I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan. Revelation 2:9 NLT
Smyrna is known as the Persecuted Church. Christians suffered from afflictions and poverty. In Smyrna emperor worship was mandatory. Once a year you were required to burn incense to the emperor. Also, there was a large Jewish population in Smyrna who were very hostile to Christians. Christians were at the bottom of society making it difficult to earn a living. Sometimes mobs would form and destroy Christian homes and places of business which hurt them financially as well.
The Jewish population had good standing with the Gentiles. Many Gentiles converted to Judaism especially women. Many of these women were married to men with high government status which helped persuade the government to persecute the Christians.
The Christians were slandered. People said they were:
- Cannibals because of communion where the bread and wine represented Christ’s body.
- Agape meals were orgies of lust.
- Homewreckers because often one family member would become a Christian and the other didn’t
- Atheist because they didn’t believe in multiple gods
- Disloyal because they didn’t worship the emperor
- They were fire-raisers because they foretold the end of the world being in flames
Even though they were suffering from persecution and poverty, they were rich because they had Jesus. When we go through difficult times, it brings comfort knowing that Jesus understands and gives us strength and peace.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. Romans 5:3 NLT