FRIDAY MORNING MANNA
Biblical Numerology: NUMBER SEVEN – Part 12
PERGAMOS: The Church’s Age of Popularity
12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write: These things saith He which hath the sharp sword with two edges; 13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and holdest fast My name, and hast not denied thy faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.” Revelation 2: 12, 13, K.J.V.
Footnotes, An Exhaustive E. G. White Commentary on Revelation, Vol. 2, pp. 545, 546:
“Pergamos.’ Or, Pergamumum. This city had been the capital of the Roman province of Asia for two centuries after its last king Attalus III, bequeathed it, together with the kingdom of Pergamum, to Rome in 133 B.C. (see p. 95). Since the early 3rd century B.C., the city of Pergamum had been a chief center of cultural and intellectual life of the Hellenistic period. Although by John’s time Ephesus was beginning to supersede it as the leading city of Asia, Pergamum continued to retain much of its former importance. The two cities long contended for this honor. . . . .
“The meaning of the name Pergamos is uncertain, but ‘citadel,’ or ‘acropolis,’ seems to be one of its derived meanings. The characteristic experience of the church during the Pergamos period was one of exaltation. From the status as a proscribed and persecuted sect [Smyrna, previous stage], it rose to a position of unchallenged popularity and power (see on v. 13). [
“Sword with two edges.’ Like the descriptive titles that introduced the messages to the churches of Ephesus and Smyrna, this is drawn from the description of the glorified [and risen] Christ in ch. 1: 16.
“Satan’s seat.’ Pergamum had distinguished itself in 29 B.C. by becoming the site of the first cult worship of a living emperor. A temple was built and dedicated to the joint worship of the goddess Roma (a personification of the spirit of the empire) and the emperor Augustus. At the very time John wrote these wordsChristians were suffering persecution for refusing to worship the emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96), who insisted on being worshipped as ‘lord and god.’ Pergamum was also the religious capital of Asia Minor. It was the center of Oriental mystery religions transplanted from Mesopotamia, and contained my pagan temples. Its designation as the place ‘where Satan’s seat is,’ was thus appropriate indeed.
“The Pergamos period of church history may be thought of beginning about the time the emperorConstantine espoused the cause of the church, in A.D. 313—or his own professed conversion in 323 A,D,—and ending in 538 A.D. (see Additional Note at the end of the chapter). It was during this period of time thatthe papacy consolidated its position as the religious and political [the union of church and state still prevented by the First Amendment] leader of Western Europe (see Additional Note on Daniel 7), and Satan established his ‘seat’ within the Christian church. The papacy was a skilled blend of paganism and Christianity. This period may be termed the Age of Popularity.
Constantine’s Role in Starting the Great Apostasy of Church History
Christian Edwardson, in his book “Facts of Faith,” Revised, Southern Publishing Asso., TN, 1943., pp. 109-110, wrote:
“Constantine has been watching, he said, those Caesars [emperors] who had persecuted the Christians, and found that they usually had a bad end, while his father who was favorable toward them, had prospered. So, when he and Licinius met in Milan in 313 A.D. they jointly prepared an edict, usually called ‘The Edict of Milano,’ which gave equal liberty to Christians and pagans. Had Constantine stopped here, he might have been honored as the originator of religious liberty in the Roman Empire, but he had different aims in view. The Roman Empire had been ruled at times by two, four, or even six Caesars jointly, and in his ambition to become sole Emperor, Constantine as a shrewd statesman, soon saw that the Christian church had the vitality to become the strongest factor in the empire. The other Caesars were persecuting the Christians. If he could win them without losing the good will of the pagans, he would win the game. He therefore set himself to the task ofblending the two religions into one. As H. G. Heggtveit (Lutheran) says:
‘Constantine labored at this time untiringly to unite the worshippers of the old and the new faith in one religion. All his laws and contrivances are aimed at promoting this amalgamation of religions. He would by all lawful and peaceable means meld together a purified heathenism and a moderated Christianity . . . . His injunction that the ‘Day of the Sun’ should be a general rest day was characteristic of his standpoint. . . .Of all his blending and melting together of Christianity and heathenism none is more easy to see through than this making of his Sunday law. ‘The Christians worshipped their Christ, the heathen their sun-god; according to the opinion of the Emperor, the object for worship in both religions were essentially the same!’ ‘—‘Kirkchistorie,’ (Church History), pp. 233, 234, Chicago: 1898.
Constantine’s Sunday Law of 321 A.D. reads as follows:
“On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain-sowing or for vine-planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost. (Given the 7th day of March, Crispus and Constantine being consuls each of them for the second time.’—‘Codex Justinianus, lib. 3. Tit. 12, 3’; translated in “History of the Christian Church,’ Philip Schaff, D.D., (7-vol. ed.) Vol. III, p. 380. New York: 1884.
“Dr. A. Chr. Bang (Lutheran bishop, Norway), says:
‘This Sunday law constituted no real favoritism towards Christianity . . . . It is evident from all his statutory provisions, that the Emperor during the time 313-323 with full consciousness has sought the realization of his religious aim: the amalgamation of heathenism and Christianity.’- ‘Kirken of Romerstaten’ (The Church and the Roman State’), p. 256. Christiana: 1879.
