(Eccl. 1:9) “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
The first traces of a settlement at what would become Smyrna were discovered in a mound that dates back 3,000 years. Obviously Smyrna was settled long before the flood by a group of people who had wandered away from the valley of the “Great House of the God of Eden” (Part 5) and that mound is now named Tepekule.
After the flood and the scattering of the people from Nimrod’s tower various tribes came and went through the region. Sometimes one would stop and settle at what would be named Smyrna because of the beautiful, natural harbor where a river ran into an arm of the Aegean Sea, now called the Gulf of Izmir, that protruded inland into a land that would be named Lydia in the far future. Artifacts have shown that several unnamed settlements were established there and abandoned at different times by these early post-flood “unknowns”.
As time passed various known peoples gained in numbers, wealth, technology and military power and they formed their version of civilizations. They too came to what would become known as the fertile, Hermus River valley where Smyrna would one day be located where the river ran into the sea.
First it was the Luvian scouts who explored upriver and recognized the Hermus River was a natural trade route east into the interior and whatever people they expected to find there. They explored the mountains and found low passes that promised trade routes north and south to an even greater area of the interior.
They went back with glowing stories and greed in their eyes and hearts. The Luvian scouts were sent back with warriors to found a settlement and eventually all the Luvians moved there and started their rise to power. That settlement, built upon the remains of those even earlier settlements, was located at a place that would one day be named Smyrna.
Traders came to trade and went back to their own kingdoms and civilizations with glowing stories of the abundant fishing in the great sea, the rich land for farming and herding and the nations inland who were willing to trade. The Anatolians in the east saw no use for the Luvian middle men who had opened their door to trade with a far greater outside world than they had imagined.
They manufactured spears, bows and arrows; they burnished their shields and sharpened their swords; they prayed, danced and worshipped their idols with a frenzy of abandon and, like he always does with idol worshippers, Satan danced with them as they unknowingly worshipped him!
After the Anatolians attacked and were finished with their takeover the Luvian survivors fled for their lives in their few unburned boats. They wailed and moaned to the empty sky for their loved ones, their homes and wealth but they cried and shrieked even louder because their gods had deserted them in the time of their greatest need. Like he always does, Satan danced exuberantly in victory with the Anatolians and also fled with the Luvians and fed greedily on their tears, sorrow, grief and agony.
Please understand that below is a very brief glimpse into the window of ancient eastern nations (Asia) that covers more than a thousand years. As one nation would rise to dominance other nations were also in various stages of rising to whatever position of prominence their abilities would take them.
A dominant nation would go into a decline and another would eventually defeat it and come to “world” dominance and the cycle would begin again. Except for Israel the “defeated” nations would not simply disappear. They would become subject to whatever stronger nation had conquered them.
As evidenced by scripture Israel, under King David’s leadership, had risen to dominance as a regional power in its part of the world. David was king from 1,000 BC to 961 BC. David united Israel, relocated Israel’s capital from Hebron to Jerusalem and extended Israel’s imperial border from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arabian Desert and from the Red Sea to the Euphrates River.
David’s son Solomon ruled Israel from 961 to 922 BC. Israel could not be defeated as long as they were loyal to God and followed His laws. After Solomon’s rein sin became rampant and the Nation of Israel was gradually whittled away. Satan was delighted that he was deceiving and destroying God’s chosen people. BUT:
God’s Secret Plan
God knew all this would happen and He was initiating His far-reaching plan that would blindside Satan and eventually bring in His new spiritual Grace covenant. (Deut. 28:63-64) As parts of the Jewish population were carried off into captivity by their conquerors because of Israel’s sin God was carefully selecting various groups of those Jews to establish Jewish settlements in various nations around the Mediterranean Sea, in Asia and Southern Europe. They would build synagogues, cling to their Jewish Law and wait for deliverance by their coming Messiah.
With those “pockets of Jews” God laid the groundwork for His new spiritual grace covenant because when traveling evangelists such as Paul, Timothy, Barnabas and etc. came to their towns they invariably went to those Jewish synagogues to show the Jews how their own prophets, judges and etc. in their own scriptures pointed to Jesus as their long awaited Messiah and that His deliverance was in the form of a spiritual grace covenant. Some of the Jews would accept the offered spiritual deliverance but most would reject it. Those who accepted it formed the nucleus of churches in which the Gentiles could be evangelized. Smyrna is one example of God’s plan.
Ancient History of Smyrna Continued
Man’s existence was and is an awful saga of war because of greed, racism, religion and politics all based on pride that started with Cain and Able and will go on, and on, and on (Rev. 20:7 thru 21:4) until time shall be no more. The Lydians came and conquered what would much later be named Smyrna, then the Ionians, then the dreaded Hittites. Then the Assyrians conquered the Hittites.
