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    278
    Antipas

    He Died at Satan's Throne (Rev.2:13)
    by Thomas Cosmades

    Success catapults one into the limelight. The world sings the praises of those who succeed, acclaims those who achieve. Undeserving persons are placed on a pedistal, whilst unsung heroes are buried in the archives of negligence.

    There is a vast army of heroes of faith encountered in the Old Testament and the New, along with those mentioned in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, whose commitment to the Triune God draws admiration. There is also a large number of puissant worthies, who are either mentioned in a cursory manner in the Scriptures or not at all. The Holy Spirit apportions another manner of divine recognition for them.

    Old Testament heroes of the faith such as Enoch, caleb and Jabez don't receive extensive recognition. In the New Testament, Mary, mother of John Mark (Ac.12:12) rates among the foremost. The illustrious persons acknowledged in Romans 16, to whom the affable Paul offers due recognition, are surely among the worthies of early Christianity. On protomartyr Stephen "a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit" we don't have extensive information. We only know that he was amongst the first deacons (Ac.6:5) and that his sermon shook Jerusalem's religious establishment (Ac.7).

    Another person, about whom very little information comes from the pages of the New Testament, is a shining follower of Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ). He is called Antipas. He was in the forefront of the Pergameab Assembly (Rev.2:13). Deducing from his name, he was likely a Greek convert to the faith of Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ). The name Antipas is a shortened forn of Antipater, one of Alexander's successful generals (ca. 379-319 BC). A vast number of men and even women (Antipatris) in the Greek world (cp. 1 Maccabees 12:16; 14:22) were named after him. Josephus informs us that Herod the Great was known by this name (Mt.14:1; Lk.3:1; 9:7; Ac.13:1).

    We mentioned that Antipas was an unsung hero. But in studying the brief recognition of him in the single sentence in Revelation 2:13 and considering that the author of this heartening pronouncement was Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) Himself, we realise that Antipas is far from being an unsung worthy. AN august song for him is sung by none other than the glorified, exalted Son of God in heaven in the company of multitudes of angels and cherubim.

    In Pilgrim's Progress John Bunyon relates how Christian met Faithful ahead of him on his journey to the Celestial City. "Ho, ho! so - ho! Stay," he cried, "and I will be your companion." At that, Faithful looked behind him and answered, "No, I am upon my life, and the avenger of blood is behind me."

    Chasing Antipas was the avenger of blood. He caught him and murdered him in cold blood. The sad event did not escape the attention of his risen Master in heaven. When He sent His third letter through the disciple John, he did not forget the heroic, resolute commitment of Antipas. he said to the congregation in Pergamum, "I know where you are living, where Satan's throne is. Yet you are holding fast to My Name, and you did not deny your faith in Me even even in the days of Antipas My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where satan dwells."

    PERGAMUM - WHERE SATAN LIVES

    Even Ephesus with all the advantages of the Great Temple and a bustling port, could not match the improtance of the once royal seat of the Attalids. Situated on a scenic acropolis Pergamum was embellished with the largest number of Greek and Roman tempples in the whole of Asia Minor, i.e. Zeus, Athena, Apollo, Demetra, Dionysius and Aphrodite. On another side it houses the largest Aesclepium of the empire. Its library of 200,000 volumes rivaled the renowned library of Alexandria. The eminent doctor Galen was among her favourite sons. Roman emperors came to seek healing at the famous Aesclepium. Aesclepius was honoured as the god of healing in the classical world.

    When the cult of Dominus et Deus was initiated in Pergamum, the great Basilica was erected, adding to the rostrum of numerous idolatrous temples. The visitor to Bergama (Turkish name of the present day city) will see this immense structure at the edge of the bustling centre. The Basilica became a monument of vice and cruelty. Every citizen was forced to burn a few grains of incense here and worship the Emperor as Deus [God]. he would then proceed to his own religious edifice to perform his preferred practice - a common syncretistic act which never lacked its double-hearted devotees.

    For anyone who refused to submit to this profane practice, death was imminent. Whereras the temple of Zeus was referred to by the early Christians as the "Seat of Satan", the appellation was later transferred to this centre, where some Christians felt compelled to pay obeisance.

    Very likely the Good News of Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) reached this metropolis during Paul's tenure in Ephesus, on his third journey, "when all the residents of of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the Word of the Lord" (Ac.19:10). A goodly number of the residents of Pergamum, whose heart the Lord opened to listen to and believe in what Paul's emissaries conveyed, became fervent believers in Christ. A church was founded in Satan's dwelling place.

