Apologetics and the Seven Churches: Pergamum

This is a continuation of an apologist’s reading of the letters to the seven churches from Revelation.

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword:

“I know where you are living, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan lives. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the people of Israel, so that they would eat food sacrificed to idols and practice fornication. So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and make war against them with the sword of my mouth. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:12-17, NRSV)

The Christians in Pergamum were living in a place where they were facing significant opposition. It was bad enough that Jesus describes it as where Satan’s throne is. Despite being placed within an evil stronghold, these Christians were remaining strong in their faith. Even when one of their own was killed, they refused to give up. Although this is good, there is some concern. There were people within the church who held to the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. We do not have details about the exact nature of these groups, but they seem to combine bad theology and and an ungodly lifestyle.

In terms of apologetics, there are a number of applications. It is not unusual for Christians, even in the west, to be in a place that is hostile to the Christian message. Even if lives are not in danger, there may be obstacles to the freedom of religious expression. No matter how bad it gets, we must be determined to remain faithful.

Regarding the false teachers, bad doctrine continues today, including within Christian congregations. Theological threats are not always from the outside. Like in the first century, bad theology and ungodly lifestyles often go together. Christians need to understand the importance of remaining faithful to the biblical witness and need to be aware of those who would lead others astray.

Can you imagine a situation in which you could deny your faith?

Have you witnessed bad theology within any congregations that you have been a part of?

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