Today we continue our study of the 3rd church mentioned in the Book of Revelation. That is the church in the city of Pergamum.
Early in His letter to the church in Pergamum, Jesus makes this statement: "I know where you live..." His knowledge of the churches depends on His presence among them. He knows them because He walks among them. His intimate knowledge of them extends beyond their works - as in the case of Ephesus, and their persecution and tribulation - as in Smyrna. He is intimately aware of the environment in which they live. "I know where you live," He says. Christ was aware that his people in Pergamum were surrounded by a non-Christian society, and were exposed on all sides to the pressures of this world's standards and values.
It is interesting the way Christ speaks about where they live. The Greek word translated "live" in that passage is Katoikein, and it means to have one's permanent residence in a place. Usually, the word used of Christians is Paroikein, which means to be a "sojourner."
Philippians 3:20 tells us the Christian's citizenship is in Heaven.
We used to sing a song written by Albert Brumley, with these word:
This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through,
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue;
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door,
And I can't feel at home in this world any more.
These words echo the fact that, as Christians, we are not currently in our permanent residence.
Peter echoes that in his first Letter, which was also addressed to those living in Asia Minor.
1 Peter 1:1 NKJV
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
Other translations use the word "strangers" or "sojourners" in this verse.
But in this letter to Pergamum, the matter is being regarded from another point of view. The Christians of Pergamum have their permanent residence, so far as the world is concerned, in Pergamum. And Pergamum, we are told in this letter to this church, is the place where Satan's rule is strongest.
How many of us have ever thought, "I would rather live for Christ in a different environment than the one I currently am in." Let me make what I think is a very important point. The principle of the Christian life is not escape - but conquest. We may feel it would be easier to be a Christian in some other place and in other circumstances, but the duty of the Christ is to witness for Christ where life has set them. If in those early days Christians had run away every time they were confronted with difficulties, there would have been no chance of winning the lost for Christ. These Christians at Pergamum proved that it was perfectly possible to be a Christian under such circumstances. Even when martyrdom was in the air, they did not flinch. They set a good example for churches existing in our day.
The statement by Jesus, "I know where you live," is true of His church in Renton, in the same way it was true at Pergamum. He walks among us. We are not "out of mind" because we are never "out of sight." He knows where you live. And He knows the environment in which you are located.
Christianity is not a thing of locality, but of character. There are plants which will bloom in some latitudes and die in others. Tropical shrubs will not flourish within the Arctic circle. And the Alpine flora are not found on low-lying plains. But Christianity can live wherever a man or woman can live, for it is a thing of personal character, and is a matter of choice. And because a man or woman is always what they choose to be, they may be a Christian in any place or circumstance if they choose.
Obadiah kept his conscience clear, even in the house of Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 18:3). Daniel preserved his integrity amid the corruption of the court of Babylon. Nehemiah maintained his piety in the palace of the Persian emperor. Joseph, the son of Jacob, did not turn his back on righteousness, when he was elevated to the second in command below the Pharaoh of Egypt - even when he was seduced by the wife of Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh.
Yes, Jesus walked among His church in Pergamum. Jesus also walks among His church here at New Life in Renton. He was there and knew the dangers they faced. He is also here and sees the dangers faced by each individual here today.
Is it more difficult to be a Christian in some places than in others? Yes, I believe it is. The boy brought up in a rough and godless neighborhood has far more to contend with if he is to be a Christian, than he might have if he were residing in a different kind of locality. In all circumstances, 2 Corinthians 12:9 still applies - "My grace is sufficient for you."
Do you live in an ungodly family? Are you a lily among thorns? There is no place where you might live that Christ does not know it. He says, "I know where you live." He has written you on His heart. He knows your situation. He knows if you are in a tough marriage. He knows it when you face persecution or ridicule, whether that be at home, school or on the job.
Hebrews 4:15-16 NKJV
15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
He knows the pressures of the society around you and He cares. He is always ready to help. Later in the Book of Hebrews (13:5), God promises: "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
The phrase, "I know where you live..." was not the end of the sentence. There is another phrase attached to it. Before we read the entire Passage, let me ask you a question.