    The only name mentioned by the glorified Christ, Antipas, might have been a convert from a heathen background, or the son of a converted family. His is the only name mentioned by the risen Lord in His seven messages to the churches, if we exclude the symbolic Jezebel, whose disasterous activities in neighbouring Thyatria caused the degeneration of the church there. Antipas stands out as the privileged disciple of the churches addressed by the glorified Christ.

    If Antipas had come from the triumphant churches in Smyrna or Philadelphia, his unflinching allegieance and obedience to the Saviour could probably be more easily comprehended. But the church he was identified with was not one among those who were overcoming. The enemy's onslaughts on her belief and ethical uprightness had caused serious spiritual erosion.

    Before Antipas' martyrdom he witnessed the betrayal of a small band who had broken their loyalty to Christ by slipping onto Balaam's teaching. Another little group fell into the position held by the Nicolaitans who ahd not been able to find fertile ground for themselves in Ephesus. Antipas, a faithful witness of Christ, experienced deep pain in seeing the fledgling church to which he belonged deviate into two obnoxious directions. Seeing that some had abandoned the stance of Christ's faith once delivered to the saints, he was perplexed for a while: "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Ps.11:3) But immediately he took heart and lifted his voice with David: "In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me" (Ps.31:1).

    Absolute faith and total commitment to Christ are imperative in places like Pergamum. Satan had firmly entrenched his throne there. But Christ's throne in heaven is much firmer than all other thrones combined. Antipas was aware of the commendable endurance of the neighbouring church in Smyrna to whom Christ would say, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev.2:10). This reassurance along with Antipas' faithful stance were to fortify the spirit of the venerable Polycarp, who would defy the idolatrous powers of Rome and die the martyr's death. Antipas' martyrdom would have a chain reaction, also heartening Ignatius of Antioch and a host of others in the illustrious rostrum of martyrs.

    Those were cruel times when Antipas became the torch-bearer and vanguard of the church. The cruel emperor Titus Flavius Domitianus (81-96 AD), known as Domitian, was pursuing the course set by his predecessor Nero. During his reign the compulsory Dominus et Deus worship was imposed, beginning in this dwelling place of Satan. Also the second wave of persecution was systematically carried on against Christians. They were called atheists, because of their refusal to bow befroe the emperor god. All natural calamities, faminies or disasters of any kind were attributed to Christ's followers.

    To be an uncompromising follower of the Lord Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) in the imperial metropolis where Satan had established his throne was the boldest of commitments. But Antipas had resolved long before to follow to death Him who had given His own life for him. Christ's encouragement rang in his ears: "Do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul..." (Mt.10:28).

    Antipas' resolve to remain true to his Saviour grew stronger, even as his heart pained when he observed some from the assembly slipping into Balaamism and some to Nicolaitism. He prayed, "Help, O lord, for there is no longer anyone who is godly; the faithful have disappeared from mankind" (Ps.12:1). "Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance; for truth stumbles in the public square, and uprightness cannot enter" (Is.59:14).

    Christ replied to him from heaven: "You are my witness, my faithful one" (Rev.2:13). In times of ordeal, trial or desertion, what an encouragement to be in touch with Him who said: "In the world you face persecution. But take courage. I have conquered the world...Do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (Jn.12:33; 14:27b). Antipas' call, like all other believers', was to a vocation of contempt and disdain.

    Before His death our Lord heartened His faithful disciples by saying: "You are those who have contineud with Me in My trials" (Lk.22:28). Such dedication requires extraordinary physical, mental and spiritual stamina. To this Antipas would add, "For to me living is Christ and dying is gain" (Phil.1:21).

    Was Antipas a former under-shepherd of the church? This is one of the unknown facets about this venerable martyr. Martyrologists say almost nothing about him. Even in Joyhn Fox's Book of Martyrs, Antipas receives no recognition. The contemporary pastor in our modern agglomerations where Satan rules and reigns, can find a lively parallel between Antipas' pastoral service at Satan's seat and his own.

    If Antipas was the first pastor of the Pergamean church, he had to wage a determined combat against Satan's throne. He did not flinch or waver. Constantly combating Satan's throne was the course of his heartfelt service to his living, reigning Sovereign Lord. The call of duty to his modern successor in the city requires the same dedication. There can be no consideration of capitulation. Antipas lost his head; the modern under-shepherd will face other losses. But against whatever is lost, the atainment of the hidden manna and the white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the recipient, is the promise to the conqueror by the archvictor.

