The Church at Smyrna

    The second church given a message in Revelation 2 is Smyrna. In this episode we're diving in to the prophecy given to Smyrna as well as the passage that becomes very controversial depending on how you interpret it!
    8 “To the angel of the Messianic Community in Smyrna, write: ‘Here is the message from the First and the Last, who died and came alive again: 9 “I know how you are suffering and how poor you are (though in fact you are rich!), and I know the insults of those who call themselves Jews but aren’t — on the contrary, they are a synagogue of the Adversary. 10 Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Adversary is going to have some of you thrown in prison, in order to put you to the test; and you will face an ordeal for ten days. Remain faithful, even to the point of death; and I will give you life as your crown. 11 Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities. He who wins the victory will not be hurt at all by the second death.”
    Revelation 2:8-11 CJB


    The second of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation is Smyrna. In Revelation 2:8-11, we are told about what is happening in Smyrna. Unlike most of the churches, where we get a list of strengths and weaknesses, we get more of a prophecy which the prophecy. Smyrna’s is one of two churches that are not rebuked for any weaknesses.

    💪🏾 What Already Happened
    • they are suffering
    • they are poor (though rich—likely in the Kingdom due to their faith)
    • people are calling themselves Jews when they aren’t and causing trouble
    😩 What is to Come
    • more suffering
    • prison
    • 10 days of persecution

    In this podcast episode we’re going to explore what the significance of this particular church. Different frameworks for interpreting prophecy look at the historical church of Smyrna, the spiritual church of Smyrna, or Smyrna as a church age, so we’re going to look at all three possibilities.

    The Historical Church of Smyrna

    Not much—actually almost nothing—can be gleaned about the literal Church at Smyrna from the Bible. It is only mentioned in Revelation 1, where it is introduced as one of the 7 churches of Asia Minor, and in Revelation 2, where we see the message actually given to the Church. Smyrna is never mentioned in the book of Acts and no letters to (or from) anyone in Smyrna were preserved.

    Today, the location of Smyrna in modern day is in Izmir, Turkey. Not only is it the third largest city in Turkey, it has the highest population of Christians in the country.[4] After the decline of the Roman empire, Turkey was ruled by the Ottomans and many in the region would have converted to Islam. Sources show that approximately 99% of the country is Muslim.[1][2] It is amazing that a Church praised for its steadfastness at the time of persecution and martyrdom, is still bustling with faithfulness almost 2,000 years later.

    The Spiritual Church of Smyrna

    Spiritually, Smyrna represents the martyrs throughout Christian history—the people who stand in their faith even in the face of death—but it also represents those who survive persecution. Those who are actually killed for their faith are often talked about more than those who are simply persecuted. Many people are ostracized for sticking to their faith and though they are not killed, they are harassed, ridiculed, and often fired from their place of employment. In these cases Satan has convinced the world the believers deserve to be ridiculed. As such their persecution often goes unnoticed by anyone but true believers. These people are also part of spiritual Smyrna. They are the ones who will become poor (from losing their job) and downtrodden (from the harassment they face), but are rich in the kingdom.

    The Church Age of Smyrna

    The age of Smyrna or the age of persecution comes after the apostolic age. Estimates place this from 100 AD to about 312 AD. There were several waves of persecution during this time period but the most intense was that of Emperor Diocletian. The persecution ordered by this emperor lasted for 10 years. In the message to Smyrna, we are told they will suffer for 10 day. Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6 tell us that in prophecy a day is equal to a year. Most people assert that this prophecy was fulfilled by the Diocletian persecution. Interestingly some have also found a list of exactly 10 emperors who heavily persecuted Christians during the early church days.[5][6][7][8][9][10]

    Points of Interest

    The Promise of Life

    Each Church is given a promise at the end of their message. The Church at Smyrna is promised they will not experience the second death. Revelation is the first place we see the mentioning of this “second death.” It refers to the permanent death that comes at judgement. Almost everyone will die the first death—exceptions being those alive when Messiah returns and people like Elijah and Enoch. Some will experience a peaceful first death while others might experience horrific deaths. The persecution in Smyrna implies many of them would experience painful deaths and their lives would be cut short. In assuring them not to be afraid, God is reminding us that there is eternity after what we experience here and if we prove faithful here, that eternity is ours.

    This promise is actually not very different from the one given to Ephesus (they are promised access to the Tree of Life, which also would exempt them from the second death).

