William Andrew Dillard
Parson to Person
A fairly short distance north of the ancient city of Ephesus lies the ruins of the city of Smyrna. There, a great church of the Lord Jesus Christ was established under the ministry of Paul and his companions. The church at Smyrna is one of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation chapters two and three. The message of the Lord to this great church, and to those who would follow after in the same environment was one of great encouragement. They, in their trials, were to take the longer look at what was really important; to discern the beginning from the end. Accordingly, Jesus presented Himself to them as the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive. They were assured their trouble was not unnoticed by the Lord. Then, they were admonished to not fear the suffering that was coming. In their poverty, they were accounted as being rich. Moreover, they were promised a crown of life for their faithfulness. What a wonderful message to the church folks in their trials and suffering for the Lord.
It was my privilege to visit this ancient site some years ago. Being on a “Journeys of Paul” tour, Turkey was approached by ship from Greece. As the ship came within a few miles of land, an outline of the modern city of Izmir came into view. The alabaster buildings gleamed in sunlight piercing, scattering clouds that had bathed them in fresh, cool rain. In the foreground was the beautiful deep blue water of the Aegean Sea, and above the city in the few remaining clouds, a rainbow graced a scene that begged to be on canvas.
Izmir, the surviving, thriving city of ancient Smyrna hosts a population of perhaps two million. When I arrived there, the city had installed the first traffic lights, and most did not know what they meant. So the operating law of traffic was who had the loudest horn, and who was bold enough to push forward first. I observed that any desirable dwelling had armed guards patrolling the property however small. Inquiry revealed the country observed squatter’s rights. Any four walls and roof was home and occupants could not be moved, so the constant vigil to keep people away.
The ruins of Smyrna are not as prominent or large as some others, but enough remains to testify of a thriving city in which dedicated saints of the Lord paid a heavy price to advance the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our group paused and gave thanks for what the Lord’s church did here among so many enemies of the gospel, even the synagogue of Satan.
Being there was a grim reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Modern churches conquered by the world, and its synagogues of Satan soon turn to belittle and marginalize true churches who love the Word and seek to advance its cause. Because that cramps their style, their wrath is often incurred. It is just in such a time that the faithfulness of Smyrna should be remembered, and their example followed.