The Seven Letters
To the Churches
Continued from Part One
By Pastor F. M. Riley
April 24, 2017
"I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death.
Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter," Revelation 1:18-19.
I want to emphasize again to our readers, that even though each church letter is addressed to an individual church, each of these church letters typify the whole Christian movement during the period of time in this "church age" which each letter represents.
Part One of this series was an exposition on the first two letters to the churches, located in the cities of Ephesus and Smyrna. These first two letters covered that period of church history from approximately 70 A.D. to 312 A.D. This study will resume right where the previous studies left off
The Lord's Letter to His Church at Pergamos
2:12-17....."And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith He which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat [throne] is: and thou holdest fast My name, and hast not denied My faith, even in those days wherin Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.
Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
In this study I have printed the entire text of this letter as set forth in God's inspired Word. The Lord permitting, we will examine this entire text first, and then follow it up with historical truths that relate to the church at Pergamos.
This letter in church history covers that period of time from 313 A.D. to 605 A.D. I am being very specific about these dates, for both dates are highly significant in church history. The Greek word translated as "Pergamos" literally means, "marriage." The theme of this church letter is "compromising."
The Sword of the Spirit
2:12.....Notice that in the salutation to this church, the Lord reminds Pergamos that He who is speaking to them is "He which hath the sharp sword with two edges." The Lord was referring to His own inspired Word, Matthew 10:34-38; Luke 2:34-35; Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12-13; Revelation 1:16; 19:14-15; 19:21.
I have been in the Lord's ministry for now 63 years, yet I never cease to marvel at the majesty and power of the Word of God. It is indeed a living, life giving, Word, John 6:63. And it is "sharp" and right to the point, Hebrews 4:12. One needs to be very careful in how they handle the Word of God, for it will just as easily cut the one who mishandles it, as those to whom it is being directed. This is the real reason why some people refuse to read the Bible; because it cuts them. The Word of God pierces right into the heart, mind, and soul of those willing to seriously study it. The Word will cut away the sin of any person who is willing to believe it and receive the Lord God who gave it. But it will also cut those who refuse to believe it. This is why the Lord reminded the Pergamos church that His Word was a "sword with two edges."
The Location of This Church
2:13....."I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat [throne] is: and thou holdest fast My name, and hast not denied My faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth."
The location of this church was important. Christ stated twice in this letter that Pergamos was the location of the throne of Satan on the earth. As I write, I am fully aware that many commentators have skimmed over the Lord's statement here as being figurative. It absolutely is not a figurative statement. Satan does have a dwelling place on this earth, from which he rules over the powers of darkness and evil in this world, and seeks to corrupt mankind, in opposition to the will of God. At the time the Lord gave this letter to John, the location of Satan's throne on earth was in the city of Pergamos in Asia Minor. Today that area is part of the modern nation of western Turkey.
The Location of Satan's Throne
Following the flood in the days of Noah, an extremely wicked man by the name of Nimrod established a base of operations for Satan's kingdom on earth. It was the city of Babel, Genesis 10:8-10; 11:1-9. Over the centuries this city developed into the city and the kingdom of Babylon. In ancient Babylon, an entire pagan, anti-God, system of worship developed, which opposed everything and everyone who stood for and with the God of Israel and the Bible. Over the passing of time Babylon became an enemy of Israel and the Jewish people. The "religion" of Babylon was Satanic to the core.
The Book of Daniel, chapter 5, records the conquest and fall of ancient Babylon by Darius the Mede. Darius the Mede, the ruler of ancient Persia at that time, hated Babylon and it's pagan religious system. There is some Scriptural evidence that Darius may have been [?] a believer in the God of Israel. When the Persian army invaded the land of Babylon, orders were issued that they were to execute all the priests of the Babylonian religion. The high priest of the Babylonian religion at that time was a man by the name of Attulus III. Word came to him that the Babylonian priests were being executed. Upon receiving this news, he led a company of priests, and they fled in the night, escaping execution by the Persian army. Led by Attalus, that company of Babylonian priests fled to the city of Pergamos, where they were granted sanctuary, and allowed to re-establish their religion in Pergamos. This is how the throne of Satan came to be moved from the ancient city of Babylon in the land of Shinar, to the city of Pergamos in Asia Minor, where it was still located when Christ stated twice that Pergamos was the dwelling place of Satan.
But this isn't the end of the story. Around 150 A.D., [I'm not certain about the exact date] one of the Roman Emperors visited the city of Pergamos and observed for himself the slavish dedication the people of Pergamos displayed in the worship of their pagan gods. When the Emperor returned to Rome, he took with him several of the Babylonian priests and established their religion in the city of Rome, making it the "state" religion of the Roman Empire. So guess where the throne of Satan on earth is presently located today?
Even so, at the time this letter was dictated to John by the Lord, there apparently was a "remnant" of true believers in the church at Pergamos who stayed true to the Lord Jesus and refused to deny the faith, even after a believer named "Antipas" was martyred in their midst. Once the Babylonian religion was firmly established in Pergamos, they began persecuting the Lord's true church and people, and "Antipas" was one of the Lord's true believers who was martyred by them for refusing to "renounce his faith," and adopt theirs. Glory to God! Jude 3.
