76) The Calculating, Crushed, And Corrupt Churches

“He that hath an ear, let him hear / respond to what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Revelation 2:1-7

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If we’re going to understand the prophetic value of these letters we need to know their historical reality.

“Unto the angel / Messenger / Pastor of the church of Ephesus write: These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.” 

This describes the actions of a regional religious leader who makes a regular circuit to support the offshoot churches, and informs us that The First Church of Asia had been successful in church planting.

Like New York, Ephesus was an international seaport city exchanging goods, services and ideas between Nations. According to some sources, Ephesus was at the time second only to Rome as a cosmopolitan center of culture and commerce. At the least it ranked third after Alexandria. Its population in Paul’s day is estimated to be 250,000 – 500,000 people, one of the largest in the Roman Empire, lesser only to Rome at 1 million permanent residents (not counting visitors) and Alexandria at ~500,000. The theater in which Demetrius raised a riot against Paul for his effective preaching against the vows / worship (ergo source of income) of Diana held 56,000 people, larger than a typical college football stadium.

Since prehistoric times the site of Ephesus was a place of pilgrimage for the worship of the Eastern mother goddess, reflected in the sexual rather than philosophical orientation of its religion, called in the Greek tongue Athena or Diana, twin sister of Apollo. This tourism and standard trading benefited greatly by a water route into the hinterland up the Meander River. 

Diana’s status in Asia Minor can be calculated by the wealth poured into her temple, which was the largest Greek temple built in its day. It took 100 years to build, and was ranked among the Seven Wonders of the World. “Apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on anything so grand,” the writer Antipater of Sid whom the on wrote of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Steps soared to a 400-foot-long terrace flanking 127 60-foot marble columns and a statue of the goddess.

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most people in the ancient world made vows to gods to achieve specific, well-defined, short-term goals, such as avoiding illness, ensuring a bountiful harvest, completing a voyage safely, getting rich, or attracting a desirable lover. If the goal was realized, the person who made the vow dedicated a statue or an inscription . . . to the god(s) to pay off the vow.” Rogers refers to this process as…“I give so that you might give,” creating with the gods, he writes, “a reciprocal relationship…

This standard MO is part of Paul’s teaching to Gentiles newly converted from paganism to YHVH’s Savior:

who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things.” (Romans 11:35-36)

NYC’s nickname “the Big Apple” was officially adopted as the result of a successful ad campaign intended to attract tourists. The term has always come down to simply mean the best and biggest of places to be, and New York City has long lived up to its nickname.

Ephesus’ nickname was “Lumen / Light of Asia”. This is referenced in YHVH’s Savior’s intro to the letter to this congregation where he reminds her that he holds and keeps the lights lit. The clear message here is that they need to stay connected to him in their constant struggle to be drawn into connection with Diana. A comparable opening to a letter to a church in NYC might reference biting into beautiful appearing but wormy apple.

The assembly established around 51 AD was a Messianic synagogue.

And [Paul] came to Ephesus…he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews...they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not…saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will…And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord…For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ…Paul…came [back] to Ephesus…and he went into the synagogue…But when divers…spake evil of that way [Jewish sect] before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannusby the space of two years…all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks…So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed…And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.(Acts 18:19-28, 19:1-23)

Ephesus, first bishop was Timothy, who Paul had expressly confirmed a Jew for the purpose of reaching Jews. Under Paul’s direct guidance it grew and multiplied, as in Antioch, with both circumcised Jews and uncircumcised Gentiles accepted into the assembly.

Then, almost 20 years later, knowing that the mother church at Jerusalem was about to be smashed and scattered, Paul wrote his literary and doctrinal masterpiece on the form and function of joint Jewish-Gentile leadership. This was the first time this doctrine was articulated. Ephesus’ location and sphere of influence made their assembly the logical one to pick up the reigns of leadership torn away from Jerusalem after 70 AD.

