Go along to get along. Compromise. Coexist. Be tolerant and open-minded. That was the modus operandi of some in the church at Pergamum.
Pergamum was a Roman city that worshipped the emperor as god. They also worshipped the Greek gods of Zeus, Athene, Dionysus, and Asclepius. The reference to “Satan’s throne” (Revelation 2:13) may point to the throne in the temple of Zeus.
When Jesus addressed the church at Pergamum, He compassionately reminded them that He knew where they lived. He knew the difficulties they faced, and He knew that His beloved church was standing firm in their faith. Apparently one of the members at Pergamum, a man named Antipas, was martyred because he refused to bow to a lifeless pagan god.
However, Jesus had “a few things against” them (Revelation 2:14, CSB). That’s down-right scary! I don’t like it when God says, “I’ve got a problem with you, buster!”
Here’s the problem. They were acting like Israel during an episode in the Exodus. When the Israelites camped at Moab, the Moabite’s King Balak sought a mysterious prophet named Balaam, (Numbers 22-24) asking that he put a curse on God’s people. Balaam refused, but instead, he gave the wicked king some sinister advice (Numbers 31:16). He said, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” Since Moab couldn’t defeat Israel in battle, Balaam suggested that they invite the Israelites to join them in a festival honoring their pagan god. Israel accepted the invitation and “bowed down to their god,” causing the Lord’s anger to be kindled against them (Number 25:1-9).
That’s what Jesus was talking about. “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:14, CSB).
Some in the church were attending Pergamum’s festivals. Maybe, they reasoned, it was good for business. Or, maybe it was to placate the in-laws or the neighbors. They were going along to get along. They were dancing with the devil. They were compromising with the enemy.
Sometimes the Devil fights like a roaring lion (I Peter 5:8). Sometimes he slithers like a snake (Genesis 3:1). And at other times, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14, ESV). Regardless, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, ESV).
So, is the letter to Pergamum a message to my heart? Has the enemy enticed me to be conformed to this world? (Romans 12:2). Have I compromised? Have I allowed my heart to be polluted by the enemy? Do I go along to get along?
Jesus says, “Therefore repent” (Revelation 2:16).
Jesus closes this short epistle by promising every true Christian, “the one who conquers,” that we will one day share the “hidden manna” (Revelation 2:17). There are battles to be fought, but soon and very soon, we will gather with the Living Bread at the heavenly banquet table... forever!