Doctrinal Descent into Apostasy
2:14-15....."But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate."
Notice that the Lord Himself accused the church at Pergamos of being doctrinally unsound on the issues of "Balaamism" and "Nicolaitanism," both once deeds which had become "doctrines," 2:6. Doctrines are teachings which a church or religion proclaims, by which that church or religion is identified. These doctrines can be either good or evil. The Lord Himself made it quite clear that He hated these doctrines, therefore they were evil. Nevertheless, some in the church at Pergamos were holding to them, apparently having adopted them as truth.
But even in these accusations against the Pergamos church, the Lord was exercising great patience and kindness. Careful students of Biblical history can discover that it was during this same period of time that the "false teachings" of "Baptismal Regeneration, Replacement Theology, and Post-millennialism" surfaced in the ranks of "Christianity." These "false teachings" are still in the churches and the ranks of Christianity today, and are still a stumblingblock to lost people being truly saved, and to the spiritual growth of true believers.
The entire church body at Pergamos apparently was not holding to and teaching these doctrines, but the Lord indicated that "some" in Pergamos were holding them. The inspired Word plainly states that "...a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump," 1 Corinthians 5:6. Folks, what one believes, or refuses to believe, does effect others. Plain, open, public sin must be rebuked, dealt with, and purged from any church body, or it will result in the whole church body being defiled. And that is exactly what happened in the church at Pergamos. But it certainly was not the Lord's will, for He explicitly commanded that church to "repent."
2:16....."Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth."
Hower, there is no historical or Scriptural evidence that the church at Pergamos ever repented, and purged itself of those in its church body who held to these unscriptural doctrines. Rather, what historical evidence we have indicates that this church only became more and more apostate. Today the site of the city of Pergamos is abandoned and lies in ruins. See the photos of it in Baker's Bible Atlas. Of course, the Lord's church in that city has been gone for centuries. Sin not dealt with will kill and destroy any church! Take heed!
The Promise to the Overcomer
2:17....."He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."
Nevertheless, Christ Jesus was not ignoring or overlooking those in His church at Pergamos who were faithfully upholding "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints," Jude 3.
After the Babylonian religious system was established in Pergamos, the true church of the Lord began to undergo persecution at the hands of the wicked Babylonian priests. And our Lord referred to it perfectly.
The Lord's true believers would be arrested for refusing to renounce their faith and "join in" with the pagan religious system. Once arrested, they were then tried before a jury of the pagan priests. The custom of that time was to place two stones in a large earthern jar. One of the stones was black, and had engraved on it something such as, "guilty as charged." The other stone was white, and had engraved on it something such as, "not guilty, but should be watched." After hearing all the evidence presented at the trial of the accused, the true believer was made to reach into the jar, feel around, and pick up one of the stones. Which ever stone he drew out would determine his [or her] guilt or innocence.
Now it doesn't require much intelligence to figure out, that since it was the pagan religionists that had charge of this whole process, if they really wanted some true believer to be put to death, all they had to do was place two black stones in the jar, and of course the believer would draw out one of them, thereby pronouncing the death sentence upon himself or herself. How precious then, is this promise of our Lord to His "overcomers."
The Lord Jesus promised His "overcomers" that He would give them "a white stone," [innocence] regardless of what they had been given by the pagan priests. And in the white stone that the Lord gives, they would receive "a new name" suitable for their new life and residence in Heaven with Christ and all true believers. Oh, glory, glory, glory! What a God and Savior we true believers have to love and serve! Father God and the Lord Jesus Christ are well deserving of our utmost dedication to them and to their wonderful Word. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!
Other Details Gleaned From Church History
In studying these first three church letters, the letter to Ephesus, the letter to Symrna, and the letter to Pergamos, our readers should notice a downward trend spiritually.....
In the letter to the church at Ephesus, the Lord told His churches that they were "leaving their first love," and called upon them to "repent." Obviously, they did not repent, for the trend continued.
Then in the letter to the church at Symrna, the Lord brought upon His churches chastening, using the religion and government of the Roman Empire to carry out His judgment, "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth," Hebrews 12:5-10. This truth is just as applicable to those churches claiming to be "the Lord's churches," as it is to individual believers.
Then in this third church letter to the church at Pergamos, the Lord called upon His churches again to "repent."
Now an observation that some readers appear to have never considered. When persecution is allowed to come upon God's people or churches, it is for the purpose of "chastening" and correction, as Hebrews 12:5-10 indicates. However, the person or church being chastened by persecution, does not necessarily have to repent, for they have one of two options.
 They can endure the persecution with faith in Christ, that He will hear the prayers of His people, and will bring about deliverance for them.
 Or, they can compromise with their persecutors, doing whatever is required to please them.