But Paul’s letter went over like a lead balloon. The Ephesian church rejected Paul’s teaching, sacked Timothy, and used their influence to lead all in Asia to abandon Paul as well. Thirty years later the assembly at Ephesus and her satellite churches were still solidly Jewish. Would they respond to John’s letter more positively than to Paul’s?

I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liarsAnd hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee…thou hast left thy first love…Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place.” (Revelation 2:5-6)

If we base our analysis on the biblical record, their first love can only be of Paul’s teaching.

First love is an impetuous force that drives actions from the heart. This is so contrary to human nature that it needs to be continuously re-energized by actions from the heart, or it gets lost over time, gradually replaced by a cost-benefit analysis calculating what’s best for the giver or returns the highest numbers. This develops into a dour, self-centered martyrdom, legalistic to a fault.

The primacy of this church – not the one in Rome – can be seen in the fact that Jesus sent his last apostle, John, to shore up their ministry after he was released from the nearby island of Patmos. Clement of Alexandria, writing towards the end of the second century reports “about the Apostle John…when, on the tyrant’s death, he returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos, he went away, being invited, to the contiguous territories of the nations, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, there to ordain such as were marked out by the Spirit.”  Timothy was welcomed back as bishop. Various traditions report that Paul’s devoted disciple Onesimus, a former slave, became the bishop of Ephesus.

“But this thou hast, that thou hates the deeds of the Nico-laitanes, which I also hate.” Revelation 2:6)

The Nicolaitanes are the charter members of the Roman Catholic Church.

For some time the leaders of the Ephesian were sound in Paul’s doctrine, demonstrated by the First Council of Ephesus.

In 190 Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, convened a synod to establish…the date of the Jewish Passover as the official date of Easter. Pope Victor I…repudiated the decision and separated those who disagreed from Rome.

In 200, the same Polycrates rebuked a bishop of Rome, writing to remind him of notable men who maintained church customs, “not deviating in the least but following the rule of the Faith” and quoting “We must obey God rather than men”

In the 4th century the nationalization of Christianity under Constantine paved the way for compromise, demonstrated in the complicated maneuverings at the Second and Third Councils of Ephesus in the 5th century. By the 6th century the harbor had silted up and the city faded into obscurity. In the 7th and 8th centuries Ephesus was taken by Islamic Arabs.

The city was captured in 1090 and destroyed by the Turko-Persian Sunni Moslem Seljuk Turks, but the Byzantines succeeded in retaking it and rebuilt it on the neighbouring hills around the church of St. John. In the 14th century the city was again plundered by the Turks in the first years of the fourteenth century, then by the Catalonian mercenaries in the pay of the Byzantines, and once more by the Turks. The church of St. John was transformed into a mosque, and the city was ruled by a Turkish ameer, who carried on a little trade with the West, but it could no longer maintain its Greek bishop.

The ruin of Ephesus was completed by Timur-Leng / Tamerlane in 1403 and by nearly a half-century of civil wars among its Turkish masters…in 1439 Mark of Ephesus (Marcus Eugenicus)…was the pastor of a miserable village, all that remained of the great city which Pliny once called…lumen Asiae.

Smyrna – The Crisis Church

Revelation 2:8-11

“And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” 

During the Roman period, Smyrna was apparently a city of great beauty and impressive architecture that circled Mount Pagus like a “crown”... (cf. Revelation 2:10 “crown of life”). Walking through the city, one would a see…temples to Zeus (including a large altar), Cybele (the Mother Goddess, near the harbor), Aphrodite, Dionysius, and the Emperors (probably Tiberius in 26 AD and Domitian before 96 AD), the harbor, a library, and a massive agora…In the 2nd century AD, Smyrna built another imperial temple to Hadrian. Along with inscriptions honoring the emperors and statues of Domitian and Trajan, coins issued by the city often depicted emperors and even the imperial temples, so it is obvious that Smyrna was dedicated to the worship of the emperor and the imperial cult…

