Pergamum the Compromising Church  

The third church of the Revelation, is the northernmost of the seven churches, a coastal city sixty miles up the coast from Smyrna. In the first century, Pergamum was the principal city of the Roman empire. They remodeled their Acropolis after the Acropolis in Athens. An Acropolis was a high hill used principally to defend the city, but included religious centers and places of worship, forts, and places in which the royal and high-status resided.

The ruins of Pergamum’s acropolis overlook the modern town of Bergama. Here we see a 10,000-seat theatre on the side of the acropolis that is the steepest in the ancient world, the temple of Trajan, the remains of a 200,000-volume library, second in size only to that in Alexandria, and three temples. 1) The temple to Caesar had an altar that double as a throne to communicate the presence of a god. 2) Pergamon also was granted a temple and the honor of a neocorate of Dionysius, The Greco-Roman god of wine and sexuality. 3) and finally, a huge altar whose incomplete dedicatory inscription seems to indicate that the altar was consecrated to the gods, principally Zeus’ because of “favors” bestowed. The altar relief panels are displayed on a reconstruction in Berlin Germany.  (Reconstructed Pergamon Alter at Berlin Museum By Lestat (Jan Mehlich) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

John’s letter to the church at Pergamum is a rebuke. He calls their city “the place where Satan has his throne”, possibly referencing the temple to Zeus. Christ’s message praises some people for holding to their faith but tells others to repent from worshipping false gods and following immoral practices. Jewish tradition teaches that Balaam was the one who told Balak to entice the Israelites into Sexual sin (Numbers 25). By using Balaam as his reference, John teaches an entire sermon without writing it down. Every Jew who hears that reference is going to understand. We can’t fall into the same temptation as our ancestors.

(Revelation 2:12–17), NKJ 12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 13 “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. 14 But I have a few things against you because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.  (Trajan temple ruins 1 by justinvandyke is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.)

Today, Bergama spreads out in the valley below the hills of ancient Pergamum. There is a part of the older city with more narrow, cobbled streets and a more modern area of the town. Today, there are no Christian churches active in Bergama, but a few Christians hold onto their faith in the area.