The Revelation: Part 3 - Smyrna, A Church Of Suffering
Updated: Oct 28, 2019
While we saw that Ephesus was a church that lost its first love, Smyrna could be considered as a suffering church.
The town of Smyrna was about 56 kilometres up the coast to the north of Ephesus. The people of Smyrna boasted that it was the pride of Asia. It had a fine road and a great harbour, which allowed an excellent export trade and made the city very prosperous.
The city of Smyrna was heavily dominated by Roman emperor worship. It was mandatory for every citizen to openly worship the emperor by burning incense to Caesar. The immediate consequence of not abiding by this rule was execution.
The believers in Smyrna were living under intense pressure, for the price of not conforming to the practices of their society was death.
Imagery of Jesus
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.” (Revelation 2:8)
John affirms the church that these are the words from Jesus. Jesus is described as the First and the Last, died and resurrected.
Message for the Church in Smyrna:
“I know your afflictions and your poverty - yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (Revelation 2:9)
Though the church of Smyrna was physically poor, they were “rich” as they had spiritual wealth that no one could take away. The "synagogue of Satan" probably referred to group(s) of people who opposed the church in Smyrna.
Warnings and Instructions
“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” (Revelation 2:10)
The Apostle John then warned the Smyrna church that they would be facing even more intense persecution.
And indeed, John's words came true. Have you heard of a man named Polycarp? Polycarp was a faithful Christian and served in the ministry for 60 years. He was in fact, a personal disciple of the Apostle John! According to historical records, he was martyred in Smyrna around A.D. 155, when he was in his late eighties.
According to traditions, Polycarp had a dream of his bed suddenly becoming on fire. Polycarp thought that God was speaking through this dream and it was his will to suffer martyrdom. When he was brought before the proconsul (governor of a province in ancient Rome), he was resolute and serene.
Before being brought to the marketplace to be burned alive, Polycarp asked for one hour of prayer and prayed earnestly to God. When he was led into the fire, it did not consume his body and instead, Polycarp was singing praises to God. The guards decided to stick spears into his body to put an end to his life, although there was so much blood that it put out the fire. Finally, they were able to put Polycarp to death (many, many spears later).
Are we willing to devote our lives to God?
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)
Promise to the Overcomers
“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death." (Revelation 2:10-11)
"Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death." (Revelations 20:14 )
Jesus calls them to remain faithful in their suffering: The lake of fire is the second death. If we are overcomers, we will not be hurt by the lake of fire. The lake of fire is only for those who refuse to believe.
Sometimes, we lack faith in God and may even choose not to believe him. We are afraid of going against the crowd or to say no.
Whatever struggles we are faced with are only temporary. We need to remember that when we believe, there will never be anything more than what we can handle. We need not fear!
Keira is 12 years old and an avid fan of Marvel! In her free time, she dances ballet and builds forts out of blankets with her younger brothers.
From Left to Right:
Danny, Keira, Jojo (Josiah), Pei Ling, Titus
(Picture Credit: Chan Pei Ling)