Pergamum – “citadel” It is claimed to be the place of discovery for parchment, and also had a large library, with a large section dedicated to medicine. The city boasted it’s governor was given the power of the sword from Rome to exact life or death sentences. It also had two Temples, at the top of the city was the Temple of Serapis, granting worshipers health & fertility, the Greco-Egyptian deity Serapis combining aspects of Osiris & Apis in a humanized form that was accepted by Greeks of Alexandria. At the base of the city was the Temple of Askelpios, granting worshipers who were sick, healing and even promising resurrection. The rod of Askelpios is where we get the icon of a snake intertwined on a rod on many medical treatment centers and ambulances today.
“two-edged sword”, v12, see 1:16, this represents the word of God, Ephesians 6:17. The Bible can be used to convict our enemies, which martyred “Antipas”. We are engaged in a spiritual war, even when the world fights us physically. Always remember that we are handling his sword, not our own.
“Satan’s throne”, v13, It is likely how God would describe the Askelpion at the base of the acropolis. Here sick people would let non-venomous snakes crawl amongst patients and use products from snakes as medicine. It was not coincidental that both Christians & Jews would be reminded of a certain snake in the Garden of Eden seducing people to sin, and be ruling within their city. Tradition claims that Antipas was appointed an Elder by the Apostle John and was martyred in 92AD, if this is true, it puts the traditional date of 94-98AD on Revelation.
“Balaam teaching Balak” v14-15, “Nicolaitans” here is really the only hint we have about the false doctrine that affected the church. In Numbers 22-25 is the story of King Balak and the prophet Balaam, interacting in the high worship places of the idol baal, while blessing Israel from high places where baal was idolized. Balak took advantage of this fellowship and his women seduced the people of Israel into harlotry, Numbers 25:1-3 & 31:16. Therefore Nicolaitans might be teaching that Christians can entertain idolatry while trying to support God’s word, assuming God would bless them in His grace by Christ.
“Overcomers”, v17, will receive hidden manna, John 4:32-34 and a hidden meaning of a new name on a white stone. This is the comfort of eternal intimacy with God and holy strength from food that is spiritually nourishing to make us strong in righteousness, in contrast to immorality.
Thyatira – “sacrifice” In comparison this was a smaller town than most of the other six cities mentioned, but they were famous for their Guild of Dyers, making purple colored dyes. Lydia was from Thyatira, Acts 16:14, she was a worshiper of God before she met Paul, so many people believe there was a synagogue in Thyatira. Apollo-Tyrimnos was the patron god of the city as well as the supreme god of all the various trade guilds. Being a son of Zeus, he was often called “son of god” and was represented figuratively by rays of light and brass feet. To the church of Thyatira, Christ introduced himself in verse 18 as the Son of God, who hath eyes like unto a flame of fire, and … feet … like fine brass. This description penetrated to the heart of the matter right away, forcing the church to consider who the Lord of their economy really is. The choice was simple: either Tyrimnos or Christ.
“sexual immorality” v20 was leading servants of Christ astray because “Jezebel” was being tolerated by the congregation. Whoever “Jezebel” was in the church at Thyatira she taught the servants of God to get in bed with pagan idols, making them believe that they were somehow serving God by doing so. In spite of this sin, the Lord had given her more than ample opportunity to turn from her evil, v21, but, “she repented not”. The church had to trust and remember Psalm 103:8, The Lord is merciful & gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy, but Jezebel scorned the Lord’s goodness. For this, Thyatira receives the longest critical rebuke from the Lord than any of the other congregations, v20-23.
“rest in Thyatira” v24, these who were faithful, needed to stay faithful even unto death just as the innocent of Smyrna, 2:10 and Philadelphia, 3:11,which Christ was pleased with, both were given and if we are faithful, never be satisfied, always press on to the goal till you see glory, Philippians 3:12-14. If we run away from a congregation because of sinners within, we should not be church-hopping but rather standing fast!
“Overcomers”, v25-28, to be given authority rule with a rod of iron and also the morning star. Sharing in the same rule promised to the Christ/Messiah in Psalm 2:9. When all is finished and glory comes, His glory and power is ours, even as it was King David’s, Rev. 22:16. Peter knew the power of this promise, 2nd Pet. 1:19