Revelation 2:6 "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."
The testimony of the martyrdom of Polycarp, a leader at the church of Smyrna
History records the story of the persecutions of Christians that would occur at the city of Smyrna some fifty years after the Apostle John had written the Book of Revelation to Smyrna and the other six churches. The Apostle John had a student or disciple by the name of Polycarp who was martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ. Polycarp lived to be 86 years of age before being burned at the stake for his faith. We read below a little bit of his final words of courageous faith from the record of his martyrdom entitled: "The Martyrdom of Holy Polycarp - the Church of Smyrna": "Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, "Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ;" Polycarp declared, "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?"And when the proconsul yet again pressed him, and said, "Swear by the fortune of Cæsar," he answered, "Since thou art vainly urgent that, as thou sayest, I should swear by the fortune of Cæsar, and pretendest not to know who and what I am, hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn what the doctrines of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and thou shalt hear them."
The remainder of document details Polycarp's voluntary journey to the stake.. Despite the efforts of his executioners to burn him, the fire encircled his body in the shape of a circle or a sail of a ship.
You can read the account in full at http://christianbookshelf.org/smyrna/the_martyrdom_of_the_holy_polycarp/index.html.
Now the reason I chose to begin today's blog with this scene is due to what we will be reading in Revelation 2:8-11:
1. Polycarp had been a direct pupil of the Apostle John, the author of the Book of Revelation
2. Polycarp was a bishop at the church of Smyrna, the church we will be looking at today
3. Polycarp's testimony is a prime example of courageous faith, something of which Jesus was urging the Smyrnan church to be in Revelation 2:8-11
4. Courageous faith is what Jesus desires for His church and believers today as we here in America face increasing pressure to conform to a mold and set of convictions that are anti-Christian, worldly and at odds with Biblical truth.
Smyrna - the beautiful city with an ugly reputation
As you study Jesus' letter to the church at Smyrna, you are reading the shortest epistle or letter to any church in the Bible. Out of all the seven churches addressed in Revelation, only Smyrna and Philadelphia were commended. As a city, Smyrna was among the most beautiful of all the cities of Asia minor. Located some 35 miles North of Ephesus, the first church addressed in Revelation 2:1-7, Smyrna had become a major stronghold for Roman culture and influence. It is the only city of the seven still in existence today, renamed Izmir in modern Turkey and being the third largest city of that country.
Concerning Smyrna's description in John's day, W.A Criswell writes these words in his commentary: "The streets were wide and straight and spacious. The most famous of the streets was called the golden street. It ran from the sea, where the great temple of Cybele (the goddess of nature) was built, straight through the entire length of the city to Mount Pagos, on the summit of which was the great temple Zeus."1 Dr. Criswell later writes: "In that ancient day the Romans looked upon Smyrna as being the queen and glory of all Asia."2 Despite the city being beautiful on the outside, the relentless persecution of Christians, among which Polycarp is most noted, gave Smyrna an ugly reputation.
Jesus wants a courageous church
It is in places such as Smyrna that Christ raises up His church to be salt and light. Dr. John Walvoord in his commentary writes: "The problem of human suffering raised in the message to the church at Smyrna has occupied the minds of men through the centuries. For those of the Christian faith it is not difficult to understand why the ungodly should suffer. The question remaining, however, is why the godly should suffer as in the case of the Smyrna church."3 It is in light of these questions that we aim to understand Jesus' exhortations and encouragements to this church.
As we have mentioned in times past, Jesus is addressing these seven churches to communicate among other things, what He wants His church in every place to be. Jesus' message to Ephesus had to do with Him wanting her to be a more loving church, since she had left her "first love." In the letter to the church of Smyrna, we will discover that Jesus Christ wants a courageous church. As we look at Revelation 2:8-11, we can note the following truths about the courageous faith Jesus desires among His saints and churches:
1. Courageous faith comes from Jesus Christ. Revelation 2:8
2. Courageous faith is strengthened in trials. Revelation 2:9-10a
3. Courageous faith feeds from the scriptures. Revelation 2:10b-11
1. W.A Criswell. Expository Sermons on Revelation. Zondervan. Volume 2. Page 20
2. W.A Criswell. Expository Sermons on Revelation. Zondervan. Volume 2. Page 20
3. John Walvoord. The Revelation of Jesus Christ - A Commentary. Moody Press. Chicago. Page 63