The name Smyrna means “myrrh or death”. Myrrh is a resin, which was extracted from trees in Africa, India, and Arabia and used as an incense like frankincense, and in ancient times myrrh was so valuable that it was worth as much as gold. Myrrh was also used in the purification of women (Esther 2:12), as a perfume (Psalm 45:8), as a gift for Jesus when he was born (Matthew 2:11), and they mixed it with wine that they offered to Jesus on the Cross (Mark 15:23). Myrrh was also commonly used in burial because it could dry up moisture thus preventing the growth of worms. As an embalming spice, myrrh released its odor when crushed so the crushing of the Saints at Smyrna in the name of Jesus was a pleasant aroma to the Lord.
The city of Smyrna was approximately 35 miles NE of Ephesus, and it was a port city as well as a commercial center with a population of around 100,000. It was called the most beautiful of the seven cities, and it is still around today except it is now called Izmir Turkey. Smyrna dates back to 3,000 BC and it became known as the “Glory of Asia” because of its beautiful temples, harbor, and planned development. The temple of Tiberius was built in 26 AD, and it became the center of worship for the Evil Kings of Rome. The word “Catholic” was first used by Ignatius in a letter he wrote to the Church at Smyrna, however the most famous pastor of Smyrna was Polycarp (69-155AD) who when he refused to abandon his faith was burned at the stake. Christians were extremely persecuted in Smyrna, and many lost everything they owned because there was a group known as the 10%’ers who got 10% of the property seized from Christians that they turned over to the Romans. These people were non-Christians and often Jews who profited off the death of Christians so hunting Christians was commonly practiced. In 178 AD the city was destroyed by an earthquake, but it was rebuilt by Marcus Aurelius who ruled from 161-180 AD. It is said that from 100-313 A.D that 5,000,000 Christians were martyred, which was the greatest persecution of the Church ever known. During this time, Satan did everything he could to wipe the Church at Smyrna off the planet. Also, the Christians at Smyrna were persecuted by ten different Roman Emperors and the last ten years being a living nightmare for the Smyrna Church. However, the gospel spread faster during this period than any other period in history, and the more Satan persecuted this Church the more God’s Word spread!
To the Church at Smyrna Write:
8) And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
9) I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
10) Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
11) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
Chapter 2 Verse 8
In this verse, Jesus is described as the “first and the last”, and that “which was dead and is alive”. The Greek word for first and last here are “protos” and “eschatos”. The word “protos” is where we get our modern word “prototype” from, and the definition of prototype means “a first, typical or preliminary model of something, especially a machine, from which other forms are developed or copied”. In other words, a prototype is what all products of the same line are patterned after, so Jesus is the prototype for all Christians which why we should never pattern ourselves after each other. (Philippians 2:3-8, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 1 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 4:32, and 1 John 2:6). If we try and pattern ourselves even after the most righteous person we know (pastor or youth minister), we will always fail. After working in manufacturing for so many years I have seen this happen many times. When you begin to make a pattern of the prototype, and then begin to make patterns of that pattern you will eventually be so far off from the original prototype that the part you are trying to manufacture will not fit or work. So to avoid this, Christ made sure that we understand that He is the only should be who we pattern ourselves after for he will make us into who he wants us to be. Another danger here is spiritual “inbreeding”. This happens when a Church is primarily dominated by a few families, and those families are the main people who show up. This is dangerous because this can turn into nepotism, which can lead to an uneven and large amount of power in a few Believers hands. For a Church to grow there needs to be a balance in the power structure of that particular Body. Next, the word “eschatos” carries the meaning of a finished product. So Jesus is not only our prototype, but he is what we will look like as his finished product. This is a great revelation because once you truly understand this, then Hebrews 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” has much more MEANING and POWER!!! Many times we start out with Jesus as our “Lord” only to take the reins back and do our own thing. Even though we may not be in what Christians would call outright sin (drinking, cussing, or fornication), we must remember that Jesus must always be first because without him in that position we will not make it to the end. Simply put, the key to Smyrna’s success was they kept Jesus first and foremost in everything they did and they never left their first love.
The word dead in this verse comes from the Greek word “nekros”, which literally means someone who has breathed his last breath, and the word alive (zaō) means to be among the living, someone having true life, or having endless life in the Kingdom of God. Jesus is telling us that he died, (not ceremoniously) but literally DIED so that he could pay the price for us so we would never have to see the second death or eternal hell. Not only did he die, but when he went to hell He took the keys of death and hell so his children need never fear death or hell again. In addition, if this wasn’t enough Jesus also ROSE AGAIN!!! Because of this, Jesus has eternal life in the Kingdom of God, and where does Jesus reside? IN US!!! This is so amazing once we realized that we are “…(His) children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:17) then we know that HE has it all under control and we never EVER need to worry. In short, when Christ died and rose he gave us eternal life in the Kingdom NOW once we accept him, so does it matter what happens to us here? It shouldn’t!! Since Christ was raised from the dead unto eternal life then so shall we also be raised from the dead, and we will FOREVER be with our Lord!!! “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). What is our soul worth? It was worth God sending his Son to die for us, which tells me that we are worth more than we will ever imagine to God!