Written during the time of Domitian and Christian persecution, the church at Smyrna faced even more opposition than most, due to the strong influence of emperor worship in the city, which at that time was required by law and punishable by imprisonment or death. An interpretation of the reference to the “synagogue of Satan” is tentative, but it may refer to Jews who not only opposed Christianity, but also participated in the imperial cult. Like many other cities of Asia Minor, there was a significant community of Jews, including at least one synagogue. Unfortunately, many of these Jews were fiercely opposed to Christianity, and just as Paul and his friends had been opposed and attacked by Jews in other cities, the Christians in Smyrna also faced persecution from not only the pagans, but the Jews. Polycarp, who had known and been taught by John the Apostle, was martyred in Smyrna at the instigation of Jews in about 156 AD (Martyrdom of Polycarp; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History). 

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”

The ten days / eras of tribulation can be tentatively identified through history documented in Will Durant’s Caesar and Christ, and the reports of the early church historian Eusebius.

  1. Nero (reigned 54-68) ushered in the first empire-wide persecution of Christians in 64 when a fire burned out of control in Rome for nine days, destroying two thirds of Rome. Thousands of people were killed, hundreds of thousands made homeless and destitute. A hostile public accused Nero of torching Rome in order to rebuild a more luxuriant capitol like Alexandria or Antioch. To deflect their anger away from himself, Nero accused and convicted a defenseless and expendable minority. Christians were executed with exquisite cruelty topped by mocker. Some were covered with skins of wild beasts and left to be devoured by feral dogs; others were crucified; numbers were burned alive with some being covered with pitch and set on fire to serve as torches. Paul and Peter were martyred in Rome during Nero’s rule.
  2. Domitian (81-96) was a profligate like Nero who elevated himself to godhood. He required officials to refer to him in their documents as “Our Lord and God,” and the populace to sacrifice to his image. Remember, a sacrifice unites the identity of the god with the human, and “no man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). In 93 he organized persecution against Jews and Christians who refused. During this time John was banished to Patmos.

Notice that these two periods of persecution preceded John’s writing while at Patmos, so they aren’t included in the ten “day” but gave the Smyrnans a solid basis to understand and prepare for what was to come.

