Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sweet Smelling Smyrna


Smyrna = Persecution.

This has to be the most disliked and avoided word in Christian circles. None of us likes to think that someday we may have to suffer persecution. Secretly we like to believe that a loving God wouldn’t let that happen to us. It’s something many of us just can’t, or don't want to relate to. Will this world ever come to the place where Christians are considered dangerous because of what they believe? I’ve actually wondered how I would stand up during persecution. Would I be able to persevere? Would I give in?

I’m reminded of Peter.

Remember the cockcrow? Three crows later, just like Jesus said, Peter found that he had spoken nothing more than a pile of worthless words, even though he was adamantly in love with Christ. We’re talking about the fellow Jesus called “the Rock.” The one He would build His church on. This was a strong believer. We know that everything turned out alright for him in the long run. He went through much and died defending the faith. Still I wonder, what would I do?

The church of Smyrna didn’t have to think about it. They experienced it.

The name Smyrna means myrrh, or bitter. Myrrh is a berry that has to be crushed in order to release its wonderful fragrance. Don’t you just love the symbolism used here? The suffering of believers, the crushing of them releases a wonderful fragrance. Myrrh was used at funerals as an ointment to embalm the dead. Isn’t it interesting that our old man must die to sin. When we walk in obedience even unto death, we are a sweet smelling fragrance to our Lord. This also applies to the Lord, who as our suffering Saviour was crushed (yet victorious). Appropriately, Christ represents himself as the resurrected One, bringing them hope.

The opposition to Christianity in Smyrna came from the people rather than the state. The church in Smyrna endured tribulation, poverty and affliction from the wealthy Jews. Jesus tells us that these particular Jews were not God’s people, but belonged to Satan.

Sometimes things are not as they appear to be.

These Jews no doubt thought themselves the favoured of the Lord, the chosen ones. Yet, they were not representing Christ in their fervour, but were of the “synagogue of Satan.” In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees thought they were the chosen ones, and yet Jesus didn’t have much good to say of them either. I can’t stress the importance of relying on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us into all truth. Head knowledge alone doesn’t guarantee salvation.

Have you noticed that the soul of man is much more open to God when he is in need?

Though they were robbed of material possessions and not given jobs because of strong trade guilds, and though they were mocked and abused, they had true wealth. Their riches were stored in heaven. The Lord’s counsel to them was not to fear and to be faithful to the end.

There is no correction given to this church. None. It is still standing today!


Izmir, ancient Smyrna.
Image courtesy of www.HolyLandPhotos.org.

For those who care to know:

Smyrna was planned by Alexander the Great and was called “The Ornament of Asia” because of its beauty. It boasted a street of gold with the temple of Zeus at one end, and the temple of Cybelle (Nemesis) at the other. It is the present day Port of Izmir, the third largest city in Turkey. Religiously, it was the seat of emperor worship.

Ten is the biblical number of testing of God’s standard. The ten days mentioned possibly refer to the 10 years of tribulation that the believers suffered under Diocletan.

The word “martyr” in Greek means “witness.”

There are more martyrs today than at any other time in history and Scripture indicates that this will increase as the days get closer to His coming. How much more must we be prepared to spread the gospel to all who will hear.

Remember, God's heart is that ALL would repent and accept His salvation.

Seven Churches of Revelation:

Introduction to the Seven Churches
Where Did I Leave My Love? (Ephesus)
Falling Away Into Laodicea
Pergamus: Compromised and Indulged
Sardis: The Living Dead
The Church of Thyatira
Philadelphia, the Faithful Church

Until Next Time,
Carmen