Faithful Smyrna Church
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10. 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. Strabo (BC 63-24 AD), a Greek philosopher and historian famous as a geographer. His "Geographica" mapped out most of Europe during Caesar Augustus' reign (BC 27-14 AD.) Strabo described Smyrna as "the most beautiful of all cities." 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

Godess RomaThe Smyrna church struggled against two hostile forces, a Jewish population that strongly opposed 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. Worshipping Roma was showing one's dedication to Rome and the Roman Empire.

Polycarp of Smyrna

One of Smyrna's most 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. As he entered the stadium, there came a voice from heaven saying, "Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man." None saw the speaker, but the believers who were present heard it. When they brought him in, a great roar arose as soon as they heard, "they have taken Polycarp!" Under pressure to renounce his faith, he uttered the stunning words, "Eighty and six years have I served him, and he did me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my king, who saved me?" 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 in the city and surrounding area who witnessed his martyrdom. 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" encouraged Christians as they "suffered persecution." John of Patmos writes in Revelation 2.9a, "I know your afflictions and poverty, yet you are rich." Christians may suffer, even to death, but their pain will be minor compared to their eternal reward. God, however, still rules. The Smyrna Persecutions lasted for "ten days" and had a specific beginning and end. Revelation 2.10 reveals, "and you will suffer persecution for ten days" may well refer to the ten terrible years of pagan persecution under Emperor Diocletian. Jesus commended the faithful Smyrna church and encouraged believers not to fear the future if they remain loyal. Interestingly, after a devastating fire in 303 AD, Diocletian, like Nero before him, blamed the Christians for starting it and set about a terrible persecution lasting ten years.

Victor's Crown

Victor's CrownSmyrna was widely known as "the crown city." because of her beautiful setting between the sea and the mountains. Jesus will reward faithful Christians with the equivalent of a victor's crown. This Olympic award was composed of interlocking laurel tree twigs and leaves. Laurelwood has an aromatic evergreen fragrance. For this reason, the "victor's crown" was sometimes called a "laurel wreath." Later, "cherry" was also woven into the victor's crowns and interestingly named a "spineless butcher's broom." The name originated from butchers tying a bundle of laurel branches together like a broom to clean off their butcher's blocks. The victors had circular or horseshoe-shaped crowns placed upon their heads or shoulders in the Smyrna, and Olympic Games in Greece, much like modern athletes receive gold, silver, or bronze medals. ✞

Olympic Games

Smyrna was famous for its athletic games in ancient times. It was a smaller version of the Olympic Games in Olympia, Greece, from 700 BC to 500 AD. The first modern Games in Athens were held in 1896 AD and occurred every four years in different locations worldwide. In Revelation, those faithful under persecution will receive a victor's wreath as a triumph sign. It symbolized eternal life. We need to keep our eyes on Christ to receive our "victor's crown."

Second Death

Angel of DeathJesus doesn't say that Christians avoid suffering, troubles, or persecution. Instead, they must remain 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." The "second death" is an obscure part of the Christian belief system. Christians will not be hurt at all by it!


BibleThe modern equivalent to "Jewish person" is "Israeli" or "citizens of the State of Israel," according to The Encyclopedia Britannica. The Orthodox Jewish Bible renders Revelation 2.9 as "the ones making a claim and declaring themselves to be Bnei Brit, and are not." Surprisingly, Judaism is not a faith-based religion but about right practice or "orthopraxy." Orthopraxy is "correct conduct, both ethical and liturgical, instead of faith or grace."

Jewish People

Jewish culture over the ages has covered many aspects, including religion and worldviews, literature, media, and cinema, art and architecture, cuisine and traditional dress, gender attitudes, marriage and family, social customs and lifestyles, music and dance. Jewish persons authored the Bible, founded early Christianity, and profoundly influenced Islam. According to Wikipedia, "Despite their small percentage of the world's population, Jewish people have significantly influenced and contributed to human progress in many fields, both historically and in modern times, including philosophy, ethics, literature, politics, business, fine arts, and architecture, music, theatre and cinema, medicine, and science and technology, as well as religion."

"Faithful Smyrna Church"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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