So in order to get the meaning of this passage correct, we must ask ourselves, “What’s so important about Pergamum?” Pergamum was a major city in its day and was the site of the first temple built for Caesar worship in 29 B.C. Christ offers words of encouragement to the church in Pergamum using two images which relate to the Roman way of life. First they are encouraged to recognize that the Lord Jesus is the one who holds a "sharp double-edged sword" (v.12), an allusion to the Roman government's ius gladii, the symbol of Rome's right to execute capital punishment. Secondly, they are praised for not denying their faith in Christ before the "throne of Satan", an image reflecting the architecture of the temples built for emperor worship (v.13).
But Christ also has a word of warning for these valiant believers. Pervasive paganism caused them to struggle with the effects of living within that culture (vv. 14-15). Backed by the government, false religions flourished and grew. Christians faced uncertain times, never knowing when they'd live in peace or under persecution. Some had been martyred like Antipas (v.13). Others like the Nicolaitans, had been able to survive by introducing pagan practices into Christianity; a survival tactic that eventually caused them to stumble and fall away from God's Truth (v.14) just as the Israelites fell away from God under the influence of Balaam and Balak (Num. 22-24). Christ challenges them to repent, because the One who holds the sharp, two-edged sword (v.12) is about to execute judgment in the same manner as Rome (v.16).
Christians don’t like to think of Christ in terms of judgment. The predominant representation of Him today is often that of a best friend, a buddy, even a boyfriend. There is also a tendency to think that once a person is saved there are no further responsibilities or obligations on the part of the believer. Jesus loves me and that’s all I need to know. In fact, the easier I can make my Christian walk, the better. Let someone else do the heavy Bible study, reach out to lost people, serve in the nursery or run the children’s program (Jas. 1:27; 2:14-26). I just want to sit here and soak up the Spirit of Jesus! This form of Christianity has allowed the infiltration of New Age practices and beliefs to creep into the church and many a believer’s lifestyle. Take yoga for example. While it may have some health benefits most Christians are unaware that many of the positions and relaxation techniques in yoga are designed to open the human psyche to the spiritual realm- but most certainly not The Spirit. Compromise in order to placate personal desire is allowed to dictate what the Bible says, giving us permission to blend whatever we please into the way we live rather than letting the Word dictate what is true and how we should live according to that truth. The way we compromise is a modern day version of Pergamum and we are no less accountable than they are. We will not be judged concerning our salvation. Christ has taken care of that (Tit. 3:4-7; 1 Pet. 1:3-5). But we will most certainly be judged on how well we followed His commands and the amount of compromise we allowed into our walk with Him (2 Cor. 5:9-10; 1 Pet. 1:17-19).
It may sound trite to say your Bible is the most important thing you own. But it is the only thing that will keep you from compromising your Christian walk and following false or misdirected teaching (2 Tim. 3:14-15). But you have to read it! While it is not always “easy” to pull it off the shelf to do so but the rewards are far greater (see Rev. 2:17 for Pergamum’s reward; Dt. 32:45-47; Ps. 19:7-11). The question however is this: Are you more likely to pursue something such as exercise at the gym, or exercise your spiritual muscles by reading the Bible or serving the Lord? The answer says a lot about you.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre