THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF REVELATION
SMYRNA—THE CHURCH UNDER GREAT PRESSURE
TEXT: Revelation 2:8-11
Revelation 2:8-11 (KJV) And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;  I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.  Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
I. INTRODUCTION—THE EXPECTATION OF PERSECUTION
-One of the most difficult things for the American church to grasp is the fact that persecution is going on against the church in the world in great intensity. One of the reasons that it is so difficult for us to understand this concept is because of the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans.
-When we look at it from another standpoint, I am not so sure that the American church isn’t facing a “soft” persecution that has been harmful to us. The devil is evil but he is also smart and for the persecution in America to work, he cannot attack like he may be able to function in other countries around the world. Persecution of the American church shows up in a variety of different ways:
• A low level desire for true holiness
• An alarming lack of spiritual discernment
• Worship that has become sorely lacking in seriousness
• A soaring biblical illiteracy
-Some would say that this is not persecution. But the way that “soft” persecution comes in is through the gates of materialism, consumerism, and carnal attitudes.
-Persecution at its very evil root is Satanic as just a cursory reading of this text proved to us.
-According to Open Doors an organization that keeps track of Christian persecution around the world, of the Top 25 nations that persecute Christians, the majority are now Middle Eastern countries that have Islamic beliefs that are pushing them.
-What becomes more sobering is a report from this week (8/21-8/28/16) that now ISIS has recruited some children who are now executing adults. They are called “cubs” and were shown executing some of the Kurds in Raqqa, Syria.
-All of this is moving us toward the end! Before getting into the heart of the text, this is a snapshot of what it might be like to be in a church that is persecuted:
VIDEO CLIP FROM OPEN DOORS: https://youtu.be/VddHB30CAY8
II. THE PROMISE BEFORE THE PERSECUTION
-In light of the coming persecution, Jesus was very clear that it would take place.
John 16:1-3 (KJV) These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.  They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.  And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.
-This is just one of His warnings that He left. All through the Gospels there are other messages that He left. However there are other New Testament warnings that are given as well:
2 Timothy 3:12 (KJV) Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
-When Peter was writing his epistles, he warned of persecution in chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5. All that are godly are going to suffer persecution but he sums up what will happen in 1 Peter 5:10:
1 Peter 5:10 (KJV) But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
-But there was a promise that Jesus left to His church that would be persecuted:
Matthew 16:18 (KJV) And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
-That verse has been twisted in so many different ways over the years especially in Pentecostal churches. It does not mean that someone can charge hell with a water pistol! Its true meaning is that the gates of Hades, the gates of death, will not prevail against the church. The enemies of the church, even Satan himself, can physically kill all whom he may desire but the Apostolic Church is going to just continue to march on!
-Persecution will never destroy a church but it will strengthen that church. The saints become more powerful and the hypocrites and tares bolt because the pressure of the pain will expose them for who they are.
III. SMYRNA—THE CHURCH UNDER GREAT PRESSURE
-Smyrna is one of the churches that is under the harshest conditions of persecution in Asia Minor. The Lord has a word for this church and there is not a hint of rebuke in it. Smyrna and Philadelphia are the only two churches that the Lord does not find anything at fault.
-To a certain degree all of the churches were under a degree of persecution and it had affected them:
• Ephesus—A loss of first love
• Pergamos—A toleration of false doctrine
• Thyatira—A presence of rampant and unrepentant sin in the church
• Sardis—Another church that had allowed sin to destroy them
• Laodicea—A church that had become totally apostate
-The clear progressiveness of the destruction of these churches is seen moving from Ephesus to Laodicea.
A. Revelation 2:8a-b—The Church and the City
Revelation 2:8 (KJV) And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; . . .
-We come to the church in Smyrna that is the second one on the postal route in Asia Minor. It was 30-35 miles north of Ephesus and was situated on a great harbor. During times of war the harbor could be completely enclosed so that a strong defense of the city was enabled.
-Alexander the Great had rebuilt the city and made sure that it held a very strong Grecian influence about it.
-The city of Smyrna:
• Major commercial product was myrrh.
• Also had a very large export of vintage wines.
• It was called the “glory of Asia” because of its beauty.
• Filled with multiple temples to various gods—Zeus, Cybele (goddess of nature), and a host of others.
• It was the birthplace of the poet, Homer, and had a library that held many volumes of books.
• It was home to a famous stadium that hosted various Grecian games and gladiators.
• The streets were kept in excellent condition so that travel around the city was done with ease.
• Today it is known as Izmir in Turkey and has a population of more than 300,000.
