Summary: The Church of Smyrna was commended for its loyalty to Christ even though it cost many their lives. Would we be willing to give up our lives if Christ called us to do so - to be loyal to Him
The Church at Smyrna. Rev 2:8-11
Last Sunday we looked at the first of the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse (also known as the Seven Churches of the Book of Revelation) - the Church of Ephesus.
Let me just recap for those of you who weren’t with us last week
The book of Revelation was written by the apostle John whilst he was banished to the island of Patmos in traditionally around AD 95 and 96.
The seven churches of Revelation are
1.) Ephesus Rev 2:1-7
2.) Smyrna Rev. 2:8-11
3.) Pergamum Rev. 2:12-17
4.) Thyatira (pronounced Thy'at'ira) Rev. 2:18-29
5.) Sardis Rev. 3:1-6
6.) Philadelphia Rev.3:7-13
7.) Laodicea Rev. 3:14-22
All the churches are in about a 100-mile radius of each other.
They weren’t the only churches in the area but as William Barclay posits
“these churches might be regarded as centres of seven postal districts being all on a kind of ring road which circled the interior of the Province” of Asia (William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Revised Edition Vol 1 page 28)
There were clearly more churches in the area at the time.
From the New Testament itself we know of one in Colossae to which Paul addressed the letter to the Colossians.
And the church in Hierapolis is mentioned in the same letter (Col. 4:13)
And last week we discussed what the Angel of each of these Churches might mean and I am of the persuasion
that it refers to the Bishops of each church
Why the number seven? The number seven was considered by the people of the time to be the perfect number.
John uses it 54 times in the Book of Revelation.
(William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Revised Edition Vol 1 page 28)
1. The Church of Ephesus
Last week we looked at the first of the churches 0f the Apocalypse - the Church of Ephesus
It was a church that on the surface seemed to have everything going for it
It threw out false teachers and false teaching but it had one hit against it
But the Church had badly lost its way
In its striving for pure orthodoxy somewhere it had lost its first love of Christ.
And today – there is no Church in Ephesus – in fact there is no Ephesus anymore except for some ruins.
So from the letter to the Church at Ephesus, let us learn that we need to keep our first love for Christ
2. The Church of Smyrna
In contrast today we are going to have a look at the second Church of the Apocalypse - the Church in Smyrna.
It is one of the two Churches that Christ has nothing to hold against them.
But to understand more fully what Christ is saying to the Church we need to look at the background to the city of Smyrna.
Smyrna is about 50 miles north of Ephesus
William Barclay tells us that “Of all the cities of Asia Symrna was the loveliest”
It was known as the “Crown of Asia".
Please hold that thought because I want to come back to it
Aristides spoke of the city as “the grace which extends over every part like a rainbow, the brightness which pervades every part and reaches up to the heavens, like the glitter of bronze in the armour in Homer”
Aristides goes on to say “The wind blows through every part of the city and makes it as fresh as a grove of trees.” (ibid p. 73)
However Barclay ironically adds “The constant west wind had only one disadvantage. The sewage of the city drained into the gulf on which the city stood and the west wind tended to blow it back upon the city rather than out to sea.” (ibid p. 73).
Like many of the cities of Asia, Smyrna was very religious and temples to Greek and Roman gods abounded.
Perhaps one might think, as a Christian, of these temples to false gods as the sewage that defiled the city
Like Ephesus Smyrna was a Roman free city.
Smyrna had the great distinction of being loyal to Rome even when Rome was not in the ascendency.
Loyalty was a trait of the city.
The Church despite its persecution had been loyal to Christ
What is interesting is that Smyrna had been founded as a Greek Colony about 1000 BC only to be destroyed by the Lydians in around 600 BC and then by the Persians around 545 BC
And for 400 years there was no city of Smyrna.
But around 334 BC Alexander the Great resurrected the city, as legend has it as a result of a dream moving Smyrna 3 miles to the south to the top of Mt Pagus.
And it was Alexander’s RESURRECTED city of Smyrna that John would have known