Summary: Smyrna, the church of faith
Smyrna: The Church of Faith
Revelation 2:8-10, "To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty-yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.”
Smyrna was a very ancient and very great city, and to this day it is a city of 250,000 inhabitants. The church there was only one of two churches that Christ gave unqualified and unalloyed praise. It is interesting to note that half of the population is Christian, and Smyrna is one of the greatest centers of learning and piety in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Its claims to fame were that it was a great trade city, outstanding beautiful city, and of great importance politically to Rome.
Smyrna was a great trade city because it stood on a deep gulf thirty-five miles to the north of Ephesus. It had a magnificent harbor, rendered all the more beautiful by the fact that it could be totally enclosed in the time of war. It also stood at the end of the road which served the valley of the river Hermus and all the trade of that valley flowed into its markets and found an outlet through its harbor. Smyrna was especially rich in wines. Like Ephesus, Smyrna was a city of wealth and commercial greatness.
Smyrna was an outstanding beautiful city. It claimed to be the Glory of Asia. It was built in the fourth century B.C. and was a model of all that town planning should be. It had great straight spacious streets running from one end of the city to another. The most famous of these streets was the Golden Street. On it housed the Temple of Cybele, Apollo, Asklepios, Aprhrodite, and Zeus. On every side Christians in Smyrna were faced with the reality of choosing Christ or choosing to follow the devil.
In Smyrna there was a famous stadium, and library. It is because of the faith of the Christians in Smyrna, which was a testament to its bishop Polycarp who was martyred for his faith in Christ, but we will get to that in just a few moments that the Church there was so strong.
Politically Smyrna was an important city. During the Civil Wars Smyrna had always chosen to defend Rome, and thus Smyrna was a free city, and an assize town. It had much to be proud of. It was said that it was the home of Homer the great poet. It was this environment though that made Smyrna not such a nice place to live for a Christian. Being a Christian in Smyrna was associated with suffering, and poverty. Smyrna was also first in Casesar worship. This was the worship of the Emperor of Rome. Smyrna had beat out six other cities for the right to have a temple to the Goddess of Rome. Emperor worship had begun as a spontaneous demonstration of loyalty towards Rome, but later on during the time of this church it had becoming mandated to worship the Goddess of Rome. Citizens of Rome were required once a year to burn a pinch of incense on the altar to the godhead of Caesar, and after they did such a deed they were given a certificate saying that they had performed their religious duty. This was not a test of religious loyalty, but a test of political loyalty; however, they were required during this ceremony to say ‘Caesar is Lord’ Now naturally no born again believer would ever say ‘Caesar is Lord’ because those who are born again know that Jesus is Lord, and no other God can take that place of our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Christian living there in Smyrna was like a man over whose head the sword of execution was constantly poised never knowing when the sword might fall. Above all to be a Christian in Smyrna was to take your own life into your hands. The Church of Smyrna was a place for heroes of the faith. They literally had to make the choice between life and death at the moment that they accepted Jesus. For that reason I have given this church the title of the Church of Faith. It was because of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that made them a light in a city that was full of darkness. It is the same for us. When we choose Christ we can expect persecution, because of the state of our societies today. Our societies are sin stricken and demon possessed. We must stand up for His Righteousness if we truly want to call ourselves believers in Christ. The Blood of many martyrs of the faith for Christ has paved the way so that we might be a light in a dark place. Let us not take their blood in vain, but let us take seriously the sacrifice they gave that the Gospel might be furthered among the people of the world.