  1. By 112 persecution of Christians had become so intense that Trajan (98-117) issued a decree that Christians should not be hunted, only punished if encountered. Persecution broke out sporadically in one city at a time as a result of popular uprisings in the same way that riots in America were aroused by certain incidents in particular cities.
  2. In 156 under Antonius Pius Smyrna came under most savage persecution. Consistent with Jesus’ characterization of the unbelieving Jews as belonging to the synagogue of Satan, they inflamed the persecution. We can deduce that the church at Smyrna, like the church at Ephesus under Paul, were winning too many converts and disrupting the financial and power base of the status quo. In a letter sent to other churches detailing the persecution, some martyrs were whipped with scourges to a degree that their entrails and internal organs were laid bare. Some were forced to lie on sharp spikes. After going through every kind of torture they were thrown to the beasts for food. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna and a companion of the Apostle John, was burned alive. It is reported of him that “at all times he taught the things which he had learnt from the apostles.”
  3. In 177 under Marcus Aurelius persecution flared up in mob onslaughts in city after city. Martyrs “heroically endured whatever the surging crowd heaped on them, noisy abuse, blows, dragging along the ground, plundering, stoning, imprisonment and everything that an infuriated mob normally does to hated enemies.” Torture was inflicted through the rack, whipping, mauling by beasts, being roasted in an iron chair, and being burned alive.”
  4. In 193-211 under Severus many overcame torture to remain faithful unto death, like Potameaena of Alexandria. “The judge, Aquila, subjected her whole body to dreadful agonies, and finally threatened to hand her over to the gladiators for bodily insult…Slowly, drop by drop, boiling pitch was poured over different parts of her body, from her toes to the crown of her head. Such was the battle won by this splendid girl.”
  5. In 235-238 Maximin instigated persecution of the leaders only of the churches.
  6. In 249-251 Decius ordered Christians to participate in heathen sacrifices. A letter to the church in Antioch describes how “they all ran in a body to the houses of the Christians, charged in by groups on those they knew as neighbors, raided, plundered, and looted.” One man who refused to utter blasphemous words was cudgeled, had pointed reeds driven into his face and eyes, and stoned to death. One woman was dragged by her feet over the cobbled street, beaten as they went, then stoned to death. One old lady was battered until her teeth were knocked out, then threatened with being burned unless she uttered the heathen incantations. She jumped into the fire on her own. No roadway was safe to traverse, always and everywhere everybody was shouting that anyone who did not join the blasphemous changes must at once be dragged away and burned. A vast number fled the cities, wandering over deserts and mountains until hunger, thirst, cold, sickness, bandits or wild beasts destroyed them. Many were enslaved by Saracens.
  7. In 253-260 Valarien’s seven year reign was marked by strong parallels with John’s description of the Antichrist. At first friendly and cooperative with Christians, he then took measures to rid his empire of them.
  8. In 284 during Diocletian’s reign, despite these persecutions, the church had swelled in numbers and strength throughout the empire. Even the Emperor’s wife and daughter were professing Christians. Old places of worship were torn down and spacious edifices built. “But increasing freedom transformed our character to arrogance…we began envying and abusing each other…with weapons of sharp-edged words.” (Eusebius) An imperial decree ordered the heads of churches everywhere to be imprisoned. During this time a Christian who refused to sacrifice was stripped, hoisted up naked, and his whole body scourged. Vinegar and salt was poured over his lacerated body, then piece by piece his body was roasted in a brazier. Some martyrs were torn to bits from head to foot with shards of pottery as sharp as claws, some crucified, some crucified head-down which allowed breathing so extended the torture even longer, and left to starve to death. Women were stripped naked, tied by one foot and hoisted high in the air head down presenting the most shameful and brutal spectacles. Others had their legs tied to tree branches forced down by the aid of machinery, which, when released back to their upright positions would slowly tear about the limbs of the victims. There are accounts of occasions where on a single day 100 men, women and children were tortured to death in an ever-changing succession of torments for the entertainment of the masses.
  9. in 286-305 under Maximian martyrs were killed in Arabia by the ax (doesn’t sound so bad in comparison, right?) in Cappadocia by breaking their legs, in Mesopotamia by being hung head down over a slow fire to be smothered by smoke, in Alexandria butchered like meat, in Antioch slow roasted over a brazier, In Pontus unmentionable and shameful suffering inflicted in their private parts and bowels.
  10. In 305-313 Maximin, the eastern potentate of a divided and crumbling Roman Empire, banished and attacked Christians.

After Constantine seized the day and the empire from Maximin and legalized Christianity, Smyrna prospered as a commercial gateway to the East, which then attracted the attention of many invaders.

  1. In 1084 the Seljuk Turks destroyed Smyrna and gave their name to the region.
  2. In 1130 the Persians destroyed the rebuilt Smyrna
  3. In 1402 Tamerlaine razed Smyrna and butchered the inhabitants in a legendary orgy of cruelty, raising a monument to himself with a thousand skulls.

In 1922 Smyrna was erased from the map, replaced by the Moslem city of Izmir.

in the final act in Turkey’s genocide of its Christian minorities...Mustapha Kemal’s army entered Smyrna on September 9th, 1922. By September 22nd…fire — lit by Turkish forces — swept through the city and burned the Greek and Armenian quarters to the ground, erasing anything that would remind future generations of their presence…

At the time, the city of Smyrna was predominantly Greek [Orthodox], known for its thriving commercial trade.

Kemal Ataturk, the leader of the Turkish troops, was a firebrand who made it known that he wanted to be called the founder of “New Islam…” The Allied Navy, comprised of the American, British and French ships anchored off the port…were a guarantee of their safety, they thought…

However…The Allied sailors and soldiers watched the Turkish troops unleash their hate on the non-Turkish residents — but…did nothing to intervene in the atrocity. Patriarch Chrysostomos, the head of all the Greek Orthodox faithful around the world, was hanged by Turkish soldiers after being brutally tortured. The atrocities had no end until Smyrna was emptied [of Christians].

