Updated: May 19, 2022
What can we learn from them?
To the Church in Pergamum- The compromised church
The city of Pergamum was built in land on a rocky hill and was about 25 miles inland. The city was filled with statues and tributes to the serpent-god Aesculapius a clear sign of Satan. The rod of Aesculapius was adopted by many healers and magicians as a symbol and today appears on NHS ambulances in England and Wales. The city also had an alter to Zeus the king of the so-called gods of Greece. Pergamum was also the centre of emperor worship. Evidences of Satan and his activities were all over the place. Not an easy place to be a Christian! Sin city!
Revelation 2:12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
Satan’s throne may refer to the 200 foot high alter to Zeus specifically or in all the Satanic symbolism throughout the city. Jesus commends the church in Pergamum a highly satanic city for their refusal to deny Him and clinging to their faith even when Antipas the first Asian martyr was put to death in Satan’s hometown as it were. History records that Antipas was burned to death in a large bull-shaped copper vat for daring to cast out demons which were worshipped by the local people. In Pergamum the rulers enforced the Roman policy of confessing ‘Caesar is Lord’. Each citizen was required to offer a pinch of incense to Caesar and make a public declaration that ‘Caesar is Lord’ after which they were given a certificate showing they had done this. Anyone refusing to do this was immediately put to death. Quite a test for the Christians living then who saw this as a clear case of needing to declare instead ‘Jesus is Lord’ thus forfeiting their lives.
14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam , who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Jesus now turns his attention to the various criticisms of the church in Pergamum. Some of the church members were mixing their Christianity with pagan practices including eating meat sacrificed to idols and actually taking part in immoralities of the pagan festivals. The teaching of Balaam and later the Nicolaitans encouraged God’s people to licentiousness by sexually intermingling with the pagan peoples during rituals thus mixing the true religion with an evil one. The church needed to discipline those people who were mixing their faith with outrageous pagan practices. They probably did this to keep their livelihoods. Christians would be thrown out of their various guilds and their employment if they did not participate in the worship of the local god of that particular guild. Jesus condemns these practices and calls the church to repentance warning them that He is coming soon to deal with such enemies.
17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To those who are victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give each of them a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
Whoever is able and willing to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying and is obedient to it will receive true food –the bread of Heaven- and be satisfied with it. The white stone may represent the inner person of Christ as revealed personally to the recipient. The stone (psephos) is like a ‘not guilty’ voting chip from God and is a token of a wonderful and everlasting personalised fellowship with the believer and with Jesus’ new name reflecting on the believer in some way perhaps giving them a new name too. The bestowing of a new name on God’s servants was prophesied by Isaiah 
Further commentary from Jacqueline Wilson (the contribution of the late David Hilsley is acknowledged)
Pergamum was the Capital city of Asia until the close of the first century. It was a city given over to the worship of many Greek idols. Two of the most prominent religious systems of the city were the worship of Bacchus (the god of revelry) and the worship of Asclepius (the god of healing)
Verse 13 twice refers to the city as the place where “Satan’s throne is” or where Satan dwells.” Satan has a kingdom; Babylon has from earliest times been considered the capital of this kingdom. Idolatry gained its start in Babylon through Nimrod and his mother inspired by Satan. As long as Babylon was a dominant world power, it made an excellent headquarters for Satan’s attack on mankind. However, when Babylon’s glory began to decline and it was left desolate Satan looked for another location. He selected Pergamum because of its strong idolatrous religions.
The Indulged Church A.D. 312 - 606
Satan learned from his attack on the church of Smyrna that persecution only caused the Church to flourish and continue in a perpetual state of revival. After Diocletian’s unsuccessful attack on the Church, Constantine succeeded him as emperor of Rome. Constantine’s ascendancy to the throne was not without controversy, and it had far-reaching effects on the Christian Church of the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries.
Constantine, already attracted by Christianity, allegedly saw a vision of a fiery cross in the sky and heard a voice saying, “In this sign conquer”.
Paganism introduced into the Church
The influence of paganism on the Church increased over the years step by step. The Church began to shroud itself in “mystery” and ritualism that had a strong resemblance to Babylonian mysticism. The following is a partial list of unscriptural changes introduced during this age. Gradually these changes became more prominent than the original teachings of Christianity.
A.D. 300 - Prayers for the dead
A.D. 300 - Making sign of the cross
A.D. 375 - Worship of saints and angels
A.D. 394 - Mass first instituted
A.D. 431 - Worship of Mary began
A.D. 500 - Priests began dressing differently than laymen
A.D. 526 - Extreme unction (a sacrament in which a priest anoints and prays for the recovery and salvation of a critically ill or injured person.)
A.D. 593 - Doctrine of purgatory introduced
A.D. 600 - Worship services conducted in Latin
A.D. 600 - Prayers directed to Mary
From A.D. 312 on, the Church became more Roman and less Christian on its practices. The Roman Catholic Church of today is hard put to trace its ancestry beyond A.D. 312.
The name Pergamum literally means “marriage” or “elevation”. As the Church became married to the governmental authority and elevated to a place of acceptance, it declined in spiritual blessing and power.
As the Church became rich and powerful, it was suggested that the world was getting better and better, that Jesus’ kingdom was already ushered in, and that he would come at the end of the thousand year reign. This demanded reinterpretation of the status of Israel, which was accomplished by suggesting that Israel had been “cast off forever” and the promises of Israel now applied to the Church.
Whenever a local Church or denomination has maintained a strong emphasis on the second coming of Jesus, it has been an evangelistic, missionary-sending station. Where this doctrine has been neglected, the church has become cold, indifferent, and worldly.
The Nature of Jesus Revealed to Pergamum
To Pergamum he revealed the “sharp two-edged sword” which without question
refers to the Word of God. The cure for the problems of the local Church at Pergamum, of the Pergamum age of the Church, or of any church is the Word of God
Jesus used the Word of God to sanctify His Church (John 17:17)
to clean it (John 15:3)
to bring it joy (John 15:11)
to bring it peace (John 16:3)
Had the church of Pergamum and the Pergamum age heeded the Word of God, the evils of the Dark Ages could well have been avoided.
Jesus’ Commendation to Pergamum
The commendation of Jesus to Pergamum, in verse 13 falls into three basic categories.
1. I know your works, and where you dwell, even where Satan’s throne is.
2. You hold fast to my name. Criticism cannot be hurled against the Doctrine this Church or church age, for they were doctrinally pure. But they sinned by taking in the ceremonies of paganism.
3. ..and hast not denied my faith. Much of this has already been covered.
The condemnation of Jesus given to the church of Pergamum reveals that although their theological doctrine was correct, their practical doctrines were radically evil. These false doctrines fell into two main categories.
The Doctrine of Balaam
The Doctrine of the Nicolaitans
Repent or be judged by the Word of God
Jesus’ Challenge to the Church of Pergamum
It is directed to overcomers - two beautiful symbols loaded with meaning
“hidden manna” and “a white stone”
Hidden manna (Expanded in Conversation)
The White Stone (Expanded in Conversation)
For full text for printout and access to other parts of 'The 7 churches of Revelation