By that time (1Chron. 5:25-26, 2Ki. 17:3-8 & 18:9-12) the Israelites had divided into 2 nations. It took 20 years but the Assyrians overran the northern kingdom of Israel and those 10 tribes disappeared into the gaping maw of other civilizations. They would further God’s plan of planting churches as evidenced by Jewish settlements in what would become the Baltic States and etc.
(2Ki. 18:1 thru 19:37 esp. V.10-37) (V.14) The Assyrians came against the southern kingdom of Judah but Hezekiah showed God the letter Sennacherib the Assyrian king had written in which (V.10) he had called God a liar. God was not surprised because He knows all things from beginning to end.
(V.20) God sent Isaiah to tell Hezekiah the Assyrian army was finished (V.32-37) and they were. (Dan. 4:1) Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonians came to power and the Assyrians were defeated. Nebuchadnezzar was the one who wanted to rebuild Nimrod’s tower and he wrote about it on a stone cylinder (Dan. 4:5-37) but the Lord God Almighty, the God of Eden, had other plans.
Somewhere along this time the Persians were rising to power. Nebuchadnezzar turned his kingdom over to his son, Belshazzar. (Dan. 5:1-31 esp. V.2-5) Belshazzar made the golden and silver vessels his father had stolen from God’s house (the temple, synagogue) in Jerusalem into idols and that night God showed him the hand writing on the wall.
(Dan. 5:28-31) The Medes and the Persians had allied together and that same night they defeated Belshazzar and the Babylonians. (Dan. 4:34-37) Did God accept Nebuchadnezzar’s praise? Of course not! He was a thief and a liar. He had stolen from God’s house and he was a liar because he kept the booty for his son and by his example he handed his sin down to his son.
The Persians had also conquered nations all the way to the Euphrates River and among them was one that would be named Turkey in the far future. Like all the other nations before and after them the Persians thought Smyrna was a jewel in the crown of their conquest because of its natural harbor that provided easy access into and out of the interior of Asia.
As the Persians rose to world dominance the tribes in what would be called Greece were forming themselves into Greek city-states such as Macedonia, Athens, Sparta, Thebes and etc. As he always does, Satan gloated in the shocked, graying, dying faces of the victims of the wars he helped promote by inflaming man’s emotions.
The Influence of Ancient Greece
During this era of the Greek rise to power there was an explosion of learning and knowledge among the Greek city-states from about 600 BC to about 143 BC. There were gigantic leaps in politics, democracy, civics, architecture, sculpture, science, medicine, astronomy, philosophy, art, music, theater, sports and literature that heavily influenced the world around the Mediterranean Sea, Southern Europe, the Near East, Northern Africa and eventually they would influence the whole world.
That period was actually the beginning of what is known as the Age of Reason. God’s plan for a church age would use democracy as a vehicle for religious freedom.
Of course, there were wars as the tribes and city-states in Greece sought dominance over one another. Philip the 2nd became the king of Macedon in 359 BC. Three years later in 356 BC Philip’s son Alexander was born. Through wars Philip succeeded in uniting the southern Greek city-states.
Alexander was exceptionally intelligent, courageous, a natural leader and he became a fighting general in his father’s army when he was 16 years old. The city-state of Athens wanted to be a world power and attacked Asia. They burned the Persian’s Asiatic crown jewel of Smyrna to the ground.
Persia invaded the city-states for revenge and that ignited wars between Persia and what would become Greece. Persia was unable to subdue the Greeks and retreated back to Asia. The sea battles of Mycole and Salamis and the land battles of Marathon, Plataea and Thermopylae, epitomized in movies about the 300 Spartans, are a few examples of how the Greeks defeated the Persians in Greece.
(Dan. 7:5 keywords: it raised up itself on one side) Darius the Median was the uncle of Cyrus the Persian and even though the Persians were the stronger military force of their alliance (Dan. 6:9-28) Cyrus respected his uncle Darius and gave Darius the authority to rule Babylon. The Persians probably did not know who King Philip the 2nd of Macedon was and they surely did not care if he had given birth to a squalling brat named Alexander. (Dan. 7:6 keyword: leopard) The Almighty God of all glory can express more with one word than man can express in a whole book. Leopard!
Perhaps the Persians would have paid more attention if they had known Alexander, the leopard, had been born! Alexander’s father was assassinated, 20-year-old Alexander took his father’s throne of Macedon, united all of Greece through a series of Peloponnesian wars, became the king of united Greece and started his world conquest.
The Hellespont is the ancient name for the narrow, 65 kilometer (about 40 & 1/3 miles) water passage between the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara which in turn connects to the Black Sea. It was named after a girl, Helle, who had fallen into the sea. The Hellespont, now known as the Dardanelles, has always been regarded as the boundary between Asia to the southeast and Europe to the northwest. In 334 BC Alexander the Great, 22 years old, looking across the Hellespont, stood proudly on the prow of the lead ship of his 120 vessel flotilla. He vowed to conquer the whole known world and return to Greece as the ruler of the world. He would have been shocked speechless had he known his eyes would never behold the fair land of Greece again.
