Pergamum supplement, Revelation 2:13
Dec 15, 2015
For some reason, I skipped Revelation 2:13 in the study of Pergamum, so I will comment on it here.
Revelation 2:13 says,
13 I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith, even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
Pergamum was known for its numerous temples, three of them dedicated to the Roman emperors themselves. The most significant, however, was the temple to Zeus, the king of the Greek gods. It had a great throne called the Great Altar of Zeus, which survived the ravages of history. In the late 1800’s it was purchased from the Ottoman Empire, dismantled, and shipped to Berlin, and reconstructed from 1910-1930. See the picture here:
From 1934-1937, Adolf Hitler constructed the Tribune at Zeppelin Field in Nuremberg to be used for Nazi rallies. The Pergamon Altar was used as the model, and Hitler’s pulpit was in the center of the tribune. In 1948 the Soviets took the Altar to Leningrad, but it was returned in 1958. It seems that many have wanted Satan’s throne for themselves, knowing its history and its spiritual significance.
History of Satan’s Throne
Pergamum was not always “Satan’s throne.” From a prophetic standpoint, Babylon had been his throne, but after the fall of Babylon, some of the priests of Babylon transferred the throne to Pergamum. The head of the priestly order was known as Pontifex Maximus, “high priest.” A few decades before Christ was born, Julius Caesar attained that title in Pergamum, and when he became the Caesar of Rome, the title moved with him.
For the next 400 years the title Pontifex Maximus was passed down to all of the emperors of Rome until the time of Maximus III (383-388 A.D.). After the emperors ceased to claim that title, it was passed to the Roman bishops, who have used it to this day. As the time of the four beast empires gradually moved West, Satan’s throne moved west as well, finally settling in Rome—and ultimately, in the Roman church, which is the “little horn” extension of Imperial Rome.
The citizens of Pergamum were called “Temple-keepers of Asia.” Not only were there three temples dedicated to the Roman emperors, but there was also a temple to Athena and a temple/healing center called The Askalapion (dedicated to Askalapius, the serpent god of healing).
Antipas, the Faithful Witness
Revelation 2:13 speaks of Antipas in glowing terms. He was said to be the bishop of Pergamum who was martyred there in 92 A.D., just a few years before John had been exiled to Patmos. The priests of Pergamum were upset with Christians, because they denied the very foundations of Greek religion—that there were multiple gods. According to Rick Renner’s book, A Light in the Darkness, the pagan priests complained to the Roman governor that the prayers of Antipas were casting out their spirits from the city and destroying the worship of their gods. The governor then ordered Antipas to offer sacrifice to the statue of the Roman emperor and to declare that the emperor was “lord and god.”
He refused, of course, and so he was sentenced to be offered as a sacrifice on the great Altar of Zeus. At the height of the Altar was a hollow bronze bull, into which they used to place victims for sacrifice. They would heat up the bull, and as it became hot, the victims would groan and scream, and their voices would be heard coming from the mouth of the bull. It seemed to the people that the sacrifice made the bull come alive.
Antipas was thus martyred for his witness of Christ and the truth in 92 A.D.
Antipas as a Prophetic Type
The name Antipas is said to be derived from anti, “instead of, in place of” and pater, “father.” Hence, the name is translated, “like father.”
No doubt this is the primary meaning of the name, and it suggests that this faithful witness was like his heavenly Father. In other words, he was an Amen people, a double witness on earth of his heavenly Father in his words and in his deeds.
However, the Greek word pas means “all.” It is used in many places, including Romans 11:32,
32 For God has shut up all [pas] in disobedience, that He might show mercy to all [pas].
If we consider this to be the derivation of the last part of the name Antipas, we may again see a doubly prophetic meaning, similar to what we saw in the name Pergamum (or Pergamos).
Interpreting Antipas in this second manner, we may view him as representing “all” in a universal sense. He is both “like Father” and “like all.” In representing the universal all, his martyrdom becomes symbolic of the death of the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation that occurred during the Pergamum era (313-529).
Up to the year 400 A.D., this teaching was both common and “normal” in the church, at least in the main influential centers of Christian thought. Divergence of opinion began to rise as early as the year 203, when two influential Christians took opposite positions on the nature of divine judgment. In that year, Tertullian, the Christian Roman lawyer, wrote:
“How I shall admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many kings…groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness, so many magistrates who persecuted the name of the Lord, liquefying in fiercer flames than they ever kindled against Christians; so many sage philosophers blushing in raging fire.” (de Spectaculis, 30)
His views of a literal burning hell were later adopted by the Roman church. But at the same time (203 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria wrote:
“God does not wreak vengeance, for vengeance is to return evil for evil, and God punishes only with an eye to the good.” (Stromata VII, 26)
Again, in commenting on 1 Timothy 4:9-11, Clement wrote:
“And how is He Savior and Lord, if not the Savior and Lord of all? But He is the Savior of those who have believed…and the Lord of those who have not believed…for all things are arranged with a view to the salvation of the Universe by the Lord of the Universe, both generally and particularly…But necessary corrections, through the goodness of the great Overseeing Judge, both by the attendant angels, and through various preliminary judgments, or through the Great and Final Judgment, compel egregious sinners to repent.”
