Dee Finney's blog
start date July 20, 2011
today's date September 28, 2013
TOPIC: POLYCARP AND THE PEARLS
NOTE: I decided to meditate because I didn't feel like doing anything else after lunch. So, I just closed my eyes, and immediately I could see a woman's hand covering a sentence on a cell phone screen. She was tapping on the last word as she pointed to it, but I could see what her hand hid from my eyes.
A voice then said, "The trail of Polycarp and the Pearls".
NOTE: I've heard the name Polycarp in the past, but don't really know who he was, so let me share what I found out.
Martyr (A.D. 69-155).
Our chief sources of information concerning St. Polycarp are: (1) the Epistles of St. Ignatius; (2) St. Polycarp's own Epistle to the Philippians; (3) sundry passages in St. Irenæus; (4) the Letter of the Smyrnaeans recounting the martyrdom of St. Polycarp.
Ignatius of Antioch was the first century Bishop of Antioch in Syria, beloved and held in famous memory. Surnamed Theophorus, Gr. God-bearer. Eusebius says that the Apostles Peter and Paul, who planted the faith in Antioch, left directions that Ignatius should succeed Evodius as Bishop. Ignatius retained the office for 40 years proving himself as an exemplary pastor. During the persecutuion of Domitian - 81-96, Ignatius kept up the courage of his flock by daily preaching, prayer and fasting.
Four out of the seven genuine epistles of St. Ignatius were written from Smyrna. In two of these — Magnesians and Ephesians — he speaks of Polycarp. The seventh Epistle was addressed to Polycarp. It contains little or nothing of historical interest in connexion with St. Polycarp. In the opening words St. Ignatius gives glory to God "that it hath been vouchsafed to me to see thy face". It seems hardly safe to infer, with Pearson and Lightfoot, from these words that the two had never met before.
The Epistle of St. Polycarp was a reply to one from the Philippians, in which they had asked St. Polycarp to address them some words of exhortation; to forward by his own messenger a letter addressed by them to the Church of Antioch; and to send them any epistles of St. Ignatius which he might have. The second request should be noted. St. Ignatius had asked the Churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia to send a messenger to congratulate the Church of Antioch on the restoration of peace; presumably, therefore, when at Philippi, he gave similar instructions to the Philippians. This is one of the many respects in which there is such complete harmony between the situations revealed in the Epistles of St. Ignatius and the Epistle of St. Polycarp, that it is hardly possible to impugn the genuineness of the former without in some way trying to destroy the credit of the latter, which happens to be one of the best attested documents of antiquity. In consequence some extremists, anti-episcopalians in the seventeenth century, and members of the Tübingen School in the nineteenth, boldly rejected the Epistle of Polycarp. Others tried to make out that the passages which told most in favour of the Ignatian epistles were interpolations.
These theories possess no interest now that the genuineness of the Ignatian epistles has practically ceased to be questioned. The only point raised which had any show of plausibility (it was sometimes used against the genuineness, and sometimes against the early date of St. Polycarp's Epistle) was based on a passage in which it might at first sight seem that Marcion was denounced: "For every one who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is antichrist; and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is a devil, and whosoever perverteth the oracles of the Lord (to serve) his own lusts, and saith there is neither resurrection nor judgment, this man is a first-born of Satan." St. Polycarp wrote his epistle before he had heard of St. Ignatius' martyrdom. Now, supposing the passage just quoted to have been aimed at Marcion (whom, on one occasion, as we shall presently see, St. Polycarp called to his face "the first-born of Satan"), the choice lies between rejecting the epistle as spurious on account of the anachronism, or bringing down its date, and the date of St. Ignatius' martyrdom to A.D. 130-140 when Marcion was prominent. Harnack seems at one time to have adopted the latter alternative; but he now admits that there need be no reference to Marcion at all in the passage in question (Chronologie, I, 387-8). Lightfoot thought a negative could be proved. Marcion, according to him, cannot be referred to because nothing is said about his characteristic errors, e.g., the distinction between the God of the Old and the God of the New Testament; and because the antinomianism ascribed to "the first-born of Satan" is inapplicable to the austere Marcion (Lightfoot, St. Ignatius and St. Polycarp, I, 585; all references to Lightfoot (L), unless otherwise stated, will be to this work).
