"I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is.
Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith
even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness,
who was killed among you, where Satan dwells."
A symbol of great evil sits on Museum Island in Berlin: the Altar of Zeus taken from Pergamos in Asia Minor. Discovered by the German archaeologist Carl Humann circa 1880, the Pergamon altar served as the inspiration of Albert Speer for the Nuremberg stadium (the Zeppelinfeld) used by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. It served as part of the design for Lenin's tomb. And, perhaps unaware of the reference in Revelation Chapter two to this temple, an American president was so impressed by it when he visited Germany that he had a copy made for his inauguration in 2008 at Denver.
In recent times many have taken note of the strange reappearance of the symbolism of Zeus in Europe with depictions of Europa riding the Bull (Zeus) on coins, on postcards, on magazine covers, in live performance at the opening ceremony of the European games, and on sculptures outside of the E.U. headquarters in Strasbourg and in Brussels as well. Europe has indeed been swept away in a new Union that seems to be, in a futile attempt, trying to build another tower of Babel.
Why was this ancient Greek altar called the "throne of Satan" by Jesus Christ in His letter to the church of Pergamos? It was Antiochus Epiphanes who, in the second century BC, killed more than a million Jews attempting to force them to worship Zeus... a god of thunder, lightening and clouds... just as was the false god Baal of Old Testament times. Thus the ancient equation was that Baal and Zeus were one and the same. It was Pompey who killed perhaps ten thousand priests in putting down a rebellion because he put the eagle (symbol of Roman Jupiter who is simply the Roman version of the Greek god Zeus). Ultimately Hadrian would build a temple to Jupiter in Jerusalem in place of the Jewish temple that had been earlier destroyed by Titus (AD 70).
In literary references to Pergamos, there were descriptions of a great altar that was dedicated to Zeus. As the pyramids in Egypt and the temple of Artemis in Ephesus, the Altar of Zeus at Pergamos stood out as a major territorial landmark. Contained within an ancient letter, in which the Roman writer Ampelius compiled a list of interesting things for his friend Macrinus, the "Altar of Pergamon is mentioned also among the world wonders."
After having repelled Antiochus of Syria with help from the Romans in 190 B.C., Eumenes II erected the enormous temple complex and dedicated it to "Zeus Soter and Athena Nicephoros." On the base of the gigantic Altar of Zeus were frieze plates depicting the mythical battle between the gods and the giants. They are locked together in combat and slightly bowing or kneeling toward Olympian Zeus depicted on the platform above them. All of these figures were sculpted larger than the size of a human. The roll call of pagan divinities depicted here is quite astounding. Aphrodite, Otus, Porphyrion, Artemis, Moira, Nereus, Phoebe, Tityus, Alcyoneus, Triton, Dione, Nyx, Hecate, Oceanus, Tethys, Nerius Doris, Amphitrite, Dionysus, Rhea, Adrasteia, Eos,Hephaestus, Helios, Theia, Selene, Aether, Hyperion, Themis, Asteria, Leto, Apollo, Hercules, Zeus, Nike, Athena, and others were carved into the massive frieze plates. The frieze at the base of the altar was over 370 feet long. Many of these plates were removed in the tenth century to build a defensive wall against the Mohammedans. From the time of that siege until Humann's spade work in 1878, the acropolis of Pergamos was known to the world through literary sources alone.
Because of the shape of the colossal altar, like that of a giant throne, even non-Christian writers have identified it with the "throne of Satan" reference of Revelation 2. Barclay wrote of the impression that this huge altar must have made in the days of John:
All day long this altar smoked with the smoke of countless sacrifices to Olympian Zeus. It dominated the city. No one could fail to see it; the eye of anyone living in Pergamos was drawn to it. As it stood there on its jutting ledge on the hillside, it would look like nothing so much as a great seat or throne.
Satan was receiving worship at Pergamos through the sacrifices at the giant altar and the attendant immorality at the adjacent temple to Athena. Nike, after all, was depicted standing in Athena’s hand with the laurel of victory outstretched—as at Athens, so at the Pergamene temple. The Nicolaitanes (which literally means "the people of Nike" or "the people of victory") were simply those who participated in these sacrifices to idols and the attendant immorality.
Antiochus Epiphanes profaned the temple area at Jerusalem by dedicating it to Zeus. The Roman eagle, symbol of both the empire and the god Jupiter (who is synonymous with Zeus), was raised in Jerusalem from the time of Pompey. In the days of Vespasian and Titus, the temple at Jerusalem was destroyed; and later the temple precinct was dedicated to Jupiter. Thousands of Jews died each time the pagans imposed the worship of Zeus in the temple of Jerusalem . It should be no wonder that the greatest structure dedicated to this god, situated at Pergamos, was called the throne of Satan by the Lord Jesus. Was it merely ironic that the Altar of Zeus from Pergamos was moved, stone by monolithic stone, to the Berlin museum in the 1930s by Hitler's regime?
Pergamos was a type of the kingdom of Satan in this present world, a place where professing Christians were led astray by the satanic doctrine that rationalized fornication and idolatry. The Lord warned them to repent. Possibly some did. Those who did not fell into the category of apostates that John defined in 1 John 2:19: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."
The Lord Jesus exhorted those in Pergamos, as did the writer of Hebrews in the face of apostasy in Hebrews 6:12, to be "followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." In this capital of Asian idolatry where they were dwelling, they were to be light that exposed the evil. They were to stand, as did Antipas, against all of the worship and works of darkness.