87) The Cowering 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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