Summary: The church at Smyrna
The Church at Smyrna: A Crushed Church -- Revelation 2 -- 1/17/10
Turn with me this morning to the book of Revelation. We want to continue on today, looking at the question, “What does God think of His church?” Here in Revelation 1, we find the disciple John, living on an island off the coast of Turkey, writing about 95 AD, some 65 years after Jesus has died and resurrected. He is given a vision of Christ, and Jesus gives John a message in chapters 2 & 3 for 7 churches in Asia Minor, the area we know today as Turkey. Jesus has words of encouragement and words of rebuke for these churches. And we want to look at these churches to see what message God might have for us as well.
Last week we looked at the church of Ephesus. It was a CARELESS church. This was a large church, an active, working church, a well-taught church, a weathered church, they hard faced trials -- yet it was a church that faced a rebuke. We often look at large, active churches as healthy churches, but often they are not. Jesus told the church at Ephesus they had lost their passionate love for God. And we want to make sure that we are always more concerned about who we ARE, in our hearts, than just being concerned about what we DO.
Today, we move on to look at the second church, the church at Smyrna. It was a CRUSHED church and a CROWNED church. They had faced trial after trial after trial faithfully, and so they received commendation from the Lord. And today, as we look at this church, we gain some insight and perspective into how God feels when we suffer. Let’s read the message to this church in Rev. 2:8-15. READ - PRAY.
The church at Smyrna faced great trials. The city of Smyrna is the second of the seven churches addressed, probably because it was the next city on the route the messenger would have taken in traveling through Asia Minor. Historians tell us that Smyrna was the most beautiful city in all of Asia. The city was referred to as the Flower of Asia, the Crown of Asia or the Jewel of Asia. Smyrna had one of the safest and most convenient harbors in all of Asia. The city was among the wealthiest of all the cities in Asia at this time, and the estimated population during the time of this letter was approaching 100,000 people. The city still exists today, with the modern name Izmir.
The name Smyrna actually comes from the word for myrrh. When you think about the Magi as they bore gifts to Jesus, they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Myrrh is a perfume that was used in the embalming process. It was a perfume that only gave off its fragrance when it was crushed. History tell us that the city of Smyrna endured earthquakes, attacks and raids, numerous oppressions, if it was a possibility that it could happen, they saw it. No matter how many times they were oppressed, they always seemed to rebound better than they were before economically. They fit their name well. Crushed, but sweeter for it.
But as we will see today, the church also was crushed, but in their persecution, they gave off the sweet aroma of Christ. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians what our lives should be like: For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. These Christians at Smyrna gave a great aroma of Christ through their lives.
The city of Smyrna was filled with idol worship. There were temples to Cybelle, Apollo, Asklepios, Aphrodite, and Zeus. It was also a political center. It strongly supported Rome and worshiped the Roman emperors. Emperor worship started as a token way of unifying the Roman empire through allegiance to emperors, but under later emperors it was presented that the Emperor was to be worshiped as divine. To refuse to worship at the emperor’s shrine was to be seen as an act of treason. Every citizen had to offer a tribute of worship at the temple of Caesar once a year, and after that he could worship any other god or gods he chose. The Christians at Smyrna were persecuted because they refused to compromise and say Caesar is God.
In the Church at Ephesus, there was a mention of the Nicolaitans. Many scholars feel these were Christians who excused compromise: claiming to follow Christ, but also being willing to sacrifice and say Caesar is God. Many Christians today feel they can come to church on Sunday and worship God, but then go home and live for Satan all week long. Not the Christians at Smyrna. They took a stand for what was right, and they paid dearly for it.