    On his journey to the Celestial City, Discontent met Faithful, whom he tried to dissuade from treading through the Valley of Humility. To go this way was to disoblige all his friends such as Pride, Arrogance, Self-conceit, Worldly-glory and others. Faithful would have none of it! Next, he turned away from Shame and tried hard to induce him to chagrin for being so faithful to his cause.

    "...and you did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you where Satan lives" (Rev.2:13). It is regrettable that most English and other translations miss the fine but crucial distinction in this divine commendation by rendering the passage in a simplified manner, "Antipas, My faithful witness." The original text ahs the possessive pronoun in front of both "witness" and "faithful". The RSV does full justice to the text. Christ commends this exemplary believer on two counts of loyalty: "Antipas My witness, My faithful one," thus bestowing on him His own appellations in "the witness, the faithful" (Rev.1:5).

    We all live and die with our persuasions. The ancient Greeks had a god or goddess for every notion or concept. They either tried to serve or appease them. The modern person doesn't have multudinous deities, but in his mien and behaviour he caters to numerous whims. Conversely, Antipas was a single-minded, resolved, determined believer, a witness at that.

    From the hour he committed all to Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ), and that in the foremost pagan city of his time, he purposed to be his Lord's witness at the place of Satan's throne and to be faithful to his Lord at all costs. "Whom have I in ehaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than You" (Ps.118:25). Reassurance was extended from heaven: "He who keeps Israel will neither slumber or sleep" (Ps.121:4). " Because I myself was tested by what I suffered, I am able to help those who are being tested" (Heb.2:14).

    Christian and Faithful arrived at Vanity Fair. Previously, Evangelist had told him that one or both must seal their testimony with blood. Life's pilgrimage is arduous, demanding faithful men like Antipas. Vanity Fair was no fair for the single-minded pilgrims. "The way to the Celestial City lies just through this town. The Prince of princes Himself went through this town to His own country," writes Bunyan.

    As soon as they entered Vanity Fair, all attention zeroed in on them. Their clothing was different from that of the rest, their speech could not be understood, they ignored the offers and provisions of the Fair. They were only interested to bring the truth. Their very presence disturbed the artificial tranquility of the people in Vanity Fair. The Great One of the Fairt was informed about these strange passengers. Interrogation began.

    They did not hesitate to tell the interrigators that they were traveling to their own country, the heavenly Jerusalem. The inquisitors did not believe a word of it. They thought the two were mad, or had come to spoil the Fair. They beat them, besmeared them with dirt and put them in a cage. Christian and Faithful were made objects of derision in Vanityv Fair, the Great One of the city being among the chief mockers. Irons were hung upon them, and they were led up and down the Fair. Their noble, non-retaliating conduct and immovable resolve won a few to their conviction. This infuriated the rest and they cast their decision for their death.

    Both recalled the foretelling of their friend Evangelist, that death was to be anticipated. The judge who conducted the trial was Lord Hate-good. Faithful defied the king they talked about, and all his angels, as the enemy of his Lord. Three witnesses were brought against them, Envy, Superstition and Pickthank (Sycophant/Flatterer).

    At the suggestion of the jury, the verdict was swift. Faithful had to be executed in the most cruel death that could be imagined. First they scourged him, then they battered him, then they lanced his flesh with knives; stoned him, pricked him with their swords and at the end they burned him. Faithful died the death of the faithful, just as Antipas died.

    John Bunyon puts this song into Christian's mouth, who escaped from the prison of Vanity Fair:

      "Well, Faithful, thou hath faithfully professed

      Unto thy Lord, with whom thou shalt be blest,

      When faithless ones, with all their vain delights,

      Are crying out under their hellish plights.

      Sing, Faithful, sing, and let thy name survive;

      For, though they killed thee, thou art yet alive."

    What were the motivating compulsions which caused Antipas and all other faithful men and women to count all human aspirations as loss and lay down their lives in total committment to Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ)?

    1. A Life Geared to the Priority of Unshakable Witness

    Ours is a syncretistic epoch, manifested in every realm of human existence. Christ's pre-eminence has been sacrificed at a multitude of altars of appeasement and conciliation. Conciliar church groupings abound. Christ's absolute claim on His uniqueness, "I am the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me" (Jn.14:6) has been laud aside in favour of assuaging rival sentiments - a lamentable departure from the stance of witnessing to Christ's unassailable uniqueness.

    The Lord Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) commented, "Antipas, My witness." In the original language, martyr is the term used for the one bearing testimony to the redemptive act of the Saviour, and also for the one who forfeits his life for his belief. In the period and setting to which Antipas belonged, witnessing boldly of the uniqueness and pre-eminence of Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) meant martrydom. As Faithful knew what to anticipate at Vanity Fair, Antipas foresaw the impending trial of fire awaiting him in Pergamum.

