Faithful Smyrna Church
Next Previous Index Tellout Home

13. Faithful Smyrna Church
Revelation 2.8-11

"Write to the Smyrna church angel. 'These are the words of the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 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 Satan's synagogue.' 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 unto death, and I will give you life as your victor's crown." (Revelation 2.8-11)✞

Smyrna Church

Ancient SmyrnaSmyrna, now called Izmir in Turkey, was a proud and beautiful city. In ancient Roman times, Smyrna and Rome were close. The name "Smyrna" means "bitterness" from the word "myrrh," the city's chief export in ancient times. The faithful Smyrna church" was located about twenty-five miles north of Ephesus on the Mediterranean Coast. Known as the "Port of Asia," it had a deep harbor for Aegean Sea ships. The faithful Smyrna church was materially poor but spiritually rich.

Female Deity Roma

The Smyrna church struggled against two hostile forces, a Jewish population that strongly opposing Christianity and a group that supported emperor worship or worship of the female deity "Roma." Roma was a goddess who personified the City of Rome. To worship Roma was to show one's dedication to Rome and the Roman Empire. One of Smyrna's eminent leaders and a second-century martyr was Polycarp (69-155 AD.) He became the Bishop of Smyrna but was bound and martyred in a fire. The flames miraculously failed to burn him, and his persecutors stabbed him to death. Polycarp's name means "much fruit." His death produced much fruit in those who witnessed his martyrdom in the city and surrounding area. Persecution and suffering were inevitable there. The Smyrna church stood up well, but Jesus reminded them that he was the "First and the Last" and the "Alpha and Omega." He was the only one they should worship, not the imperial cult or Roma.

Smyrna Persecution

Smyrna ChurchThis letter to the "faithful Smyrna church" encourages Christians although they "suffer persecution." John of Patmos writes in Revelation 2.9a, "I know your afflictions and poverty, yet you are rich." Pain is part of life, but it is never easy to "suffer persecution," no matter its cause. Christians may suffer, even to death, but their pain will be minor compared to their eternal reward. The Smyrna persecutions come upon the faithful who will suffer for their faith. God, however, still rules. The Smyrna Persecutions lasted for "ten days" and had a specific beginning and end. Jesus commended the faithful Smyrna church and encouraged believers not to fear the future if they remain loyal. Suffering can draw Christians toward greater faithfulness!

Victor's Crown

Victor's CrownJesus will reward faithful Christians with a victor's crown composed of interlocking laurel tree twigs and leaves. Laurelwood has an aromatic evergreen fragrance. For this reason, the "victor's crown" is sometimes called a "laurel wreath." Later, "cherry" was also woven into victor's crowns and interestingly named a "spineless butcher's broom." Butchers used to tie a bundle of laurel branches together to use as a broom to clean off carving blocks. The victors were given crowns in the Smyrna and Olympic Games in Greece, much like modern athletes receive gold, silver, or bronze medals. Smyrna was famous for its athletic games in ancient times. It was a smaller version of the Summer Olympic Games in Olympia, Greece, from 700 BC to 500 AD. The first modern Games in Athens were held in 1896 AD and usually occur every four years in different locations worldwide. The Winter and Summer games have a similar format with gold, silver, and bronze awards. In Revelation, those faithful under persecution will receive a victor's wreath. For the Christian, this is a triumph sign but being circular and endless also symbolizes eternal life.

Second Death

Angel of DeathA promised reward for Smyrna Christians was that they "will not be hurt at all by the second death." Jesus doesn't say that Christians will avoid suffering, troubles, or even persecution. Instead, they must be faithful to him even in distress. Only then will faith be proven genuine. The Rabbis used the term "second death" in New Testament times for the wicked's death in the next world. Although the Hebrew Bible does not mention "second death," it is in the Targums, an ancient paraphrased Aramaic Bible from about 100 AD when Hebrew was declining as a spoken language. A reference to the second death appears later in Revelation 21.5-14. Jesus says, "But the cowardly, those who don't believe, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, worship idols, and all liars. God will consign them to the fiery burning sulfur lake, the second death." In technical terms, the "second death" is an obscure part of the Christian belief system. We need to keep our eyes on Christ to receive our "victor's crown." Christians will not then be hurt at all by the second death!

"Faithful Smyrna Church"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

^Top Page Next Previous