Jesus knows us intimately; He knows our situation, our struggles and our opportunities. He wants us to take hold of His grace and love so we can focus upon Him and lean on Him both in our jubilations and also in our struggles. The key in this passage is to stay faithful in our Christian identity and our leadership of others, and to remain loyal to Christ. We are not to allow our doubts, fears, or state of affairs to occupy His place in our hearts and minds.
· Pergamum, now modern Bergama, has two meanings in the Greek. One is “citadel,” as in the capital of Asia Minor at one time, and also is the root word for paper as in “parchment.” It also has a nickname that means “sword,” which Jesus uses to make His point (pun intended). Pergamum was built on a hill that was at an elevation of 1,000 feet and that was cone-shaped. Pergamum was a strongly pagan city with perhaps a few Jews living there. It was famous for having the second largest library in the world at that time; only the one at Alexandria in Egypt was bigger. At the time, it was prosperous and also famous for inviting the Romans in, giving them a foothold in Asia Minor. Thus, they were not conquered, but placated, just as compromise does with our faith.
· Double-edged sword refers to a small offensive “Thracian” dagger. It symbolizes God’s ability and right to perform judgment (Isa 49:2; Heb 4:12; Rev. 2:12; 6:4, 8; 13:10, 14; 19:15, 21). For the Romans, this sword was the image of power, control, and used to enforce its laws and for capital punishment. In Scripture, sword also symbolizes war and refers to God’s ability and right to make war on those who seek to fight against Him (Rev. 1:16; 2:16; 19:13).
· Satan has his throne. This referred to either its pagan practices or the seat of the Roman throne for Asia. Pergamum worshiped the god Asclepius, who was Apollo’s son, the god of medicine. In addition, this city was the official center of emperor worship and Rome’s representation for Asia. They also had a huge100 foot+ altar for Zeus. Perhaps Jesus referred to this as Satan’s throne because they worshipped what was false. All its citizens were expected to worship these false gods, including worshiping the emperor. If they refused, they were persecuted by not being allowed to participate in the city life, festivals, and trade. This escalated to the Christians being executed for disloyalty to the emperor. And, this trend was exported to the other providences. Perhaps it was here in Pergamum that martyrdom started for Asia.
· Antipas was the first martyr in Asia. According to the Early Church Fathers, he was slowly roasted alive in a bronze kettle during the time of Domitian. (Another proof for a late date for Revelation.)