WHERE IS THE DEVIL'S HOME BASE?
If your answer is "hell," I have another question for you.
IS THERE A BIBLE PASSAGE LINKING THE DEVIL AND HELL RIGHT NOW?
Before completing the answer to those questions, let's read Revelation 2:13 NIV
13 I know where you live - where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city - where Satan lives.
Notice that the reference to where Satan lives, or has his throne, is mentioned twice in this verse.
Let me begin our study of where Satan has his throne with a quotation from Abraham Kuyper. "There is not a square inch in heaven or on earth or under the earth in which there is peace between Christ and Satan." He used these words to describe the warfare that exists between the Kingdom of Christ and the Kingdom of Satan - the kingdom of light versus the kingdom of darkness. It is that battle that we have before us in this passage written to the church in Pergamum.
The Greek word for throne is "Thronos." This is a term used often in Greek literature, and is used repeatedly with regard to their mythological gods and goddesses.
I recently upgraded the Bible software I use the most, and now, in that one Bible Program, I have 24 different Bible translations and paraphrases to explore. 21 of them render "thronos" with the English word, "throne." The other 3 render it as " Satan's seat." The most well-known of these 3 is the old King James.
Technically, that is a valid translation. Thronos represents a seat of power - where a potentate would sit. The Greek word, thronos, is found 62 times in the New Testament. 48 of these are found in the book of Revelation. In most cases it is referring to the throne of God.
Hebrews 4:16 also mentions the "throne of grace." Actually, that is probably a reference also to the throne of God, since that is where grace flows from.
Earlier, when we looked at the first phrase of verse 13 - where Christ says, "I know where you live," we noted that the Greek word used for "live" meant "permanent dwelling." The exact same word is used of Satan in the last phrase of this verse - "where Satan lives". It denoted his permanent residence.
These words, given to this church, tells us that Satan wielded a very special authority here. It was a place where the anti-God forces of the universe were at their most authoritative and most powerful. Thus, Pergamum was not only a religiously pagan city, it was a wicked city. And, according to Jesus, it was the capital of Satan's kingdom.
Some might ask, "did Satan actually live in the city of Pergamum."? Others might say, "this must be just a figure of speech - because Hell is his home base."
DOES THE BIBLE MENTION ANY OTHER THRONE BELONGING TO SATAN?
IF SO, WHERE WAS THE LOCATION OF SATAN'S FIRST THRONE?
Let's briefly go back further than Pergamum in the first century. Pergamum is not the only place, mentioned in the Bible, where Satan's throne was. Let me ask you another set of question. In Isaiah 14, we find a description of the fall of Satan from heaven.
WHAT WAS SATAN'S NAME BEFORE HE FELL FROM HEAVEN?
He was known as "Lucifer - son of the morning."
Isaiah 14:13 NKJV
13 For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north;
Some might ask, is this a literal throne or seat of authority? The Hebrew word for throne that is used here, is Kicce' - pronounced Kis-SAY. This is the identical word used in Psalm 103.
Psalms 103:19 NKJV
19 The LORD has established His throne (Kicce) in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.
Unlike God, who is omnipresent - and is present in all places at the same time, Satan can only be in one place at a time. How sure am I of that statement? I am very sure.
For instance, look at Revelation 20:1-2 NKJV
1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;
The fact that Satan can only be in once place at a time, is the only thing that guarantees the validity of this Passage. He will be locked in a bottomless pit - the abyss - and that guarantees him being no other place during his imprisonment. Lucifer - Satan - is a created being, according to Ezekiel 28:13. And as a finite being, he must have a localized existence. That means he must be somewhere, but not everywhere at any given point in time.
Earlier, I asked where Satan's home base was right now. And I implied that if you said "hell," you would probably be wrong.
SO, WHERE IS THE PRIMARY SPHERE OF INFLUENCE OF SATAN?
WHERE DOES HE EXERCISE HIS CONTROL TODAY?