-While much of Christianity has grown lifeless and ritualistic in Turkey, there are still small pockets of vibrant believers today. They do not face the persecution of Caesar now instead they have to be aware of the attack of Islamic followers.
B. Revelation 2:8c—The Counselor
Revelation 2:8 (KJV) . . . saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
-The Lord will identify Himself in the opening of every one of these letters and this description that He gives certainly should not get lost on us. The Lord “which was dead, and is alive;” resounded with the believers at Smyrna.
-The Lord is drawing them back to the Cross where the most intense pain and suffering of the Lord is present. The Lord wants the believers at Smyrna to know that He experienced the suffering that led to death. They should take encouragement from that because the Lord has already tasted of the first-fruits of death and is victorious over death, hell, and the grave.
-No matter how intense the suffering of the church was, the Lord will supply great strength to them in their tribulation.
C. Revelation 2:9—The Commendation
Revelation 2:9 (KJV) I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
-The commendation that the Lord gives to them almost solely had to do with their persecution. Once again we have to draw some attention to the Lord knowing their works. He is clear about the necessity of works in every church. There is a great reward that will be received of those who are committed to working for the Kingdom of God. Furthermore there is no way around the fact that established faith will lead to devoted works.
-The Lord commends them for their works and for their tribulation. Smyrna was considered to be the greatest city that was devoted to the worship of Caesar. The common greeting on the street was “Caesar is lord!” The Christians would reply, “Jesus is Lord!” and would be persecuted for it.
-Because Smyrna was loyal to Rome, they had built a temple around 196 B.C. to Dea Roma, the goddess of Rome. They actually worshiped the city of Rome. During the time of John’s time on Patmos, the Roman Caesar was Domitian, who was a bloodthirsty tyrant who wanted to kill every Christian that he could find.
-It cannot be without some divine irony that the meaning of the name of Smyrna is “suffering.” It is also not lost on us that the name also comes from the word “myrrh.”
-Myrrh is an aromatic fragrant sap that comes from a small tree that has a bitter taste to it. The gum from the tree would be removed by cutting the bark of the trunk and the branches. The oily sap would ooze out of the markings and drop into small wooden containers and be allowed to solidify. The process of getting the gum out of the tree would cause it to become horribly disfigured. This served as a literal symbol of what suffering does but it also shows what blessings sometimes comes from the wounds. That is exactly what happened to the believers in this city.
-Myrrh was used for several purposes:
• Used in perfumes
• An ingredient of the holy anointing oil for the priests
• For the purification of women
• Used in embalming the dead
-It was also brought by the wise men to Jesus at His birth. It was brought with gold that was a picture of the Lord’s royalty. It was brought with frankincense that typified His deity and purity. The myrrh was a picture of his suffering humanity.
-When the Lord was on the Cross, He was offered wine mingled with myrrh that would have acted as a primitive pain reliever. When the Lord comes again, he will not be presented with myrrh because His sufferings are over!
-But in order for the myrrh to achieve its full fragrance and perfume, it had to be crushed and beaten. That is exactly what happened to the church in Smyrna, it was crushed, beaten, and persecuted.
-Their crushing came from three different sources:
Tribulation—Thlipsis—Literally meaning, “pressure.” This word is used to describe a man who was tortured to death by being slowly crushed by a big boulder that was laid on him.
-It was also used to describe the crushing of the wheat under the millstone. Jesus was very aware of the threshing that goes on in the life of a child of God. No one is immune from the pain and the struggles of life.
-In the days of the Romans, they would thresh grain by using a cart that was equipped with rollers instead of wheels. Sharp stones and rough bits of iron were attached to these cylinders to separate the husks from the grain.
-The cart was called a tribulum from which comes the word “tribulation.” When great affliction comes to us we can sometimes think of ourselves being torn to pieces by the cruel pressures of the adverse circumstances of life. . . The Lord told the church at Pergamos. . . I know your tribulation.
Poverty—Ptocheia—Literally means “destitution.” It is a person who has nothing at all to claim as his own. Because of their stand for the Lord, many of these people had lost their jobs, businesses, and social status. They were looked down on in society as a bunch of misfits and outlaws.
-In fact many of the Christians here became the prey of robbers, vandals, and thieves because their attackers knew the Romans would not defend them because of the stigma that was placed on them as Christians. The stigmata, the marks of the Cross, branded these people. How many of us could withstand that sort of treatment in our time without buckling to it?
