Previous: Revelation 2:6-7

8 'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: 9 "I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
11 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death."' - Revelation 2:8-11

To Smyrna 2:8-11 (Persecuted Church - AD 100 to AD 312)

'And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write,' - Revelation 2:8a

Next, the Lord Jesus said, "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write." This second letter is to Christians in the beautiful city of Smyrna, about 40 miles north of Ephesus. It was another very important center of commerce and culture in Asia Minor. It boasted an excellent harbor on a gulf of the Aegean Sea. The city was also located on the Hermus River.

It was a very old city, dating back to around 3000 BC. At one time the Hittites lived there. It was destroyed by the Persians in 545 BC, but was rebuilt during the period of the Greek Empire. Alexander the Great himself had laid the plans for the metropolis, but it was built by his generals after his death.

By the time this prophecy was written the city was a center for the cult of Rome and the worship of multiple Greek and Roman deities. It was especially noted for its practice of Caesar worship. (See note above under verse 2 of this chapter.)

"Smyrna" comes from the word myrrh. It was an expensive reddish resin from trees of the genus Commiphora in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Myrrh was one of the gifts of the Magi, along with gold and frankincense (Matthew 2:11). The gifts were symbolic of the person and work of our Savior. Gold, a common biblical symbol of deity, speaks of His preexistence as God the Son, frankincense, a valuable incense often used in prayer, was emblematic of His sinless humanity and His priestly role, and myrrh, usually used for embalming, prefigured His death on our behalf (John 19:39).

The main thoroughfare of the city was called "The Golden Street." At one end it had the Temple of Zeus and at the other end, the Temple of Cybele. Along the way there were also temples for Apollo, Aphrodite, and Asclepius.

The Bible does not record the beginning of Christian faith in the city, but it was probably closely connected to the growth of the church in Ephesus.

Today the city is known as Izmir, and it is the third most populous city in Turkey, with more than 3 million inhabitants. The name is actually derived from the Greek words beginning this letter: eis Smirnin, meaning "to Smyrna." Notice the similarity of sound if you drop the I: zmir/ "Smyrna" / "myrrh."

There are still churches today in Izmir. At one time it was called "Smyrna of the Infidels" by devout Muslims because of its significant Christian population.

As we read on, we will see that this church is prophetic of the second period of Church history: the Persecuted Church. This persecution had already begun in John's days, but it would increase more and more until the time of the conversion of Emperor Constantine.

Next: Revelation 2:8b-9


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