1“To the angel of the assembly in Ephesus write:

“He who holds the seven stars in his right hand, he who walks among the seven golden lamp stands says these things:

2“I know your works, and your toil and perseverance, and that you can’t tolerate evil men, and have tested those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and found them false. 3You have perseverance and have endured for my name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4But I have this against you, that you left your first love. 5Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I am coming to you swiftly, and will move your lamp stand out of its place, unless you repent. 6But this you have, that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my God.

8“To the angel of the assembly in Smyrna write:

“The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life says these things:

9“I know your works, oppression, and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Don’t be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested; and you will have oppression for ten days. Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. He who overcomes won’t be harmed by the second death.

12“To the angel of the assembly in Pergamum write:

“He who has the sharp two-edged sword says these things:

13“I know your works and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. You hold firmly to my name, and didn’t deny my faith in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to throw a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15So also you likewise have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16Repent therefore, or else I am coming to you quickly and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him who overcomes, to him I will give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows but he who receives it.

18“To the angel of the assembly in Thyatira write:

“The Son of God, who has his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like burnished brass, says these things:

19“I know your works, your love, faith, service, patient endurance, and that your last works are more than the first. 20But I have this against you, that you tolerate your woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. She teaches and seduces my servants to commit sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols. 21I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22Behold, I will throw her and those who commit adultery with her into a bed of great oppression, unless they repent of her works. 23I will kill her children with Death, and all the assemblies will know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts. I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. 24But to you I say, to the rest who are in Thyatira—as many as don’t have this teaching, who don’t know what some call ‘the deep things of Satan’—to you I say, I am not putting any other burden on you. 25Nevertheless, hold that which you have firmly until I come. 26He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. 27He will rule them with a rod of iron, shattering them like clay pots, as I also have received of my Father; 28and I will give him the morning star. 29He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.

Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey)

Site study | Rev 2:8 | Mark Wilson | Izmir, Turkey (Smyrna)

The church in Smyrna is only mentioned in John’s Revelation. It is exhorted not to fear the coming persecution of “those who say they are Jews and are not” (Rev 2:9 KNJV). Jesus told them they would be thrown in prison as a test. The subsequent history of the city bore these exhortations out.

New Testament era Smyrna is estimated to have been the home of over 100,000 people. It had an aqueduct, a stadium, what may have been the largest grain market in Asia, a theater seating perhaps twenty thousand and “the most magnificent gymnasium in Asia,”[1] Because modern Smyrna (Izmir) is the third largest city in Turkey with over 2.6 million residents, much of ancient Smyrna is likely buried under modern buildings.[2] Due to this, so far all that has been recovered of ancient Smyrna are the remains of the market.

Located forty miles north of Ephesus, Smyrna became a major seaport on a gulf of the Aegean. Smyrna was noted for its beauty in the ancient world. Some of its coins read “First of Asia in beauty and size”—a statement continually contested by its chief rivals, Ephesus and Pergamum. In 195 B.C. Smyrna became the first city to establish a cult to Rome by building a temple for the deity Roma.

In the basement of this agora, which collapsed in a severe earthquake in A.D. 178, hundreds of graffito were discovered. The majority of the graffiti are the usual mix of political slogans, pagan religious discussion and statements of civic pride, which are all jumbled together. However, according to Roger Bagnall, one graffito may be the earliest Christian inscription ever found. The inscription is written in Greek and says,“ό δεδωκως πvεύμα (the one who has given the spirit).”[3] Bagnall argues this was an encoded message from one Christian to other Christians to let them know there were other believers in the city. The use of code was necessitated by the fact that Christianity was illegal, considered a heretical cult. 

The danger to Christians in Smyrna is vividly illustrated by the martyrdom of Polycarp, the city’s bishop either in 154 or 166. According to tradition, the proconsul of Smyrna, Quadratus, commanded that Polycarp deny Christ. When he refused, Polycarp, along with ten other Christians, was put to death by being burned at the stake in the city’s stadium.[4] In apparent fulfillment of Jesus’ prophesy, the Jews of the city reportedly helped gather the wood for the fires.[5]

[1] Edwin Yamauchi, The Archaeology of New Testament Cities, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980) 58

[2] E.M. Blaiklock, The Archaeology of the New Testament, rev. ed., (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, c. 1970, 1984) 129.

[3]Ben Witherington, III, “Biblical Views: The Writing on the Wall.” Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 35, No. 3 (May/Jun 2009): 26. Online: http://members.bib-arch.org/publication.asp?PubID=BSBA&Volume=35&Issue=3&ArticleID=5 (accessed April 13, 2010)

[4] Edwin Yamauchi, The Archaeology of New Testament Cities, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980) 61.

[5] William M. Ramsay, Letters to the Seven Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979) 273.