Pergamos – The Corrupt Church

Revelation 2:12-17

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.”

Wow. Satan’s seat, his government headquarters where he keeps a permanent residence, would be the equivalent of Washington DC. Wouldn’t that be in Rome? But our Lord is telling us that it is in Pergamos! Why on earth in Pergamos?

Pergamon, whose ancient name…means “people of the high city”, had been inhabited since prehistory.

There must surely be a connection with the nearby prehistoric temple complex Gobekli Tepe.

“This is the first human-built holy place…”

we can see to the horizon in nearly every direction…”This area was like a paradise,” says Schmidt, a member of the German Archaeological Institute. Indeed, Gobekli Tepe sits at the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent—an arc of mild climate and arable land from the Persian Gulf to present-day Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt—and would have attracted hunter-gatherers from Africa and the Levant. And partly because Schmidt has found no evidence that people permanently resided on the summit of Gobekli Tepe itself, he believes this was a place of worship on an unprecedented scale—humanity’s first “cathedral on a hill.”

So where did the vast number of laborers needed for such a building project reside? Close we find “the world’s oldest town” Catalhoyuk. 

One of the primary goals of the archaeological work is to gain some insight into why people chose to settle in communities like Catalhoyuk…The village had no streets or alleyways. Houses were packed so close together people entered their houses through their roofs and often went from place to place via the roofs, which were made of wood and reeds plastered with mud and often reached by ladders and stairways.

This describes a fort or a prison.

a 32-acre site in southern Turkey… Çatalhöyük was home to as many as 8,000 people at its peak

Recently, archaeologists…discovered “a compelling record of elevated levels of interpersonal violence”…About 25% of the 95 examined skulls showed healed injuries made by small spherical projectiles, probably a clay ball flung by a slingshot. Many of these clay spheres were also preserved around the site, according to the study.

See the post Sin City for details on the development and use of cities by Cain and his line to achieve domination. It’s just basic military strategy of gathering necessary resources.

Pergamos, AKA Pergamon, benefited greatly from becoming one of the first and most loyal supporters of Rome during the transition of power from Greece to Rome during the first and second Macedonian Wars (~240-200 BC).

Ah-ha! This makes sense now, in light of the spiritual forces behind the scenes in human government.

“Fear not, Daniel…I am come for thy words. 

  1. Babylon, the first empire of this series, was already conquered by Persian at the time of this prophecy
  2. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me…and when I am gone forth, lo,
  3. the prince of Grecia shall comeAnd a mighty king [Alexander the Great] shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his willAnd…his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity [Alexander’s four generals]
  4. even for others beside thosethe king of the north shall come (Daniel 11)

While Seleucid kings can certainly be identified in some of the actions of one or another individual labeled a king of the north, that doesn’t exclude Roman rulers from also being referenced. Cycles and repeating patterns of history are not only common but reported in announcements like “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be…” (Luke 17:26). Specific to the prophecy, actions known to have been performed by the third empire ruler Antiochus Epiphanes are prophecied to be repeated by a Roman emperor in the 1st Century 

“arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. (v 31)

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place…” (Matthew 24:15)

Daniel wouldn’t name Rome because, at the time of the prophecy in the 6th century BC, it was only a backwater frontier fort.

Possibly Carthage could have won the Punic Wars and become the fourth great Empire, Carthage was certainly fighting for the honor. Based on Daniel’s revelation, spirit beings swayed the balance of power to Rome.

Including Satan himself, naturally. But that doesn’t mean he moved his seat of government to Europe. He is deeply attached to the cradle of his civilization.

