Most commentators see the principal or only background in the position of Pergamum as the centre of emperor worship. This was the present threat to the church, and the reminder that Christ has the ‘sharp two-edged ῤομφαία [romphaia] ’ is then set against the proconsul’s ius gladii. It was on this ground that the Christian faced the actual threat of Roman execution. . . . It is well known that Domitian required to be addressed as dominus et deus [“Lord and God”].5
Inscriptions proclaim the dignity of the city as the first in Asia to erect a temple to Augustus; and as it was the first, so it continued to be the chief Asian set of the emperor-cult.6
The major threat to Christians in Pergamum came from its role as a center of emperor worship in Asia, a function that went with it being the capital city. Caesar worship required each citizen, once a year, to offer a pinch of incense to Caesar on his altar and profess him as Lord. The citizen was then given a certificate valid for one year which allowed him to worship whatever god or gods he preferred with impunity.7Satan’s throne may also denote the activities of the secret mystery religions at Pergamum:
Alexander Hislop, in his famous book Two Babylons, gave much documentation to show that Pergamos had inherited the religious mantle of ancient Babylon when Babylon fell in the days of Belshazzar. The priests, who had kept the secrets of the ancient mystery religious centered at Babylon ever since the days of Nimrod, were forced to migrate at that time, transferring what amounted to the headquarters of Satan’s religious system away from Babylon north and west to Pergamos.8Antipas
1 “Asklepios . . . was also designated ‘Soter’, and was closely identified with the serpent. Though he had celebrated shrines elsewhere he was preeminently the Pergameus deus [God of Pergamus].”—Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 85.
2 “The designation of Pergamum as the place where ‘Satan’s throne’ is (Rev. 2:13+) probably refers to Pergamum’s being the official Asian center for the imperial cult.”—R. North, “Pergamum,” in Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979, 1915), 3:768.
3 Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 85.
4 North, Pergamum, 3:768.
5 Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 85-86.
6 Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998, 1906), lix.
7 Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 2:13.
8 Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), 57.
9 “Probably short for Ἀντίπατρος [Antipatros] , ‘like the Father.’ ”—Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000).
10 “Antipas. i.e. against all.”—Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), Rev. 2:13.
11 Mal Couch, “Ecclesiology in the Book of Revelation,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 138.
12 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 184.