    Observing the manner of life and trend of belief into which a certain segment of the congregation was drifting, Antipas became aware of the ignoble developments termed as death. In the light of the downward spiral of some, death for his Saviour was gain (Phil.1:21). God's seething pronouncement on those who forsook Him in favour of an adverse teaching was fresh in his mind: "When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling; he was exalted in Israel; but he incurred guilt through Baal and died" (Hos.13:10). King David lamented the death of his newly gained asinine (obstinate, stupid) general by crying, "Should Abner die as a fool dies?" (2 Sam.3:33).

    While Antipas was dying under the Sword of Rome, or through some other vicious design, a whole church assembly not far from Pergamum was undergouing the pangs of a very infamous, ungratifying death. Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) spoke to the angel of the church at Sardis, who in Alexander Whyte's lucid description was a prince of an orator, in a censorious manner, "I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death..." (Rev.3:2).

    Of the fledgling church in Jerusalem Luke gives an arresting account in Acts 5:13, "None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem". The sense they put into the ordinary mind was one of fearful respect and awful comment: "Don't ever dare to join them; there is extraordinary power and authority in that body: It can kill you!" On the other hand, the church in wealthy Sardis was in the throes of death. Its sinful surroundings were mortifying the congregation in Sardis.

    Antipas the martryr generated fear and trepidation in those around him although dying in apparent helplessness, just as his Saviour had done. Martrydom for Christ was the highest order of defiance against those who disregarded his redeemer. In the Church calendar [1], Christmas Day is followed by St.Stephens Day. Significant. A life born to save other lives was faithfully followed by the giving of life in honour of Him who did not spare His own.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas à Becket (1118-1170), four days prior to his murder at the cathedral, on King Henry II's orders on Christmas morning, in his last sermon - a classic - said the following:

      "Beloved, we do not think of a martyr simply as a good Christian who has been killed because he is a Christian; for that would be solely to mourn. We do not think of him simply as a good Christian who has been elevated to the company of the Saints [2]; for that would be simply to rejoice; and neither our mourning nor our rejoicing is as the world's is. A Christian martyrdom is never an accident, for Saints are not made by accident. Still less is a Christian martyrdom the effect of a man's will to become a Saint, as a man by willing and contriving may become a ruler of men. A martyrdom is always the design of God, for His love of men, to warn them and lead them, to bring them back to His ways. It is never the design of man; for the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, and who no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of being a martyr. So thus as on earth the Church mourns and rejoices at once, in a fashion that the world cannot understand; so in Heaven the Saints are most high, having made themselves most low, and are seen, not as we see them, but in the light of the Godhead, from which they draw their being."

    This leads our thoughts to the sequel of being an unshakeable witness:

    2. A Life Geared to the Profundity of Unassailable Faithfulness.

    The Lord Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) commended him with the words, "Antipas My faithful one." In Hebrew as well as in Greek and in English, faith and faithfulness derive from the same root word: emun, emunah, pistis, pistos.

    In the beginning of Revelation, the Lord rpesents Himself in this manner: "And from Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ), the faithful witness" (the witness, the faithful) (Rev.1:5). The writer of Hebrews in talking about Yah'shua (Jesus) says, "He was faithful to the One who appointed Him, just as Moses also was faithful 'in all God's house'" (Heb.3:2; cp. Num.12:7).

    In the well-known maxim of the prophet Habakkuk, "The righteous [man] lives by His faith" (Hab.2:4), te word is emunah, i.e. faithfulness. In the epistles this verse is quoted three times (Rom.1:17; Gal.3:11; Heb.10:38). Justification by faith is the cardinal truth expounded in the New Testament and one which could be detected throughout the Old Testament. But justifying faith which does not lead to absolute faithfulness, is like a child abnormally born. Faith to God, and to Christ, produces total faithfulness to Him, through whose grace redemption has been executed and implemented.

    Antipas was a God-pleasing witness, because of his faithfulness. Who can claim to be an effective witness unless he or she is approved by the subject of his her witness as "Mt faithful one"? Being a witness of the Saviour without being acknowledged by Him as ";My faithful one" is a contradiction in terms.

    Other than in Habakkuk 2:4, one of the striking usages of the word emunah appears in Deuteronomy 32:20. In this sad context we read, "He said, 'I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children in whom there is no faithfulness.'" This is a lamentable commentary on the concept of faith and faithfulness, as God looks at it.

