragfically, 42,000 lost their lives as God in his anger sent a dreaded plague to the men of Israel who committed whoredom with the daughters of Moab.
2. Doctrine of the Nicolatianes
The "Nicoliatanes" were a faction of people within the Christian church that tried to create a "priestly order", based upon the Old Testament order of the priesthood that consisted of the "Priest"," Levites", and then the "common people". The very nature of the Nicoliatanes can be seen in the meaning of their name: "Niko" which means "to conquer" or "to overthrow" and "Laos" which mean "the people" or "laity". The Nicoliatanes purposed to create what Dr. Clarence Larkin called " A Holy Order of Men" to place over the people or laity! This idea was foreign to the New Testament plan God had set up for his church. They would then eliminate the title "Pastor" which is biblically correct and replace that title with other titles such as "Bishop", Cardinal", "Clergy", "Pope", or "Archbishop". This "Nicoliatane idea" was the orgin of what is known today as the "Apostolic Sucession" and this started the "great division" that has plagued the "pulpit "and the "pew" even in the modern church today.n This same "doctrine" that was hated in the Church of Ephesus was tolerated and embraced in Pergamos.
"Sensuous Form of Worship"
Because these two doctrines were adopted in the Pergamos church, this church was guilty of "spiritual fornication" or "Balaamism, and the church now had become under Constantine married into what became a "state religion or pagan church.
Under Constantine's "Balaam" plan, the Emporer gave the Bishops of this type church a number of "imposing buildings called "Basillicas" that were renovated and converted into facilities where these "Balaam" type churches could hold their pagan worship. Constantine spared no expense. He supplied these church all their clergy "vestments". He seated them in the frontmost part of the building on ascending "loftly thrones". He supplied altars made of marble and adorned with all kinds of gemstones and gold, locating them at the base of the stairwell in front of the raised throne. Constantine made the church more attractive to the pagans within the Roman Empire by changing the very spiritual nature of the church. This church was so affected by the changes that the character and type of preaching as it pertained to God's word that it literally changed the "character of the preaching". Not only that, but to further accomodate the pagans, Constantine changed the celebration dates of the birth of Jesus (which most scholars think occured sometime in April) to December 25 to correspond to the birthday of the Romans "sun god".
As the church became more powerful and financially wealthy, soon an idea surfaced that suggested that the church and the government formed a "co-optic union" and the belief that between the two intities, any problem that plagued the empire could be erradicated by operating as a cohesive unit. this eventually fostered the idea that the new millenium could be ushered in by the co-op, rather than by Christ. From this idea, the doctrine supporting a "Post-Millenial" View of the "End Time Prophecy" came about. Because they need some type of scriptural support to justify this "erronous teaching", they based this "assumption" on a "false premise" that the Jews as a people had been cast off forever by God and all the future prophecies that were intended for Israel's future glory now were passed to the church. The Pergamos period lasted in history from 312 A.D. to about 606 B.C. encompassing about 294 years.