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What Does Jesus Say about Pergamos?

28 Mar
Pergamum

from Google Images

In Revelation 2:13 Jesus told the church in Pergamos that he knew their works, which means he knew the Gospel they preached. Their works, or their business for Christ, was no different from the works of Ephesus or Smyrna or any of the other churches to whom Jesus sent letters via the Apocalypse. Their work is the Gospel they preached. Moreover, the Lord implied they had preached the Gospel during times of duress. Notice, he tells them that he knows they dwell in the place where Satan’s throne is. That is, the church preached the Gospel in the shadow of the power of the enemy. Things like this cannot be done without conflict of some kind. Secondly, Jesus told believers at Pergamos that he knew they continue to preach the Gospel, knowing that doing so could cost their lives, even as Antipas lost his life, while witnessing for Christ.

The Lord also realized that they had preached the Gospel, while holding fast to Jesus’ name. That is, they showed themselves wholly dependent upon Jesus. They didn’t trust in their own power or wisdom or that of others (including the state) to influence the world around them for Christ. Moreover, they hadn’t denied the faith. In other words, they weren’t ashamed of the Gospel—that Jesus is Lord—even in the days when Jesus’ faithful witness, Antipas, was slain before them. So, even when all appearances seemed to suggest that there were powers greater than that of Jesus, the church at Pergamos didn’t deny the faith. They understood that Jesus was, indeed, more powerful than the state, as he worked through the Gospel to bring the world into submission to him.

As Amos 7:12-15 shows us, authority can be very intimidating. By ‘holding fast’ to Jesus’ name, the church at Pergamos showed that they preached the Gospel fully dependent upon the mercy and power of Jesus and no one else. They stood tall and didn’t bend under the pressure of the state, because they believed that the Lord would vindicate his people. While it is certainly a fearful thing to fall into the hand of the Lord, it is much better to be in his hands than in the hands of the world (Hebrews 10:30-31; cf. 2Samuel 24:14).

Paul said that it is through much affliction that we enter the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22; 1Thessalonians 3:4; 2Timothy 1:8; 2:11-12). If Jesus was persecuted, so will his image (the Body of Christ—the church) be persecuted. In fact, Paul says he suffered on behalf of the church so that in his body he could help fill up what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ (i.e. what was lacking in the sufferings of the Body of Christ—the church). It was the church’s lot to suffer as Christ suffered, and Paul says he was helping to ‘fill up’ the church’s obligation to stand with Christ.

So, it was this sort of thing that accompanied the Gospel that was preached by the church in Pergamos. They endured the afflictions and reproaches that were brought to bear upon them, no doubt becoming a gazingstock to their neighbors and former friends, even enduring the loss of employment and seizure of their goods (cf. Hebrews 10:32-34).

The identity of Antipas (Revelation 2:13) has troubled scholars down through history, and it can’t be said with certainty, at least with present evidence available who he might be. However, I will attempt a possible solution, and, remember, it is just a guess. The Lord healed the son of a certain nobleman in John 4:46-53. In previous studies[1] I identified this nobleman’s son as the servant who was dear to the centurion (see Luke 7:1-10). Furthermore, I concluded that Joanna, Chuza’s wife, was the young man’s mother, and she became a supporter of Jesus because of what Jesus had done. Moreover, it is mentioned in the text that Chuza was Herod’s steward (Luke 8:3).

In those studies I also mentioned that Chuza of Luke 8:3 is Manaen of Acts 13:1, where it is said that he was brought up with Herod, the tetrarch. This is the same Herod to whom Jesus was sent by Pilate (Luke 23:6-11), and who beheaded John the Baptist (Luke 9:7, 9). This Herod was also known by the name Antipas, the same name mentioned in Revelation 2:13. It is a shortened form of Antipater, Herod the Great’s father. Herod’s firstborn son was known as Antipater according to Josephus. My point in bringing this out is, that Herod may have named all his sons Antipater in honor of his father, just as all the emperors of Rome took to themselves the name Caesar, after Julius. Many also had taken the name Augustus, after ‘Augustus Caesar’. So, too, Manaen (Acts 13:1; or Chuza—Luke 8:3) may also have been known as Antipater or Antipas (shortened form), and, since he was a believer and said to have been at Antioch, may have witnessed to the churches in Asia and was slain in Pergamos. This is a lot of if’s, but it does have a reasonable format. Moreover, it would also show that even the most influential of believers (in terms of worldly influence) embraced the name of Christ rather than his own power to influence the world.

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[1] See Identifying the Centurion’s Servant; Who Is Luke’s Joanna; and Who Are These People.

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Posted by on March 28, 2019 in Apocalypse, Book of Revelation

 

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