Bible Prophecy Research
Submitted by: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: December 19, 1998
"And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These
things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and
tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say
they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things
which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may
be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will
give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto
the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death."--Revelation
"Smyrna...was considered the safest seaport of its time. It had a thriving economy
because it was on the main trade route from Rome to India and Persia. Alexander the Great
personally planned the city, and it was called 'the ornament of Asia' because of its
beauty and splendor. Many Jews lived there, yet Smyrna was overwhelmingly pagan.
"On one end of the main street, the 'street of gold,' stood the Temple of Zeus,
and at the other end stood the Temple of Cybele, 'the mother of the gods.' Smyrna was also
the center of emperor worship in the Roman Empire, boasting a temple to Tiberius
(There's A New World Coming, Hal Lindsey)
"The city was of remarkable beauty. Its claim to be the chief city of Asia was
contested by Ephesus and Pergamum, but in beauty it was easily first. In addition to its
picturesque situation it was commended by its handsome and excellently paved streets,
which were fringed by the groves in the suburbs...The protecting divinity of the city was
a local variety of Cybele, known as the Sipylene Mother, and the towers and battlements of
her head-dress bore an obvious resemblance to the appearance of the city. (The Greeks
identified her with Nemesis, who here alone in the Greek world was worshipped, and not as
one but as a pair of goddesses.)...The life of the city was and is much benefited in the
hottest period of the day by a west wind which blows on it with great regularity, dying
down at sunset. This was counterbalanced by a disadvantage, the difficulty of draining the
lowest parts of the city, a difficulty accentuated by this very wind. Smyrna boasted that
it was the birthplace of Homer, who had been born and brought up beside the river
(Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible)
"The city to which allusion is made in Revelation 2:8-11, was founded, or at least
the design of founding it was entertained, by Alexander the Great soon after the battle of
the Granicus, in consequence of a dream when he had lain down to sleep after the fatigue
of hunting. A temple in which two goddesses were worshipped under the name of Nemeses
stood on the hill, on the sides of which the new town was built under the auspices of
Antigonus and Lysimachus, who carried out the design of the conqueror after his
death...The rich lands in the neighborhood were cultivated by the inhabitants, scattered
in villages about the country...Not only was the soil in the neighborhood eminently
productive--so that all vines were even said to have two crops of grapes--but its position
was such as to render it the natural outlet for the produce of the whole valley of the
Hermus. The Pramnean wine (which Nestor in the Iliad, and Circe in the Odyssey, are
represented as mixing with honey, cheese, and meal, to make a kind of salad ddressing)
grew even down to the time of Pliny in the immediate neighborhood of the temple of the
Mother of the gods at Smyrna...
"The inhabitants of New Smyrna appear to have possessed the talent of successfully
divining the course of events in the troublous times through which it was their destiny to
pass, and of habitually securing for themselves the favor of the victor for the time
being. Their adulation of Seleucus and his son Antiochus was excessive...Yet when the tide
turned, a temple was erected to the city Rome as a divinity in time to save the credit of
the Smyrneans as zealous friends of the Roman people. Indeed, though history is silent as
to the particulars, the existence of a coin of Smyrna with the head of Mithridates upon
it, indicates that this energetic prince also, for a time at least, must have included
Smyrna within the circle of his dependencies. However, during the reign of Tiberius, the
reputation of the Smyrneans for an ardent layalty was so unsullied, that on this account
alone they obtained permission to erect a temple, in behalf of all the Asiatic cities, to
the emperor and senate, the question having been for some time doubtful as to whether
their city or Sardis--the two selected out of a crowd of competitors--should receive this
"It seems not impossible, that just as St. Paul's illustrations in the Epistle to
the Corinthians are derived from the Isthmian games, so the message to the Church in
Smyrna contains allusions to the ritual of the pagan mysteries which prevailed in that
city...[It was] a usual practice at Smyrna to present a crown to the priest who
superintended the religious ceremonial at the end of his year of office."
(Dr. William Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, 1872)
"Apollonius of Tyana, who traveled far and wide, called it 'the most beautiful
city under the sun.' It was proud of its long, straight streets, its double-tiered
colonnades, its library, and its university. One of its most famous sons, Aelius Aristides
(Ad 117-187), described it in terms that reveal the splendor of these Roman-Hellenistic
Go from east to west, and you will pass from temple to temple and from hill to hill
along a street fairer than its name (the Golden Way). Stand on the acropolis: the sea
flows beneath you, the suburbs lie about you, the city through three lovely views fills
the goblet of your soul...Everything to the very shore is a shining mass of gymnasia,
markets, theaters...baths--so many that you hardly know where to bathe...fountains and
public walks, and running water in every home. The abundance of her spectacles, contests,
and exhibitions is beyond telling, and the variety of her handicrafts. Of all the cities
this is best suited for those who like to live at ease and be philosophers without guile.
"The opposition to the new religion [Christianity] came rather from the people
than from the state. The magistrates were often men of culture and tolerance; but the mass
of the pagan population resented the aloofness, superiority, and certainity of the
Christians, and called upon the authorities to punish these 'atheists' for insulting the
gods...From the time of Nero Roman law seems to have branded the profession of
Christianity as a capital offense; but under most of the emperors this ordinance was
enforced with deliberate negligence. If accused, a Christian could usually free himself by
offering incense to a statue of the emperor; thereafter he was apparently allowed to
resume the quiet practice of his faith. Christians who refused this obeisance might be
imprisoned, or flogged, or exiled, or condemned to the mines, or, rarely, put to death.