    The greatest of all witnessing for the Lord Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ), Paul the apostle, has something to say about this crucial issue: "It is required of stewards, that a man be found faithful" (1 Cor.4:2). Looking at the lives of effective stewards or witnesses, their faithfulness shines like the stars in the firmament. Start with Abraham, move on to Joseph, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel, the three Hebrew boys, and note the reliable stewardship of many in the New Testament. All deserve the designation, "My faithful ones."

    Again, the apostle Paul , at the culmination of his ministry, expreses his gratitude to Him who makes one faithful, "I am grateful to Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He judged me faithful and appointed me to His service" (1 Tim.1:12).

    There can be no faithfulness, without drawing it from Him. Faith is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor.12:9), so much faithfulness be its by-product, "consider that Yah'shua (Jesus)...was faithful" (Heb.3:1-2; 2:17). Contemplating on His faithfulness we sing, "God is faithful; by Him we are called into the fellowship of His Son, Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) our Lord" (1 Cor.1:9).

    In the agonies he endured before his execution, Antipas could ponder on Peter's reassurance if he had the epistle, "Let those suffering in accordance with God's will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator" (2 Pet.4:19). Even if he ahd not read these words, he was confident of their certitude. He was also cogniscent who his Lord was: "Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ), the faithful witness ... the rider of the white horse who is called Faithful and True" (Rev.1:5; 19:11). Who wouldn't entrust himself to such a faithful Creator and Redeemer! Who wouldn't sing in His honour, "I die every day" (1 Cor.15:31). Then we arrive at the deep admiration of the valiant martyr:

    3. A Life Geared to the Certainty of Inconceivable Excellence

    Although he might have been a believer of the second generation, Antipas fully grasped the decadence and disgrace of the type of religion into which his people had fallen. Coming from such a lower interrpetation of life and the hereafter, he joyfully submitted himself to the all surpassing, peerless Christ. In Him he discovered all the superlative elements of life, truth and glory. Everything about his blessed Saviour bore the stamp of excellence. "O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth! You have set Your glory above the heavens" (Ps.8:1). "Sing praises to the Lord, for He has done gloriously: let this be known in all the earth ... He is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom" (Is.12:5; 28:29).

    Antipas discovered the sense of the holy, the perfect, in his Saviour. He went on celebrating his inmost joy and delight in his exalted redeemer: "Because Your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips will praise you" (Ps.63:3). He must have died with this song.

    The Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, gave him a fresh perception of the goal to pursue and the terminus to achieve. This discovery was more worthy than the sum total of his earthly life. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt.5:48), commanded his Saviour. Unutterable thoughts in the milieu where he was brought up! But he who is the first and the last put this noble purpose and high aspiration in his once depraved heart. With such words from his Saviour, death could not be a dark omen, but a joyful promotion to a higher life.

    Christ, the truth, had made it plain to him that the adversaries of truth would hate him, because the Good News denounces every lie and falsehood (Lk.21:12-13). As persecution intensified and the prospect of death approached, Antipas' resolve got firmer: "The Lord appeared to him from afar; 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you'" (Jer.31:3).

    Resting on the reality of specific promises, nothing on earth could trepidate Antipas. He triumphantly responded to his Lord, "Your lovingkindness is before my eyes and I walk in faithfulness to You" (Ps.26:3). His strength and support continually emanated from that triumphant commander "on a white horse, who is called Faithful and True, judging in righteousness and making war" (Rev.19:11). Antipas' surpassing fellowship with the Saviour made him recoil from sin while treading the road of faithfulness. He could say with Paul, "Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death" (Phil.1:20).

    For Antipas and his peers in martyrdom, death is not the sad experience of the sailor, whose vessel is adrift. The violence of the hurricane tosses the ship aimlessly in the open ocean, ultimately casting the sailor to his destiny. Conversely, death for Christ's martyr is like the moment the wind blows favourably. He cheerfully weighs anchor into the most delightful presence of the One who died a violent death, but conquered it with the mightiest of all conquests.

    Copyright © 1994 Thomas Cosmades

    Postfach 22 33 45, D-57039 SIEGEN, Germany/Deutschland

    Reproduced with permission and thanks


    Endnotes by NCCG

    [1] The Roman Catholic and Lutheran calendar, based on paganism and not followed by NCCG.

    [2] Biblically, "saints" is a term used of all Christians, irrespective of their perceived importance. The idea of specially holy people called "saints" by canonisation is a purely Catholic concept without biblical warranty. In Becket's day there was no other Christian Church in western Europe.

    This page was created on 26 January 2001
    Last updated on 26 January 2001

    Endnotes Copyright © 1987-2007 NCCG - All Rights Reserved