Alexander had conquered Thessaly and Thrace in southern Europe (Dan. 7:6 & 10:20 keyword: Grecia) then in 334 BC the leopard came across the Hellespont to conquer the Persians. Alexander had perfected the phalanx, an unparalleled military battle formation that could not be beaten. The enemy formations were faced with compact Greek formations in which the front line of Greek soldiers locked shields and jabbed with short spears while the rear ranks behind them jabbed with 18 foot spears extended between the ranks of the front line. If necessary, those rear ranks could lock their shields overhead to prevent arrows from being rained down upon the formation.
Like a leopard is compact and muscular the rear ranks pushed the front rank forward in a step by step measured cadence that gave great muscular weight to their push forward and it broke the ranks of the enemy formations. When the front rank grew tired, they, on command, would fade back and form a rank back in the phalanx and a new, fresh front rank faced the enemy. Alexander’s tactics were like those of a leopard. He always fought his enemy on ground that was advantageous to him. The leopard is the smallest of the great cats. Alexander’s small army of 30,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry defeated the hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the Persian army.
Like the leopard hunts from ambush Alexander’s Greeks always appeared when and where they were least expected. Like the leopard they were exceedingly fast and could cover great distances because of their endurance and discipline. The Greeks smashed the Persian Empire. (Dan. 10:13 & 20 also Hitler’s Germany in the 20th century). Satan has always wanted an idol worshipping satanic nation to rule the world. (Rev. 17:8-14 & 20:6-8) He will also finally obtain it (Rev. 20:9-15) but it will not do him any good because it will not last.
Alexander conquered all the Near Eastern nations on his march south to conquer Egypt. Josephus records that Jerusalem opened its gates to him and a priest showed him the prophesy of Daniel that concerned him. Alexander was pleased and spared Jerusalem then he went on to conquer Egypt, the nations in Mesopotamia, the Persian Empire and Middle Eastern nations all the way east to the Ganges River in India and on to what is now called Bangladesh.
Alexander was a builder and in many of the countries he conquered he built cities that he named Alexandria after himself such as Alexandria, Egypt. One Alexandria is of special interest in that it was renamed Kandahar and is located in present day Afghanistan.
When Alexander had first invaded Asia the seaport at Smyrna had proved extremely valuable to Alexander and he designed the great temple to the goddess Diana, left craftsmen to build it and moved on into Asia to conquer the Persians. In 323 BC Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar the 2nd in Babylon when he was 33 years old. According to different accounts he died of assassination by poison, swamp fever, dissipation, or venereal disease. (Dan. 7:6 keywords: four wings and four heads) His 2 million sq. mile empire was divided among his 4 generals and lasted almost 200 years until Rome conquered Greece.
Smyrna flourished under Greek rule and became a truly Hellenized city that grew rich from trade. The Jews had built a synagogue in Smyrna sometime in the past and the Jewish community also flourished under Greek rule. Another part of God’s plan to evangelize the world was in place. The Greek Hellenistic culture and language had plenty of time to influence every nation under Greek rule. (Luke 23:38 keywords: Greek and Latin and Hebrew) Greek was a commonly spoken international language and God had one of the language vehicles with which He would spread the Gospel of Jesus and His Holy Word.
Rome devised a formation where a Roman legion was only 3 ranks deep but was highly mobile and could wrap around the Greek phalanx, fix it in place and destroy it from the flanks. When Rome finally conquered the Greek empire around 123 BC they were so impressed with the Greek culture they adopted many Hellenistic customs, laws, sciences, art and etc.
Rome also recognized the value of the seaport at Smyrna and continued to expand that city. The Roman General Pompey conquered Judah in 63 BC. It would be 63 years until the birth of the Son of God. The Roman Empire had been growing in power and expanding its influence for about 150 years before they had finally engaged and defeated mighty Greece.
If you add it up; 150 + 63 + 33 years until Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection = 249 years of the Latin speaking, ever growing Roman influence in southern Europe, Asia and northern Africa. (Luke 23:38) Latin was another commonly spoken international language and God had a second language vehicle with which to spread the Gospel of Jesus and His holy word. Many root words and phrases that entered other languages such as English came from the Greek and Latin languages. (Deut. 28:63-64) Jewish synagogues were in major cities all over southern Europe, Asia and northern Africa. God’s great plan for the salvation of man was right on track!
THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA: THE PAST
NOTE: Excellent maps of the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys are available on the Gracepoint Devotions website. Type in, Paul’s missionary journeys, on the internet; when the screen comes up click on the 2nd map from the left and it will take you to Gracepoint Devotions. END OF NOTE.
(1Cor. 3:6 keyword: planted) Paul planted the church at Ephesus on his 2nd missionary journey. Paul’s 3rd missionary journey from Antioch in Syria took more than 4 years because he spent more than 2 years at Ephesus. During that 2 plus years he made local, mini-missionary journeys to some existing churches and planted several other churches in Asia.
