12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
13 “‘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. 14 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. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 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.’
As the reader read about Pergamum you had a sharp pain in your stomach when Christ refered to Antipas as his faithful witness. You were sure that John didn’t enjoy writing this part and would have elaborated more if it were his words. But, they are not his words, they are the Words of God Almighty who called your friend Antipas faithful. Before John made Antipas Bishop of Pergamum he spent a lot of time with him. Antipas preached here in Ephesus often. Some of the times you were around John, Antipas was there too. He was smart, witty and confident.
John didn’t always know how to take Antipas. It was similar to his relationship with Peter, only obviously John was the elder and the apostolic teacher. Antipas knew that John had an unwavering belief in him. He seemed to have the qualities of a Paul or a Peter. The man was faithful. He was going to strive for personal holiness in his life. He was going to be faithful to the gospel message and preach it where ever he went. He was going to disciple many people.
I think for John maybe he strived to be like Christ in how he related to Peter. Antipas was a giant just like his old friend and business partner. Antipas would run through a wall for Christ or for John for that matter. The Kingdom of God is a strange thing. For the greatest servants of the King serve in the hardest places. Even though it pained John greatly he sent Antipas to be the Bishop of Pergamum. Antipas loved it, like a child going off to war to defend the country. He considered being the bishop in the dark Roman city of Pergamum to be a high honor. It was a high honor even if it killed him, and it did.
How could it happen? The pain was still fresh. Even though Christ is saying in the days of Antipas, it hasn’t been that long. Maybe Jesus is saying that it is time for someone else to pick up the mantle of leadership there. But, you still can’t believe what they did to him.
Some of the believers in Pergamum witnessed his death. He was stuck alive inside the graven image of a bull on top of the Throne of Zeus. Inside the bull it is said that they carved little pipes so as they set it on fire and the person being sacrificed inside the bull would scream and cry out, the bull would sound like it was alive. It backfired when from inside the bull Antipas prayed for the church and even his murders, that they would come to Christ.
There is a new convert to Christ who assisted in putting Antipas to death that day. He is part of the church there now. The church has struggled and struggled to have a leader for some time. But, the witness of Antipas is amazing. To think about the influence he had in his life, now it has multiplied in his death.
The city is a mess. Not only is it the political center of Rome, but you think of the spiritual atmosphere as having a satanic trinity. First, there is the temple to the Emperor. Because Antipas wouldn’t bow to Caesar and worship him, he was called an atheist and was to be sacrificed to Zeus. Zeus being the head of the pagan gods, along with a temple to Athena who is the goddess of wisdom and war. Oddly enough she was born from the brain of Zeus. That is the thing about living in darkness, it doesn’t have to make sense. I mean how stupid are these pagan stories?
But, you thought about the words coming from the speaker. You thought about how he referred to it as Satan’s Throne. The word throne is a word used for the master’s chair of a house. Satan is very comfortable there. How could this happen to Antipas? John had trained him, right here in Ephesus. He taught him how to deal with the pagan mind. He taught him well. But, the truth is, if the emperor asks you to worship him, either you do, or you die. No one ever questioned that Antipas wouldn’t die for his faith, there. It was only a matter of time.
You were filled with hate for what happened to Antipas. Antipas was a great servant of Christ. You were filled with anger. But, then you thought, but that one guy working the altar of Zeus has snuck away at the risk of his life. He saw something that day. He experienced Jesus through Antipas just like you did. You were brought to tears knowing that in his death, a brutal, horrific death, a beautiful life was born. A man came to Christ at the throne of Satan because he saw something that was worth dying for. He saw something real. Antipas went to his reward. Antipas was the Bishop of Pergamum where it was known that Satan’s throne was, but in heaven he is a giant.
As the reader continued to speak of Pergamum you praised God Almighty for the witness of Pergamum. But, who will lead the people there? Who will it be? John needs to appoint another Bishop. You know God will continue to work there, but as the reader continues you begin to consider their warnings.
Tune in Next Week!
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