    A Controversial Passage

    The message to Smyrna contains a highly controversial verse that discusses a group of people masquerading as Jews but are actually a “synagogue of Satan.” There are a couple different interpretations**[12]** but we’re going to focus on the most common two. Many people say this verse is referring to people who say they are believers but do not behave the way God has instructed, while groups such as the Black Hebrew Israelites say this verse is a reference to modern Jews…

    I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
    Revelation 2:9 KJV

    If someone said to me that not only was I not descended from the people I claim to be descended from but actually I was part of the “synagogue of Satan,” I would be highly offended. I understand why people would classify this as hate speech. I also understand how you can watch what’s currently happening in Gaza and see videos of Israelis saying they want the Palestinians dead and think this description is quite fitting. So let’s walk through this verse with care and with respect.

    Disclaimer: Regardless of whether this verse is speaking of people who identify as Jewish (racially or religiously) or believers in general, I believe it is talking about a specific group of people who are committing atrocities in the name of the Most High and doing Satan’s bidding with at least partial knowledge that they are doing wrong. I do not think God is speaking of people who are genuinely mistaken about their identity and living an honest life serving Him.

    The first thing I want to tackle is the word blasphemy. Why? The people who are not actually Jews are being accused of it, so knowing what blasphemy is should help us discern who is being talked about. Some translations use slander instead of blasphemy, but the Greek word used here is βλασφημία (blasphēmia). It is the same word used in Matthew 12:31, where we are told it is unforgivable to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. We see it again in Mark 2:7 when Messiah is accused of blasphemy because He says He can forgive sins. In Ephesians 4:31 it is translated as evil speaking. In each case, the fundamental accusation is someone speaking incorrectly about something or misrepresenting either themself or someone else. So the people spoken of in Revelation 2:9 are misrepresenting the true Jews.

    There are also people who claim this passage is about Jews during the early church era who persecuted believers in the Messiah (like Paul before his conversion).[11]

    The least controversial interpretation is that it applies to people claiming to be believers who are not actually living the way the Most high instructed and are therefore misrepresenting the faith and the Father. This interpretation has a lot of merit. Throughout the New Testament we are warned about false prophets and people leading believers astray. We can see that today—there are countless denominations (with varying doctrines) and false teachers making it difficult to find true teachers and understanding. Unfortunately, it’s also a vague interpretation. If I say people who say they are believer but don’t act like it, that’s generic and up to each individual to define. Some people might say I don’t act they way they think a believer should. I can say I don’t think a person acts the way a believer should. However, each of us probably thinks we behave exactly the way we should. Very few of us would read this passage with this interpretation in mind and think it’s referring to us. This is probably why interpreting it this way is not controversial: no one feels accused.

    On the controversial side, people are making the accusation that the people we call Jewish today are not actually Jewish. That’s quite the accusation and there is no confusion about who is being discussed—which is why it causing controversy. I’ve seen quite a few videos on the topic and have mixed feelings toward it. On the one hand, there are valid issues brought up in this conversation.

    A major point of contention is the fact that modern Jews are mostly European. The explanation being that a group of Jews escaped Jerusalem and immigrated to Germany (and other parts of Europe) where they intermarried with Gentiles. This is where the term “Ashkenazi” comes from (note that Genesis 10 tells us Ashkenaz was a son of Japheth and part of the Gentiles). However, if you pay attention the Jews always ran south into Egypt when in trouble not north. If the Romans were the ones attacking, why would they flee deeper in to Rome? One could argue they were actually taken as prisoners of war, but that brings me to a second point of contention: modern Jews pass their lineage by their mother despite the Bible clearly being patriarchal. The third interesting point in this theory is the issue of the star “of David”. You’ll notice there is never a mentioning of a “Star of David” within the Bible. You will, however, find Amos 5:26 and Acts 7:43 talking about the star of Moloch or Remphan, a pagan god. The fourth point of interest is the occupation of Palestine and the treatment of the Palestinians under the pretense that the land belongs to them, with countless “Christians” backing them because “God ordained it”… (I have already spoken about this issue in other posts).