These included those listed in (Rev.2:1 thru 3:22). According to most sources the Apostle Paul planted the church at Smyrna on his 3rd missionary journey. That appears plausible because the Roman royal road on which he journeyed from Ephesus to Troas passed through Smyrna. After that trip he returned to Jerusalem. His 4th trip was to Rome where he was martyred.
It had been about 255 years from the beginning of the rise of the Roman Empire to when, in about 53 CE, the Apostle Paul, Gaius and Aristarchus, his companions in travel, came to the top of a low pass on the Roman royal road which came north from Ephesus. The road then went downhill into Smyrna in the Hermes River valley; it had been a long 35 miles.
Paul stopped to take in the breathtaking view of the magnificent harbor. Paul had heard the population of Smyrna was around 100,000 people but he had not realized how the town would sprawl so large. As he drew closer he could see the Greeks had laid the town out in neat, wide boulevards that bisected each other on 90 degree angles and formed city blocks in which sat the buildings.
Even at this distance Paul could see the white marble buildings glowing in the sun. Gaius spoke; “It is said Alexander loved white marble.” They entered Smyrna proper and started walking on the edge of the wide boulevard that led downtown toward where the Jewish synagogue was reputed to be.
Now Paul could understand why Smyrna was called the crown city of Asia because above Smyrna the acropolis (fortress) on Mount Pagos was encircled with flowers, then a hedge and then with myrtle trees. Paul spoke; “It does look like a crown on the city.” The Greek architecture was obvious in the noble buildings that housed many businesses and homes and Paul spoke again; “Yes, Smyrna is a great commercial city”.
Paul’s eyes narrowed in distaste when he looked at the heathen temples; “My Lord and my God! Look at them! They are everywhere! Over there is the temple of Zeus and far up on that rise is the temple of Cybele (Diana).” As Paul walked through the town he saw the theater and odeum (the music center), the arena, and the stadium. Paul did not know that 100 years after Paul’s first visit Polycarp, one of the Apostle John’s most famous students and the bishop of the church at Smyrna, would be burned alive in that stadium in 155 CE because he refused to swear loyalty to the Roman Emperor and burn a pinch of salt on the altar of Dea Roma the goddess of Rome.
Had Paul known the burning of Polycarp would happen on Saturday, February 23, 155 CE and that many of the Jews in the same synagogue he was going to visit would violate their own Jewish Sabbath to carry wood to add to the fire (Rev. 2:9) he would have surely called it a synagogue of Satan.
They had passed the temples of Apollo, Aphrodite, Aesculapus, Poseidon, Demeter, Dea Roma and a host of lesser gods and goddesses and Paul commented; “In 195 BC the citizens here saw the rising power of Rome and built the temple of Dea Roma and started worshipping Rome. Rome was so impressed that about 30 years ago in 23 CE Rome gave them the honor of building a temple to the Emperor Tiberius.”
As Paul walked, he taught; “Smyrna was named after the ancient Greek word myrrh which is an excellent antiseptic for those who can afford it. Myrrh is worth its weight in gold because its so rare; find a Commiphora myrrha tree, slash the bark, catch the sap, dry it and myrrh is the result. (Mark 15:23) Myrrh is a narcotic that brings on mild euphoria.”
“Mark told me and wrote in his book the Romans offered Jesus myrrh mixed with wine when they crucified him but Jesus would not take it. (John 19:38-42) John himself told me Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus wrapped Jesus’ body in a mixture of myrrh and aloes to start the mummification process because they did not believe Jesus would have the power to resurrect Himself.”
“Nicodemus and Joseph must have spent all they had to bring a hundredweight of myrrh and aloes in which to wrap Jesus.” (John 19:38) Tears started in Paul’s eyes when he thought of those 2 brave men who had faced the murderer Pilate to beg the body of Jesus so they could perfume it with myrrh and aloes for burial. Paul’s tears poured harder but they were tears of joy. “Death could not vanquish Jesus. Jesus conquered death and came back. They all told me about it after I met Jesus on the road to Damascus!” See (Part 26) under the subtitle Jesus Resurrection And The 40 Days.
Paul finally found the synagogue and the rest is history. (Book of Acts) It was a tried and true formula. Go to the Jewish temple, dispute the law and prophets with the Jews, a few Jews are convinced the true purpose of Israel was to provide a prepared people from which Messiah had come, the believers would separate themselves, other Jews and Gentiles would be evangelized and a church would be formed.
THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA IN REVELATION
(Rev. 2:8) “And unto the angel (messenger) of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and last, which was dead, and is alive;“
Jesus was assuring the church He was right there with them, He had defeated death (Acts 7:54-60) and He would be right there with them on an individual basis when the black cowled, bony face of death reached his skeletal fingers for them just like He was for Stephen. (1Cor. 15:55-58) “Oh death, where is thy sting?” (Heb. 2:9-11) If you don’t believe Jesus tasted death for every man who is sanctified whom Jesus calls His brethren see (Part 26) paragraphs 10-15 from the top.
