12 “Write to the angel of the church in Pergamum:
“The One who has the sharp, double-edged sword says: 13 I know where you live—where Satan’s throne is! And you are holding on to My name and did not deny your faith in Me, even in the days of Antipas, My faithful witness who was killed among you, where Satan lives. 14 But I have a few things against you. You have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to place a stumbling block in front of the Israelites: to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality. 15 In the same way, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent! Otherwise, I will come to you quickly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
17 “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
In the 1st century AD, the city of Pergamum was widely regarded as THE hub of religious activity in Asia Minor. Approximately 50 miles north or Smyrna, the two cities held some very similar characteristics, the chief similarity being persecution of believers.
Like Smyrna, Emperor worship was both common and commanded. In fact, the refusal to bow before the Emperor, declaring him to be a god carried swift and sure penalties. This is why many Bible scholars believe that in His letter to the Church, Jesus described the city of Pergamum to be “the place where Satans throne is” (13). This hotbed of false religion had produced a tension between the church and culture that had passed boiling point as one faithful man of God, Antipas, had already died a martyrs death (13).
Jesus commends many from within the church, citing their clinging to His name in the midst of such chaos and struggle, holding fast to the doctrines of God, even with the penalty of death looming large.
Yet, not everyone in the Church of Pergamum lived with such Christward devotion.
With persecution, even death, now a clear and present danger…some from within the church had began walking the crowded street of compromise. Instead of allowing their doctrine to guide them through circumstance, they had allowed their circumstance to guide their doctrine (14-15).
This dangerous practice is just as much a reality today as it was in the 1st Century. Our doctrine, our theology matters! We’re to hold fast to the doctrines of God, no matter the cost. We must not allow culture to shape our theology but our theology to shape us and in turn, we shape the culture.
Jesus warned the Church in Pergamum (and us as well), “Repent!” (16). This simply means “turn” from this false doctrine and back to Him or else He’ll sort it out Himself (16). You see, He is a jealous God and makes no room for foolish compromise.
He promises great blessing to the Church if it will turn from this wickedness and treasure His name. (17)