When Lightfoot wrote it was necessary to vindicate the authenticity of the Ignatian epistles and that of St. Polycarp. If the former were forgeries, the latter, which supports — it might almost be said presupposes — them, must be a forgery from the same hand. But a comparison between Ignatius and Polycarp shows that this is an impossible hypothesis. The former lays every stress upon episcopacy, the latter does not even mention it. The former is full of emphatic declarations of the doctrine of the Incarnation, the two natures of Christ, etc. In the latter these matters are hardly touched upon. "The divergence between the two writers as regards Scriptural quotations is equally remarkable. Though the seven Ignatian letters are many times longer than Polycarp's Epistle, the quotations in the latter are incomparably more numerous, as well as more precise, than in the former. The obligations to the New Testament are wholly different in character in the two cases. The Ignatian letters do, indeed, show a considerable knowledge of the writings included in our Canon of the New Testament; but this knowledge betrays itself in casual words and phrases, stray metaphors, epigrammatic adaptations, and isolated coincidences of thought ... On the other hand in Polycarp's Epistle sentence after sentence is frequently made up of passages from the Evangelical and Apostolic writings ... But this divergence forms only part of a broader and still more decisive contrast, affecting the whole style and character of the two writings. The profuseness of quotations in Polycarp's Epistle arises from a want of originality ... On the other hand the letters of Ignatius have a marked individuality. Of all early Christian writings they are pre-eminent in this respect" (op. cit., 595-97).
In St. Irenæus, Polycarp comes before us preeminently as a link with the past. Irenaeus mentions him four times: (a) in connection with Papias; (b) in his letter to Florinus; (c) in his letter to Pope Victor; (d) at the end of the celebrated appeal to the potior principalitas of the Roman Church.
In connection with Papias
From Against Heresies V.33, we learn that Papias was "a hearer of John, and a companion of Polycarp".
In his letter to Florinus
Florinus was a Roman presbyter who lapsed into heresy. St. Irenæus wrote him a letter of remonstrance (a long extract from which is preserved by Eusebius, Church History V.20), in which he recalled their common recollections of Polycarp. "These opinions ... Florinus are not of sound judgment ... I saw thee when I was still a boy in Lower Asia in company with Polycarp, while thou wast faring prosperously in the royal court, and endeavouring to stand well with him. For I distinctly remember the incidents of that time better than events of recent occurrence ... I can describe the very place in which the Blessed Polycarp used to sit when he discoursed ... his personal appearance ... and how he would describe his intercourse with John and with the rest who had seen the Lord, and how he would relate their words ... I can testify in the sight of God, that if the blessed and apostolic elder had heard anything of this kind, he would have cried out, and stopped his ears, and said after his wont, 'O good God, for what times hast thou kept me that I should endure such things?' ... This can be shown from the letters which he wrote to the neighbouring Churches for their confirmation etc.". Lightfoot (op. cit., 448) will not fix the date of the time when St. Irenæus and Florinus were fellow-pupils of St. Polycarp more definitely than somewhere between 135 and 150. There are in fact no data to go upon.
In his letter to Pope Victor
The visit of St. Polycarp to Rome is described by St. Irenæus in a letter to Pope Victor written under the following circumstances. The Asiatic Christians differed from the rest of the Church in their manner of observing Easter. While the other Churches kept the feast on a Sunday, the Asiatics celebrated it on the 14th of Nisan, whatever day of the week this might fall on. Pope Victor tried to establish uniformity, and when the Asiatic Churches refused to comply, excommunicated them. St. Irenæus remonstrated with him in a letter, part of which is preserved by Eusebius (Church History V.24), in which he particularly contrasted the moderation displayed in regard to Polycarp by Pope Anicetus with the conduct of Victor. "Among these (Victor's predecessors) were the presbyters before Soter. They neither observed it (14th Nisan) themselves, nor did they permit those after them to do so. And yet, though not observing it, they were none the less at peace with those who came to them from the parishes in which it was observed. . . And when the blessed Polycarp was at Rome in the time of Anicetus, and they disagreed a little about other things, they immediately made peace with one another, not caring to quarrel over this matter. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp ... nor Polycarp Anicetus . . . But though matters were in this shape, they communed together, and Anicetus conceded the administration of the Eucharist in the Church to Polycarp, manifestly as a mark of respect. And they parted from each other in peace", etc.
There is a difficulty connected with this visit of Polycarp to Rome. According to the Chronicle of Eusebius in St. Jerome's version (the Armenian version is quite untrustworthy) the date of Anicetus' accession was A.D. 156-57. Now the probable date of St. Polycarp's martyrdom is February, 155. The fact of the visit to Rome is too well attested to be called into question. We must, therefore, either give up the date of martyrdom, or suppose that Eusebius post-dated by a year or two the accession of Anicetus. There is nothing unreasonable in this latter hypothesis, in view of the uncertainty which so generally prevails in chronological matters (for the date of the accession of Anicetus see Lightfoot, "St. Clement I", 343).