Why would Jesus let His brethren taste the awfulness of death when He has the power to prevent it? Would you? See this writer’s own witnessed, scriptural experience in the 2-article series I Have Experienced Christian Physical Death listed in the menu of the commentary The Holy Spirit & You.
Definitions: Works– toil as an effort or occupation. Tribulation– pressure, anguish, trouble, burden, persecution. Poverty– to be a beggar, indigent, become poor.
(Rev. 2:9) “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy (vilification against God) of them which say they are Jews (Judah, the Jewish faith), and are not, but are the synagogue (assembly) of Satan.“
This church had been planted about 53 CE (Rev. 1:11 keyword: seest) and John was seeing his vision in about 95 CE; 95-53 = 42; For 42 years these Christians had done the works to build God’s kingdom just like God expects of all Christians. Obviously they were powerful witnesses for Jesus and they were hated because of it. Smyrna was a religious city, everybody had a God of some kind but nobody wants to hear they are worshipping the wrong God or that they are worshipping the Lord God Almighty the wrong way!
THE 2 TYPES OF THE SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN
(Matt. 12:30, Mark 9:40 & Luke 9:50) In essence Jesus said you are either with me or against me. (Rev. 12:9) The devil and Satan are the same being. (1Pet. 1:1-5) Written to the church; (1Pet. 5:8) “Be sober, be vigilant; your adversary (arch-enemy) the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Man’s pride, ignorance and stubbornness coupled with Satan’s deception, lies and influence is the origin of the synagogue of Satan. SO: The people who persecute and attack Jesus’ church are working with and for Satan the arch-enemy of Jesus and his church.
(Matt. 23: 1-15 esp. V.15 & John 8:25-44 esp. V.44) (V.15) Jesus said the scribes and Pharisees were the children of hell and (V.44) the Jews who would not accept him as Messiah, the Deliverer of Israel, were children of the devil.
It is obvious the orthodox Jewish hierarchy (scribes, Pharisees and etc.) in Smyrna was stirring up the Jewish population to pressure the Roman government to destroy this church the same way they used the Romans to murder Jesus (Part 25). (Rev. 1:9) That is why Jesus said the Jews were the synagogue of Satan. Satan danced, strutted and bragged that he had used the Jew’s own pride, stubbornness and their ignorance of their own prophesies and the Law of Moses to blind them.
NOTE: The 2 types of the synagogue of Satan are given below. They are the same in Jesus’ eyes because they both seek to destroy Jesus’ bride, the church.
1st (Rev. 2:9 about Smyrna) “and I know the blasphemy (vilify, evil speaking of, railing on, revile, defame) of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
2nd (Rev. 3:9 about Philadelphia) “them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie:”
1st) The Smyrna synagogue of Satan committed blasphemy when they persecuted the church because they were blaspheming the Holy Spirit who directed the church. (Matt. 12:23-32 esp. V.24 keyword: Pharisees) Genuine Jews can commit blasphemy. (1Tim. 1:12-16 esp. V.13 keywords: blasphemer, ignorantly) Paul was a genuine Jew, in his ignorance he was a blasphemer when he persecuted the church but obtained mercy when Jesus saved him. So, blasphemy can be forgiven when someone accepts salvation. Genuine Jews (Jacob’s bloodline), a synagogue of Satan, persecuted the church at Smyrna.
2nd) The Philadelphia synagogue of Satan persecuted the church in the same way but blasphemy is not mentioned. That is one difference. They said they were Jews “and are not, but do lie“. That is the second difference. They were pretender Jews. (John 4:12-24) There are those who claim to be Jews and are not. This 2nd type of synagogue of Satan will be addressed in detail in Part 35 section 2, in the Philadelphia articles.
The apostle Paul was well acquainted with the Jewish synagogue of Satan. His final agony with that synagogue of Satan and their blasphemy, lies and persecution goes from (Acts 20:29 to 28:31) so all that scripture will not be written here. Pieces of pertinent scripture will be provided with brief comments to help you follow his story in your Bible. When the below given part of Paul’s life started he was already a hunted man.
#1) (Acts 20:1-15 esp. V.3 keyword: Jews) Paul was on the run from the synagogue of Satan as they tried to ambush him while he was on the way to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost.
#2) (Acts 20:16-36 esp. V.29-30) The Holy Spirit had obviously warned Paul the end of his life was near because he bade farewell to the Ephesian Christians. He warned the overseers of the flock (Ephesian congregation) to take care of the flock because unholy men would try to destroy their flock and he prayed with them. It broke the Ephesians’ hearts because Paul was the founder of their church and they loved him so they accompanied him to his ship.
#3) (Acts 21:1-12 esp. V.4 & 11) While on the way from Patara to Caesara Paul was warned twice by men who said the Holy Spirit said for him to not go to Jerusalem or he would be bound there.
