As Christmas rolls around every year, we are often thinking of gifts–who to buy for and what to buy are the big questions.
Recently I was shopping and I began thinking about the gifts Jesus received when he was born. Matthew 2 tells us that the Wise Men (Magi) journeyed from the East to find Jesus. They came to Jerusalem and asked where they could find the one who would be called the King of the Jews.
“Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When the Wise Men found the baby Jesus, “they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh,” Matthew 2:11.
According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus would have been about two years old when the Wise Men (Magi) arrived with the gifts.
As I was reading about the gifts the Wise Men brought, my attention fell upon just one of them–MYRRH. I sensed a relevance to today’s world, and felt myself wanting to know more about it.
So off I went researching and I discovered many things…
The word MYRRH comes from a Semitic root which means bitter.
Used as a spice for embalming, it is often associated with suffering, bitterness and affliction. When Jesus was dying on the cross, he was given wine mixed with myrrh. In addition, when he was buried, his body was anointed and wrapped with a mixture of myrrh and other aloes. The strong aroma of the myrrh covered the smell of death.
Myrrh is a gum-resin that is extracted from a thorny tree and it has been used throughout history as an antiseptic for a variety of reasons. From healing salves to mouthwashes, myrrh is touted as a powerful remedy for all sorts of ailments. It is also a valuable perfume with a distinct, unique smell.
Found mostly in the Middle East, myrrh has great value. The way it is harvested, however, is very interesting.
To get the resin that will produce the fragrance of myrrh, the bark of the tree must be pierced or cut. This process is referred to as “wounding the tree.” As the tree is wounded, the resin will pour out with a steady flow. Harvesters who obtain the myrrh often refer to it as “making the tree bleed.”
After the tree has been cut and the resin “bleeds,” the next step is to let it harden. The resin that bleeds is waxy and once exposed to the air, it will coagulate quickly into irregular sized lumps called TEARS. Finally, the myrrh “tears” are crushed into a powder. This is when the distinct fragrance becomes quite apparent. In addition, the powder can be distilled into a liquid and used as incense, anointing oil or perfume.
The Bible describes the components of the holy anointing oil in Exodus 30:22-25.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Collect choice spices–12 1⁄2 pounds of pure myrrh, 6 1⁄4 pounds of fragrant cinnamon, 6 1⁄4 pounds of fragrant calamus, and 12 1⁄2 pounds of cassia—as measured by the weight of the sanctuary shekel. Also get one gallon of olive oil. Like a skilled incense maker, blend these ingredients to make a holy anointing oil.’”
This anointing oil is mentioned at least 20 times in the Bible. In Old Testament times it was poured over the head of the High Priest, and it was sprinkled on the tabernacle and its furnishings. In this way, they were marked as “holy” and set apart for the Lord.
There are so many symbolic applications of myrrh in the life of Jesus. The suffering, bitterness and affliction he had to endure points to this fragrant spice. He was wounded and bled on the cross for our sins.
Isaiah 53 says it all: here are some of the verses–
“Surely, he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Hebrews 5:7-8 attests to the tears Jesus shed.
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.”
The tears of our Savior are enough to flood the world again. It makes sense that myrrh would be in the anointing oil, which is an allusion to the Holy Spirit that Jesus gives as a GIFT to his children who receive him as Lord and Savior. The myrrh tree has thorns and must be wounded to obtain its resin, which bleeds out. Jesus was wounded as the crown of thorns pierced his flesh, and when the nails dug into his body. Deep cuts covered his back from the violent floggings, and blood flowed freely from his wounds. He bled on the wooden cross, enduring pain, thirst and agony for six hours.
As believers in Jesus, we too will suffer. Like myrrh, we may be bled out and crushed. It would take too long to list all the ways Christians can be afflicted. Yet, as history moves forward and the time for Jesus’ return draws near, we must understand that this suffering and affliction will not decrease, but likely increase. Of course, we do have the blessed hope of the Rapture so we should never lose sight of that. In fact, as we see prophetic events lining up in the world, we shouldn’t be fearful, but rather we must look UPWARD. Behold, he is coming for his beloved Bride.
Until he returns at the Rapture, we must be prepared to endure whatever comes our way. As I was studying the 7 Churches in Revelation, one church stood out as a beacon for us to follow when it comes to enduring persecution. In fact, the name of this church is derived from the root word MYRRH.
What church am I referring to? THE CHURCH OF SYMRNA. This church only receives commendations, and no rebukes from Jesus.
The 7 churches listed in Revelation were all actual churches that existed during biblical times- they are: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Laodicea and Philadelphia. Keep in mind that there were more churches in existence in those days than what is listed in Revelation. According to biblical scholars, the number 7 was chosen because it’s the number of completion and this represents a complete picture of the Churches of that age, as well as the kinds of believers within them. These churches are also representative of the types of believers in our world today. They are not referring to denominations, but rather the spiritual conditions that exist within the church body up to present time. It’s important to understand what Jesus is saying to each church so we can take heed of the advice given. An important point is made in Revelation 19:10, which says, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” It is crucial that believers who make up the 7 churches understand the prophetic implications of what is being said in these letters, as well as all of the book of Revelation. The word Revelation means an unveiling, or revealing.
With the direction things are heading these days, we would be wise to study what Jesus says to the believers of Smyrna, which is known as the persecuted church.
Smyrna was a large, important city on the western coast of Asia Minor and was built near the ruins of an ancient Greek colony that was destroyed in the 7th century BC. One of Alexander the Great’s generals rebuilt Smyrna into a thriving Greek city in the 3rd Century BC. Later on, it became a part of the Roman Empire, existing as a rich commercial center with a port on the Aegean Sea. It received great acclaim for its schools of medicine and science, as well as its architecture.
The words of Jesus to the church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:8-11 offer insight into the life of a first-century congregation, and there are many applications for today’s believers.
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: ‘I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.’”
When reading what Jesus says to this church, it’s easy to see they had it rough. Not only were they heavily persecuted, but they were also poor.
“I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich).”
The Message translation says:
“I can see your pain and poverty—constant pain, dire poverty—but I also see your wealth.”
These Christians were also slandered (blasphemed) and considered “cursed” by many within the community.
The Christians in Smyrna faced persecution not only from the Romans, but also many Jews who were antagonistic to the spreading of Christianity. When Jesus speaks to this church he says, “Be faithful until death.” Of course, this is what happened to many of these believers. For example, John had an apprentice named Polycarp (a bishop of Smyrna) who was martyred in 155 AD. He would not blaspheme the name of the Lord so he was burned alive. Even to this day, Polycarp’s grave can be found in Smyrna.
Now pay attention to this next part and see if you can see parallels to what’s going on right now in our world.
Jesus says, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.”
In Smyrna, Christians were thrown into jail by the Romans for their testimony of the Lord. Many people believe this was done to PUNISH those who followed Jesus Christ. But one must understand that in the Roman legal system, imprisonment was not a punishment in and of itself– actually, it was used as a means of COERCION. It was used as a way to compel obedience to an order, law or mandate that was issued. These orders or mandates were issued by magistrates or ruling authorities. It was believed that imprisonment would wear the person down and eventually they would fall in line with the rules. The foes of Christianity were hoping a stay in prison would entice believers to depart from the Lord. In addition, imprisonment could be used as a means to retain a person before execution.
Do you see where I’m going here? What do we see happening ALL AROUND THE WORLD right now? We see tyrannical mandates from authorities and “judges” who demand that people lock down, mask up and get an experimental injection. People (including pastors) are even being sent to jail because they refuse to go along with the draconian measures. In addition, people are losing their jobs and this tactic is viewed as “punishment” by most. But really, it is a tactic of coercion. Jailing someone is another strategy used in order to force people to comply. The goal is to get everyone to comply. They (the ruling authorities) hope that by seeing others losing their livelihoods and freedoms, it will coerce others to fall in line with their “Roman” mandates.
As an example, let’s look at Australia….
Currently, people are being arrested for not complying with Covid measures. In August, more than 250 people were arrested for protesting Covid-19 lockdowns. Adding to their repertoire of tyranny, the once-friendly continent now hosts internment camps where citizens are quarantined, even if they do not have Covid. One of the biggest quarantine facilities (camps) called Howard Springs, just made news for the arrests of quarantine “escapees.” Apparently, these “prisoners” jumped a fence to get out of the “facility.”
Describing this camp, an article in the Washington Post says:
“Nurses rap sharply on the door for random early-morning temperature checks or coronavirus tests. Police and soldiers patrol, occasionally shouting at people to put on masks. And there is a 39-page booklet of rules and procedures. All this, for the price of a good hotel room.
The rules are detailed: no alcohol, no care parcels, no restaurant deliveries, no balls, no sunbathing, no metal silverware, no scissors or sharp implements, no cooking in the kettle, no putting food waste into the hand basin (who does that, anyway?), no electrical appliances, no stepping off your balcony except for garbage disposal and three allotted weekly laundry spots, no skateboards or inline skates, no swimming or playing in the drains when it rains, no noise after 9.30 p.m. Bags are searched and people can be fined if they don’t wear masks outside. Supermarket orders are allowed.”
Can someone say Nazi Germany? I think I would jump the fence too! See this link for some lessons about that….
This is ludicrous when we know that there are treatments for Covid-19 which work such as Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. Also, the survival rate is 99% or higher! And how about the hundreds of thousands of injuries the vaccines have caused around the world? Not to mention, in previous months, the government of Australia promised if its citizens got vaccinated there would be no lock-downs and draconian rules. Yet here they are, being locked down because of the Omicron variant, which to date, has killed barely anyone. It is more transmissible, but less deadly than previous variants. Let’s also understand that Omicron is mostly infecting the vaccinated!!!!! They are locking people down and arresting those who refuse to be detained in a camp that has no business being open in Australia.
Other countries have their own dystopian measures such as Israel, Austria, Greece, Germany, Canada and Ireland to name a few. Recently Israel tried to ban the unvaccinated from malls, but when they received lots of push-back they changed their tune. And how about South Korea? They are using facial recognition to track Covid patients. I could go on and on but you get the point.
The persecution of people (worldwide) during this pandemic is rampant. Like the Christians in Smyrna, there is a concerted effort to COERCE and force people to follow rules instituted by governments and rulers who do not respect personal and medical liberty. They also do not respect RELIGIOUS LIBERTY. In many countries religious exemptions to “vaccines” and masks are not accepted.
Like the Christians in Smyrna, those who claim religious beliefs are ridiculed and slandered. Our liberal media calls anyone who resists vaccines an “anti-vaxxer” or conspiracy theorist. They also shame them by saying things like, “they are selfish…they don’t care about their neighbors, or they don’t want to do their part.”
If you don’t think things are getting out of hand just look at what bills are on the docket for the state of New York.
Bill A8378- Forced Covid shot mandates to attend school.
Bill A279a/S75a-Forces all vaccine records into a state database
Bill A7829/6495- Forced Covid shots for college
Bill A2240/S45- Forced flu shots to attend school and preschool
Bill A8398- Eliminates religious exemptions for work and college
Bill A3091/S3041- Eliminates parents’ right to consent to shots when a child reaches 14 years of age
Bill A416- Allows the governor to IMPRISON without trial anyone he/she considers a threat to public health
It’s hard to believe that New York City was our nation’s first capital and it’s where George Washington took his oath of office. If George Washington could see what’s going on today he would surely roll over in his grave. And do you know what’s even creepier? The first Covid shot was administered in the United States to the general population on DECEMBER 14, 2020. Guess what date George Washington died? DECEMBER 14, 1799!!! Little did he know that the very day/date he took an oath to protect our freedom would be the same date a shot would be given that could literally take it away 221 years later!!!! Oddly enough, Washington died from complications of a throat infection– but the crazy part is that he really died from poor treatments from his doctors. For example, they bled him several times–which was where they purposefully removed blood from his body. They also gave him treatments that basically suffocated him. They intentionally created blisters in his throat, gave him enemas and forced him to drink “remedies” that caused him to choke. To read more about this, click here. The doctors thought these treatments would help, but they did not have all the facts or medical knowledge to treat Washington properly.
All I can say is that THIS SOUNDS VERY FAMILIAR when it comes to what the hospitals/doctors are doing to Covid patients. Granted, I’m not saying they are all doing this intentionally. They are following the narrative and whatever the CDC, NIH and other “ruling authorities” recommend. Unfortunately, most won’t use proven treatments like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, but instead use toxic treatments such as Remdesivir and of course ventilators. Thankfully, there are some doctors who resist what current “medical culture” is saying and they use effective medicines, supplements and protocols to help patients.
Sorry, but I just found all those details to be an odd set of coincidences. Back to the topic….
Many of the people who are resisting the lockdowns and mandates are Christians and pastors who see the shadows of Revelation in front of their faces. “No buying or selling without your mask or injection,” is what the government says. The media paints anyone who resists the narrative as enemies of safety and security when in reality, the governments and leaders who institute these rules are nothing more than a shadow of the Roman authorities of Smyrna.
