The city of Smyrna was a little north of Ephesus at the mouth of the Smyrna Gulf. Because of its very fine harbor it was a commercial center renowned for its exports. It was also distinguished for its schools of rhetoric, philosophy, medicine, sciences, and fine buildings. Many Jews lived there, and they were bitterly opposed to Christianity, even more so than were the Romans. In fact, Polycarp, the first bishop at Smyrna was martyred by the Jews and it is said that the Jews desecrated their holy day (Saturday) to carry the wood that would make his funeral pyre. The word Smyrna means, "bitter," being derived from the word, myrrh. Myrrh was used in embalming the dead. Thus we have a two-fold significance found in the name of this age. It was a bitter age filled with death. The two vines within the framework of the church were drifting further apart with an increased bitterness toward the true vine on the part of the false. Death was not only the seed of the false vine but even in the true vine there was a creeping paralysis and impotence because they had already drifted from the unadulterated truth of the first few years after Pentecost; and no true believer is any stronger and spiritually healthy and alive than his knowledge of and adherence to the pure Word of God, as seen by multitudes of examples in the Old Testament. Organization was growing apace, confirming and augmenting the death of the membership, for Holy Ghost leadership was deposed and the Word was replaced by creeds, dogmas and man-made ritual.
When Israel entered into unlawful alliances with the world, and formed fellowships by marriage, the day finally came when the world took over and Babylon carried away the people of God into captivity. Now when they went into captivity they went in having a priesthood, a temple and the Word. But when they came back they had rabbis, a theological order of Pharisees, a synagogue, and the Talmud. And when Jesus came they were so corrupt that He called them of their father, the devil, and this in spite of the fact they were of Abraham according to the flesh. In this age we see the same thing happening. However, as 'all Israel' is not Israel, but a little group were the true Spiritual Israelites, so there would always be a little group of true Christians, the bride of Christ, until He came for His own.
In this city there were two famous temples. One was the temple erected to the worship of Zeus, and the other was erected to Cybele. And between these two temples was found the most beautiful road of ancient times, called the Golden Street.
To me this depicts a further inroad of paganism that had already started in the first age, but was known to exist only at Rome. The joining of the two temples of a god and goddess is the seed of Maryolatry wherein Mary is called the mother of God and receives honor and titles and powers giving her a co-equality with Jesus Christ. The Golden Street that joins them is a picture of the seed that caused the Nicolaitane organizers to join state and church because they knew the wealth and power it offered them. As the Ephesian Age was but the seed bed for the tragic Pergamen Age that was yet in the future, this Smymaean Age with the rain, the sun, and the nourishment that ensured the vile corruption that would confirm the church in idolatry which is spiritual fornication, from which she would never rise. Death was permeating her root to branch and they that partook of her, partook of bitterness and death.
This age lasted from 170 to 312 A.D.
Using our God given rule of choosing the messenger for each age, we unhesitatingly declare that Irenaeus was exalted by the Lord to that position. He was the disciple of that great saint and warrior of faith, Polycarp. And it is no doubt as he sat at the feet of that great man he learned the Christian graces that flowed from his consecrated life, for Polycarp was one of the truly illustrious saints of all ages when viewed in the light of a blameless life. You will remember from your own reading that Polycarp was martyred. Too old to flee, and too sincere a man to allow another to hide him and then suffer a penalty for doing so, he gave himself up to death. But before he did, he asked for and was granted permission to pray two hours for his brethren in the Lord, for the governor, for his enemies and his captors. Like the great saints of all ages, and desiring a better resurrection, he stood firm, refusing to deny the Lord, and died with a free conscience. He was placed at the stake (untied at his own request) and the fire was lit. The fire bent away from his body, refusing to touch him. He was then pierced through with a sword. As this was done, water gushed from his side drowning the flames. His spirit was actually seen to depart in the form of a white dove released from his bosom. Yet for all this great testimony, this student of John the Revelator was not militant against the Nicolaitane system, for he himself leaned toward organization, not realizing that the desire for fellowship and what appeared like a good plan to foster the work of God was really a trick of the enemy.
With Irenaeus this was not so. He was militant against any form of organization. Also, his life history, wherein be served the Lord, was one of much manifestation in the Holy Spirit; and the Word was taught with unusual clarity and conformity to its original precepts. His churches in France were known to have the gifts of the Spirit among them, for the saints spoke in tongues, prophesied, raised the dead, and healed the sick by the prayer of faith. He saw the danger of any kind of organized brotherhood among the elders, pastors etc. He stood solidly for a unified, Spirit-filled, gift-manifesting local church. And God honored him for the power of God manifested among the saints.
He was also clear on his understanding of the Godhead. And since he was the disciple of Polycarp, who in turn was the disciple of Saint John, we can know for sure he had as perfect teaching as is possible on this subject. In Vol. 1, page 412 of the Ante Nicene Fathers we have this statement by him on the Godhead.
"All the other expressions, likewise, bring out the title of one, and the same being, the Lord of Power, the Lord, the Father of All, God Almighty, Most High, Creator, Maker, and such like, these are not the names and the titles of a succession of different beings, but of one and the same."He pointed out clearly that these are but titles as is Rose of Sharon, Bright and Morning Star, Fairest of Ten Thousand, etc. Neither is there but ONE God. His Name is Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus with his strict adherence to the Word, his wonderful understanding of Scripture, and the attendance of the power of God upon that ministry, he is the right choice for the age. It is altogether unfortunate that the other ages did not have in their messengers such a balance of fruit, power, and leadership in the Holy Spirit and the Word.
"And unto the angel of the church of Smyrna write; These things saith the First and the Last, Which was dead, and is alive;Return To Top Of This Page
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."
The ages also are found by a study of history. One simply needs to read the ages as found in Revelation and it all patterns perfectly with history as INDEED IT MUST. Since the church ages were foretold by God and their very conditions revealed, then of necessity, the history that would follow would be as the Bible sets forth. It is that simple-but then simplicity is the key to the Word. Now with all this I have not simply been a student and a historian, I have sought to be a Spiritual-minded man, and it was only with the definite approval of the Spirit of God that I chose the men I have chosen. This is true as God knows my heart.