Summary: He was only three years old when his father died. It was of little consequence to the boy, for his father had been a killer. His mother took over the family trade and continued the boy’s education. She murdered her next husband with a dish of poisoned
THE REVELATION OF JESUS part 4
SMYRNA - THE PERSECUTED
He was only three years old when his father died. It was of little consequence to the boy, for his father had been a killer. His mother took over the family trade and continued the boy’s education. She murdered her next husband with a dish of poisoned mushrooms as a result of a simple argument.
While still young, this boy committed his first murder, killing a teenage boy who stood in his way. He married at fifteen, but soon had his wife killed. He married again, and had his second wife killed as well. In order to marry the third time, he murdered the husband of the woman he wanted.
Soon his mother annoyed him, so he arranged her murder without any remorse. He grew to be an ugly man with a bull neck, beetle brows, a flat nose, and a tough mouth. He had a pot belly, spindly legs and bad skin. At the age of thirty one he was sentenced to death by flogging. He then fled to a dingy basement and cut his own throat.
This man gave the infant church its first taste of things to come. His name was Nero, he was the first of the persecuting Caesars of Rome. Phillips, Exploring Revelation, p. 54.
When John wrote from Patmos, Nero had come and gone. A new Caesar, Domitian, was on the throne. The time had come for the second round of official persecution to begin.
Smyrna is the modern city of Izmir, about 35 miles north of Ephesus. It had an excellent harbor and was a wealthy city. Smyrna was the commercial center of Asia Minor, it was on the direct trade route from India and Persia to Rome. Archeologists have uncovered large number of coins from all over the ancient world, a sign of it’s wealth.
Smyrna had a strong allegiance to Rome. In 195 B.C. it became the first city in the ancient world to build a temple in honor of Dea Roma, the “goddess of Rome.” Later, in 23 B.C., Smyrna won permission to build a temple to the emperor Tyberius, who had installed emperor worship throughout the Roman Empire.
During John’s time, Smyrna had the typical urban features you’d find in a large city, broad avenues, public marketplaces, temples, a library, gymnasium, stadium, and theater. The Smyrnans had long been know for their devotion to Rome. Once a year it was the duty of every roman citizen to burn incense at the altar and to worship Caesar.
What the individual would do was burn a little incense and say, “Caesar is Lord.” Christians refused to do so, thus suffering the consequences, which was death.
The gospel came to Smyrna as a result of Paul’s extensive evangelism during his third missionary journey (Acts 19). Paul had told these believers years earlier to expect persecution.
The strong allegiance to Rome in Smyrna plus a large Jewish population, which was actively hostile to the Christians, made it exceptionally difficult to live as a Christian in Smyrna. The most famous martyrdom of the early church fathers was that of the elderly Polycarp. He refused to acknowledge Caesar as Lord, so he was burned at the stake.