#4) (Acts 21:13-26) Paul said he was ready to die for Jesus at Jerusalem. The others said; “The will of the Lord be done.” And they went on to Jerusalem where the brethren (Jewish Christians) received them gladly and he was questioned about taking the gospel to the Gentiles but these same brethren were having trouble separating Christianity from Judaism. (V.24) They told Paul to keep the law (Moses’ Law) and go to the Jewish temple. Then the trouble started!
#5) (Acts 21: 27-40 esp. V.28) The Jews who had followed him from Asia were in the temple crying (scream, shriek, exclaim) out for help, they said Paul taught against the Jews, the law, the temple and that Paul had brought Gentiles into the temple which polluted (defiled) it. The Jews dragged Paul out of the temple and started beating him to death but the Roman soldiers rescued Paul. They carried him up the stairs to their castle (barracks), Paul asked them to stop at the top of the stairs and let him make his defense to the Jews.
#6) (Acts 22:1-21) The Jews let Paul finish his history as a Jew, how he had persecuted the church, voted to kill Stephen by stoning, how he met Jesus and it was Jesus who sent him to the Gentiles.
#7) (Acts 22:22-30) Obviously the Jews had become more and more enraged as he talked, they tore their clothes off, threw dust into the air and screamed until the chief captain of the Roman soldiers took Paul into the barracks to scourge him into making a confession. Paul defeated that idea by informing them he was a Roman citizen and it broke Roman law to scourge him without a trial so the captain arranged For Paul to be examined by the Jewish chief priests and their council the next day.
#8) (Acts 23:1-10) Paul made his defense and told them he was a Pharisee. The Pharisees and Sadducees started fighting over who would have Paul and the Roman soldiers had to rescue Paul from the violence before they tore him to pieces.
#9) (Acts 23:11 thru 24:9) Jesus paid Paul a personal visit and told Paul he would witness for him in Rome. A group of more than 40 Jews hatched a plot to murder Paul and swore an oath they would lay in wait and slay Paul the next day. Their plot was discovered, the chief captain gathered a force of 400 soldiers and 70 cavalrymen to sneak Paul out of Jerusalem in the night and take him to stand trial the first time before Felix, the Roman governor.
The high priest and the elders followed Paul to Caesarea and at his trial they accused Paul of inciting sedition (uprising, insurrection) among the Jews against Rome and profaning (desecrating) the Jewish temple. All the Jews present said the high priest told the truth.
#10) (Acts 24:10-21) Paul made a lengthy defense in which he called the high priest a liar.
#11) (Acts 24:22 thru 26:32) Felix commanded a centurion to house Paul, to keep Paul’s acquaintances away from him and Felix and his wife communed with Paul many times concerning his faith in Jesus. Two years later Felix was replaced as governor by Festus, the Jews tried to persuade Festus to send Paul to Jerusalem so they could ambush his guard and kill Paul but Festus refused.
The high priest and the Jews came to Caesara and forced Festus to conduct a second trial against Paul. The Jews made many grievous complaints against Paul which they could not prove. To curry favor with the Jews Felix threatened to send Paul to Jerusalem to stand trial before the Jews. Paul claimed his right as a Roman citizen to stand trial at Caesar’s judgment seat. Then Paul was brought before Roman appointed king Agrippa to explain why he had appealed to Caesar. Paul’s explanation contained a powerful testimony and just like governor Felix king Agrippa was almost persuaded to become a Christian.
#12) (Acts 27:1 thru 28:31) King Agrippa sent Paul on a ship with some other prisoners to Rome, Italy to face the judgment seat of Caesar Augustus. It was an adventurous trip.
In Rome under Caesar Augustus Paul had the freedom to preach and teach Christ to the Jews, some believed and the rest did not believe. All the Jews did was argue among themselves. Paul rented his own house and for 2 years Paul was free to plant a church among the Gentiles in Rome just like Jesus had promised.
Then Nero became Caesar and ancient Christian writers record that Nero beheaded Paul in either 64 or 65 CE. The synagogue of Satan had driven Paul to Rome where he was beheaded but through Jesus Paul had won an eternal victory. (Rev. 2:9-10 keyword: suffer) By this example you can understand the identity of the synagogue of Satan that persecuted the church at Smyrna and made them suffer. SO:
BACK TO SMYRNA
Jesus prophesied to the church at Smyrna; (Rev. 2:10) “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful until death, and I will give you a crown of life.“ Jesus said do not be afraid of the things you will suffer. What can man do to Christians that Jesus cannot fix? (Acts 6:6 thru 7:60) Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit, he preached a mighty message, his tormentors bit and battered him but Stephen steadfastly looked up into heaven.
Jesus had opened heaven, Stephen saw the glory of God and Jesus was standing on the right hand of God. (Matt. 28:18) The right hand is the position of power. (John 11:26) Jesus was ready to come and get Stephen because He had made a promise; “whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (Heb. 2:9) Jesus had already tasted death for Stephen.
