Pergamum: A Devotional on The Church Caught on the Edge
Amy Flattery, Director of Center for Holy Lands Studies
Pergamum is a site with a vast history dating back to 3,000 BC. It is known to us from the Book of Revelation in the New Testament as one of the recipients of the letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor. The letter commends the church for its ability to survive in a place where Satan has his throne.
Pergamum is not mentioned in the Book of Acts, so it is doubtful that Paul’s missionary journeys took him here. But we do know that he passed through this region on several occasions. The influence of the Roman imperial cult in the daily life of this city and the surrounding region was directly opposed to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ and flew in the face of the church.
The letter to the church of Pergamum tells us that the believers here refused to renounce Christ. Even one of their own by the name of Antipas was put to death for his belief. Historical records from Eusebius tell us that in AD 250 the Roman governor Quintilianus came to this city and had leaders from the churches of Pergamum and Thyatira executed in the amphitheater by burning them alive for refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods.
In the Book of Revelation, the church at Pergamum is noted as a people that held fast to their faith in God. Some did so even when facing persecution and death. However, despite their steadfastness, the church of Pergamum was not without fault. The letter in Revelation chastises some believers for participating in worship at the pagan temple and for becoming sexually immoral.
Some in the church began to lose their way and slip into the paganism of the world around them. The issue with the church in Pergamum is that they tolerated the actions of these so-called believers. Their silence and acceptance of sin inside of the church only served to allow a foothold for growth or actions that were ungodly. Sin is a sneaky great destroyer of individuals that make up the church.
Likewise, today worship of objects, cults, and people come in many forms. These forms of worship are a slippery slope. How we choose to guard our hearts and minds is so important. How do we hold fast in the face of adversity? How do we overcome false teachings and the negative influences of the world? We must spend daily time with our Father in heaven and surround ourselves with encouraging influences and accountability. This gives us the ability and strength to hold fast to faith even in the places where the unfaithful dwell. Even in the darkest of times and in the most difficult situations, if we remain a faithful witness for the Lord—like the faithful believers in Pergamum—we, too, will receive blessing beyond measure.