When Satan was cast out of Heaven, he was sent to the earth. The earth and its immediate surroundings are the devil's primary sphere of operation. The devil is the lord, the dictator, of this world. Let's look at a few Scriptures verifying this.
CAN YOU QUOTE SOME SCRIPTURES TELLING US THAT THE DEVIL'S AREA OF OPERATION IS HERE ON EARTH?
Isaiah 14:12 NIV
12 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth,...
1 John 5:19 NIV
19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
Whether we like it or not, this world is under Satan's control. We live in a world that, if left to themselves, would always walk further and further from God, not towards Him.
Ephesians 2:1-2 NKJV
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,
This reference to "air" is referring to the atmosphere that surrounds this earth. It's really just another way of saying "the earth." The picture presented by the apostle Paul is that the devil is the dictator of this Earth. John 12:31 calls the devil "the ruler of this world." Jesus calls him the ruler of this world, but, then, two chapters later, adds, "he has no hold on me" (John 14:30).
In Matthew 4, we find the devil tempting the Son of God. Let's look at the last temptation suggested by Satan.
Matthew 4:8-11 NKJV
8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
9 And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me."
10 Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'"
11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
Notice that the devil says the kingdoms of this world were his to give, and that he would give them to Christ if He bowed down to Satan and worshiped him. Notice that Christ challenges Satan and who should be worshiped, but does not challenge the fact that the world kingdoms were the devil's to give away.
When I stated earlier that this world is the primary sphere of Satan's operation, I did not say, nor meant to imply, that Satan doesn't at times appear in Heaven. We find that corroborated in the book of Job.
Job 1:6-7 NIV
6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them.
7 The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."
Notice that Satan says he has spent his time roaming throughout the earth. We know why Satan went to heaven. He wanted to mock God by saying "Job only serves You, God, because You have put a hedge around Him. If you remove that, he will curse you."
Revelation 12:10 tells us that Satan accuses us before God in Heaven. Whereas Job was blameless, I am sure that I have given Satan plenty of ammunition to go before God, as say, "Did you see what John Hoole did?" "He's an elder and calls himself one of your teachers, and he did that."
I think we have sufficiently verified that Satan's primary sphere of activity today is this world. He is indeed the god of this world. And during the late first century after Christ, Satan chose to make Pergamum his residence. That doesn't mean that his influence was not felt in other places. But while Satan may be the god of this world, Jesus came to defeat him and make it possible for mankind to be saved.
1 John 3:8 NKJV
8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
In John 16:11, Christ says, "the prince of this world now stands condemned" Satan and his forces have been overthrown. At the cross, Jesus met and conquered all the powers of evil. Though his own death and resurrection, Christ has made Satan's defeat certain.
But, despite their overthrow, the powers of darkness have not yet conceded their defeat. They continue to contest every inch of their territory. The kingdom of Satan only retreats as the Kingdom of God advances.
WAS LUCIFER ALONE WHEN HE WAS KICKED OUT OF HEAVEN?
HOW DO WE KNOW?
Look at Revelation 12 - where it tells us about a battle in the heavens.
Revelation 12:7-9 NKJV
7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,
8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.
9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
This passage indicates that Satan was not alone in his rebellion against God. It says, "Satan and his angels were cast out." Many of the angels followed his lead in rebellion. Some theologians believe Revelation 12:4 indicates one-third of all the angels were cast out with Lucifer.
Here is another passage telling us that some angels joined in Lucifer's rebellion against God.
Matthew 25:41 NKJV
41 "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:' "
WHAT DO WE SOMETIMES CALL THE ANGELS THAT REBELLED WITH SATAN?
They are called "demons." In the Bible, they are also called: fallen angels, wicked (evil) spirits [Luke 7:21; Acts 19:12-13], deceiving spirits [1 Timothy 4:1], spirits of error [1 John 4:6], spirit of divination [Acts 16:16]. These are but a few of the names they are called.
These demons - these fallen angels - possess all of the capacity which they had before they followed Satan in his rebellion against God. All the power, all of the wisdom that they had before the fall, they now possess after the fall.
SO, WHERE IS SATAN LOCATED TODAY?
