There is especially one feature of the church at Pergamos (Rev. 2:12-17) that stands out: it dwelt in a city where Satan had his throne. This is highlighted in three different ways. One, it is mentioned first: “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is” (13). Two, it is mentioned twice, both at the start of verse 13 (as already quoted) and at the end of that verse: “Antipas ... was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.” Three, these statements are unique: unique in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 and unique in the rest of the Bible.
The key to understanding this church is its physical geography, in connection with demonic geography (so to speak). This ecclesiastical and Satanic geography is significant, for the devil’s dwelling in the same city wherein this church dwelt affected the congregation spiritually.
So what does Revelation 2:13 say about Satan’s presence in Pergamos? First, the devil dwelt there. Being a spirit, the devil does not need a house or a kitchen or a bed or such like. But he is said to dwell in Pergamos in that, when he was not on his travels (Job 1:7; 2:2; I Pet. 5:8), he lived and abode there. He was present there personally more than anywhere else. What a place!
Second, not only did the devil dwell there but he even had his throne there. Literally, “Satan’s seat” (Rev. 2:13) is Satan’s “throne,” bespeaking his government, rule and reign. In Pergamos, the devil exercised greater sway, influence and power than in other places. The devil is “the god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4) in that most of its citizens live and die in unbelief and sin, thus serving and following Satan. But in Pergamos, he was even more powerful, as the king ruling from his invisible throne.
You can imagine what things some people might claim about such remarks today: “It is not politically correct to say that! That might hurt Pergamos’ economy by putting people off the city! What was John thinking of in saying a thing like that? He is supposed to be an apostle! Where is the love!” But these are the words of Scripture: “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is ... where Satan dwelleth” (Rev. 2:13). These are the words of Jesus Christ (12) and the Holy Spirit (17).
Third, the devil who dwelt and had his throne in Pergamos is twice called “Satan” (or opposer) in Revelation 2:13. This is the idea: That malignant spirit who is the head of all the demons is especially present and powerful in Pergamos, to oppose the kingdom and cause of Jesus Christ there more fiercely than the other six churches in Revelation 2-3 and more than is ordinary in the history of the Christian church.
Some politically-correct moderns might object, “But that is demonizing Pergamos! Might it not stir up violence against people and places in the city?” No! Christians are to do good and pray for their enemies (Matt. 5:44), not follow Satan by doing evil to them or vandalizing their property. By stating that Satan dwells and reigns from Pergamos, Jesus Christ is explaining the origin of the evils that church faces. His Word, “the sharp sword with two edges” (Rev. 2:12) coming “out of his mouth” (1:16), is very pointed against the devil and sin, and calls all men to repentance!
So what was it about Pergamos that indicates that Satan had his dwelling and throne there or that he was especially present and powerful there?
Pergamos served many idols, such as Zeus, Dionysius, Athene and others. It had many temples and altars. But this did not mark it out as Satan’s throne because all the pagan cities in the Roman empire at that time worshipped idols, including the other cities mentioned in Revelation 2-3.
It was the prominence of its worship of Aesculapius or Asclepius as saviour, healer and preserver that made Pergamos distinctive in this regard. Asclepius was a god of healing and health. He had an impressive temple, the ruins of which can be visited in Pergamos today. People used to sleep in that temple with the idea that Asclepius would give them a dream which would be interpreted by his priest telling them how to be healed. The spring beside the temple was said to possess healing powers. Devotees would offer sacrifices or leave gifts for healing. Small terracotta body parts to represent the injured area or limb have been found near Asclepius’ temple in Pergamos. Small wonder that Pergamos has been called the Lourdes of the ancient world.
One animal is especially associated with Asclepius: the snake. Asclepius’ symbol is a serpent-entwined staff (still used in the medical world today). At the dedication of temples to Asclepius, snakes would be encouraged to enter the building. Doubtless, such a ceremony took place in Pergamos too. In honour of Asclepius, a particular type of non-venomous snake was often used in healing rituals. These were called “Asclepian snakes.” They slithered around freely on the floor in dormitories where the sick and injured slept.
What is the Christian analysis of all this? This is devil worship through a false god, Asclepius, symbolized by a snake. In Revelation 12:9, “the great dragon” or “the Devil” or “Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” is also called “that old serpent.” This is a reference to the devil’s use of a snake in Genesis 3 to tempt Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Whereas death and disease came through the devil using a snake, the worshippers of Asclepius ascribed healing and preservation to the serpent. How perverse! How demonic, how Satanic! Rev. Angus Stewart
- Volume: 15
- Issue: 1
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851