Smyrna, The suffering Church



To be followers of Christ then our lives completely secure, free of problems, enjoy life without any obstacles at all. Have a life with abundance blessings, and live in prosperity.  I thought this is a misconception about following Christ and sadly, this concept is currently held by many people and becoming a benchmark when they decided to follow Christ.  Personally, I know a businessman who suddenly decided accept Christ in order to save his business that is threatened with bankruptcy. Today, there are many wrong purposes in following Christ. They only think about blessings, help, and miracles from God. Actually, we all know that being a Christ follower doesn’t mean that we will be hundreds percent have a safe life, trouble-free, and without any obstacles.  In fact, when we become a Christ’s follower, we will face so many trials and our faith will be tested.  It is so easy we says, “God is so good” when our lives is free of problems and there is no obstacles and pressure at all. But the question is, have we remain easily say, “Good is so good” when we have so many life pressure and in a very hard situation? Can we remain being faithful and obedient even though our lives in unpleasant condition? These are questions which the answer will indicate how far we love and believe in Him.

My brother and sister in Christ, this evening I would like to take all of us to learn from one of seven churches that received the message from God in the book of Revelation 2. Let’s take a look to the church in Smyrna. Smyrna was a seaport city about 40 miles north of Ephesus. It has been described as the most beautiful of the seven cities. Today it is called Izmir, Turkey. Scripture does not give us any information concerning the founding of this church, nor is it mentioned in the book of Acts. Presumably, this church was founded during Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. Smyrna is the Greek word for myrrh, a flagrant perfume used in burial. Many believe that this church represents the martyrs of all the ages and the sweet-smelling fragrance of their faithfulness until death. There was no rebuke for this church and because they were faithful until death. Why the church in Smyrna mentioned as the martyrs of all the ages and sweet-smelling fragrance of their Faithfulness? Actually, the life of the church in Smyrna was contrary to the conditions the city of Smyrna itself. The church of Smyrna was the suffering church. How suffered they are? Let’s have a look together.

I know your afflictions and your poverty… (Revelation 2: 9 NIV)

The church of Smyrna suffered because of the pressure of the Roman government, at the time, made it mandatory that all citizens should worship the emperor or they will facing the death. They must burn incense and acknowledges that the emperor is God. Here lies the root of the problem. The church in Smyrna refused to do all that and they considered as unpatriotic traitors. Then the affliction begins. Many of them were boiled alive, many others were roasted alive, some crucified, or the Roman authorities took them to the coliseum and fed to the angry and hungry lions.

The church in Smyrna lived in poverty. Based on some of the commentary on the book of Revelation I have read, they were not only poor but they absolute poor. They were absolutely didn’t have anything.  They cannot live their lives normally. They hated, boycotted, people didn’t want to make a trading with them just because they were Christians. They cannot develop their work; there was no way to make a living, and worse it seems the all city dwellers trying to make them starve.

The affliction does not stop there, there is another one. The church in Smyrna was slandered.

I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. (Revelation 2: 9b NIV)

The Jews was making false allegations and reported it to the government. They slandered that the Christians make a practice of cannibalism, immorality, considered atheists, people instigator, and a family crusher.

Another affliction is the church in Smyrna had long suffering.

…I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days… (Revelation 2:10 NIV)

Verse 9 talking about the suffering that has been experienced by the church in Smyrna, but the verse 10 speaks of the suffering that are still will experienced by them. There are many Bible commentators assume that “ten days” refers 10 period of time of suffering for the God’s church that will be experienced during the reign of ten anti-Christ Roman emperors.  And it was true; history noted that there were around five millions Christian dies as a martyr during ten period of Roman emperor.

What lessons that we can take from the church in Smyrna?  After I study deeper this passage, I thought there are two important things we can learn. Being fearless and be faithful. God gives two instructions to handle their suffering.

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer… Be faithful, until death(Revelation 2: 10 NASB)

Do not be afraid and be faithful! God said these with His omnipotence and omnipresence (These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. Verse 8) and His omniscience (I know your afflictions and your poverty. Verse 9) and the church in Smyrna chose to be fearless and be faithful. They are not afraid to die to defend their faith in Christ. Polycarp, a pastor in Smyrna offered freedom by governor if he willing to deny The Christ. But He said: “for 86 years I have served Him and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my king and my savior?” Before Polycarp was burned, he prays, “Oh Lord, almighty God, I thank you for counting me worthy of sharing the cup of Christ among the number of your martyrs”. The church at Smyrna knows He is the Word that is the first and the last. What this means is that He is God who fought in the entire history of this world and have full authority over what happens. They also realized and understand in their suffering God always be with them and even will strengthen them. Suffering because of their faithfulness is not due God forgetting to help them but rather God is present in their lives.

