Dr. Nathan T. Morton
When Life Ends at Belief
Today’s journey started with a visit to the Jewish Museum Berlin, then on to the Pergamum Museum, the Berlin Wall and Topography of Terror Museum, the Memorial of the Murdered Jews and after supper for fun, the German Spy Museum. It was a long day. Mark and I walked a little over 12 miles today which puts my total walking in 5 days to just over 48 miles. By the end of the day my "dogs were howling" ... i.e. my feet hurt.
Of all the Museums today, Pergamum was the highest on my list. In 2014 Heather and I visited Turkey and Greece. On that trip we had the privilege of walking through the broken remains of the ancient city of Pergamum. A city that was, in the time of the beloved Apostle John, a major city of finance and technology ... a city filled with the worship of pagan and false gods. It had three temples, one dedicated to the worship of the Roman emperor, one the goddess Athena, and lastly the Great Altar of Zeus. This altar is probably what Jesus is calling Satan’s throne.
Galen, after Hippocrates, was probably the most famous physician of antiquity. He was born here. The library of ancient Pergamum is rivaled only by the library of Alexandria, Egypt. This city developed parchment from the skins of animals after papyrus was no longer available from Egypt. Its outdoor theater could accommodate ten thousand people. Pergamum was a beautiful, thriving city and yet Jesus calls it the dwelling place of Satan.
'I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; and you hold fast My name and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. (Rev. 2:13)
Antipas, the one Jesus calls His faithful witness, was killed. It is likely that Antipas was killed on the altar of Zeus. In the above pictures you can see Heather and me standing on one side, and myself on the opposite side of the base where this altar stood 2000 years ago. Today Mark and I went to the Pergamum Museum hoping to see the actual altar that had previously sat on that base. Sadly, that part of the exhibit is closed until 2025. (I guess I’ll have to come back then.)
Imagine, someone being killed because of what they believe about God. Some days such a thought may seem foreign, but not now. Today I walked through multiple museums chronicling the holocaust of WW2 and the history of the Muslim faith. Interesting thing though, unless I missed it, I saw no mention of Amin al-Husseini. Nothing was said of his meetings with Hitler (Nov. 26, 1941) and Himmler (1943). There was nothing of his anti-Semitic pamphlet or his conversations with Eichmann about the extermination of the Jews--a fact, the Jewish court confirmed stating that al-Husseini had aimed to implement the Final Solution.
You see, evil and hatred has always been present with us. The history of the earth is filled with story after story of oppression. It's a wonder humanity has survived this long. Antipas’ being murdered for his faith and belief is neither rare nor new. Millions of others have given their lives for the same reason: Peter, Paul, James, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, William Tyndall, John Huss, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the list goes on and on.
So, what do you believe? How strong is your love and loyalty to Christ? What we say we believe, we should, like the disciples of Jesus, believe with every fiber of our being. This certainly is the life to which Jesus calls everyone of us.
Soren Kierkegaard said, "The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins." Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Jesus Christ said, "If the world hates you, understand it hated me first." This is the legacy of passionate faith.
When life ends at belief it doesn't actually end. I begins anew on this side and the next.