The Persecuted Church
This is the shortest of the letters to the seven churches. It is filled with praise, and no condemnation. There other church that escaped the Lord’s rebuke was Philadelphia.
Smyrna was known for her trade. It was located about 35 miles north from Ephesus. It had a harbor that could be totally enclosed during wartime. Alexander the Great rebuilt the city, and he was determined to make it a model Greek city. It was a city of wealth and commercial greatness. It was referred to as “The Beautiful.” It received its name from one of its main products—myrrh. It also saw profit in wine. Today it is called Izmir, which is located in Turkey. Its population is over 300,000 with two thirds of its people professing Christianity.
The Greek word for Smyrna means “suffering,” and it comes from the word myrrh. Myrrh was a perfect symbol of suffering, and the blessing that can come from suffering. The believers here suffered much. Myrrh was used for several purposes. Rom. 8:17; I Peter 2:20-23; I Peter 3:12-15
-used in perfumes
-an ingredient in the holy anointing oil for the priest
-for the purification of women
It was brought to Jesus at His birth. It is associated with Christ in His first coming. It is a sign of Christ’s suffering humanity. Matthew 2:11 When Christ was on the Cross, He was offered wine mingled with myrrh. In this case, it acted like a painkiller. Matt. 27:34 and Ps. 69:21.
In order for this spice to release its full fragrance, it had to be crushed and beaten. Smyrna was beaten, crushed and persecuted. At that time, it was in the midst of bitter sorrow and suffering. It was the most afflicted and persecuted of all seven churches. It gave off the fragrance of Christ.
It was a beautiful city. It claimed to be the “Glory of Asia.”
The temples in this city were:
-the Temple of Zeus
-The Temple of Cybele (the goddess of nature)
All the temples of this area were located on Golden Street. This area also had a stadium and library. It was the birthplace of the poet Homer.
It was first in beauty, and first in Caesar worship.
Its loyalty was to Rome. In 196 B.C., it built a temple to Dea Roma, the goddess of Rome. They eventually began to worship the city of Rome.