My dear friends, what about us today? What season of life are we in today? Maybe we are in a season that everything is going great and we just love life. Things are running smoothly. We are so in love with the Lord. Every day there is just a wonderful surprise and we are just in a great season of life. But I going to tell one thing that God never promises us as a believer that life is going to always be fun. He never promises us that life is just going to be great. As a matter of fact, He promises us that if we are a believer, we will face suffering and you will have some persecution in our life.

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12)

Jesus Himself reminded:

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24 NIV)

This evening,  allow me to encourage all of us to learn from the church in Smyrna. We may be hated by the world, received unfair treatment, insulted, slandered, and so on, but it should not make us turn away from God. Jesus had reminded this thing. He said:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:18-19 NIV)

Let’s emulate the church in Smyrna to remain faithful, never give up, and keep stand firm in their faith despite the torment and suffering continue come upon them. And eventually, they got great rewards. There are two rewards from God. The first is “The Crown of life”

…and I will give you the crown of life. ( Revelation 2 : 10 NASB)

The second reward is, “The Eternal life”

He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2 : 11 NASB)

As a believer, we do have eternal life and He is saying we may suffer the first death, we may die physically, but spiritually we will never die again.

If today we facing so many severe pressures, problems, treated unfair, and any form of inconveniences, Please remember God said:  

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12 NIV)

Do not grumble when there is a problem, do not despair and give up. There is a crown of life and eternal life that God provides to all of us who remained faithful to God in all circumstances. Just as the church in Smyrna, let us prove the strength of our faith in Christ through fortitude, obedience and faithfulness whatever our situation. Amen

Karina – Living by faith

Supporting material resources:

Clarke, Adam. Commentary on Revelation,

Keeth, Janane. Rekindle the Fire (Revelation 2-3),

The Pulpit commentaries, revelation 2,

Related post:



Image credit:  The Church in Smyrna.

44 thoughts on “Smyrna, The suffering Church

  1. Thank you for a wonderful post, Karina. We need to come to Jesus because we love him, and not just because we want to be blessed. If our hearts aren’t right blessings can make us weaker instead of stronger, whereas suffering refines us as gold in the fire. Thanks again for a very powerful and well needed post.

  2. Karina … you have said it very beautifully and with understanding. You write like a preacher .. with deep knowledge and related references.
    It is so easy to believe in a gospel of prosperity forgetting that our Lord himself had no where to lay his head. We are called to be a Christians and remain steadfast in good times and in bad, Everything we receive – both trials and blessings – are gifts to be used to spread the Kingdom of eternity for the gold of this world will someday turn to dross and so we should store up for ourselves treasures which cannot decay.

    • Dear Rose,
      First off all, thank you very much for your lovely compliment. I am so honored you said I wrote like a preacher. Actually, I just wrote all what in my mind assisted with some references that I have read before. Now, I would like to thank you for your wonderful and insightful comment on my post. It will be my personal pondering. Once again thank you for reading and commenting on my post. Many blessings and have a great day.

  3. Karina, this was such a great post! I was watching a video by Day of Discovery, about the seven churches of Revelation. The name of the video is “The 7 Churches of Revelation” and Smyrna has a section of its own in Part 3( I was so encouraged by the faith this church had, and what it represented. I need to hear this message again and again! We are in perilous times, and so many Christians all over the world are persecuted for their faith. The preaching of health, wealth, and prosperity will not encourage people who are suffering and being put to death for their faith. Only the hope of the gospel, the hope of eternal life in Christ, will bring real hope.

    • Dear sister Dawn,
      Thank you very much for the lovely comment, sis. Also thank you for the video link. I will definitely watch it very soon. Same with me, I am so encouraged as well with this church especially after I took study on it. Yes you Re so right. Now we are in perilous time and need special prayer for this situation and put our hope only in Christ. Amen. Once again thank your lovely and insightful comment. Many blessings to you.

  4. Indeed, someone once said if you want to be always happy, avoid Christianity.

    ‘ALL they who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.’ Persecution comes in many disguises, but with one purpose: to glorify God while perfecting us.

    Good word here.

    • Hello there,
      Thank you very much for your lovely comment. I love your statement : “Persecution comes in many disguise. But with one purpose: to glorify God while perfecting us. What a great insight. Once again thank you so much. Blessings.

    • Dear sister in Christ, Diane.
      Thank you very much for visiting and reading my post 🙂 indeed, Yes sometime we so easy to give up when difficulties come and forget about the reward from the Lord if we endure. Once again thank you for your lovely comment. Blessings.

