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Exploring Revelation
341
“The letter to Smyrna - pt.#1”
by Art Sadlier   
September 16th, 2007

We have examined the church of Ephesus, the model church that lost its first love and was de-commissioned.

SMYRNA prophetically existed in the era of 100 - 312AD. Smyrna was a port city about 35 miles north of Ephesus. It had a population of 200,000. Today it survives under the name of Ismir in modern Turkey with a population of 335,000. There is no church there today.

The city was a thriving business and industrial centre with a prosperous economy. They was a wealthy and influencial class of people in Smyrna. It was a Roman free city and enjoyed self-government. It had beautiful paved streets. Golden street was the main street, it had many temples on it to Cybele- Zeus- Apollo- Asclepius and Aphrodite. It was also a centre of Emporer worship with a temple honoring Tiberius.

Under Domitian in 8l AD., Emporer Worship became compulsory for every Roman citizen. Once a year, under the threat of death, every Roman citizen had to cast a pinch of incense on the altar and say "Ceasar Is Lord". Christians refused to do this and nowhere in the Roman Empire was life for the christian more precarious!

Those who conformed were issued a certificate (Libellus) declaring them to be loyal citizens.

SMYRNA = MRYH, which was a fragrant spice. It was beaten and crushed very fine in order to give forth its full fragrance and perfume. What a perfect name for the persecuted church! Those christians of Smyrna were beaten and crushed and persecuted for their faith in Christ. The more the believers of Smyrna suffered, the more fragrant their testimony became.

The more they were put to death for their faith, the more others got saved and took their place in the congregation.

Those faithful believers stood on burning fagot piles praising God as they died. They were quoting scripture and singing Psalms as they met the lions. The saying was born, "The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the church".

One illustration tells that a representative of the governor commanded a christian to renounce his faith in Christ. "If you don't give up Christ I will banish you," the christian smilingly answered, "you may banish me, but not from Christ, for He has said I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." The officer angrily said, "I will confiscate your property." The christian replied "My treasures are laid up in heaven, you cannot touch them." In a rage the officer replied, "well, I will kill you!" The christian answered, "I have been dead with Christ to this world for 40 years, my life is hid with Christ in God, you cannot touch it." The officer threw up his hands in despair and said, "what can you do with such a fanatic?"

The church of Smyrna was a poor church, a despised church, a persecuted church. When a church is faithful to the doctrines of God's Word, and is living in conformity to God's Word, it will not be popular with the world. (Jn.15:18, 1 Jn. 3:13)

The church of our Laodicean Age thinks it must be popular with the world. That is why it presents its actors and athletes to the world, so that the world will give its approval to the church.

When a church is wealthy and honored by the world, it will attract the tares as well as the wheat. After awhile the carnal christians and even the unsaved join the church. It is not long before their carnal desires and worldly behaviour are imposed upon that church.

Whenever you find a church that is suffering persecution and reproach for Christ's sake, you will find a church which is forsaken by the carnal and unsaved elements.

The suffering churches of Smyrna and philadelphia are the only churches of the seven that the Spirit of God did not rebuke! No fault is mentioned, nothing but encouragement and commendation. The message is clear, trials and persecution are a purifying influence upon the church, renewing first love.

The major reason for trials and tribulation is to purify the church! It is only when you find someone worth dying for, that you find something worth living for! The church grows, and is purified in the midst of tribulation.

During the time of persecution under communism, the church of Eastern Europe was praying for the church in the west. They were praying we would have the blessing of persecution.

Dr. R.W.Ketchum wrote concerning the age of The Church of Smyrna, "Do not be indifferent to this thing called Christianity. It was created for you by the blood of Christ and preserved for you by the blood of the martyrs. For almost 300 years christianity was a forbidden thing. Its adherants were publically whipped, dragged through the streets 'til their brains ran out. Their limbs were torn off, and their eyes were dug out with sharp sticks or burned out with hot irons. Sharp knives were run under their finger nails. Melted lead was poured over their bodies. They were drowned, beheaded, crucified, ground between stones, torn by wild animals, smothered in lime kilns, scraped to death by sharp shells, and killed all the day long."

I am reminded of the words of the hymn, "Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize, and sail through bloody seas."

All we are called to do in this Laodician Age is to - Shun compromise with the world - Refuse to compromise God's Word - Love one another - Cling to Christ.

So Smyrna, the poor little rich church, was victorious through suffering. They did not have the world's riches nor the world's respect, in fact, they were despised by the world, yet they pleased God and fulfilled their divine mandate. Please read, 1 Peter 4: 12,13. 1 Peter 5:10. Next week we will look at the Text.

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