-People hated the believers in Smyrna for a number of reasons:
• Because they would not worship Caesar
• Because they were viewed as atheists because they would not worship the Roman/Greek gods and goddesses
• They accused them of being cannibals for partaking in communion
• They accused them of being immoral for greeting each other with a holy kiss
• They accused them of being home-breakers because of the division that caused one spouse to be saved and the other to be lost in sin if they were not a believer
-These men and women were under great duress. It cost them something to be followers of Jesus. How we need that to take place in the modern era with the American church! We have come to a time when it costs very little to be a Christian.
Blasphemy—Blasphemia—Meaning “slander.” The Jewish unbelievers hated the Christians and did everything possible to destroy their reputations. Those who hated these Christians used all sorts of malicious lies, gossip, slander, and innuendo to destroy these people in the eyes of others. Perhaps all of those who love the Lord have had to endure their share of this kind of maltreatment.
-The Lord paints the enemies of the believers into a terrible plight—they that are guilty of these actions are literally members of the synagogue of Satan. What an oxymoron that is! Here is a place that many would recognize as a church but it has become the literal living zone of a bunch of demons.
-Immediately the question might come to mind: Can that same thing still happen today? There is ample support that this particular thing can still take place in our day as well. Look no further than what Paul expressed to the church at Corinth:
1 Corinthians 10:19-21 (ESV) What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?  No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
-How could a church evolve into the place where that it becomes a synagogue of Satan? When it becomes choked with worldliness, sin, false doctrine, and a general apathy toward the things of the Lord.
D. Revelation 2:10a—The Commandment
Revelation 2:10 (KJV) Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
-As with all of the other churches, the Lord would have some directions to give to the churches. Smyrna was commanded to do some things in the face of the difficult persecution they would face.
-Fear none of those things. . . Prison is in your future. . . Trial and tribulation is in your future. . . but fear none of those things. . .
• Fear not for the Lord knows His perfect plan for the future
• Fear not for we can know the Lord still has a limitation placed on evil
• Fear not for we can depend on a courage that comes from another world
• Fear not for the Lord will have the last word in every evil conflict
• Fear not for the Lord has overcome death already
-There are some who might say that this advice is awfully trite to say. Just grit your teeth and hope for the best. . . This is certainly not the way that we should look at this but we have to have enough confidence in the Lord to know that we cannot fear what we are facing no matter where the difficulties come from because the Lord’s command is to fear none of those things.
-Even if the devil would choose to send some to prison, fear not and be faithful. If the devil could incite the Sabeans and the Chaldeans (Job 1:15, 17) to violence against Job, the devil can control the jailers and civil authorities to come against the church.
• Luke 22:31—Satan hath desired to sift you as wheat
• 1 Thess. 2:18—Paul desired to come to Thessalonica but Satan hindered him
• 2 Thess. 2:9—With all power and lying wonders the devil will work
• Eph. 6:11—Stand against the wiles of the devil
• Eph. 6:12—For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
-We must come to an understanding that we are in a spiritual warzone!
-But the Lord sets a limit on their trouble! It will only be ten days but this ten-day time frame is obviously symbolic of a longer period than just ten days. There are three explanations that most Bible scholars lean toward to explain this.
-There are some who believe that this could have been a reference to ten different attempts by ten separate Roman Caesars to wipe Christianity from the face of the earth.
• Nero—64-68 A.D.—The Christians were blamed for the burning of Rome but this is not historically accurate. Nero crucified Christians and fed them to wild beasts. He executed Paul and most likely Peter.
• Domitian—90-96 A.D.—Thousands of Christians were killed by him in Rome. He was responsible for sending John to Patmos.
• Trajan—104-117 A.D.—Christianity was outlawed by his edicts. He was responsible for burning Ignatius at the stake.
• Marcus Aurelius—161-180 A.D.—Christians were tortured and beheaded by this man.
• Severus—200-211 A.D.—He crucified, burned, and beheaded believers.
• Maximinius—235-237 A.D.—Christians were put to death by him.
• Decius—250-253 A.D.—He executed every Christian he could find and endeavored to obliterate Christianity.
• Valerian—257-260 A.D.—His goal was to wipe out Christianity. He put the Bishop of Carthage to death.
• Aurelian—270-275 A.D.—He persecuted believers any way he could.
• Diocletian—303-312 A.D.—He was responsible for burning the Scriptures.
-There are other Bible scholars who believe that the ten-day reference by John solely deals with the persecution under Diocletian that lasted exactly ten years. Each day therefore would represent a year.