"At Smyrna the populace demanded of the 'Asiarch' Philip that he enforce the law;
he complied by having eleven Christians executed in the amphitheater (155). The
bloodthirst of the crowd was aroused rather than assuaged; it clamored for the death of
Bishop Polycarp, a saintly patriarch of 86 years, who was said in his youth to have known
(Story of Civilization: Caesar and Christ, Will Durant)
Emperor Decius issued an edict around 250 AD which "appears to have demanded more
than the usual sacrifice which was made on the Emperor's behalf by his provincial
governors at the start of each new year...Decius ordered a 'sacrifice to the gods,' not a
sacrifice to or for the Emperor...The Jews were exempted, and the only opponents,
therfefre, would be Christians.
Some Christians got "certificates" signed by pagan authorities which
"attested the bearer's lifelong pagan observance and his act of sacrifice in the
presence of a local commissioner...Suspects who could produce a certificate were to be
safe from further harassment."
This time of trouble lasted for about two years and is the forerunner of the
"great" persecutions of the early fourth century. One account of martyrdom from
this time period is that of Pionius, a Christian Elder "purported to be set in the
cultured city of Smyrna during the first February of Decius' edict."
"The story begins...when Pionius and his friends walked onto the city square
through its double gate, the colonnades...were packed with a holiday crowd.
"In the 250s, Smyrna's agora had been rebuilt after a recent earthquake...Down the
east and west sides of the square ran the colonnades...Two stories high, their pillared
facades extended for more than 130 yards, the status symbols of a late Hellenistic city.
In the northwest corner stood the double arch of an entry gate...Through the opposite
gate, Pionius entered and walked northwards past the packed colonnade, leaving behind him
a heavy pillared basilica. On an arch in the west colonnade stood busts of the Emperor
Marcus and his wife, the patrons of rebuilt Smyrna; the building was dedicated to the 'two
goddesses Nemesis, all the gods and goddesses and the Emperors'...They were taken to the
temple of these Nemeseis to pay sacrifice and eat the pagan meats...
"Pionius and his fellow prisoners were arrested by a group of pagans who were led
by Polemon, a temple official in Smyrna. 'You know, of course, about the Emperor's edict,'
said Polemon, 'and how it bids you sacrifice to the gods.' 'We know the edicts of God,'
replied Pionius, 'in which he bids us worship him alone.'
With Pionius was a homeless Christian slave girl named Sabina. She was harassed
"with that frequent threat to Christian heroines, a compulsory spell in the city
Some of the speeches Pionius made while in the agora are preserved, including one on
hell and the Dead Sea. "Perhaps the Dead Sea seemed a little remote from Smyrna's
audience, but if so, Pionius went on, they should consider the black cones of ash in their
own Burnt Lydia, which stretched away on the border's of Smyrna's assize district...The
volcanic landscape of Burnt Lydia was an old and awesome curiosity...The land, they said,
had been scorched by a dragon whom the god of the heavens had beaten in battle. The story
was known to the old Hittite kings (c. 1200-1000 BC) and had passed to Greek travellers in
the archaic age (c. 750). They equated the dragon with their monster Typhon, whom Zeus had
slain, and located his presence in this scorched region..."
"In the main square, Pionius had already attacked the Jews for gloating over
Christians who lapsed. Now [while in prison] he attacked them again because he heard that
they were inviting 'some of the Christians' into their synagogues...Some Christians were
scared of being tested and then lapsing, and in 'despair,' Pionius hinted, they were
amenalbe to the Jews' overtures. The Jews' aim was to win converts in the crisis, among
Christians who would prefer to join a synagogue rather than eat 'demonic' pagan meat: such
a secession was less fraught and less public...Pionius reviled them as 'rulers of Sodom
and the host of Gomorrah.' He was also convinced that they would spread a familiar
slander: Christ, said the Jews, had died a criminal's violent death, and like other
executed criminals, his spirit still roamed without rest. Christians, therefore, could
conjure it up and had already brought it back to earth by their magical sign of the cross.
The 'Resurrection' appearances were caused by sorcery, said the Jews, practised on a
criminal's restless soul.
"Why was Pionius' prison speech more concerned to attack the Jews than his pagan
captors?...No synagogue has yet been found in Smyrna, but a few precious inscriptions
suggest a Jewish community of some size and rank...[These inscriptions]...join the growing
evidence for a prominent Jewish presence in the lives of eastern Greek cities in the
second and third centuries.
Pionius was put to death for not sacrificing to the gods during the festival of
Dionysus at Smyrna in 250 AD. The assize tour of 250 is remarkable for the persecution of
Christians first in Ephesus, then Smyrna and onward to Pergamum. [In Ephesus that year]
"The city is the scene of the most famous of all legends of Christian persecution,
the Seven Sleepers, seven Christian boys and their dog who were said to have taken to a
cave to escape from Decius' edict." Pionius' sentence was not given him until early
March which is a little later than usual because of the trouble in Ephesus. Then we hear
of three martyrs in Pergamum in mid-April later that year.
(Pagans and Christians, Robin Lane Fox)
"Some bible authorities point out that there may be an allusion here to the
well-known ten persecutions, and that there may also be an allusion to the tenth
persectuion under the ruler Diocletian. This persecution lasted exactly ten years,
according to bible history."
(The Revelation Verse by Verse Study, Dr. Oliver B. Greene)
See "The Two Babylons: Distinctive
Character of the Two Systems."
See the online book The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia by W. M. Ramsay.
Please see Secret Societies and Their Infiltration of the Seven Churches of Revelation by John Daniel.
Also see The Seven Churches of Revelation
Also see '...say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue