8 ¶ And unto the Angel of the Church of the Smyrnians write, These things saith he that is first and 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, it shall come to pass, that 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 the death, and I will give thee the crown of life.
11 Let him that hath an ear hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
Through His message to the angel of the Church in Smyrna, Jesus warned these believers that they were about to suffer. This reminds me of Paul’s statement to the Philippians (1:29, KJV),
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ,
not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.
His message was that they were not to fear the ordeal – none of it. That Satan was at work against them, and that the ordeal would have strict limits. Praise Him forevermore for His goodness and kindness!
Geneva Bible footnote, verse 10: “That is, of ten years. For so commonly both in this book and in Daniel, years are signified by the name of days: that God thereby might declare, that the space of time is appointed by him, and the same very short. Now because Saint John wrote this book in the end of Domitian the Emperor his reign, as Justin and Ireneus do witness, it is altogether necessary that this should be referred unto that persecution which was done by the authority of the Emperor Trajan: who began to make havoc of the Christian Church in the tenth year of his reign, as the Historiographers do write: and his bloody persecution continued until Adrian the Emperor had succeeded in his place: the space of which time is precisely ten years, which are here mentioned.”
Halley’s Bible Handbook, Zondervan, 1965
“The Suffering Church. No word of fault, but only loving comfort. Smyrna, about 50 miles north of Ephesus, was a splendid city, of rare beauty, on a fine bay, rival of Ephesus, with the proud tradition that it had been the birthplace of Homer. Its bishop, at the time, was the beloved Polycarp. Irenaeus, who had talked with Polycarp, said that Polycarp was appointed bishop of Smyrna by John. The Church was composed of poor people, with nothing like the number or prestige that the Church in Ephesus had. They were ‘poor, but rich’ (2:9).” Pp. 702-703.
“Like many other cities of Asia Minor, Smyrna suffered frequently, especially during the years 178-80 AD, from earthquakes, but it always escaped entire destruction. During the Middle Ages the city was the scene of many struggles. . . Smyrna was the last of the Christian cities to hold out against the Mohammedans; in 1424 it fell into the hands of the Turks.”
More than interesting!
“Smyrna vied with Ephesus and Pergamum for the title ‘First City of Asia.’” ~ Wikipedia
Though it has passed through many bad times, Smyrna still stands today (Izmir, Turkey). Ephesus lies in ruins.
Smyrna was a center of Caesar worship, and a temple to Tiberius and his mother was built there. ~ Halley’s Bible Handbook, p. 696.
Also, Halley states that after Nero’s persecution, in which the Apostle Paul was martyred, there were 10 Imperial persecutions.
Domitian A.D. 95
Trajan A.D. 98-117
Hadrian A.D. 117-138
Antonius Pius A.D. 138-161
Marcus Aurelius A.D. 161-180
Septimius Severus A.D. 193-211
Maximin A.D. 235-238
Decius A.D. 249-251
Valerian A.D. 253-260
Diocletian A.D. 284-305
Halley records the following about the first of these,
Domitian (95 A.D.). Domitian instituted a persecution against Christians. It was short, but extremely violent. Many thousands were slain in Rome and Italy, among them Flavius Clemens, a cousin of the Emperor, and his wife, Flabia Domitilla, banished. The Apostle John was banished to Patmos. P. 761-762.
The name ‘Smyrna’ most likely comes from the word ‘myrrh’, one of its important exports. It was “the port of myrrh” (Donald Barnhouse, Revelation, p.44). Myrrh is a word that has holy and beautiful associations. Not only was it a gift to Jesus when He was a young child (Matthew 2:11), but it was offered to Him mixed in wine when He was on the Cross (Mark 15:23) and He was buried in this way (John 19):
38 And after these things, Joseph of Arimathea (who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews) besought Pilate that he might take down the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave him license. He came then and took Jesus’ body.
39 And there came also Nicodemus (which first came to Jesus by night) and brought of myrrh and aloes mingled together about an hundred pounds.
40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wrapped it in linen clothes with the odors, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
41 And in that place where Jesus was crucified, was a garden, and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid.
42 There then laid they Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation day, for the sepulcher was near.
Ignatius of Antioch visited Smyrna and later wrote to Polycarp. Both men died a martyr’s death.