This article was first published in the June 2014 issue of Covenant Reformed News, a publication of Covenant PRC, Ballymena, N.Ireland.
In the last issue of the News, we saw one factor in the explanation of Pergamos as a city in which Satan had his dwelling and throne (Rev. 2:13), namely, the prominence of the worship of Asclepius who was especially associated with snakes. A second factor is that Pergamos was a centre of Caesar worship. That city had three temples for adoring the Roman emperor, including a great temple to Caesar Augustus built in 29 BC or 27 BC, making it the first city in Asia (SW Turkey) to erect such an edifice. Pergamos accorded divine honours to Augustus even before the Roman Senate decided to do so.
Let us take together the two most striking features of idolatry in Pergamos. What do you get? The worship of Asclepius is the worship of the devil and the worship of Caesar is the worship of a man, a man who rules a world empire. In short, this is the worship of Antichrist, as in Revelation 13:4: “And they worshipped the dragon [i.e., Satan] which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast [i.e., the man of sin].”
Thus, Pergamos was especially a place where the devil dwelt and reigned because he was more directly worshipped there (Asclepius) and the antichristian ruler (Caesar) was especially worshipped there. To put it slightly differently, Pergamos was the place of Satan’s abode and throne because there the antichristian kingdom of the beast was especially advanced for its time and more of the features of the devil’s masterpiece, the beast, were evident in Pergamos than other places in Asia.
Satan’s throne in Pergamos, established and manifested in the worship of Asclepius and Caesar, and foreshadowing the beast’s end-times kingdom, was promoted by two main things, the first being education. There was a great library at Pergamos, consisting of some 2,000 works and only excelled in its day by the famous library at Alexandria. Pergamos was also noted for its parchment; we even have an English word concerning parchment that is derived from Pergamos. That city also boasted a university.
Clearly, Satan chose the place of his throne well! Literature and learning were used to promote his reign. Likewise today, universities, educators, books, journalism, etc., propagate antichristian ideas which will bring in a worldwide kingdom of man and facilitate the persecution of believers.
In his rule from Pergamos, the devil not only used education but also the state. That city was the Roman capital of Asia. The Roman proconsul had a seat at Ephesus, to which he would go from time to time, but his abode was in Pergamos. The Roman state supported the worship of Asclepius and promoted Caesar worship. It marginalized and punished those who refused to honour the divine Caesar. Just as he does with God’s good gift of education, so the devil also perverts the divine institution of the state today. Thus we have ungodly laws which oppress the Lord’s people, for example, in the Islamic states, the communist countries and the humanistic West.
Which cities are contenders for places where Satan had his throne in the Old Testament? Babel with its tower stands out (Gen. 11:1-9). There we have man in rebellion against the Almighty; man getting a name for himself; man wanting to reach up into heaven by his own efforts. One also thinks of Bethel, with its golden calf erected by King Jeroboam. When Samaria became the capital of the Northern Kingdom, it was stuffed with pagan idols. In the latter days of the Southern Kingdom, when it was filled with idolatry and evil, so that it even persecuted the prophets, the devil may even be said to have ruled from Jerusalem itself!
There is one outstanding New Testament text in this regard. Speaking of the two witnesses, representing the church as it testifies to God’s truth, Revelation 11:8 states, “And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” “The great city” is the eschatological city at the heart of the end-times antichristian kingdom. Throughout the book of Revelation, it is referred to as “Babylon,” the centre of world idolatry and wickedness. Babylon is an amalgam of the sins of various places.
First, “the great city ... spiritually is called Sodom.” Sodom is infamous for its homosexuality among males: sodomy. Its sexual rebellion reached the stage where it took over the city, so that young and old men were together involved in the attempted homosexual gang rape of two visitors (Gen. 19:1-11). Second, Babylon partakes of the sins of “Egypt,” which oppressed and enslaved the people of God, and refused to let them go to worship Jehovah. Third, “the great city ... spiritually is called ... [Jerusalem] where also our Lord was crucified.” Jerusalem is the false church which departed from Jehovah and filled up the cup of its iniquity by killing Jesus Christ Himself. Yet, thereby, it unwittingly played a necessary role in the cross, where our Saviour died to grant us the forgiveness of sins and everlasting righteousness.
The question must be asked, in the light of our text and the Old Testament examples and Revelation 11:8, what cities are contenders for Satan’s throne today? There is San Francisco, infamous for its homosexuality. The Vatican is the centre for worldwide Romanism. Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, is synonymous with communism, atheism, the idolatrous cult of the leader and the persecution of Christians. Mecca is the hub of Islam, with its repudiation of the Triune God, the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, His blood atonement and salvation by grace alone. The centres of world humanism are various but all idolatrously present man as the ultimate. Rev. Angus Stewart
- Volume: 15
- Issue: 2
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
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