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Part 5 - SMYRNA

Smyrna was a small city about 35 miles north of Ephesus. It was a city built by the hill Pagus with the most safest of all harbors in Asia. In AD 178 it was destroyed by an earthquake and was built again by the best town planners of that time. It was a planned city. One of its famous road was the Street of Gold which started from the Temple of Zeus and led to the Temple of Cybele, the goddess of nature. It was a rich city and was the center of culture and learning. It was the home of Homer and Ilyad the world’s earliest classical poets who lives in the hearts of the literature. They worshipped the Emperor as God. Smyrna was well known for its fidelity and loyalty to the Emperor. Once when the roman soldiers in the field were suffering from hunger and cold, the Smyrnians stripped off their own clothing and send them to the Roman soldiers. In the richness of the city there was a small poor church. The demands of Emperor worship made their life difficult. Romans hated Christians because they refused to sacrifice to Caesar. So the Jews found an opponent in Christians and they reported them to the Rome. It was an easy way to blot out the infant church - the heretics according to the Jews.

Rev 2:9 I know your afflictions and your poverty--yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

Smyrna church was a persecuted church. The name Smyrna comes from the word myrrh, the sweet smelling incense. The aroma permeated the space when myrrh is crushed. It is used even today is incense. Smyrna church was sweet smelling sacrifice to God. They were mercilessly put to death by fine Roman methods - lions, stakes, and torches. Romans were connoisseurs of torturing. To this tortured persecuted crushed church Jesus writes a comforting letter. He introduces himself:

Rev 2:8 "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.

Jesus is implying here that through their martyrdom the church will live. Out of the sacrifice comes life as he himself have demonstrated.

Rev 2:10 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.

The period described here fits the period of martyrs of the persecution Period from AD 100 to AD 325. The ten days probably refers to the ten Imperial Persecutions. Christians suffered financially and lived in poverty to begging. They suffered slander being accused of Cannibalism (eating the flesh of Christ and in communion drinking blood) But they were full overcomers, being faithful unto death. There is a beautiful story of Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna handed down to us in history. At the instigation of the Jews, he was brought out into the arena and was asked to renounce Jesus or be burned at the stake. The old faithful replied, "86 years I have seen my Lord. Never once did he deny me. How can I deny Him for few more wretched years in this world?" This was in AD 155. In this world we will have tribulations. But it will be shortened for his beloved.

Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Rev 2:11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

The reward for faithfulness unto death is the crown of life. It is not a diadem, the royal crown. It is in Greek Stephanes, the victor’s crown, the crown given to athletes in Olympics which were made of olive leaves. The word reminds us of Stephanos, the first martyr of the Church described in Acts 7:59. Hill Pagus with its planned luxurious buildings were called "the Crown of Smyrna". Their coinage bore the inscription, "First in Asia in beauty and size". The promise is therefore an eternal life in the crown of heaven.

Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

A suffering church lives longer. It was one of the few cities that withstood Turkish invasion and the last to fall under Islam. Its survival helped to spur the Renaissance movement. Today Smyrna is a modern Turkish ciity called Izmir with a population over 500,000 people, half of which are still Christians. It is predominantly Orthodox with a tremendous revival sweeping through.