The name Pergamum means “elevated, or exalted”. In fact, the city is elevated; it is on top of a hill that overlooks the surrounding countryside. It is also elevated in terms of being well known for its intellectual achievement, impressive medical center and also its artistic achievements by having one of the most impressive theatres of the ancient world. Apart from its achievements, the city is also known for its many temples dedicated to the various gods, especially the four main gods of paganism —Zeus, Athena, Dionysus, Asclepius. Jesus Christ describes this city as the city where Satan has his throne (verse 13). Satan chooses to set up his headquarters on earth there.
Despite living in the city where Satan lives (verse 13), Jesus Christ is pleased with the church for the following reasons, which are useful for us to examine our spiritual walk in our world today:
Faithful steadfastness in being true to Jesus. (verse 13)
Imagine living your life surrounded by thousands of temples in a city that emphasizes on idolatry. You can not attend civic activities or sporting events because these are dedicated to the gods and you need to be true to your God. You are not able to get good jobs because you have to join a local trade union which is dedicated to the goddess Athena. The constant persecution from the government causes you to live under great stress and constant fear. This is the lifestyle of the Christians at Pergamum. Yet, they chose to remain faithful to Jesus. They would not bow down before any idols or participate in the immorality which characterised the city no matter how difficult life would be for them.
As a result of their steadfast faithfulness, Jesus praises this church for remaining true to His name (v 13). Jesus even mentions a faithful one from among them, Antipas, who loves Jesus to the extent of being martyred for his faith.
For us today, Jesus Christ knows the challenges that we are facing, be it in the workplace, the difficult relationships with some people, the tough situations at home, challenges in school, falling sick and so on. Jesus Christ knows the tough challenges you are going through. Yet, will you remain true to Him?
Yes, the Church in Pergamum has its failings too, but they set an example to us by being faithful to God no matter what happens, and not compromising their lifestyle to what the world is offering. May we likewise, remain faithful to Jesus.
Rev Candy Liong
Faith Methodist Church, Kuching