Smyrna, which is derived from the word "myrrh" or sweet perfume, lies 40 miles north of Ephesus. The current city of Izmir, Turkey is on this site.
There were a great number of persecutions in Smyrna. History records at least 10 great persecutions from Nero (96 AD) to Diocletian (313 AD). These persecutions are reflected in this letter to this church's angel.
The city itself was said to be very beautiful with a population around 200,000. A single street, "Golden Street" ran east and west through the city. There were beautiful Greek temples along this street for Apollo, Asclepius, Aphrodite, Cybele and Zeus. Smyrna was selected from 11 other cities to build a temple to Tiberius (23 AD).
Under Domitian (81-96 AD), emperor worship was compulsory for every Roman citizen. Once a year a citizen had to burn incense on the alter to the bust of Caesar, after which he was issued a certificate. This was mostly a political ceremony (not religious) but when burning the incense, you had to say "Caesar is Lord". Most Christians refused to do this.
As a result of refusal, the Christians received heavy persecutions. An early Christian, PolyCarp, was burned alive at age 86 (156 AD) as the "12th martyr" of Smyrna. He is quoted as saying, "Eighty-six years have I served Christ, and He has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?"As if the Roman emperor worship requirements weren't enough, there was a large hostile faction in the Jewish community which also caused the Christian church much trouble.
Recalling that Smyrna is derived from "myrrh" or sweet fragrance, Paul uses that expression of fragrance in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16. We as Christians are a fragrance in this world (especially among the stench2:9 `I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of satan.
(a) your TRIBULATION and
(b) your POVERTY (but you are rich), and
Consider that even while Christ had/has all the riches of heaven, He took on the form of man (what a step down to poverty!) just for us - 2 Corinthians 8:9. That is why he could say in Matthew 10:37-39 that one finds life after they lose it for Christ's sake. You, too, can find your life.
(c) the BLASPHEMY by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN.
The SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN shows for the first time in Revelation who the real perpertrator of persecution is. There is an equivalence shown here:
False prophets = ministers of Satan2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil will cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful unto Death, and I will give you a crown of life.
False Jews = synagogue of Satan.
Do not fear what you are about to suffer.
Behold, the devil will cast some of you into PRISON,that you may be tested,and
you will have tribulation ten days.
It is not clear what is the signifigance of the ten days. It may be equated to the 10 periods of tribulation or 10 years of trials under Diocletian. Or it may be symbolic to mean a "short time", relatively speaking, to a God to whom time does not have much meaning because He is the great "I AM".
Daniel and his friends requested a different diet than the king's choice food. They wanted vegetables and water as their diet. So a test was run for 10 days to see what effect Daniel's diet would have on him and his friends. The results can be found in Daniel 1:8-16. The testing of the members of the Smyrna church may be a test similar to Daniel's.
Be faithful unto Death, and I will give you a 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.'
What is the second death?
It is the lake of fire. See Revelation 20:14-15 and Revelation 21:8.