The known history of Babylon…begins with its most famous king: Hammurabi...This obscure Amorite [AKA hybrid giant, see the post A Nimrod By Any Name]…transformed the city into one of the most powerful and influential in all of Mesopotamia…

The Assyrian Ashurbanipal of Nineveh (r. 668-627 BCE)…besieged and defeated the city but did not damage it to any great extent and, in fact, personally purified Babylon of the evil spirits which were thought to have led to the trouble. The reputation of the city as a center of learning and culture was already well established by this time.

Under Persian rule…Cyrus and his successors…made it the administrative capital of their empire…Babylonian mathematics, cosmology, and astronomy were highly respected.

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Alexander the Great in 331 BCE…also gave great reverence to the city.

Alexander also kept the seat of government of his conquered eastern territories in Babylon.

At Alexander’s death, Seleucus was well situated as the governor of Babylon to seize control of the biggest and best chunk of territory, stretching from Iran to Syria.

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For those of us who believe in the spirit world, Satan’s backing of Seleucus is evident by the transfer of Babylon to Seleucus, and Seleucus’ success during the interminable power struggles between Alexander’s hopeful successors in the Wars of the Diadochi. However, the many battles over Alexander’s empire in general, and the city of Babylon specifically, led to the destruction of Babylon. By the time the Parthian Empire ruled the region in 141 BCE, Babylon was deserted and forgotten.

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Forcing Satan to move his seat of government. Remember, Satan knows scripture, so he was aware of the upcoming fourth empire, so he moved East.

This was unfolding during the Punic [for Phoenician] Wars from 264 BC – 146 BC between Rome, which had become the dominant power in the Italian peninsula, and Carthage, the greatest marine power in the Mediterranean. Built on the considerable wealth, knowledge and connections of Phoenician refugees from Alexander’s destruction of the great industrial and trade center of Tyre in 332 BCE, Carthage had a really good shot at becoming the fourth empire.

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So the logical place to face off against the rising power of the fourth empire was the western tip of his Seleucid empire.

And that was Pergamon. It all makes sense when we view world history from military strategy perspectives.

After backing the right horse in the Roman–Seleucid War of 192-188, Pergamon was rewarded with the bulk of the Seleucid territories, making it one of the major cultural centres of the Greek world, This kingdom was so large and rich that when the king of Pergamon died without an heir in 133 BC and bequeathed Pergamon to Rome, it was divided between Rome, Pontus, and Cappadocia, with the bulk of its territory becoming the new Roman province of Asia.

  • Pliny the Elder refers to the city as the most important in the province of Asia at the time, and the local aristocracy reached the highest circles of power in government at Rome. Think of the governor of Georgia becoming president of the country.
  • In 123 Hadrian elevated Pergamos above its local rivals, Ephesus and Smyrna by rewarding it the rank of metropolis – a significant economic, political, and cultural center for a country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections, commerce, and communications. At this time Pergamon was one of the largest cities in the province of Asia, along with Ephesus and Smyrna, and had around 200,000 inhabitants.
  • Pergamos expanded its shrine to Asclepius (the god of healing) into a lavish spa which was considered one of the most famous therapeutic and healing centers of the Roman world. Galen, the most famous physician of antiquity aside from Hippocrates, was born at Pergamon and received his early training at the Asclepeion.

Most significant of all, the first imperial cult in the province of Asia was established in Pergamos, for Augustus, the first imperial cultist. Pergamos was rewarded with a coveted neocorate, a rank or dignity granted to cities which built temples to the Emperor or established cults of the Imperial family. The city received a second neocorate, from Trajan in AD 113/4, and its third from Caracalla about a hundred years later.

Many remains of Pergamon’s cult temples can still be seen – especially the masterpiece of the Pergamon Altar.

Pop quiz: Who is being worshipped at the this altar?