It’s quite telling to me that Smyrna was known for its amazing schools of medicine and science, yet right now, thousands of years later, we see medical tyranny being used to persecute others.
The persecution of Christians doesn’t begin or end with Covid-19 because it also involves the social realm, where saying anything against the LGBTQ agenda is seen as discriminatory and an act of prejudice. Keep in mind that the Christians of Smyrna were seen as unfaithful because they did not follow the Roman Emperor. Back in those days, if you did not follow the customs set in place by the ruling class, you were considered an infidel. Most of Smyrna’s citizens went with the flow so Christians stood out like a sore thumb and they were constantly reminded that they did not belong.
You must understand that homosexuality in ancient Rome was considered normal and even expected in some social circles (though they didn’t have a word for homosexuality). And let’s not talk about the Roman baths, where all sorts of disgusting things happened that involved anyone and everyone. Then, there were the sacrifices and homage one must give to the fake gods of Rome. All of this was the accepted culture of the time. The Christians of Smyrna did not mesh with these ideals and thus, they were slandered and persecuted. I imagine getting a job was hard in those days when you’re seen as an outcast. Therefore, it makes sense these Christians were poor. In today’s culture, the same thing can happen. If you say anything against the narrative such as, “There are two genders,” or “Marriage is between a male and a female,” you could be limiting your job options and social circles.
Jesus tells the Christians of Smyrna that in spite of all the persecution and ridicule, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer…. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
It is very interesting that Jesus says these Christians will receive a crown because the Greeks called Smyrna “the Crown of Asia Minor” because of its stunning beauty as a city. Every year, several rulers, priests and administrators were awarded a crown of leaves for their faithfulness to their duties. “Smyrna knew all about crowns, for that was the very name by which men called the buildings on her hill.” (Constable’s Notes on Revelation).
There are five crowns mentioned in the Bible that are given as rewards to believers. Here is a link if you want to know more about that–it also includes a free download. For this blog, I am only mentioning the Crown of Life because it applies to the Church of Smyrna.
This crown is for all believers who have been steadfast in their faith, even in the face of trials and persecution. No matter what they suffer, their motivation is the love of the Lord Jesus. The believers of Smyrna certainly suffered persecution and even death. Any believer who has kept the faith in the midst of ridicule, temptation and tribulation, will receive the Crown of Life.
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12
What we must truly understand is that the Christians of Smyrna did not fear death. Why? Because even though they could suffer death, they knew the prize of eternal life awaited them. Note that Jesus’ message to them begins like this:
‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life.”
These Christians knew Jesus died and came to life. Therefore, they knew they would die and come back to life as well. A little history reveals that Smyrna had actually died as a city on many different occasions due to invasions and earthquakes. But after each “death” there was a resurrection as the residents rebuilt it again. Interestingly enough, the pagans of Smyrna worshipped a goddess name Cybele who was known as the goddess of rejuvenation and nature. It was believed she would rise from the dead every Spring. Of course, the Christians of Smyrna knew the truth –Jesus rose from the dead to bring eternal life, not some fake goddess. Because they knew the truth, they were not afraid of their adversaries. Whether they faced imprisonment or death, it did not matter. They already had the crown of life in their hands.
While five of the other churches mentioned in Revelation are given rebukes (with some commendations as well), the Church of Smyrna (along with Philadelphia) are only given commendations.
Jesus tells the Christians of Smyrna: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich).”
In Rome, if you did not follow what was socially acceptable, your status became equal to a peasant. But Jesus tells them they are rich. Their reward is eternal life and no earthly amount of money can equal that.
As you read this blog, are you seeing all the parallels to what’s going on in the world? I want you to know something…
NORMAL ISN’T COMING BACK, JESUS IS!
That saying is actually on a shirt my friend got me for Christmas. I love that it’s purple because it reminds me of the crowns of heaven. Why? Because the color purple points to royalty!
From this point forward, get ready to face the fire. If it’s not already at your door, you will likely start to feel the heat soon. I’m not talking about the Seven Year Tribulation. I believe we are raptured before that occurs. I am referring to the steady wave of persecution we will experience as we stand against the agendas of the world. From climate change to vaccine mandates, we are going to have to take a stand. Like the Church of Smyrna, a price may have to be paid. You could lose friends, family, jobs, homes or your livelihood for standing against the deception and evil agendas. But realize this: The light shines the brightest in persecution. This is why the Church of Smyrna flourished, even during trial and tribulation. When an olive is pressed, the precious oil comes flowing out. Then this oil can be used in the lamp stand (menorah). Like an olive, when we are pressed, that is when our faith shines the brightest.
