Revelation 2:8 Index
"And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;"
Research Material

"...unto the angel..." (Revelation 1:20)

"... of the church of Smyrna write..."

    • Salutation to the church - "And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write..." (KC 38)
    • Means "sweet smelling savor."
    • The city of Smyrna (Myrrh), an ancient city of Ionia on the western coast of Asia Minor, lies forty miles north of Ephesus on an inlet of the Aegean Sea. It has a large working harbor today, where over 7,000 ships dock every year.... Smyrna was one of the great business and trade centers of Asia Minor and was considered one of the most beautiful cities of the entire region. It boasted the largest public theater in Asia, a large library, and a 20,000-seat stadium.... The city was unquestioningly loyal to Rome, and its citizens looked upon the Roman emperors as gods. In fact, the Roman Senate built a temple to the emperor Tiberius in Smyrna because of the city's loyalty.... Polycarp, a pupil of the apostle John, was a prominent leader in the church of Smyrna in the second century. He suffered martyrdom there in 155 A.D. Today, Smyrna is known as Izmir, the largest city in Asia Minor, and the third largest city in Turkey. About one third of its population of about 200,000 are professed Christians, making this the largest concentration of Christians of any Turkish city. (KC 39)
    • The church of Smyrna had ten years of persecution under the emperor Diocletian from 303 to 313 A.D., the last year being the worst of all the years of persecution. It cam to an end when Constantine became emperor. (KC 43)
    • This name was long thought to be derived from muron, the name of an aromatic gum derived from the Arabian tree Balsamoderdron myrrha. This gum was used for embalming the dead, and medicinally as an unguent, or salve, and was burned as incense (Matthew 2:11).... There is no record as to when or under whose ministry the church in Smyrna was established. This church is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture. (7BC 745-746)
    • The church of Smyrna covers the period of time from 100 AD to 323 A.D., a time of great persecution of Christians and hardship for the Church. Smyrna and the church of Philadelphia are the only ones who did not receive any rebuke, but were encouraged to continue being faithful. Thousands of Christians died during this time as pagan Rome determined to wipe out Christianity. (KC 39)
    • The following church leaders died during these years of persecution:
    • 165 A.D., Justin Martyr and six other Christians were beheaded
    • 168 A.D., Polycarp was burned at the stake
    • 202 A.D., Irenaeus was put to death
    • 258 A.D., Cyprian died under the persecution of Trojan
    • 304 A.D., Victorinus was martyred under Diocletian (KC 40)
    • Rome did not care who or what you worshipped. They would not bother Christians -- as long as Jesus Christ was just another god. However, worship of the goddess Roma Dia was a sign of allegiance to the empire, and this was demanded. All you had to do was take some incense from the bowl and drop it in the fire before the goddess saying, "Roma Dia," and you were given a certificate of your allegiance. Then you could worship any god you liked. Of course, the Christians would not worship the Roman goddess, and many gave their lives as a result.... One of the martyrs who lived during this time was Polycarp. The Roman Governor, Status Quadratus, asked him to curse Christ, and the grand old man gave this reply: "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me wrong. How then can I blaspheme My King, who hath saved me?" He who is the First and the Last gave them the assurance that they could place their faith in Him because He had died and risen to give them life. (KC 40)
    • To Smyrna "these things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive." (Revelation 2:8). Sometimes the particular qualities attributed to the divine Author in the salutation seem to be selected for appropriateness to the city addressed. Smyrna had once been destroyed, and for about three hundred years there was no city, but a state composed of the scattered neighboring settlements; then it had been restored as a self-governing Greek city. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Revelation 2:10), was not only a literal promise to the Christian but also a peculiarly appropriate phrase, reminding the Smyrnaeans of their city's reputation for singular faithfulness to their alliance with Rome, and of their "crown of Smyrna" -- the well-known circlet of public buildings around a hilltop. A first-century Greek philosopher reminded Smyrna that "though it is the most beautiful of all cities,... yet it is a greater charm to wear a crown of men than a crown of porticoes and pictures of gold"; Christ offers the still better crown of life.... The reference to tribulation and to the false Jews brings to the modern reader the picture of the later martyrdom of Polycarp at Smyrna, in which the Jews played such a zealous part as to break the Sabbath by bringing fagots into the stadium to light his fire. (Froom 92)
    • Historically, the Smyrna period of the church may be thought of as beginning about the close of the 1st century (A.D. 100) and continuing until about A.D. 313, when Constantine espoused the cause of the church. Some suggest A.D. 323, the date of his supposed conversion to Christianity. It should be noted that the prophecies of Revelation 2 and 3 are not, strictly speaking, time prophecies, and that dates are suggested simply to facilitate an approximate correlation of prophecy with history. (7BC 746)
    • The messages to the second and third churches identify the transition from Smyrna to Pergamum as one from persecution to popularity. The reign of Constantine the Great, 306-337, the first so-called Christian emperor of Rome, marks such a transition. Prior to his famous Edit of Milan in 313, Christianity was an illegal religion and experience repeated periods of severe persecution by the state. That edict decreed equal rights for all religions throughout the empire and restored confiscated Christian property. In the same year Constantine exempted the Christian clergy from civil and military service, and their property from taxation. The date of his supposed conversion to Christianity is commonly given as 323. Either 313 or 323 might be taken as an appropriate year to mark the transition from the Smyrna period to that of Pergamum. (7BC 753)

"...These things saith the first and the last..." (Revelation 1:8 and Revelation 1:17)

"...which was dead, and is alive;" (Revelation 1:18 and Revelation 2:1)

    • An aspect of Jesus's life that will be an encouragement to the church - "These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;" (KC 38)
  • To a church facing persecution and death for its faith, emphasis on life in Christ would be especially meaningful. (7B 746)