Sadly, the letter to the church at Pergamos reveals a great compromise on the part of many of the churches and pastors which called themselves "Christians." This compromise was such that it changed the course of church history, and still effects the churches and the ranks of Christianity right to this present day.
Now what do I mean by this? I'm so glad you asked!
The Rise of Denominationalism
It was during this same period of time represented by the letter to the church at Pergamos, 313A.D. to 605A.D., that a "marriage" was arranged between the churches and the secular government.
First, the 313 A.D. date..... The government of the Roman Empire finally realized that they could not stop or destroy "Christianity" by persecuting and killing the pastors and leaders; for instance the Apostle James, and others, as recorded in Acts 12. The more persecution the Roman Empire poured out upon true Christians and churches, the more Roman citizens turned to Christ for salvation, and the more churches were established by the Christians. Glory be to God!
So, in 313 A.D, the Roman Emperor, Constantine, realizing that Christianity had become a force to be reckoned with in the Empire, and that something had to be done about it, sent out an invitation to all the Christian churches and pastors in the Roman Empire to come to a Great Church Council, supposedly to discuss mutual cooperation between the Roman government and the Christian movement. Uh oh!
Constantine was obviously a slick tongued politician [you know; like some we have in the world today]. His reasoning appeared to be, "If we can't lick those Christians, let's take them in and control them from within." And that is exactly what happened at that First Great Church Council convened at Nicaea in 325 A.D. The Roman government gave the churches great Roman buildings to turn into basilicas and cathedrals, monasteries and convents, and granted the churches huge sums of money out of the Roman treasury, and gave their new "state church" the power and authority of the Roman Empire to arrest and imprison [or put to death] all that opposed them. The "Holy Roman Catholic [universal] Church" was born! And guess who controlled it? At first, the Roman Emperors claimed to be the "head of the church." However, within a short time the Roman Papacy was developed, with a "Papa" or "Pope," chosen from the priesthood, directing "the church."
Now I don't want our readers to fail to notice, that when the invitation was sent out by Constantine, to the churches and pastors throughout the Roman Empire to come to the First Great Church Council, there were churches and pastors who absolutely refused to have any part in this "marriage" between church and state. And those churches and pastors refused to attend that Council. Glory be to God!
Those of our readers who would like more detailed information on this subject, need to obtain a copy of The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus. He lived during that very time, and not only verifies everything I have written in this study, but gives a detailed account of that period of time, and what took place at that First Great Church Council convened by Constantine.
Now the 606 A.D. date.....Nearly 300 years later, during the year of 606, Pope Boniface the Third, publicly declared himself to be the sole sovereign head, "papa," or "Pope," of the "Holy Roman Catholic Church." From that day to this present time, the Popes have ruled over the entire "religious" organization.
The word, "Catholic," literally means "Universal." I know that some readers may not agree, but there is no such thing as a "universal church" to be found anywhere in the Scriptures. Every true church mentioned in God's inspired Word was a local, visible, church body, composed of born-again, baptized, believers. There is no such a "varmint" to be found in God's Word as a "universal church." Nevertheless, that is how the apostate Roman religion refers to their organization.
As the years and centuries passed, dozens of religious groups split off of the so-called "mother church" in Rome, to form their own religious denominations. See Revelation 17:5. Today there are well over a thousand different denominations on the earth, each one of whom believes and teaches that they are the only true church on earth. Sic! Some, or perhaps most, of them need to seriously study what the Lord Himself had to say about "self righteousness and pride."
What was then accomplished at that First Great Church Council convened by Constantine? A marriage! Yes, I said, "a marriage." The old harlot religion of the Roman Empire, actually the ancient religion of Babylon, was "married" to the secular government of Rome, and became the "state religion" of the Roman Empire. Oh yes, they did continue to call themselves "Christians," but also continued to worship the "gods" of the Roman Empire. All they had to do was change the names of the many Roman "gods" [statues and idols] in Rome, giving them "Christian" names, and then they kept right on worshiping those false gods [idols], just as they had before they became "Christians." Sic!
Folks, the last time I checked Exodus 20:1-5 is still in the Bible, and still says what it means and means what it says! Oh by the way, these Scriptures are also in the Catholic Bible! I know, for I have a Catholic Bible in my personal library for reference purposes. We who are true believers worship the invisible God in Spirit and in Truth, John 4:22-24. Read also Colossians 1:12-15, 1 Timothy 1:17, and Hebrews 11:27.
May our gracious God add His blessings to this Bible study.
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TO BE CONTINUED AS THE lORD PERMITS
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Permission is granted to any true believer, or Bible believing Christian ministry, to reproduce this study to share with others, or to quote from it in context as written.
Thank you dear readers, for your response to Part I of this series of studies, and especially for your prayers. My prayer is that this entire series will be a blessing to those readers who are truly serious about studying the Word and learning more about our God and Savior.
Please address all comments, questions, and correspondence to: Pastor F. M. Riley, 14275 County Road 8120, Rolla, Missouri 65401. Those readers who would like to speak with me personally, should call 573-201-0491.
May our gracious God and Savior bless every reader is my prayer.
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