Clement writes further,
“We say that the fire purifies not the flesh but sinful souls, not an all-devouring vulgar fire, but the ‘wise fire’ as we call it, the fire that ‘pierceth the soul’ which passes through it.” (Stromata VII, 6).
Again, he says,
“Fire is conceived of as a beneficent and strong power, destroying what is base, preserving what is good; therefore this fire is called ‘wise” by the Prophets.” (Ecl. Proph. XXV, 4)
Clement wrote these things during the time of Origen, who was the first great theologian of the church in his day. But Origen did not convert people to his way of thinking, as much as he expressed more eloquently the most common premise of the church—that God would save all men in the end, and that the fiery judgment was designed to “correct” men and “compel egregious sinners to repent.”
Tertullian, however, took the opposite position, though his was a minority view (at the time). Clement of Alexandria did not derive his position from Egyptian culture that surrounded him. Egyptian religion specialized in teaching about a burning hell. Jaques de Goff wrote in his book, The Birth of Purgatory, pp. 19, 20,
“The Egyptian Hell was particularly impressive and highly refined…Confinement and imprisonment played an important role. The tortures were bloody, and punishment by fire was frequent and terrifying….When it came to the topography of Hell, the Egyptian imagination knew no limits….Intermediate states of phases in the other-worldly process of purification did not exist.”
On page 53, Jaques de Goff also informs us of the contrast between the Egyptian view of divine punishment and that of the early Christians, writing,
“From the Old Testament, Clement and Origen took the notion that fire is a divine instrument, and from the New Testament the idea of baptism by fire (from the Gospels) and the idea of a purificatory trial after death (from Paul).” (The Birth of Purgatory, p. 53)
The standard Christian view, held by the vast majority of Christians—especially among the seven churches of Asia, along with those of Palestine and Alexandria—was that the “lake of fire” was not a literal torture pit, but a baptism of the Holy Spirit and “fire.” This view was taught by virtually all of the great church fathers through the fourth century, including Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyassa, two of the greatest theologians in the late fourth century. It was even taught by Jerome until the great controversy erupted in the year 400 A.D.
The controversy came about when a rich widow in Alexandria wanted to donate money to support poor widows. Knowing that Theophilus, the bishop of Alexandria, was more interested in buildings than in poor women, she gave the money secretly to Isidorus, the superintendent of the almshouse for the Alexandrian church. But one cannot spend much money without the truth being known. Theophilus went into a rage and banished Isidorus with false accusations.
Isidorus fled to the desert among Nitrian monks. Theophilus sent troops to invade the monks, burn their monasteries, and torture those who refused to deliver Isidorus into his hands. The Christians in Alexandria were horrified. Eighty of the Nitrian monks escaped and fled to Constantinople, where they appealed to the bishop, John Crysostom.
A hearing was convened, and Theophilus was summoned. Theophilus was able to depose John and drive him into exile, where he soon died.
This political controversy spilled over into the doctrinal arena. Theophilus banned the writings of Isidorus, who had been writing a tribute to Origen called Love of the Beautiful. Because the book centered largely on Universal Reconciliation, Theophilus suddenly took the opposite view and condemned the teaching as heresy. Up to that point, Universal Reconciliation had been taught since that church had been founded.
Jerome wrote to the bishop of Rome, asking him which position to take. The Roman pontiff told him to take the position of Eternal Torment. Jerome then began to teach Eternal Torment, whereas up to then he had taught Universal Reconciliation. Jerome, for all his scholarship, was a bitter and vindictive man, visible to all in his attacks upon Rufinus. Now Jerome found a new enemy and “lost all feeling of decency and veracity” (Hans von Campenhausen, The Fathers of the Latin Church, p. 178).
Even so, Universal Reconciliation remained the dominant view for a long time. Church bishops found it necessary to condemn Origen in the Fifth General Council in 553 A.D. But perhaps the most significant condemnation came from the Emperor Justinian (527-565) in his Anathema IX. Justinian was the emperor who officially brought an end to the Pergamum era and established the Thyatira era (529-1517 A.D.). His greatest projects were the new calendar and the new system of Roman Law, which began the time of the “little horn.”
For a longer study on the history of Universal Reconciliation and how it was rejected by the church, see my booklet, A Short History of Universal Reconciliation.
The point is that the martyrdom of Antipas, prophesied to the church of Pergamum, can be seen as a type of the death of Universal Reconciliation, which was probably the most significant doctrinal controversy during the prophetic Pergamum era (313-529).
This is part 22 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones