revelation

Seat of Satan

Revelation Discipleship - Pergamum Pt. 1

The book of Revelation is perfectly poised to help us during times such as this. The Bible is one long metanarrative from end to end. With Revelation being the end of the story, guess what? Jesus wins. 

Life has become chaos all around us. I saw a quote today that said “I’ve always wondered what it was like to live during the times of the Civil War, Spanish Flu, Great Depression, Civil Rights Movement, Watergate, and the Dust Bowl. Not all at once, mind you…” 

The world is crazy, our lives are crazy, but the kingdom of God is not in trouble. 

A.W. Tozer said, “While it looks like things are out of control, behind the scenes there is a God who has not surrendered authority.”

As we step into the church in Pergamum, let us keep in mind our own context. Jesus specifically writes these letters in Revelation to particular churches, but God allowed them to end up in the canon of scripture for our edification.

Buckle up. This is a hard one.

What does it say?

 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith[b] even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it." Revelation 2:12-17

What does it mean?

Why would Jesus, the Prince of Peace, describe himself right away as “the one who has the sharp double-edged sword”? This doesn’t sound very peaceful. But Jesus isn’t about tolerance, he’s about justice for his bride, the Church. If you try to hurt His bride, He will cut you. He’s not playing around with heresy, he wants to cut it out with the scalpel of his mouth, the Word of God. 

In particular, in Pergamum, Jesus would be reminding them of His strength to fight for them. In Roman times certain places were given the “right of the sword” and some were not. This meant that the governing body had a right to kill whoever they deemed worthy of it. Pergamum had “the right of the sword”, but Jesus’ sword is sharper. The church needed reminding.

The church was under attack. They were attacked from without (bow to Caesar or die) and within (the heresy of Balaam and the Nicolatians). It was easy to spot the attack from the outside, but the attack from the inside was more insidious. 

Albert Speer said “One seldom recognizes the devil when he is putting his hand on your shoulder.” Who was Albert Speer? He was known as the Nazi who said he was “sorry” in his memoirs of the Nuremburg trials and his time with Hitler. Interesting. Talk about Satan alive and well in history...

Jesus says “I know where you dwell. Where Satan has his throne.” Woah. That’s hard hitting. Jesus is saying the Pergamum Christians live at the epicenter of evil. 

In this particular instance, scholars have several reasons they believe that Jesus pronounced this city as Satan’s throne. One was that there was a literal 40 foot high altar that resembled a throne where people made sacrifices to Zeus all day, every day. This throne was on top of a 800 foot hill next to the city. Anyone traveling to the city of Pergamum would encounter the image and smoke from the throne miles before reaching the city.

You can still see this “throne” today at the Pergamum Museum in Germany. The German engineer Carl Humann excavated the site one brick at a time and transported it to Germany in order to rebuild it. Hitler used the blueprint for the altar to Zeus to build his own altar from which he delivered his speeches. It’s quite an interesting read, and an interesting way to think of how the Satanic spirit has been here from the dawn of time. 

Pergamum was also where the temple was built to the god Asklepios, who was thought to be the god of healing. People flocked to the temple from all over the known world to seek healing by lying on the floor of the dark temple and allowing snakes to crawl over their sick bodies. Their symbol was a snake on top of a staff, which we still see in medical images today. 

While both of those reasons pretty clearly denote demon worship, the most likely reason Jesus stated this was that Pergamum was the seat of the cult of Caesar. If you were a Christian in Pergamum, you would live in fear of being asked to say “Caesar is Lord”, on pain of death. 

It’s clear through many biblical passages that, while Satan is alive and active everywhere on this planet, some places are spiritually darker than others. There are such places as “strongholds of Satan”, places where there is an exceptional presence of evil. 

But Jesus doesn’t modify his expectations based upon their environment. He doesn’t tell them to move to a better location, He tells them to stay true. He tells them to demonstrate their faith by suffering well. Not exactly a Western Christian mindset. 

We already discussed, in our look into the letter to Smyrna, that in Western Culture we seem to have fallen asleep to the fact that Satan is real and active...and seductive. Not only is he blatantly at work in the city of Pergamum, he is surreptitiously at work in the church in Pergamum. 

Is it any different today? Not likely. Revelation is the end of the story. Jesus wins. Satan knows he is defeated, but that doesn’t keep him from attacking the one thing God cares about most, his Church. 

To Be Continued...

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