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  6. Oh, Karina, what a wonderful post. You ended it with one of my favorite verses that I have “held on” to and has gotten me through some tough times. This is such a wonderful teaching you have here and I certainly learned a lot from it. Bless you for sharing wisdom and knowledge in a message many “Christians” don’t want to hear. Yes, we will have suffering and our share of persecution and unfair circumstances but the things we have to endure here are often small when compared to those who came before us. Bless you!

    • Dear sister Lilka,
      Thank you very much your lovely comment, sis. I am grateful you learned from this post. I also have learned too while I wrote this post. I just hope and pray that it could be lesson and reminder to others as well. Thank you and have a blessed day to you 🙂

  7. Pingback: “Smyrna, The suffering Church” 5/29/2015 by Karina Susanto | God's group

  8. Sadly some believe Karina, that God willingly causes us to suffer afflicting us to perfect us but as we see confirmed in the Scripture below He doesn’t do this, we are shaped and molded as we choose to walk in the Fruit of The Spirit by His empowering.

    Lamentations 3: 33 For God doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the Children of men. (KJV)

    Yes it is True, the Churches in Revelation are also talking about us today but we do not need to fear, God knows those who are His and not one of us will be lost that is why He chose us to be conformed into the image of Jesus because He knew we would come to heart repentance, He does not force us to obey Him but because we Love Him we do, when Christ lives in us we can be no other way, we choose to obey and He empowers us to be able to.

    Colossians 1:27-29 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily(KJV)

    Galatians 2: 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who Loved me, and gave Himself for me.(KJV)

    1 Corinthians 1:29-31That no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:That, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.(KJV)

    We don’t have to be Happy Clappy Karina about what we suffer but we do rejoice always giving Thanks that we don’t go through it alone (see below) God is Love and He is Compassionate and merciful giving us strength to endure all Persecution and Hardship.

    Isaiah 43:1-3 – Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.”

    Christian Love Always – Anne.

    • My dear sister Anne,
      Thank you very much for reading my post, and as always, thank you very much for wonderful and insightful thought as a response on my post. It all gave me another important teaching. Also thank you very much for the empowering Bible verses. I love your thoughts that said, ” we don’t have to be happy chappy about what we suffer, but we do rejoice that we don’t go through it alone” once again thank you, sis. Have a blessed weekend to you 🙂

  9. Sorry about the double comments Karina, you can delete one and this note but I was wondering why you are now moderating my comments , don’t you Trust me to confirm God’s Truth, we are Christ’s Body and need to respect and Trust each other.

    Blessings – Anne.

    • Dear sis Anne,
      It’s ok I will delete one of your comment. Well, I am going to tell you that I really have no idea why I should to moderating your comment. It also happened to some other readers. I didn’t do anything about the WordPress setting or something . I think there is technical issue on WordPress or on my account. I will check it out very soon. Sis, please don’t worry I always trust and respect every single comment on my post. To be honest, I always waiting for your insightful comment when I publish a new post. For me, your comment not just a comment but I always got something to learn and reflect from your comment. Yes we are the body of Christ and we should to trust and respect each other as I trust and respect you 🙂 Thank you sis. Many love and blessings to you.

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  11. Hi Sister Karina,

    I’m really glad you linked. You published this back before I was following you I guess. It’s just perfect!. Isn’t this just such a great example of how God works His plan, even through this motley crew of writers?

  12. Pingback: Smyrna, The suffering Church | Truth in Palmyra

  13. Hi sis! I am always happy to see that you stopped in to visit! I know how busy with work you are, and even so with this blog. And that’s not counting your family obligations. Blessed are the hands which are busy in good works!

    I hope all is going well with you in both your family and work life. May the Lord continue to fill your heart with happiness and you find the time to add some posts to your blog.

    Take care for now and enjoy your evening…


    • Hello brother,
      Thank you very much for your lovely words 🙂 as I said, I always love your posts and always try to figure out what I could learn from your posts 🙂 I hope as well you and your family are well too. Keep pray for you. Maybe I will post my own writing next week. Just pray for it 🙂 Thank you, brother and God bless.

      • I would look forward to that post, sis! I know how busy you are and it is great that you are blessed with such a full life…it is truly a blessing from the Lord!

        Always pray thanksgiving for the blessings you have in your life…I’m sure you already do!

        I’ll look forward to your new posts and as always, have a super evening within the love of your God and family… Steve 🙂

  14. A great reminder of the fact that our worldly problems do not end with our commitment to Christ. We we still experience problems in life, sometimes just because we are believers in the Lord. But we learn to endure many things, both religious and worldly, by overcoming these trials. We don’t give up and turn away from God, but rather we learn to turn to Him in everything. I love the history you provided on the church in Smyrna!


      • You know it is always my pleasure to read your thoughts in regards to the word of God. I pray for you and your family that God bless you all. Please find time for that book I know you have…

        Enjoy your evening and day tomorrow, sis!


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