-The last one is the explanation that the ten days was an interminable amount of time that no one really knew the time frame. What we do know from world history is the total time of persecution from all of the Roman Caesars lasted for a period of about 240 years before it finally ceased.
E. Revelation 2:10b-11—The Counsel
Revelation 2:10-11 (KJV) . . . be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
-The connection with being faithful is always going to be rewarded by a crown that will last forever! Throughout the Bible there are a host of crowns that are given to those who are faithful.
• The Crown of Glory—For the faithful pastor—1 Peter 5:2-4
• The Crown of Righteousness—For those who live a godly life—2 Tim. 4:8
• The Crown of Life—For those who are faithful in testing—James 1:12
• The Crown of Rejoicing—For those who win people to the Lord—1 Thess. 2:19-20
• The Incorruptible Crown—For those who subdue their bodies and keep them under control and finish their course for the glory of God—1 Cor. 9:24-27
-A child of God looks at suffering (or should) in a totally different light than the pagan unbeliever does. For the saint who suffers, tribulation will lead to triumph, out of persecution comes a prize, and out of death we will come to reign!
-Stay faithful until the end!
-But the Lord slips in one last thing that is very fitting for the persecuted church in Smyrna who had obviously tasted from the cup of death. . . The Lord promises that overcomers will not be hurt by the second death.
-The first death is a physical death that separates the soul from the body. The second death is spiritual but it will not be like that for the believer. The second death is separation of the soul and spirit from the presence of the Lord forever.
Revelation 20:6 (KJV) Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
IV. CONCLUSION—POLYCARP’S LASTING TESTIMONY TO HISTORY
-Polycarp was the most famous martyr of Smyrna. He was one of John’s disciples who had been trained by him. He would ultimately become the pastor of Smyrna and would be murdered as a martyr because he refused to recant his experience in the Lord.
-A translated second-century document entitled The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna Concerning the Martyrdom of the Holy Polycarp relates the striking story of Polycarp’s martyrdom:
The whole multitude, marveling at the nobility of mind displayed by the devout and godly race of Christians, cried out, “Away with the Atheists; let Polycarp be sought out!”
But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard [that he was sought for], was in no measure disturbed, but resolved to continue in the city. However, in deference to the wish of many, he was persuaded to leave it. He departed, therefore, to a country house not far distant from the city. There he stayed with a few [friends], engaged in nothing else night and day than praying for all men, and for the Churches throughout the world, according to his usual custom. And while he was praying, a vision presented itself to him three days before he was taken; and, behold, the pillow under his head seemed to him on fire. Upon this, turning to those that were with him, he said to them prophetically, “I must be burnt alive.”
And when those who sought for him were at hand, he departed to another dwelling, whither his pursuers immediately came after him. And when they found him not, they seized upon two youths [that were there], one of whom, being subjected to torture, confessed. It was thus impossible that he should continue hid, since those that betrayed him were of his own household. The Irenarch then (whose office is the same as that of the Cleronomus), by name Herod, hastened to bring him into the stadium. [This all happened] that he might fulfill his special lot, being made a partaker of Christ, and that they who betrayed him might undergo the punishment of Judas himself.
His pursuers then, along with horsemen, and taking the youth with them, went forth at supper-time on the day of the preparation, with their usual weapons, as if going out against a robber. And being come about evening [to the place where he was], they found him lying down in the upper room of a certain little house, from which he might have escaped into another place; but he refused, saying, “The will of God be done.” So when he heard that they were come, he went down and spake with them. And as those that were present marveled at his age and constancy, some of them said, “Was so much effort made to capture such a venerable man?” Immediately then, in that very hour, he ordered that something to eat and drink should be set before them, as much indeed as they cared for, while he besought them to allow him an hour to pray without disturbance. And on their giving him leave, he stood and prayed, being full of the grace of God, so that he could not cease for two full hours, to the astonishment of them that heard him, insomuch that many began to repent that they had come forth against so godly and venerable an old man.
Now, as soon as he had ceased praying, having made mention of all that had at any time come in contact with him, both small and great, illustrious and obscure, as well as the whole Catholic Church throughout the world, the time of his departure having arrived, they set him upon an ass, and conducted him into the city, the day being that of the great Sabbath. And the Irenarch Herod, accompanied by his father Nicetes (both riding in a chariot), met him, and taking him up into the chariot, they seated themselves beside him, and endeavored to persuade him, saying, “What harm is there in saying, Lord Caesar, and in sacrificing, with the other ceremonies observed on such occasions, and so make sure of safety?” But he at first gave them no answer; and when they continued to urge him, he said, “I shall not do as you advise me.” So they, having no hope of persuading him, began to speak bitter words unto him, and cast him with violence out of the chariot, insomuch that, in getting down from the carriage, he dislocated his leg [by the fall]. But without being disturbed, and as if suffering nothing, he went eagerly forward with all haste, and was conducted to the stadium, where the tumult was so great, that there was no possibility of being heard.
Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, “Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp!” No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, respect to thy old age,” and other similar things, according to their custom, [such as], “Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists.” But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, “Away with the Atheists.” Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, “Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ”; Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” And when the proconsul yet again pressed him, and said, “Swear by the fortune of Caesar,” he answered, “Since thou art vainly urgent that, as thou sayest, I should swear by the fortune of Caesar, and pretendest not to know who and what I am, hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn what the doctrines of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and thou shalt hear them.” The proconsul replied, “Persuade the people.” But Polycarp said, “To thee I have thought it right to offer an account [of my faith]; for we are taught to give all due honor (which entails no injury upon ourselves) to the powers and authorities which are ordained of God. But as for these, I do not deem them worthy of receiving any account from me.” The proconsul then said to him, “I have wild beasts at hand; to these will I cast thee, except thou repent.” But he answered, “Call them then, for we are not accustomed to repent of what is good in order to adopt that which is evil; and it is well for me to be changed from what is evil to what is righteous.” But again the proconsul said to him, “I will cause thee to be consumed by fire, seeing thou despisest the wild beasts, if thou wilt not repent.” But Polycarp said, “Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why tarriest thou? Bring forth what thou wilt.”
While he spoke these and many other like things, he was filled with confidence and joy, and his countenance was full of grace, so that not merely did it not fall as if troubled by the things said to him, but, on the contrary, the proconsul was astonished, and sent his herald to proclaim in the midst of the stadium thrice, “Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian.” This proclamation having been made by the herald, the whole multitude both of the heathen and Jews, who dwelt at Smyrna, cried out with uncontrollable fury, and in a loud voice, “This is the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, and the overthrower of our gods, he who has been teaching many not to sacrifice, or to worship the gods.” Speaking thus, they cried out, and besought Philip the Asiarch to let loose a lion upon Polycarp. But Philip answered that it was not lawful for him to do so, seeing the shows of wild beasts were already finished. Then it seemed good to them to cry out with one consent, that Polycarp should be burnt alive. For thus it behooved the vision which was revealed to him in regard to his pillow to be fulfilled, when, seeing it on fire as he was praying, he turned about and said prophetically to the faithful that were with him, “I must be burnt alive.”
This, then, was carried into effect with greater speed than it was spoken, the multitudes immediately gathering together wood and fagots out of the shops and baths; the Jews especially, according to custom, eagerly assisting them in it. And when the funeral pile was ready, Polycarp, laying aside all his garments, and loosing his girdle, sought also to take off his sandals, — a thing he was not accustomed to do, inasmuch as every one of the faithful was always eager who should first touch his skin. For, on account of his holy life, he was, even before his martyrdom, adorned with every kind of good. Immediately then they surrounded him with those substances which had been prepared for the funeral pile. But when they were about also to fix him with nails, he said, “Leave me as I am; for He that giveth me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile.”
They did not nail him then, but simply bound him. And he, placing his hands behind him, and being bound like a distinguished ram [taken] out of a great flock for sacrifice, and prepared to be an acceptable burnt-offering unto God, looked up to heaven, and said, “O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of Thee, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before thee, I give Thee thanks that Thou hast counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Thy martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption [imparted] by the Holy Ghost. Among whom may I be accepted this day before Thee as a fat and acceptable sacrifice, according as Thou, the ever-truthful God, hast fore-ordained, hast revealed beforehand to me, and now hast fulfilled. Wherefore also I praise Thee for all things, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen.”
When he had pronounced this amen, and so finished his prayer, those who were appointed for the purpose kindled the fire. And as the flame blazed forth in great fury, we, to whom it was given to witness it, beheld a great miracle, and have been preserved that we might report to others what then took place. For the fire, shaping itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr. And he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace. Moreover, we perceived such a sweet odor [coming from the pile], as if frankincense or some such precious spices had been smoking there.
At length, when those wicked men perceived that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go near and pierce him through with a dagger. And on his doing this, there came forth a dove, and a great quantity of blood, so that the fire was extinguished; and all the people wondered that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one, having in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the Catholic Church which is in Smyrna. For every word that went out of his mouth either has been or shall yet be accomplished.
August 26, 2016