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



Revelation 2:8-12

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.

Polycarp was a disciple of John and was Bishop of the Church at Smyrna. He was martyred in 155 A.D. It was the time of the public games, the city was crowded and excited. Part of the festivities was the worshipof the emperor, and the killing of those who would not participate in the service.

Polycarp was brought before the proconsul who gave him a choice, curse the name of Christ and make a sacrifice to Caesar or death.

Polycarp’s answer has echoed through out the ages: “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

The proconsul then threatened him with burning. Polycarp replied: “You threaten me with the fire that burns for a time, and is quickly quenched, for you do not know the fire which awaits the wicked in the judgment to come and in everlasting punishment.” The proconsul was furious.

The crowd proceeded to bring wood and Polycarp was martyred.

It was not easy to be a Christian in Smyrna, yet this letter has nothing but praise for these believers.

Characteristic vs 8

Jesus uses one of the characteristics from Chapter one, the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. These words were to bring comfort, for Jesus is the author and end of all things, yet he became dead and is alive. To these believers who are giving their lives for Jesus, He’s reminding them that he gave his life for them. They are simply following in his footsteps.

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