(John 20:24) I believe Jesus’ arm was held out showing the palm of His hand; “Here is the nail print, (Heb. 2:11) it is the sign of our covenant My brother (1Cor 15:55-58) death has no sting for you because I have taken your sin away!” Stephen knew what awful punishment lay in store for his tormentors, his great heart of love broke for them and he asked Jesus to give them mercy.
(1Cor. 16:13, Eph. 6:10-18, 2Thess. 2:15 & 1Pet. 5:12 keyword in all: stand) These early Christians, (Rev. 2:10) the people in the Church at Smyrna, had made their stand for Jesus. They were successful, their love for Jesus gave them the attitude; “Jesus died for us; if it is required, can we do any less than die for him?
Lost people were saved and the church suffered the anguish and burden of pressure, trouble and persecution because of their witness, works and testimony. Jesus warned them the tribulation (suffer, prison, death) would continue but an eternal crown of life will be their reward. Their jobs were gone, their children were hounded at school, they lost their homes, they lived in poverty but the church still stood.
Jesus said; (Rev. 2:10) “behold (see, know), the devil will cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried (tested, proved, enticed);” The Jews (synagogue of Satan) could not physically put the Christians into prison but the Romans (the devil) could. Jesus’ message is when a theocratic regime which excludes Jesus as Saviour or when a religion and a government conspire together to persecute Christians by causing them tribulation the devil, Satan, is the leader of it.
Jesus’ warning that their tribulation would continue was in a subtle prophesy; “ye shall have tribulation 10 days (commonly accepted as ten periods of time)”. In 10 days the whole church could have been wiped out if Rome had so desired but it did not happen and 10 days in prison is not very long. We do not know how the church reacted after they got the letter from John and 10 days went by and the persecution continued. God views events and times different than man. (Isa. 55:8-9) His thoughts and His ways are far higher than ours (John 16:13) but God surely revealed to them the true meaning of “ye shall have tribulation ten days”.
The Church at Smyrna had lived under persecution from #1) Nero, 64-68, who had beheaded Paul about 14 years after Paul had planted the church in Smyrna in about 53 CE. They were living under persecution in 95-96 by #2) Domitian who had banished John to Patmos, (2 days). They would have to live 311-96 = 215 more years, until 311 CE, under 8 more periods of persecution by 8 more Roman Emperors; #3) Trajan, #4) Marcus Aurelius, #5) Severus, #6) Maximinius #7) Decius #8) Valerian, #9) Aurelian and #10) Diocletian (8 more days).
Please read about the Edict of Milan on the internet. The Edict of Milan which was an Edict of Toleration from the Roman Emperor Galerius in 311 but the persecution of Christians would rise up again and again until Rome finally adopted Christianity as the state religion, according to most sources, 70 years later.
The Roman Empire of Italy collapsed in 476 CE. From its beginning the Roman empire had lasted about 700 years but the church at Smyrna still stood. (1922-476= 1,446) The church in Smyrna retained its ecclesiastical autonomy another 1,446 years until 1922 just after the Turkish Muslims received control of Smyrna as a result of WW1 and renamed the city Izmir. The church of Smyrna at Izmir was eventually forced to go underground by the Muslims but it still stands today, 4-21-15. But if Christians are found they are killed.
Though underground, the candle of the church of Smyrna is still glowing with the beautiful incandescence of the Holy Spirit of Jesus the resurrected Son of the Lord God Almighty. Though surrounded by enemies who worship a book written by a dead prophet and spread their religion by the sword and oppression instead of by free choice of the heart, the church of Smyrna at Izmir still stands. If you wish to help the church of Smyrna obtain Bibles you can obtain information by contacting The Voice of the Martyrs at 1-918-337-8015 or firstname.lastname@example.org or www.persecution.com.
Smyrna (Rev. 2:10) needs (2Cor. 6:2 & Heb. 2:18) a succoring (aid, relieve, help) Spirit.
THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA: THE FUTURE
It is obvious the Church at Smyrna was and is a “But if not,” church.
(Dan. 1:1-21) (V.1-7) Led by king Jehoiakim, Judah had sinned and the Babylonians, led by king Nebuchadnezzar, was the judgment God visited upon them. Nebuchadnezzar decided to select the brightest and healthiest of the Israelite captives brought back to the land of Shinar and teach them the learning and language of the Chaldeans so they could serve him in his palace. He ordered them fed with the food and wine from his own table. Among them were 4 children of Judah named Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The devil likes to call God’s people other names and the Babylonians/Chaldean named them Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
(V.8-15) The 4 children of Judah refused to compromise the Jewish dietary laws given them by God, (V.12) they were tested (V.15) and they passed the test because they obeyed God. God rewarded them with the ability to learn all that was demanded of them. (V.19-20 keyword: all) They were tested again (V.4 & 20) in the “arts” Nebuchadnezzar had demanded they learn and they proved to be 10 times better than all the magicians, astrologers and all the other children of Judah who had compromised.