One of the worst persecutors of early Christians was the Roman emperor Nero, who ruled from 54-68 AD. Approximately 14 of the New Testament’s twenty-seven books were written during the time of Nero’s rule. In fact, the apostle Paul was under house arrest in Rome during Nero’s reign (60-63 AD). During this time, he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. In Acts 25:10-12 Paul appeals to “Caesar” and this is referring to Nero. The cruelty of this manic emperor is documented in writings of the historian Tacitus:
“Covered with the skins of beasts, [Christians] were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as nightly illumination when daylight had expired.” It is well known that Christians were used as human torches to light Nero’s garden parties. Like Jesus, who is the Light of the World, these Christians became a light of the world for faithfully following him.
In times like these my mind goes to one of my favorite books: The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom. Her beloved country was taken over by Nazis during World War 2.
Corrie describes how the Nazi occupation first began:
“The true horror of occupation came over us only slowly. During the first year of German rule, there were only minor attacks on Jews in Holland. A rock through a window of a Jewish-owned store. An ugly word scrawled on the wall of a synagogue. It was as though they were trying us, testing the temper of the country. How many Dutchmen would go along with them?”
As the Nazi occupation continued, things got progressively worse. Jews were forcibly removed from their homes and businesses without reason. Eventually, the Nazis began making public spectacles of Jews as they were arrested. Men, women and children were forced into trucks without mercy, and then taken to concentration camps.
Corrie, her father and sister ended up in a concentration camp because they chose to help the Jewish people. Corrie’s father and sister lost their lives. Corrie barely made it out alive. But all three kept the oil burning in their lamps and they did not fear persecution. Like the Christians in Smyrna, they did not fear death because they knew LIFE awaited in heaven.
With all the fear that Covid has brought, it is disappointing how many of the churches have responded. Instead of putting full faith in Jesus, many have given into the demands of totalitarian governments and gone along with the “culture” of the times. Instead of trumpeting the truth, many churches are cowering in a corner. But understand that churches like Smyrna and Philadelphia represented a remnant. It is the same way right now. The majority of churches will not call out the agendas for what they are. Every church in the world should be warning their congregations of the true intent of the global agenda, which includes global ID’s through the mandating of “vaccine” passports. Every church should be standing on the truth that there are two genders and that marriage is between a man and a woman. Every pastor should be educating their flock about the evil of abortion. The Climate change agenda should be addressed as well so people know that God controls the weather/climate, not man. But this is not happening. Only a remnant of churches are doing this.
No matter what happens, we must stand up for the TRUTH, even if everyone around us is doing the opposite. We must run the race to the finish line, with truth as our banner.
I keep this picture of World War 2 hero Louie Zamperini in my wallet because it reminds me to finish the race. He endured years of persecution in a Japanese prison camp.
It was the years of desperation and tribulation that made him into a warrior for Jesus. If you look closely at the date of the picture (it’s actually a picture of a newspaper clipping), it says April 14, 1943. When I see that date I think of the Titanic, which hit an iceberg 31 years earlier on April 14, 1912. Whether we realize it or not, this world has hit the iceberg. It’s a matter of time before the ship goes down. But, never fear because when it goes down, WE GO UP. Until then, like Louie, we have to run the race. Oh yes, there will be bombs going off and bullets will be flying, but like the Christians in Smyrna, we have the crown of life waiting for us. What better gift could we receive?
This Christmas and all through the year, remember that Jesus has a gift waiting for you and it’s called ETERNITY. Hallelujah! Don’t give up or give in no matter what. Jesus is cheering you on and like the Christians of Smyrna, you are heading for the winner’s circle of heaven.
Keep fighting the good fight !!!!
A great website to learn about persecuted Christians is Voice of the Martyrs: Here is the link to a compelling story.
Header photo by Johannes Planio Unsplash
2 thoughts on “Lessons from the Church of Smyrna”
I read your story about your father passing on IFA. There are not words to thank you for sharing your story. This will be my first Christmas without my mom. She was my most dearest best friend. She also is a believer. I just found so much comfort in your story. Thank so very much!!
Tara, I’m so glad the story has helped you. I’m sure your mom is enjoying a beautiful life in heaven. Praying for you to have peace knowing she is in paradise. You will see her again one day. Blessings to you !!!