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Revelation 2:8

Revelation 2:8

And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write
Of the city of Smyrna, (See Gill on Revelation 1:11). That there was a church of Christ here is not to be doubted, though by whom it was founded is not certain; very likely by the Apostle Paul, who was in those parts, and by whose means all Asia heard the Gospel of Christ, ( Acts 19:10 ) . Some think the present angel or pastor of this church, was Polycarp, the disciple of John. Irenaeus F6, who knew him, says he was appointed bishop of Smyrna by the apostles. Here he suffered martyrdom, and was buried: the large amphitheatre, in which he was put to death, is still to be seen, and his sepulchre is yet preserved in this place F7: a very famous epistle, sent by this church at Smyrna to the churches at Pontus, giving an account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, and others, is extant in Eusebius F8. According to the Apostolical Constitutions F9, the first bishops of Smyrna were Aristo Strataeas and Aristo the second, and Apelles, of whom mention is made in ( Romans 16:10 ) ; and who is reckoned among the seventy disciples; (See Gill on Luke 10:1); and is said to be bishop of Smyrna before Polycarp; who succeeded Polycarp, I do not find; but it is said there was a church at Smyrna in the "third" century; and so there was in the beginning of the "fourth", since there was a bishop from hence in the council at Nice: and in the "fifth" century, mention is made of several bishops of this place; as of Cyrus, a native of Constantinople; and Protherius, who, it is thought, succeeded him, and was present in the synod at Chalcedon; and Aethericus, who assisted at three synods in this century, at Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon: and in the "sixth" century, there was a bishop of Smyrna in the fifth synod held at Rome and Constantinople: and even in the "eighth" century, one Antony, a monk, supplied the place of the bishop of Smyrna in the Nicene synod {k}. The Turks have in this place now thirteen mosques, the Jews two synagogues, and of the Christians there are two churches belonging to the Greeks, and one to the Armenians F12. This church, and its pastor, represent the state of the church under the persecutions of the Roman emperors. Smyrna signifies "myrrh", which being bitter of taste, is expressive of the bitter afflictions, and persecutions, and deaths, the people of God in this interval endured; and yet, as myrrh is of a sweet smell, so were those saints, in their sufferings for Christ, exceeding grateful and well pleasing to him; wherefore nothing is said by way of complaint to this church; not that she was without fault, but it was proper to use her tenderly in her afflicted state: and, as Dr. More observes, as myrrh was used in the embalming of dead bodies, it may point to the many deaths and martyrdoms of the saints in this period, whereby their names and memories are perpetuated and eternized.

These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is
alive. Of these characters of Christ, (See Gill on Revelation 1:8), (See Gill on Revelation 1:11), (See Gill on Revelation 1:17), (See Gill on Revelation 1:18); and they are very appropriately mentioned, to encourage the saints under their sufferings of death; since Christ, who is the eternal God, had in human nature tasted of the bitterness of death for them, and was risen again; suggesting, that though they were called to undergo the bitterest deaths for his sake, they should be raised again as he was, and live with him for ever. The Ethiopic version reads, "thus saith the holy Spirit"; but it cannot be said of him that "he was dead".


FOOTNOTES:

F6 Adv. Haeres. l. 3. c. 3.
F7 Vid. Smith. Notitia septem Eccles. Asiae, p. 164, 165.
F8 Hist. Eccles. l. 4. c. 15.
F9 L. 7. c. 46.
F11 Hist. Eccles. Magdeburg. cent. 3. c. p. 2. cent. 4. c. 2. p. 3. cent. 5. c. 2. p. 3. c. 10. p. 595, 596. cent. 6. c. 2. p. 4. cent. 8. c. 2. p. 4.
F12 Smith. Notitia, p. 167.
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