Seven Churches – Smyrna: The Persecuted Church
The name Smyrna means “myrrh”. Myrrh has a sweet-smelling aroma, but is very bitter. Myrrh prophetically speaks of suffering.
Smyrna was 40 miles north of Ephesus.
Smyrna was called the “Crown of Asia” because of its beauty. This city was well planned and laid out, having beautiful temples, noble buildings and broad, paved streets. Beautiful mountains began at the harbor and circled the entire city.
Its natural harbor made the city an important commercial center. Smyrna enjoyed the trade of the rich. Because of its loyalty to Rome, it obtained permission to build a large and splendid temple for cult emperor worship.
This is the city which is noted as having the “Synagogue of Satan”. These were those who said they were Jews, but were not. They professed to be worshipers of God, but rather were regarded as being in the service of Satan.
Smyrna was the home of the Roman Forum. Today the city is known as Izmir in Anatolia.
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write … “
The angel is the pastor. Polycarp was the leader of the church of Smyrna. He was a pupil of the Apostle John. In 155 A.D. Polycarp was arrested and brought to the public arena. There he was given a choice. He refused to worship Caesar and was burned at the stake. When urged to recant he said, “four-score years and six I have served the Lord, and He never wronged me; how then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour?” (from Fausset’s Bible Dictionary)
There were many in Smyrna who would not go to the temple of Caesar, burn incense or worship him. Extensive persecution was the result. When John’s letter arrived in Smyrna, Polycarp read the message from God to the church: “Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer – prison – tribulation – be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
The sword of persecution was wielded mightily against the Church for two hundred years. The devil sought to destroy the Church, but it only caused a purging and an increase in the number of those willing to be faithful unto death.
“These things says the First and the Last” – Jesus is Alpha and Omega, He is Sovereign and in control, He is eternal, He knows the beginning from the end.
“Who was dead and came to life” – the One who conquered death has conquered it also for you.
“I know your works …”
“Tribulation” – great trouble, severe trial
“Poverty” – poor in material goods but rich in eternal things
“I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” – pretenders cleansed out. 2 Timoty 2:19 “The Lord knoweth them that are His.”
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days” – ten days means a short period of time.
None (Jesus had nothing negative to say to the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia)
Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Also see James 1:12.