    Examples of Patriarchal lineage in the Bible:
    1. Jacob (Israel) has 12 sons and at least 1 daughter; there is no tribe named after his daughter
    2. A daughter was allowed to inherit property from her father if she married within her tribe—this was to keep the land within the tribe because any child she had would be considered part of the tribe of her husband. If tribal lineage passed through the mother, it wouldn’t matter who she married
    3. At least 3 tribes were created by women who not only were not Hebrew (from Abraham’s people) but were actually Hamite instead of Shemite. Joseph married an Egyptian woman; his two sons become the Tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim. Judah marries a Caananite woman which is the tribe from which modern Jews claim to be descended from.

    The main issue with the controversial interpretation is the implication that simply being born of the a particular bloodline makes you of Satan. DNA testing tells us the Jewish people of today are in fact a distinct ethnic group, so to say they are all liars about their heritage, particualrly without any concrete proof, is quite bold. Those who hold this position are often anti-Jewish (I would say antisemitic but if they don’t believe the Jews are Semitic in the first place, are they still antisemitic?). There is also a history of semitism in which people referred to Jews as Satan that one must be aware of when looking at this topic.[13]

    I’ve never met a Jewish person who said or implied “I’m not actually Jewish but I’m going to pretend to be Jewish.” What I mean is every Jewish person I have encountered is confident that they are in fact Jewish. People can argue until Messiah comes back about whether they are or aren’t, but I do not believe the vast majority claiming Jewish heritage are in on some grand conspiracy to willfully deceive people. But, let’s say thousands of years ago an ethnic group decided to pretend to be Jewish and took on that identity, unless they brought their children up with the knowledge their identity was a lie, the people of today would believe they are truly Jewish. Now, imagine being born and thinking you are an American, only to find out in adulthood you are actually in the country illegally and be thrown in jail. Is that fair? You didn’t know, you’ve been raised in the country (and culture) your whole life, and it’s someone else’s fault you were deceived about your identity. My point is, It doesn’t seem that God would operate in that manner.

    When you combine the fact that they would likely be deceived themselves with the fact that everyone, regardless of origin, has the right to follow Him and be counted among His children—even in the Old Testament, the mixed multitude followed the Israelites out of Egypt and were grafted in to the nation; people like Rahab and Ruth were also brought in to the fold—it seems odd to target a whole group of people and say they are the synagogue of Satan. In all honesty, the issue isn’t the idea that people could be mistaken about their identity but rather the inferences people make about those people when they believe it to be the case (re: that they are automatically evil and working for Satan—that is racism (or some kind of -ism), do not make that conclusion).

    Which interpretation is actually true? I leave that for the Holy Spirit to say. What I do know is that regardless of your heritage, if you seek The Most High and surrender to Him and His Word, you will be saved. If you are saved then you cannot be in a synagogue of Satan.

    The Meaning of Smyrna

    Smyrna actually means “myrrh.” Myrrh was one of the three gifts given to Messiah at His birth and was symbolic of death.[3] This is interesting because the promise given to the Church of Smyrna is victory over the second death (re: eternal life).

    References and Footnotes

    1. Religion in Turkey”.; visited June 15, 2024
    2. 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom: Turkey (Türkiye)”US Department of State; visited June 15, 2024
    3. Strong’s G4667. Σμύρνα“. Blue Letter Bible; visited June 15, 2024
    4. Fant, Clyde E, and Mitchell G Reddish, ”Smyrna.” A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey (New York, 2003; online edn, Oxford Academic, 12 Nov. 2020),, visited June 15, 2024.
    5. Romeo Maria del Santo Niño, O.P. “The Second & Third Centuries: The Age of Martyrs”. The Theology Corner. May 11 2024; visited June 15, 2024
    6. James M. Rochford. “Persecution of Christianity (AD 33-325)”. Evidence Unseen; visited June 2024
    7. George Grant. “A History of Persecution”. Ligonier. July 25, 2015; visited June 2024
    8. William Branham. “The Smyrnaean Church Age”. The Voice; visited June 2024
    9. The Church Ages - The 2nd age, Smyrna”. Church Ages; visited June 2024
    10. The Church In Smyrna Shows Us The Second Church Age: The Persecuted Church”. Fountain of Life; visited June 2024
    11. What is the synagogue of Satan in Revelation?”.; visited June 2024
    12. Bredin, M. R. J. “The Synagogue of Satan Accusation in Revelation 2:9”. Biblical Theology Bulletin28(4), 160-164. 1998; visited June 15, 2024
    13. Satan”. American Jewish Committee. visited June 15, 2024
    Published on Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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