Monday, 14 September 2020
“I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. Revelation 2:13
The Lord now begins to specifically addresses the church concerning their actions. As before, He says, “I know your works.” The Lord is aware of all that a church does – both good and evil. Next, He adds in the thought, “and where you dwell.” The implication, without going any further, is that the location itself is a part of either something positive or negative. Otherwise, there would be no reason to state this. In explanation of the words, the Lord next says, “where Satan’s throne is.”
The idea is that Satan has authority and rule in Pergamos. It explains why Jesus said, “and where you dwell.” There are certainly many temptations, there was much wickedness, and many trials because these things would have been faced by those of the church. Additionally, as was noted in the previous verse, it was a city of many temples to pagan deities. This would have certainly caused friction between the Christians and those who worshiped false gods.
If they were to venture into the city and proclaim the gospel, those who heard could easily become enraged over the thought that their gods were no gods at all. This is what happened in Acts 19 concerning the temple to Diana, goddess of the Ephesians. The people became so enraged at the message Paul proclaimed that a riot ensued.
Despite facing such troubles at Pergamos, in the place where Satan’s throne was said to be, the Lord commends the church, saying, “And you hold fast to My name.” The words are reminiscent of the words of Peter in his first epistle –
“If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” 1 Peter 4:14-16
Despite whatever trials they faced at Pergamos, the throne of Satan, the believers were not willing to hide the fact that they were followers of Christ. They clung to their identity as such and were unwilling to back down, obviously despite great challenges or persecution. Otherwise, there would be no reason to note this. As a confirmation of that, He then says, “and did not deny My faith.”
It is the mark of the Christian. Believers do not have a “god” in front of them made of wood or stone. Rather, believers have faith in what they do not see. The Lord ascended after the completion of His earthly ministry, and all we have is the story of His coming contained in the Scriptures which tell of Him. Thus, faith is the essential point of Christian life. The believers at Pergamos were unwilling to deny their faith in what they believed, “even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr.”
Nothing is known of Antipas outside of Scripture with the exception of some obviously made up fables. One translation of the name is, “Instead of All.” Therefore, the name could be a designation of someone who was willing to die in order to save others in the congregation. This is wholly speculation, however. Either way, he is called “My faithful martyr.”
Some translations say, “My faithful witness.” The reason is that the Greek word martus signifies someone who is a witness, and this is how the word is usually translated. However, in saying “martyr,” it conveys the thought that he was not only faithful in his witness, but he gave his life for it in the process. As Jesus next says, “who was killed among you.”
This is where we derive our modern term of martyr. It is an acknowledgment that a person not only bore witness to the faith, but that they did so to the point of death. One can speculate that in some uprising that occurred, this individual was willing to lay down his life rather than to deny his faith in the Lord Jesus. It is a note of high honor for his faithful stand. And to highlight it even further, the Lord again says, “where Satan dwells.”
By saying this a second time, it highlights and accentuates the thought. It is similar to verse 5 where Jesus says to repent, and then at the end of the verse He again says, “unless you repent.” Despite all of the wickedness that Satan could throw at the believers in Pergamos, Antipas was willing to stand boldly in the face of it and offer his life rather than to deny the faith.
Life application: Antipas was so grounded in the faith that he willingly held fast, even to the point of death. If, in fact, he did this to save others, it is then reminiscent of the words of John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Whatever the truth is about Antipas’ martyrdom, the people of Pergamos held fast to the words and truth of Jesus and did not deny him, even in the face of what occurred.
Around the world today, Christians are being martyred in huge numbers. These faithful believers will be remembered by Jesus and rewarded on the Great Day of Judgment that lies ahead. Satan roams about, seeking to destroy all he can, and his attacks on the faithful continue.
Even in lands that were once bastions of promoting the gospel, persecution has begun to take root. But more, even within churches this is becoming true. Those who hold to the true gospel are facing persecution from others who promote false gospels.
This trend will only increase as the world turns against what Scripture proclaims. But fear not, Jesus will right all wrongs. It is He who holds the keys to death and Hades.
Lord Jesus, surely we are weak, but through faith in You we can be strong. This is true even in the midst of persecution and trial. Today we say a special prayer for those Christians who are facing death at the hand of Your enemies. May they be strengthened by Your comforting Holy Spirit. We know that You are not inattentive to their state, so please give them strength in their trials. Amen.