The Martyr

“I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to Me. You refused to deny Me even when Antipas, My faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city.”
Revelation‬ ‭2:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Pergamum, or Pergamon, or Pergamos, depending on which history book or Bible version we read, was the Northernmost city of the seven cities mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3. it was an important city with life spanning hundreds of years and several rulers. Many ruins remain today. But the reference to satan is interesting. A huge, throne-shaped structure was removed from the Acropolis in Pergamon in the nineteenth century and reassembled in a museum in Germany. And it was the shape and size of this, together with the association with Greek gods, that led to its name as the Throne of Satan. 

Pergamum must have been a difficult place to be a Christian in, steeped as it was in the worship of false gods, and where the counter-cultural believer and follower of Christ would have been severely persecuted. And that is what seems to have happened, with the martyrdom of a man called Antipas. However, in spite of the persecution, the congregation in Pergamum remained loyal to their faith. We don’t know how many church members there were, but subsequent verses in this section of Revelation 2 seem to indicate that it might have been at least a medium-sized fellowship of believers.

So the usual question – is there any relevance in this verse for Christian pilgrims today? I think there is. Loyalty to our faith is an important attribute of the followers of Christ, though loyalty to anything today in our Western societies is not exactly a popular trait. But a refusal to deny Christ, even when one of the followers in Pergamum was martyred, indicated how strong their loyalty was. So how loyal are we? First and foremost is our loyalty to God. Sadly, I know Christians who, when going through hard times, facing into health, family or financial issues, and finding that their prayers are not answered in the way they would like, take time out from their faith. They stop reading the Bible, and praying. They stop attending church services. They cut themselves off from their church friends, refusing to answer calls, ignoring social media posts, or the door when visited. But then after a time they will reappear, as though nothing has happened. I always think it strange that some people, when in times of greatest need, seem to turn away from God. A conditional loyalty isn’t an option in the Kingdom of God.

There is also our loyalty to our church leaders. They do a difficult job, often for little reward. But a loyal congregant gladdens their hearts. With loyal followers, they can build Jesus’ church, developing the vision God has given them. And we mustn’t forget our loyalty to each other. There is nothing more encouraging than being part of a church full of loyal believers.

When the going gets tough, loyalty is an essential quality. That moment when we can honestly say to God that no matter what is happening, or is about to happen, we will never desert Him. If faced with the dilemma Antipas was facing, can we stand firm, loyal to our faith? I believe God gave him the strength he needed and eased him into his new life in Heaven. God is always with us in our hours of need.

Dear God. We thank You for Your faithfulness to us. You are always watching over us 24/7. Please grant us the grace and courage to stand firm in difficult times. Amen.

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