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A Survey of The Days of Vengeance: Historical Prologue or Pergamum (Part 4)

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Note: This is a continuing evaluation of the book The Days of Vengeance written by David Chilton. Chilton at the time of writing this was a partial preterist who later in life (after a massive heart attack) turned to full preterism. Sections will be taken from the book and commented on to the fullest extent possible. A PDF of the book can be found here.

Now it is time to focus on Pergamum. The introduction highlights our first real encounter with Ceasar worship,

Another important Asian city, and played host to a number of popular false cults, the most prominent being those of Zeus, Dionysos, Asklepios (the serpent-god who was officially designated savior), and, most importantly, Caesar-worship. Pergamum boasted magnificent temples to the Caesars and to Rome, and “of all the seven cities, Pergamum was the one in which the church was most liable to clash with the imperial cult.” (DOV, 53)

It is worth noting that within this context Christ reveals Himself as "the One who has the sharp two edged

sword". This is imagery that the Catholic Church would use later to indicate their authority in both religious and state matters. Their adoption of the imagery was incorrect but their understanding of the image was correct. Christ really does reign over both the church and state.

Chilton proceeds to quote Robert Mounce on what the Satanic terminology could mean,

Frequent mention is made of the great thronelike altar to Zeus which overlooked the city from the citadel. . . . Others take the phrase in reference to the cult of Asklepios, who was designated Savior and whose symbol was the serpent (this would obviously remind Christians of Satan; cf. 12:9; 20:2). . . . As the traveler approached Pergamum by the ancient road from the south, the actual shape of the city-hill would appear as a giant throne towering above the plain. The expression is best understood, however, in connection with the prominence of Pergamum as the official cult center of emperor worship in Asia. . . . It was here that Satan had established his official seat or chair of state. As Rome had become the center of Satan’s activity in the West (cf. 13:2; 16:10), so Pergamum had become his ‘throne’ in the East. (DOV, 54)

It is within this setting that the church endured persecution and was praised for their endurance. But it was within the church that they were falling away,

When it was discovered that the people of God could not be defeated in open warfare (see Num. 22- 24), the false prophet Balaam suggested another plan to Balak, the evil King of Moab. The only way to destroy Israel was through corruption. Thus Balaam kept teaching Balak (cf. Num. 31:16) to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication (cf. Num. 25). Thus you also have some who in the same way – i.e., in imitation of Balaam – hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans: In other words, those who hold the teaching of Balaam and those who hold the teaching of the Nicolatians (cf. 2:6) comprise the same group. The church in Pergamum was standing steadfastly for the faith when it came to outright persecution by an ungodly state – yet they were falling prey to other forms of compromise with Satan. (DOV, 54)

In response to this reintroduction of "Nicolatian/Balaam" doctrine, we get more insight to the fall worship. These distinction will be brought up again even once more within the discussion of the seven churches. While there are many good things in this section, I'm choosing to close with a lengthy quote on Christ's giving over a "white rock" to those who overcome,

This has been seen variously as referring to a ticket to a feast, a token of acquittal (i. e., justification), or some such reflection of a common practice of John’s day. While these interpretations do not need to be excluded, of course, there is a much more satisfactory way to look at this stone in terms of Biblical revelation. There is a white stone connected in the Bible with manna, and it is called bdellium (cf. Ex. 16:31 with Num. 11:7). Moreover, this stone is connected with the Garden of Eden, and is intended to be a reminder of it (Gen.2:12): Salvation is a New Creation, and restores God’s people to Paradise... 

The fact that the name is written on the stone would seem to argue against the interpretation of the white stone given above, for we are never told in Scripture of any writing of names on the bdellium. Yet this only serves to confirm the interpretation. The stone which was marked with a name in the Old Testament was the onyx stone. Two onyx stones were placed on the shoulders of the High Priest, and on them were engraved the names of the tribes of Israel (Ex. 28:9-12). Yet the onyx stone was not a white stone – it was black. The explanation for this seems to be that the bdellium and onyx are simply combined in this imagery (a common device in Scripture) to create a new image that still retains the older associations. The connecting link here is the bdellium: it is associated in Genesis 2:12 with onyx, and in Numbers 11:7 with manna. Together, they speak of the restoration of Eden in the blessings of salvation. (DOV, 55)

This is one of those places where I disagree with Chilton but found his inclusion of OT imagery very interesting. Good food for thought as we wait for the next church.

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