Friday 20 July 2012

Bible Book:

"Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it." (v. 17)

Revelation 2:12-17 Friday 20 July 2012


The third of the seven messages from Jesus, relayedthrough John, is to the church at Pergamum, about 50 miles north ofSmyrna. Even today, standing amongst its ruins and imposingposition, one can understand why Pliny called it "by far the mostdistinguished city in Asia." Pergamum means 'citadel', itflourished under Hellenistic culture, and the Romans added moregravitas when, in 29 BC Augustus gave permission to Pergamum as thefirst city in Asia to build a temple dedicated to the worship of aliving ruler - himself!

Little wonder then that, of all the seven cities,it is Pergamum where the church clashed most with the Romanimperial cult or emperor-worship. The city was dominated by a hugealtar to Zeus which overlooked the city from its acropolis high onthe hill, and it is this that is referred to as "Satan's throne"(v. 13). In these circumstances, and faced with the prospect ofdying for their faith, it is praiseworthy that the small church inPergamum in general held fast and were not denying their faith(also verse 13). However, the message to them says that some havebeen guilty of following Balaam; this was less about specificteaching, and much more about Balaam as an example of corruptpractice and compromise with false ideologies. The Nicolaitans inverse 15 get another mention here; as in Ephesus (see Wednesday's Word in Time), they advocated waysof compromising church behaviour with pagan practices.

It is the indifference of the church in Pergamum tothese compromising ways that seems to be of greatest concern. Toencourage the church in such a difficult context, and support allwho hold fast to the faith, Jesus promises "manna", wholesome andheavenly food as opposed to what the Balaamites can offer in thisearthly life. The exact meaning of "the white stone" (v. 17) is notknown, but it is clear that it symbolises the triumph of those whostayed faithful to Christ's teaching.

To Ponder

  • You might more easily identify with subtle 'compromise' ratherthan direct 'persecution' in your faith journey. What are the kindof things that compromise our faith?
  • How can we be more aware of when we are tempted to compromiseour faith; and how can we be helped to hold fast to what we know isthe Truth?
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