SMYRNA & POLYCARP
Suggested Reading: Revelation 2:8-11
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Key Verse: Revelation 2:10b-11
Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”
Each of these seven city churches is given a special promise conditional on living a life which “overcomes” the temptation to give in. In the case of the Syrmna church, the temptation was to give in to the threat of persecution by Rome and the opposition of “the synagogue of Satan.” Just as Saul of Tarsus persecuted his fellow Jews before his conversion to Jesus, so John, who was Jewish, and almost all the followers of Jesus who were also Jewish, were still persecuted by some of their fellow Jews. As Ephesus was the centre of the worship of the goddess Diana (Artemis), so Syrmna was the centre of the worship of the Roman Emperor. A great temple was there and there are records showing that a Smyrna synagogue had abandoned Judaism and compromised to the extent of burning incense to the Emperor. A certificate was given to all who burned incense to the Emperor, without which business could not be conducted, and without which a sentence of death could be pronounced on all who could not show such a document.
Just imagine the encouragement to hold steady given to the believers by the words of Jesus, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life.” They will only die once, but those who deny Jesus will die twice. “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”
PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Lord God, I pray for strength, courage, stamina, and boldness in my testimony for Jesus. I know that I don’t face death for my testimony, but there are those who are being killed, as I type this, for their faith in Jesus Christ and their refusal to deny Him. Strengthen them, I pray, in their resolve. And for me, I pray that I will be an overcomer in the struggle against more subtle temptations here in the free world to compromise with the world, the flesh, and the devil. In the Name of the complete Overcomer, Jesus Christ (Messiah). Amen!!!
100 PERSONAL WORDS:
I spent some time yesterday researching “Smyrna.” Apparently it was named after one of its ancient products, myrrh. Probably the believers in Jesus in that city knew this and may have meditated on the fact that myrrh was one of the gifts of the wise men to the Baby Jesus, and that Nicodemus, who came to Jesus as a secret believer, came into the open at Jesus’ burial with a mixture of myrrh and aloes to anoint Jesus’ Body (read John 19:38-42).
A hero of mine is the Pastor of Smyrna. His name was Polycarp. As a young man, perhaps 30, he may have been the one to read “Revelation” to the Syrmna church. History records this statement by Polycarp in the Roman arena just before his execution: “For 86 years I have served Christ. How can I now blaspheme my King Who saved me!” The Roman Pro-counsel had given Polycarp the choice to curse Christ and sacrifice to Ceasar, or die by fire. Polycarp should be a hero to all followers of Christ. He chose death. They were about to bind him to a stake, but he refused binding and voluntarily stood in the fire where he died. Polycarp preached to all in the vast stadium, “You threaten me with fire. You do not know the fire which awaits the wicked in judgment to come and in everlasting punishment.”
Yours, from one whose eyes are filled with tears so that I can hardly see the keys to type this,