Summary: The faithful of Smyrna suffered hardship, but they were spiritually prosperous and steadfast in their devotion to Christ.
"Smyrna-the Suffering Church" -Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts.
Sermon series on the Letters to the 7 Churches of Rev 2-3
When school report cards are issued, it’s can be a stressful time. Any assessment we receive is supposed to help us see our strengths and weaknesses, to show where we need to improve. Whenever we receive a performance appraisal it’s usually for our benefit alone...but the 7 evaluations we’re considering are for all believers. They come from the Lord Jesus, Who stands in the midst of His churches.
Ancient Smyrna is the modern-day city of Izmir, one of the largest cities in Turkey. It sits at the head of the Gulf of Hermuz, about 35 miles up the coast from Ephesus. It is the only one of the 7 cities still in existence. Smyrna, or Izmir, is blessed with a well-protected harbor and a natural outlet to the Aegean Sea. The coins of ancient Smyrna depict merchant ships ready to sail. The city was originally a Greek colony, and the birthplace of the poet Homer. It was a prosperous city and well-known for its schools of science and medicine.
Jesus is described as "the First and the Last" (vs 8); He is the Lord of history, the eternal God Who has always existed and who always will exist. He is in control regardless of the evil circumstances affecting believers. In 1:8 Jesus declares, "I am the Alpha and Omega, Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty." Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet…Jesus is the first, last, and everything in-between. Ralph Carmichael composed a hymn, "He’s Everything to Me." Is Jesus everything to us? Is He our "Alpha and Omega"? Smyna was called the "First of Asia". I suppose their motto was "We’re number one!" The city was first in beauty and loyalty to Caeser, but Jesus is first in everything. He deserves our undivided loyalty and devotion.
In vs 8 Jesus also refers to His resurrection; He "died and came to life again." Our Lord is making an analogy to the city’s own experience of death and rebirth. Smyrna had been invaded, destroyed, and rebuilt. This reminds me of the German city I last lived in, Wuerzburg, which was leveled by the British during WWII, but today it is completely restored. Smyrna was called in John’s day "the pride and flower of Asia," renown for its beauty. Historians describe it as the most splendid of the 7 cities. The name Smyrna refers to myrrh, a sweet perfume (the same given by the Magi). We have no Biblical account of the founding of the church of Smyrna, though scholars believe the church began as a result of Paul’s 3rd Missionary trip (Acts 19).
Smyrna’s citizens were among Rome’s strongest allies. In 195 BC they built a temple to the "spirit of Rome" as a sign of their loyalty to the Empire. Emperor worship became compulsory for every Roman citizen on threat of death. We can imagine their opposition to Christians, whose refusal to conform to state worship was interpreted as disloyalty to Rome. Jesus states that He is well-aware of their "afflictions" (vs 9).