Their refusal to compromise brought God’s preparation which won them the victory. THOSE 4 HAD REFUSED TO BOW DOWN TO THE POLITICAL CORRECTNESS OF THEIR DAY!
Satan had divided the Jews. He was delighted he had deceived most of the captive Jews into compromising their belief but he hated Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah and he started making plans how he would force them to compromise or he would have them killed.
(Dan. 2:1-49) King Nebuchadnezzar had a terrible dream that could not be revealed (V.10) by any magician, astrologer or Chaldean. The children of Judah who had compromised and their Chaldean cohorts failed their test. (V.13-14) Daniel was informed they would all be killed. (V.15-16) 1) Daniel identified the problem. 2) (V. 17-18) Daniel gathered his prayer team consisting of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. They worshipped God and prayed for deliverance. Their Chaldean names did not change who they were, God still knew them 3) (V.19) and God revealed the secret to Daniel (Belteshazzar) in a vision.
4) (V.20-23) They worshipped and glorified God. Worship is a product of the will and is recognition of the sovereignty, kindness, sacrifice, love, mercy and grace of God. Glorify is also a product of the will and is to tell how glorious God is and to esteem, honor, praise and to magnify God. Magnify does not mean to try the impossible task of making God bigger than He is, it means to look at God closely and compare Him to you. 5) (V.24-27) Daniel faced the problem. 6) (V.28-30) Daniel witnessed to the king about the power and kindness of God. 7) (V.31-45) Then he told the king the great God had made known the dream and He gave its interpretation.
They had included God in their 7 step method of solution which won the victory. God’s number of perfection is 7. Just like billions of people in the world today (V.46-47) King Nebuchadnezzar worshipped God the wrong way and paid lip service to God (John 3:3-8) without any personal conversion that would bring him into a relationship with God. (V.48-49) God had delivered the 4 Hebrews from death and then they received the reward. Satan was furious and started searching how he could divide the 4 Hebrews.
But If Not
(Dan. 3:1-2) Like so many people of today Nebuchadnezzar was his own God, he worshipped his own wants and his image of himself. He had the power and wealth to build a golden image of himself. Just like people today would it have been any different had he built a mansion, or even a church, headed a business, or had attained some kind of stardom, a social standing or a political position to bring attention to himself because of his pride? (Dan. 3:3-7) Satan saw his opportunity when the king demanded all people to worship the statue! The scripture does not say how Satan separated Daniel from the other 3 but he did.
(Dan. 3:8-12) It was easy enough for Satan to influence some of his flunkeys to accuse Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah of refusing to bow down and worship the king’s golden image of himself. (Dan 2:49) The 3 Hebrews had helped run the affairs of Babylon (Dan. 3:13-30) and (V.13-15), even though he was furious, the king gave them the opportunity to refute what had been said against them and they could worship the image he had made of himself. (V.16) Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah did not bend, bow nor break, they made their stand.
(V.16-18) “we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thy hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
(V.19-30) You know the story. The king placed them in a furnace so hot it killed the men who threw them in; serving Satan brought death in the fire! (V.25) The Son of God (Jesus) showed up, (V.27) the fire, representing death and hell, had no power over them, (V.28-30 esp. V.28 keywords: yielded their bodies) “Our God can save our lives if He wants to but if not we’ll die before we renounce our God!”
(V.29) The king made a decree that any person who spoke amiss against the God of Hananiah, Michael and Azariah would be destroyed. (V.30) They won the victory and were promoted. Why? Why did God go to all the trouble with this little story in the lives of 3 Hebrews? (Rev. 13:14-15, 14:9-11, 15:2, 16:2, 19:20 & 20:4 keyword: image) It is a prophesy of the coming antichrist who will rule the world and it shows the proper Christian reaction to and attitude toward that government and its image. (Rev. 13:15-18 esp. V.15 keywords: should be killed) The 3 Hebrew’s victory and reward is a prophesy of our reward of eternal life in heaven if we stand for Jesus.
Is your church a “But if not,” church? Are you a “But if not,” Christian? (Rev. 2:11) “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” How much do you love Jesus?
“But if Not!” Will you defy political correctness? (Rom. 1:26-28 keyword: against nature) The Bible says homosexuality is an unnatural sexual activity, a sin (Lev. 18:22 & 24-29) and an abomination. Satan invented the word homophobia to be used as a weapon of shame to take away a person’s natural reaction of disgust toward an unnatural act to force society’s politically correct acceptance of homosexuality.
“But if not“! If political correctness demands that your church accept the homosexual lifestyle as a viable Christian lifestyle instead of being a sin would you back your preacher if he stood against it? Would you leave your church and go elsewhere if he accepted it?
“But if not”. (Rev. 13:17) Would you renounce Jesus to keep your medical benefits? Your social security? Your job? Your home? Your life, children’s lives, spouse’s life? Think it cannot happen? See the news. Life or death persecution is already happening in Africa and the Middle East nations and it is spreading. Will you stand as has the Church of Smyrna in Muslim controlled Izmir, Turkey?