DOES HE HAVE HIS THRONE IN SOME OTHER PLACE?
Pergamum is certainly not the throne of Satan today. I wonder in what city Satan has his throne today. We really are not given the answer to this. Its all too plain that his influence is felt throughout the world. Evil and corruption are everywhere - showing this is still Satan's world. But, as we stated earlier, Satan can only be in one place at a time. So, where is his home base today?
The Tale of Two Cities
We do probably know where Satan's throne will be in the end-times. It most likely will be in the old neighborhood where humanity was born and raised. It most likely will be in the old neighborhood where humanity was born and raised.
I am convinced that you can trace the threads of two cities from the beginning to the end of the Bible. Jerusalem and Babylon. Both cities start in Genesis. The entire Bible can be viewed as a "tale of two cities"; Babylon, the city of man, and Jerusalem, the city of God.
The most common name of a country mentioned in the Bible, other than Israel, is the country of Babylon. Additionally, the most mentioned city beside Jerusalem is the city of Babylon. From Genesis to Revelation, Babylon occupies a very prominent place in God's Word. It is mentioned more than 300 times.
I believe God's Word tells us that Babylon has a role to play in the final act on the stage of history. Anyone who wants to know what will happen in the world needs to study both current events and Bible prophecy, because the two are drawing closer every day.
DO YOU KNOW WHO WAS THE FOUNDER OF BABYLON?
Genesis 10:8-10 NIV
8 Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth.
9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; that is why it is said, "Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD."
10 The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar.
11 From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh,...
Babylon's roots reach back almost to the dawn of civilization. Nimrod, the mighty hunter, is the founder of the city of Babylon. Its original name was Babel. It is from this word we get our English word "babble" - meaning confused speech. The name Babel (Babylon) comes from the description of the tower around which the city was first built. Babel literally means:
o Bab means "gate"
o El means "god"
Babel was humanity's self-appointed gateway to God --- a place where they hoped to reach God by their own efforts apart from His intended plan. The city, later named Babylon, had a long history. By the way, the name of its founder - Nimrod - means "we rebel." He was the world's first dictator. I believe Babylon is also destined to be an important city for the world's last dictator.
Throughout the Bible, Babylon retained its essential nature. Babylon always signified an evil way of living. This was a city filled with worship of idols and money. God has never been happy with this city or nation. All forms of occultic practices had their origins in the original city of Babylon.
In the conflict between God and Satan, good and evil, righteousness and rebellion, Jerusalem and Babylon are like opposite poles of a magnet. Jerusalem represents the positive pole of God's plan for His creation. It is the city selected by God as His dwelling place. It is the capital of God's kingdom on earth. It is the city where God's Son died for the sins of the world.
Babylon represents the negative pole of humanity's attempts to usurp God's authority. It is the city of rebellion where humanity first reared up its tower in defiance of God. It is the city that eventually destroyed Jerusalem, and began what is known as "the time of the gentiles."
It is impossible to fully understand the history of one city, without considering its relationship to the other. The city of man is built on the principle of independence from God. By building the Tower of Babel, it was mankind's first attempt to get to heaven, on their own, without the aid of God The city of God, by contrast, is built on the principle of dependence of God and obedience to His will.
If these two cities represent Man's city and God's city, it would appear that Man's city is winning. They succeeded in tearing the line of David from the throne, and the city of God was burned to the ground. But God has other plans for both Babylon and Jerusalem. The prophets come along and have a message from God. He is going to restore His people and His city, Jerusalem, but He is going to destroy Babylon.
There is also a story of two women. One is harlot - One is a Bride. One is connected with the Beast, the Antichrist, while the other is connected with Jesus, the real Christ. One is going to be destroyed - one is going to be established forever. And the harlot's name is Babylon.
Babylon has been dressed in purple and scarlet, glittering with gold, precious stones, and pearls (Revelation 18:16). In Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem shines with the glory of God, and her brilliance is "like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, as clear as crystal. (Revelation. 21:11). She is described in Revelation 21 as a bride adorned in all her beauty. When God's final curtain falls on the world stage, only one of these cities will remain and she will remain forever.