The Gigantomachy frieze on the outside walls of the Pergamon altar…The struggle of the Olympian gods, supported by Heracles, the astrological deities governing the days and hours and originating in the ancient race of the Titans, personifications of the forces of war and fate, sea creatures, and Dionysus with his followers, appears much rather to be a cosmological event of general ethical relevance. It…was certainly not designed without political considerations, as was the case with all artistic image metaphors depicting the struggle between the good and just principle — the Olympian gods and their helpers — and evil — the chaotic forces of nature in the form of the earthbound Giants…especially Zeus [deduced to be Satan in the post The Seed of the Serpent] father of the gods, and his daughter Athena, since they appear in prominent locations of the Gigantomachy frieze…

No research is undisputed concerning this most famous artistic masterpiece of Pergamon, neither the builder nor the date nor the occasion nor the purpose of the construction. –Wolfgang Radt

it is undisputed that the great altar of Pergamon is one of the most significant works, if not the apex, of Hellenistic art.

Its thousands of fragments were painstakingly excavated from 1878 until 1886 and its pieces transported to Berlin and the altar reconstructed and displayed in the new museum named the Pergamon Museum. This museum also houses a reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate of ancient Babylon.

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So the church at Pergamos were up against the lead adversary of all, and Jesus Christ understood that. Over and over he reminds us that the criteria by which our works are judged are faithfulness and perseverance, not productivity.

But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.”

“Nicolaitans”...derived from two Gr. words, nikan, which meant “to conquer” and laos, which meant “people…”Balaam…from two Heb. words, bela which meant “to conquer” and ha’am, which meant “people…” the Gr. and Heb. forms of the same name…the seduction of the Israelites into immoral and idolatrous unions wth the women of Moab (Num 25:1-5Numbers 31:16) [is] attributed…to the evil influence of a prophet named Balaam…The decree of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:28, 29) had laid down…two specific conditions upon which Gentiles were to be admitted into Christian fellowship: they were to abstain from things offered to idols and from fornication. These were the very regulations which the Nicolaitans violated.

IIrenaeus said that they were followers of Nicolaus of Antioch, a proselyte who was among the seven men chosen to serve the Jerusalem congregation (Acts 6:5), who had forsaken true Christian doctrine…Clement of Alexandria…observed that the Nicolaitans abandoned themselves to pleasures like goats in a life of shameless self-indulgence (The Miscellianes 2:20).

They were a people who used Christian liberty as an occasion for the flesh, against such Paul warned (Gal 5:13). The…pagan society in which Christians lived…eating meat offered to idols was common. Sex relations outside marriage were completely acceptable…The Nicolaitans attempted to establish a compromise with the pagan society of the Graeco-Roman world that surrounded them. The people most susceptible to such teaching were, no doubt, the upper classes who stood to lose the most by a separation from the culture…

They prob. reasoned that…A Christian…was the recipient of grace which meant that grace and forgiveness were his no matter what he did. They were those ready to compromise with the world. They were judged by the author of Revelation to be most dangerous because the result of their teaching would have conformed Christianity to the world rather than have Christianity change the world. 

And isn’t that exactly what happened? Like Gomer, Pergamos committed spiritual adultery with her pagan neighbors, and her bastard son is politicized Christianity.

“Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Revelation 2:16)

During the Crisis of the Third Century, the economic strength of Pergamon collapsed. In 262 the city was badly damaged in an earthquake, then was sacked by the Goths shortly thereafter.

Pop quiz. Where did Satan move his seat? No, not Rome.

[T]he empire would see over 20 emperors rise and fall in the almost 50 years between 235-284 CE as compared with the 26 emperors who reigned from the time of Augustus Caesar (27 BCE – 14 CE) to Severus, 27 BCE – 235 CE, a period of over 250 years. The empire was restored through the efforts of Emperor Aurelian (270-275 CE) whose initiatives were developed further by Diocletian (284-305 CE) who is credited with ending the crisis and ensuring the future survival of the empire…

His final solution…was his famous division of the realm between the Eastern and the Western Roman Empires, which made each more manageable under the reign of their respective emperors…the Western Roman Empire for almost 200 years and the Eastern Roman Empire (known as the Byzantine Empire) until 1453 CE.

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