Chapter 2 Verse 9-10
Smyrna as we showed was notorious for killing Christians, and not only were the Romans hunting them, but the Jews were turning them in for money. Once we understand this then verse nine and ten become crystal clear. What I find interesting is that Jesus knew this, and did not intervene on their behalf, but why? Paul in Philippians 3:10-11 stated that “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead”. It was Jesus that said “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39). Many people, especially those in America think they are “safe” from the coming storm of persecution, however a time is coming when Christians worldwide and in America will face it. During this period many will lose their lives for naming His name so God is giving us all time to prepare. Remember the 10 virgins? Are we preparing? (Psa. 20:7-8)
If we look closer at verse nine and ten Jesus says he knows their works, tribulation, poverty, the blasphemy of those that say they are Jews but are of the synagogue of Satan. This is a reference to the Hellenistic Jews who opposed the fact of Jesus Christ being the “Savior”. However, these Jews were deceived and as Paul stated in Romans 2:28-29 “ For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God”, so the real Jews now are ones who are Jews inwardly. In this verse Jesus is giving the Church at Smyrna “high praise” for what they are doing, and in verse ten he tells them to “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer because the devil SHALL cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried and have tribulation ten days, and that they should be faithful unto death.” People today are seeing the death of Christians over in Islamic countries and act surprised, and I have to ask myself why? Jesus clearly told us that this will happen and in Matthew 24:9-13 Jesus says “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another…And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved”. Remember his warning to the church at Ephesus about leaving their “first love”? In Matthew 24:12 it is saying the same thing, and in verse thirteen he goes on to say that “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved”. The word saved here is from the Greek verb “sō’zō”, which has many meanings such as keep safe and sound, rescue from danger or destruction, heal someone from disease, to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance, and to deliver one from the penalties of the Messianic judgment. As we can see Jesus wants to deliver us from eternal damnation, heal our bodies, and keep us safe from death and destruction. However, we must remember that we may still be called to give our lives for the Lord but our spirits are forever HIS and Satan cannot have us!! As we can see from Matthew to Revelations Christ promises that we will live eternally with him IF we endure and are faithful to the end, and we know that God Never Lies! (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18, Numbers 23:19) So be of good courage, for Jesus overcame all and He lives in each of us that belong to Him!
Chapter 2 Verse 11
If we remember the beginning of this section where Jesus says he is the first and the last, we can see that his promise in verse eleven is so incredible! Jesus promised the church at Smyrna that “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” We need to remember that the messages to the seven churches are also a message to us. So if we endure and overcome by continuing in Christian works, overcome tribulations, endure poverty, endure imprisonment, and endure to the end even if it means our life, then we WILL receive the crown of life and we will not be hurt by the second death. Abraham had to endure with patience, and THEN he received the promise that God gave him (Hebrews 6:15). However, to endure as his body we need to encourage one another daily. Ecclesiastes 4:12 tells us that “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken” and Acts 14:22 says that “…exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God”. In these end times we will need each other like ever before. If we marginalize people because they aren’t in our cliché or like “us” then we are committing outright sin against God because we are ALL His body, so let me ask you this… Will you cut off your nose to spite your face? Another lesson we can learn from the Church at Smyrna and is that Jesus already knows what we will ever go through, and He will always be there with us. So it doesn’t matter if it is doing hard work, going through poverty and tribulation, or even dying for him; He is with us, ALWAYS even unto the end of the world! (Matthew 28:20)
Her Coming Out
The true church of God is about to be born
Like a child from the womb leaving the mother torn
This mother church has become weak as water
Though they think they are rich they have forgotten the Potter
Lives once shaped by the Spirit are now in the hands of man
Unknowingly fitted for wrath they are following Satan’s plan
This mother church though they claim to be the bride
Are at home in this world and they are filled with such pride
They are blind and can’t see that they are wasting away
They have ears but can’t hear what the Spirit would say
They are not being taught this world to overcome
They are marching to the beat of a hellish drum
They are driven to a frenzy by an eloquent speaker
As the spirit inside them grows weaker and weaker
But he Lambs true bride has made herself ready
With her gaze fixed on God he brings poise to steady
She is a beautiful bride all dressed in white wearing combat boots
For she fought a good fight but there is something about
The gown she is wearing it’s all splattered in blood
From a fellowship she was sharing she acquired this beauty
By way of the Cross when she laid down her life
And counted it but lost Why? that she might know Him
Kelly J. Elliott 09-10-09