I cannot tell you exactly where Satan has his throne this very moment. But, regardless of where his throne is today, he still influences the world in which we live. We do know that, regardless of where his throne is, he is not confined to that place.
1 Peter 5:8 NKJV
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because* your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
The fact is clear - Satan rules this earth completely. He masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). In some places, the devil holds almost undisputed sway. Pergamum was such a place. Jesus said, "I know where you live...where Satan has his throne" (Revelation 2:13). Its multitudinous temples, shrines and altars, its labyrinth of antichristian philosophies, all bore testimony to the dominion of the evil one.
WHERE WAS THE THRONE OF SATAN IN PERGAMUM?
There are three primary philosophies as what is meant by Christ's words, "Satan's Throne."
The Altar of Zeus
Near the top of the acropolis stood an altar to the God Zeus. This temple almost looks like a throne. Zeus was the king of the Greek gods, and this altar was built around 180 B.C. The actual altar is today housed in a Berlin museum. During the first century, smoke continuously rose from this altar. As I mentioned in an earlier lesson, this altar was the largest in the world at that time. But, by this time, the religion of Zeus was in it's twilight years, so it was probably not what Jesus was referring to as the great throne of Satan.
The Temple of Aesclepios
This temple was not on the acropolis, but in the valley among the people. Aesclepios was considered the god of this city. He was the god of healing, and Pergamum was known for their medical center which surrounded the temple to Aesclepios. People from all over the Roman Empire flocked to Pergamum for the relief of their afflictions. This was the Mayo clinic of that day. It was the nearest approach to a hospital in the ancient world.
This god was often called "Aesclepios the savior." Christians, of course, would have viewed this as blasphemous again Jesus Christ. And the symbol of Aesclepios was the serpent, and some would have linked the serpent with Satan himself. I would say that this being the "throne of Satan" was very unlikely.
Probably the simplest explanation of Satan's throne is found in emperor worship. I think the whole context of the letter to the worshipers in Pergamum point to emperor worship. Those who at this time still held to worshiping the Greek gods, like Zeus and Aesclepios, would not have been bothered by another God being introduced - that being Christ. The more gods, the merrier. One was not forced to worship the Greek gods.
With the coming of the Roman Empire, life throughout Asia and across the kingdom, became much easier and more comfortable for most. Rome had instituted what is called the Pax Romana (Roman peace), which provided economic and political stability. The Roman government capitalized on this unifying spirit and began to center it if the Emperor Caesar himself. Pergamum was the very first city to initiate emperor worship. In 29 B.C., they asked and were given permission by Augustus Caesar to erect a temple in his honor, as well as one to the goddess Roma. Shortly thereafter, the deification of the emperor took root. The emperors were now to be worshiped as gods. Later, this city built temples to other Roman Caesars - the Temple to Trajan was very large. The city became the center of emperor worship in Asia.
Remember that Pergamum was the regional Roman capital of Asia Minor. Christians in this city were in danger of harm from the emperor worship cult. Every citizen of the Roman empires was required to offer sacrifices to the emperor at least once each year, saying "Caesar is Lord." Emperor worship, by the late first century, was very well developed. Satan found his home and exercised his power in opposition to God and His Church.
While Pergamum was willing to accept a new god, Christianity is an exclusionary way of life. We believe there is one and only one God. In John 5:40, Christ says, "No one comes to the Father but through Me." To be a Christian is to be set apart. Paul urges the followers of Christ not to link up with the world system. There can't be a partnership between good and evil. How can light live with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and the devil? Absolutely not.!
Getting back to Christ's letter to this church, we don't know much about the person Antipas, but most likely he became a martyr because he refused to call anyone but Christ, "Lord." In an earlier lesson, Christ called Himself the One who has the two-edged sword, was a direct reference to the city of Pergamum, which had been given by Rome, the "right of the sword." And if any Christian failed to call Caesar "lord," they could be executed immediately.
To summarize, I believe the whole tenor of the letter of the church in Pergamum points to Emperor Worship as be the place of Satan's Throne.