Smyrna was once an illustrious Hellenistic-era Greek city. It was one of the leading centers of Greek settlement in western Anatolia. (Area in Turkey) Smyrna was a hub for Armenian and Greek culture even after the Turkish occupation centuries later. Smyrna remained so until the Turks destroyed the city in 1922.
Smyrna was located at the mouth of the small river Hermus at the head of the sea, reaching far inland. This enabled Greek merchant ships to sail into the heart of Lydia, making it a major trade route between Anatolia and the Aegean Sea.
Smyrna arose as a center of power during the 7th century BC. A strong military fortress was built there by the Smyrnaean Ionians. In 133 BC, when Attalus III died without an heir, he left his entire kingdom, including Smyrna, to the Romans, who made it a part of the Roman province of Asia. Pergamum was the capital.
Smyrna continued as one of the leading seaport cities of Roman Asia. Smyrna was very anti-gospel because of the notoriety of its many pagan temples. It was a cosmopolitan, prosperous city and a religious hub. To change the order of things was to mess with people’s pocketbooks. (much like today)
Christians were extremely persecuted in Smyrna. They were put to death at the stake and by beasts in the Roman amphitheater. Christians could have their property confiscated, taken as slaves, abused, and tortured. The price of being a Christian in Smyrna was very high. The church in Smyrna was poor, downtrodden, hated, and persecuted.
Today persecution is rampant in much of the world, like Smyrna. God’s people are ridiculed, put in prison, and even put to death. To the Smyrna church, God says, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Revelation 2:10
The Smyrna church was persecuted because they refused to bow to the government of the day. The Smyrna church refused to burn incense to the emperor. That is, they refused the anti-Christ policies of the day. They stood in faith while slandered, fired from their jobs, fined, robbed of their livelihood, persecuted by false brethren, and cast into prison. The Smyrna church stood in the power of the Lord’s might in their hour of trial. They refused to give in to the secular ideology of the day. They would not compromise.
Jesus was pleased with the Smyrna church. He encouraged them in their suffering. “He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death.” Revelation 2:11
The second death is the resurrection of damnation, where the unsaved will be cast into Hell. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28-29
Are you part of the Smyrna church? Suffering for your faith in Jesus Christ? Peter tells those suffering for their faith, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, strengthen, confirm, and ground you.” 1 Peter 5:10
This is what the Lord says to the Smyrna church. “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Revelation 2:8-11
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