If you’re new to this series, you can catch up here:
Who were the Nicolaitans? @ https://polination.wordpress.com/2012/11/17/who-were-the-nicolaitans/
A Brief Review of History @ https://polination.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/a-brief-review-of-history-313-to-1000-ad/
Book of Revelation, Chapter 2, Verses 12-18:
To the angel of the church in Pergamum, write this:
The one with the sharp two-edged sword says this:
I know that you live where Satan’s throne is, and yet you hold fast to my name and have not denied your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was martyred among you, where Satan lives. Yet I have a few things against you. You have some people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who instructed Balak to put a stumbling block before the Israelites: to eat food sacrificed to idols and to play the harlot. Likewise, you also have some people who hold to the teaching of [the] Nicolaitans. Therefore, repent. Otherwise, I will come to you quickly and wage war against them with the sword of my mouth.
Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the victor I shall give some of the hidden manna; I shall also give a white amulet upon which is inscribed a new name, which no one knows except the one who receives it.
I’ve introduced my idea about the seven churches being periods in church history; I’m not at all sure I’m right so take all this with pounds of salt. Please. That being said …
Pergamum seems to work beautifully as a type for the church during the early Middle Ages (roughly 313 AD to 1,000 AD).
The description of Jesus as “the one with the sharp two-edged sword” refers to the passage shortly before (Rev 1:16) where Jesus is described as having a sharp two-edged sword coming out of his mouth which is a clear references to Hebrews 4:12-16:
Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
Consider how apropos are references:
to a sharp sword penetrating joints and marrow for this period when barbarian and Muslim warriors invaded repeatedly;
to Jesus as high priest and to his throne for this period when Christianity became the official state church;
to discerning reflections and thoughts of the heart for this period when the Church developed a sophisticated theology;
to the word of God for this period during which the Church assembled the canon of the New Testament; and,
to holding fast to our confession for this period when the Church formulated a creed.
I was intrigued by the TWO in two-edged sword when considered with the TWO broad strokes of this period in Church history:
1. The struggles for dominance between Church and State.
2. The division of the Church between East and West.
Pergamum was the center of the official pagan religion of the Roman Empire and the site of the oldest temple of the imperial cult. (Cf. The letter’s references to Satan’s throne where Satan lives and where a faithful witness was martyred.)
In 330 AD, the Christianizing Emperor Constantine declared Constantinople the new capital of the Roman Empire. Thus, Pergamum works well as a meaningful type for both religious centers, Rome in the West and Constantinople in the East.
Neat, huh? There’s lots more to talk about with this letter. For now, let me just end with this factoid:
Tradition has it that Antipas was a disciple of John who became Bishop of Pergamum and was burned to death there, ca. 92 AD, in a brazen bull-shaped altar. But there is apparently no surviving record of Antipas apart from this brief mention in Revelation.
Eerdman’s Handbook to the History of Christianity [Eerdmans Publishing, 1977]
The New Bible Dictionary [Eerdmans Publishing, 1962]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pergamon – note alt spelling