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Milepost 3: Pergamos

Milepost 3: Pergamos

Primary References: Revelation 2:12-17

The church of Pergamos was situated in Satan’s stronghold but it faithfully lifted up Jesus and defended the faith even when it cost members their lives. However, it tolerated the false doctrines that so easily corrupt.  Two doctrines in particular, the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitanes, permeate this church.  These doctrines result in people eating things sacrificed to idols and committing fornication.  Jesus calls this church to repent so He does not have to brandish His sword against them.

The church of Pergamos represents the church period of approximately 312 A.D. to 606 A.D.  It starts with Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Toleration.  With this declaration, Constantine became Pontifax Maximus, the head of the church and unified both the church and state under one authority.  Overnight, the Christians went from persecuted to esteemed. 

Wholesale forced conversions of soldiers and others occurred.  Many of the idol priests (paid by Rome) converted to Christianity and continued to lead people in worship.  Pagan temples became churches and countless churches were constructed from the stones of other pagan temples. Idols became figures of saints while priests performed Pagan rituals and ceremonies under a Christian umbrella.  This is probably the source of the doctrinal errors of Balaam and the Nicolaitans but some consider the Nicolaitans doctrine as the new hierarchy of the priestly ruling class.

This age saw the first ecumenical councils, restriction of doctrinal inquiry, and the introduction of civil penalties for departures from accepted norms.  While not as severe as the torture and death of the Middle Ages, penalties still included deposition, confiscation, and banishment.  This age also saw the inception of many new and often false teachings into the church including some that denied the pre-tribulation rapture, Jesus’ return, and the millennial reign.  Attempting to preserve the church’s virgin purity, many people retreated to monastic lives of isolation, a lifestyle widely practiced for hundreds of years.  The following table summarizes the church of Pergamos.