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Seven Churches Part II - Scott Richardson


October - December 2011 Fall Series At Jackson Drive.


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August 7, 2011


Seven Churches — Part 2

Pergamum — Revelation 2:12-17

Pergamum was a city of Asia located in the Caicus Valley on the Selinus River which flowed directly through the city. The sea was about fifteen miles away. A hill between the Selinus River and the Ketios River formed the topographic basis for the city. It was here that the acropolis, sometimes referred to as the burg or castle, was located with its chief temples and theatres.

Art and literature were greatly encouraged. There was amassed a great library of 200,000 volumes. In relation to this it is of note that these volumes were made of parchment which was developed and first used here. In fact, our word, parchment, is a derivative of the name Pergamum. The city was also renowned for its ointments and pottery.

Pergamum was the capital of the province and was not only a center of politics, but was also the largest religious center of the area. The economy provided for elaborate buildings. It was here that the first temple to the imperial cult and Augustus was built in in 29 BC. There were also four other main temples in Pergamum, dedicated to the gods, Zeus, Dionysus, Athena, and Asklepios. A school of medicine was attached to the temple of Asklepios. The altar of Zeus was a very large and elaborate structure and that was world renowned.

Christianity spread here quickly from Jerusalem; persecutions also came quickly to the church here. Through information from scripture and from history, it appears that the disciple, Antipas, may have been one of the first to be “officially” executed by the Roman government.

The Letter to the Church at Pergamum

Consider Christ as He presents Himself. Christ describes Himself in such way as to show He was especially qualified to say the things which needed to be said. He had the sharp sword with two edges. This is the manner in which the word of God is elsewhere described (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17). The sword has long been the symbol of authority. Christ has all authority (Matthew 28:18). It is not what we feel, think, like, or what we have always done or not done which is the authority. Jesus sent the apostles to guide men into all truth (John 16:12,13). The Holy Spirit revealed this (1Corinthians 2:9-13). This word teaches by direct statement or command, by apostolic example, and by necessary inference. In this manner we must find authority for all teaching and practice in religion. All in the church at Pergamum were not content so to do. Let us learn.

Consider the good things in regard to this church. Jesus knew that they held fast His name. Even on Satan’s “turf” they believed in Christ and His authority and had not denied Him. One of their number had even died because of his standing for Christ. Surely, we can learn from this. Surely, we ought to be ashamed to let unkind things said to us and about us hinder us from standing for the Lord. Jesus also knew that they had not denied His faith. If anyone ever denies His faith, he is left with no way to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Consider the bad things which the Lord knew about the church. He knew that they tolerated false teachers. We may not know exactly what the false doctrine was, but we can learn that God and Christ hate false doctrine. Christians must have the same attitude toward false doctrine (Galatians 1:6-9).

Consider the requirements which the Lord gave. He called upon them to repent. Erring Christians must repent. The innocent ones were obligated to insist upon the guilty ones repenting. When erring Christians will not repent, they must be marked (Romans 16:17). The Lord then insisted that these hear Him. Surely we can see the application of this for us (Hebrews 2:1-3).

Consider the promises Christ made. Jesus then promised the reward — to give the hidden manna to those who overcame. Like the Israelites of long ago, God will furnish. Then Christ promised a white stone with a new name written there. However, all do not overcome (2Peter 2:20,21). Incidentally, Peter said this in regard to people who followed Baalam, as were some of these at Pergamum.

Thyatira — Revelation 2:18-29

Thyatira is situated on the Lycus river about 27 miles from Sardis. This is in the interior of Asia in the valley connecting the Caicus and Hermus rivers. The land itself was quite fertile and well suited to sustain the people of the city. The city was built on a flat plain and had no natural fortifications. The location of Thyatira and its lack of natural fortifications made the location rather insignificant. In spite of the location and because of the land’s fertility and the proximity to larger cities like Pergamum and Sardis, the city was annexed by Rome and made a part of the province of Asia. It soon became a commercial center, but was never a metropolis.

Thyatira was specially noted for the trade guilds which were probably more completely organized there than in any other ancient city. Every artisan belonged to a guild, and every guild, which was an incorporated organization, possessed property in its own name, made contracts for great constructions, and wielded a wide influence. Thyatira was most known for the dyeing of purple cloth, a fact which Homer even references in his Iliad. Scripture gives reference to Lydia, who was from Thyatira, as a seller of purple. The purple-red dyes were made from the madder roots (R. peregrina) grown in the area.

The trade guilds of Thyatira were closely connected with the Asiatic religion of the place. Each guild had its own associated deity. Pagan feasts, with which immoral practices were associated, were held by the guilds. This made it very difficult for those who were Christians to have a job. The city itself did have its own patron god. Originally, the god they worshipped was the ancient Lydian sun-god, Tyrimnos. This god later morphed into the Greco-Roman god Apollo. In each case, the god was represented as a horseman bearing a double-headed battle axe.

Another curiosity of the religion here was the presence of a sibyl dedicated to Sambatha. There stood a fanum near the city walls in an area designated as the Chaldean’s Court where this supposed prophetess uttered her sayings. She was at various times referred to as Chaldean, Persian, or Jewish. It is perhaps this prophetess who is referred to in Revelation 2:20.

The Letter to the Church at Thyatira

Consider Jesus as He here described Himself. He spake of Himself as the Son of God. When Jesus so spake, He usually had an obvious reason for so doing. At Thyatira a false teacher had come. This one, and all, needed to know that Jesus needed to be heard. He is the way to heaven (John 14:6). Then Jesus said that He had eyes like a flame of fire. He saw what was taking place. He then said that His feet were like fine brass. He was and is strong and dependable.

Consider the good which Jesus knew at Thyatira. Jesus knew their works. He knew their love. This was the thing which was lacking at Ephesus (Revelation 2:4). However, we see here that love, as important as it is, does not excuse sin or take the place of any other required thing. He said that He knew their faith. Thus, there was still reason to hope that other corrections would be made. He also knew their service or ministry. This likely refers to their diligence in caring for the physical needs of those for whom they were responsible. However, as important as this is, we see from this that this will not make people acceptable to the Lord when other things are amiss. He knew their patience or steadfastness. Last of all, He knew they were growing.

Consider the bad things Jesus knew at Thyatira. To begin with, they were letting a woman who was a false teacher lead people astray. Only the truth is to be taught. Furthermore, adequate time for repentance had been granted with no good result. Christ is long-suffering (2Peter 3:9). However, His tolerance had grown thin at Thyatira. Yet, there was a glimmer of hope at Thyatira, as all had not followed the woman.

Consider the requirements. Just as always, they must be ready to hear. Then they must “Hold fast until I come.”

Consider the promises. Justice was to be had. The reward to the faithful was the promise for no other burdens. Those who did overcome were promised great things. This was on condition that they kept His words. These are words of victory.

—S. Scott Richardson Sr.

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