“That Constantine by his Sunday Law intended only to enforce the popular heathen festival is acknowledged by Professor Hutton Webster, Ph.D. (University of Nebraska), who says:
‘This legislation by Constantine probably bore no relation to Christianity; it appears, on the contrary, that the emperor, in his capacity as Pontifex Maxiumus, was only adding the day of the sun, the worship of which was then firmly established in the Roman Empire, to the other ferial days of the sacred calendar.’—‘Rest Days,’ p. 122. New York: 1916.
“A.H. Lewis, D.D., who spent years of study and research on this subject, declares, that ‘the pagan religion of Rome had many holidays, on which partial or complete cessation of business and labor were demanded,’ and that Contantine by his Sunday law was ‘merely adding one more festival to the festi of the empire.’ – ‘A Critical History of Sunday Legislation from 321 to 1888 A.D.,’ pp. 8, 12. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1888. “ — Ibid, ”Facts of Faith,” pp. 109, 110.
“Antipas. “A familiar Greek name, compounded of the Greek word anti, ‘in place of,’ and pas, an abbreviated form of pater, ‘father’ (cf. on Luke 3: 1; 24: 18. See Josephus Antiquities xiv 1. 3 ). It reflected a father’s hope that the son so named would eventually take his place in the world. Some commentators hold that a Christian by this name at Pergamum had recently been martyred for his faith [by the Jews], presumably for not worshipping the emperor. If so, the experience and example of this faithful may be considered as typicalof that of untold thousands who suffered for their faith in later ages. Although it is possible that the name may have a figurative application to the Pergamos period of church history, Inspiration provides no apparent clue with respect to such an application.
“Martyr. Greek martus, ‘witness.’ A ‘martyr’ is one whose death testifies to his faith. The Greek here rendered ‘faithful martyr’ is identical with that used of Christ in ch. 1: 5 and translated ‘faithful witness.’
14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
”Balaam. See Numbers chs. 22-24. The analogy with Balaam suggests that there were some at Pergamum whose purpose was to divide and ruin the church by encouraging practices that were forbidden to Christians (see below on ‘things sacrificed;’ cf. on Acts 15: 29). Balaam was concerned about advancing his own interests, not those of God’s people.
“Balaam had been a prophet of God, and a good man; but he apostatized, and gave himself up tocovetousness, so that he loved the wages of unrighteousness [2 Pet. 2: 15] At the time Balak [the Gentile king] sent messengers for him, he was double-minded [see James_1: 6-8], pursuing a course to gain and retain the favor and honor of the enemies of the Lord, for the sake of the rewards that he received from them.” – E. G. White, Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 320.
“Stumblingblock. Greek skandalon, the trigger that springs a trap. Thus ‘to cast a stumblingblock’ before someone is to trip him up. See on Matt. 5: 29.”
“Things sacrificed. The two practices here mentioned has been expressly prohibited by the council in Jerusalem (see on Acts 15: 29; Rom. 14: 1; 1 Cor. 8: 1). Balaam convince Israel to commit ‘whoredom with the daughters of Moab,’ to sacrifice to Moabite gods, and to ‘eat,’ presumably of the meat sacrificed to these gods (Num. 25: 1, 2; 31: 16).
“These two sins led to a mixture of paganism and true religion. Applied to Christian history, this portrayal is peculiarly appropriate to the situation in the church in the period following the legalization of Christianity by Constantine in A.D. 313 and his nominal conversion 10 years later. This emperor pursued a policy of blending paganism and Christianity at as many points as possible, in a studied attempt to unite the diverse elements within the empire and thus strengthen it. The favorable, even dominant, position he accorded to the church made it a prey to the temptations that always accompany prosperity and popularity. Under Constantine and his successors, almost all of whom continued his favorable policy, the church rapidly became a politico-ecclesiastical institution and lost much of its formal spirituality.”- An Exhaustive E.G. White Commentary on Revelation, Vol. 2, “Footnotes”, pp. 546-7.
“To Commit Fornication. The unfaithfulness of the church to Christ in permitting her confidence and affection to be turned from Him, and allowing the love of worldly things
to occupy the soul, is likened to the violation of the marriage vow. The sin of Israel in departing from the Lord is presented under this figure.” – E. G. White, Great Controversy, 1911, p. 381. [And so it will be to the close of time!]
“The great adversary [Satan] now endeavored to gain by artifice what he ad failed to secure by force. Persecution ceased, and in its stead were substituted the dangerous allurements of temporal prosperity and worldly honor. Idolaters were led to receive a part of the Christian faith, while they rejected other essential truths. They professed to accept Jesus as the Son of God, and to believe in His death and resurrection, but they had no conviction of sin and felt no need of repentance or of a change of heart. With some concessions on their part they proposed that Christians should make concessions, that all might unite on the platform of belief in Christ.
“Now the church was in fearful peril. Prison, torture, fire, and sword were blessings in comparison with this. . . . That was a time of deep anguish to the faithful followers of Christ. Under a cloak of pretended Christianity, Satan was insinuating himself into the church, to corrupt their faith and turn their minds from the word of truth.”- Ibid, p. 42.
(To be continued next week)