The Church at SMYRNA
The PERSECUTED ONES
The Church at SMYRNA
by Joanne Smith
Smyrna, located 35 miles north of Ephesus in Asia Minor, was at the time of writing a decidedly pro-Roman city of great value to the Empire as it served as headquarters for the imperial cult of emperor worship. The city boasted of many magnificent temples, including one dedicated to the Emperor Tiberius, which signified the city’s loyalty to the Empire. Temples to Cybele and Zeus were also centers for heathen worship.
It was during John’s banishment to Patmos that Caesar worship became compulsory in the Roman Empire, and that ushered in a two hundred year period of great persecution on the saints who were faithful, some were men and women who attempted reform within the Church and were persecuted by the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan. Gordon Lindsay in his Revelation Series, Volume 1, points out that the name, Smyrna, means “myrrh”, a fragrant spice which has to be beaten into fine pieces to give off its fragrance and was used in the burial of Christ. He suggests that this could typify the Christians who were beaten and bruised for Christ’s sake, but the more they were persecuted the more fragrant was the testimony they gave, that Jesus is life itself and that it must not be about this life and things of this earth.
Jesus greets the church at Smyrna as from the first and the last, from one who was dead and is now alive. He is the only one who can make that claim. He is the only one who died and is now alive and He is the only one who can grant us eternal life. What comfort to those persecuted saints who would lose their own lives for the gospel’s sake. He commends the saints at Smyrna for their works, tribulation and poverty, “(but thou art rich)” Rev 2:9 So then, riches in the eyes of Christ are not of this world. Where our treasure is there our heart will be also, and the Bible tells us that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are to be found in Christ. Those who are rich in Truth are rich in the knowledge and saving grace of Christ, not in the goods and treasures of this world. “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” Heb 11:24-27 The treasures of Egypt were no match for the promises of true eternal riches for the faithful of Smyrnan faith.
The Lord acknowledges the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and are not, but are of the “synagogue of Satan”. This is a very serious matter and not to be taken lightly. Being of the “synagogue of Satan” is a pretty strong condemnation and if the Lord didn’t want us to be aware of it he wouldn’t have mentioned it here. What is a Jew?
Did Abraham, the father of faith, receive the promise because he was circumcised in the flesh? No, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” Rom 4:3 Circumcision was a sign, a seal of the righteousness of his faith, which he had while yet being uncircumcised. The promise that “he would be the heir to the world” was not given by the law but through the righteousness of faith. It is therefore faith that qualifies a Jew under the new covenant – the covenant of the blood of Christ “in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” Col 2:11 & 12
Who are these Jews who say they are Jews, and are not? Or a more suitable question might be, who are these Christians who say they are Christians, and are not? Jesus says we shall know them by their fruits and warns us that, “Many will say to me in that day Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matt 7:21 & 22 You can be sure there are many people sitting in many fundamentalist, born-again, and even spirit-filled gatherings calling themselves Christians that fall into this category. It can be safely said, then, that it is they who are of “the synagogue of Satan.”
What are we to do then? “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer” is what he told the saints at Smyrna for He knew they were about to suffer severe persecution from not only unbelievers but also from those of the household of faith, the seed of Abraham. They of your own house shall be your greatest foes we are warned by the prophets and Jesus Himself. “The devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days”, probably refers to the ten major persecutions that took place under Roman rule in the second and third centuries A.D. (see Foxe’s Book of Martyrs; Marie Gentert King, Editor; Spire Books) but also refers to these perilous times in which we now live and struggle, which will only worsen in the future as the return of Christ draws nearer and nearer. Paul exhorts us in his warning of these end times in 2 Tim 3:12-14: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and has been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.”
Perhaps the worst persecution will come from within, from those who say they are Christians. Those that are poor in worldly recognition and gain (but are rich, remember) who have decided to enter in at the strait gate will stand alone in a world (and church) filled with hypocrisy and deceit because “broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.” Matt 7:13
Jesus goes on to tell us in Matt 7:14-16 that “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.” Beware, He warns us. So please, don’t be afraid to examine the fruits, the real fruits of anyone who may call themselves a Christian.
The Lord calls the church at Smyrna to be faithful unto death and He will give them a crown
In His closing remarks to this church at Smyrna, like he does in all seven of the churches, the Lord entreats them to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. How many different voices are out there in the church today claiming to speak for God and promising to have all the answers? Strive to have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches and you will be an overcomer to whom the promise of not being hurt of the second death is given. Heed the warnings imparted to the seven churches and the crown of life will be yours.