In his famous passage on the Roman Church
We now come to the passage in St. Irenæus (Adv. Haer., III,3) which brings out in fullest relief St. Polycarp's position as a link with the past. Just as St. John's long life lengthened out the Apostolic Age, so did the four score and six years of Polycarp extend the sub-Apostolic Age, during which it was possible to learn by word of mouth what the Apostles taught from those who had been their hearers. In Rome the Apostolic Age ended about A.D. 67 with the martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the sub-Apostolic Age about a quarter of a century later when St. Clement, "who had seen the blessed Apostles", died. In Asia the Apostolic Age lingered on till St. John died about A.D. 100; and the sub-Apostolic Age till 155, when St. Polycarp was martyred. In the third book of his treatise "Against Heresies", St. Irenæus makes his celebrated appeal to the "successions" of the bishops in all the Churches. He is arguing against heretics who professed to have a kind of esoteric tradition derived from the Apostles. To whom, demands St. Irenæus, would the Apostles be more likely to commit hidden mysteries than to the bishops to whom they entrusted their churches? In order then to know what the Apostles taught, we must have recourse to the "successions" of bishops throughout the world. But as time and space would fail if we tried to enumerate them all one by one, let the Roman Church speak for the rest. Their agreement with her is a manifest fact by reason of the position which she holds among them ("for with this Church on account of its potior principalitas the whole Church, that is, the faithful from every quarter, must needs agree", etc.).
Then follows the list of the Roman bishops down to Eleutherius, the twelfth from the Apostles, the ninth from Clement, "who had both seen and conversed with the blessed Apostles". From the Roman Church, representing all the churches, the writer then passes on to two Churches, that of Smyrna, in which, in the person of Polycarp, the sub-Apostolic Age had been carried down to a time still within living memory, and the Church of Ephesus, where, in the person of St. John, the Apostolic Age had been prolonged till "the time of Trajan". Of Polycarp he says, "he was not only taught by the Apostles, and lived in familiar intercourse with many that had seen Christ, but also received his appointment in Asia from the Apostles as Bishop in the Church of Smyrna". He then goes on to speak of his own personal acquaintance with Polycarp, his martyrdom, and his visit to Rome, where he converted many heretics. He then continues, "there are those who heard him tell how John, the disciple of the Lord, when he went to take a bath in Ephesus, and saw Cerinthus within, rushed away from the room without bathing, with the words 'Let us flee lest the room should fall in, for Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within'. Yea, and Polycarp himself, also, when on one occasion Marcion confronted him and said 'Recognise us', replied, 'Ay, ay, I recognise the first-born of Satan' ".
If you had an opportunity to open God’s book of life and peak inside it and see what it said about you personally, would you do it? Would you want to know what was written? Would you want to know what Christ sees in your life? What he says about your life? Would you take advantage of the opportunity to maybe perhaps change the outcome? It would be great counsel would it not? It would be great caution to see what you would face if you did not obey his word and would you could gain and enjoy for eternity if you did.
Such is the opportunity that God gives us by reading this book, the bible. If we would not be found in this book of life now, we will not be found in God’s book of life in eternity. Are you there? Do you have a bible that has your name written in that you are always to be found in? Are it’s pages as torn and as battered as you are by putting it into practice? You know what they say, “A bible that is falling apart is usually owned by someone who isn’t.”
In Revelation 2:23 Christ describes himself to the Church of Thyatira as “I am he who searches mind and heart and I will give to each of you according to your works.” And in Revelation 3:19 to the Church of Laodicea Christ says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” It is because Christ loves us so greatly that in this time of grace he gives us an opportunity to examine ourselves, to examine our lives, to examine our works, to examine our hearts in his light and in his presence while we are under this time of grace.
We have been praying for Christ to examine our hearts and evaluate our lives since the beginning of this bible study as we have been praying over Psalms 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
How much do you really believe he actually is? If you knew he was going to come by your house tomorrow to examine you personally, how would you prepare personally before he gets there? Would you prepare? We know our righteousness is in Christ, but have we grown too lax in keeping a clean house, a clean temple a pure heart?
Before the Israelites would meet with God, they would take time to prepare themselves. In Exodus 19:10 we see them taking three days to prepare to be in God’s presence when God would descend upon Mt. Sinai. If we would have God’s spirit descend upon us, we too need to prepare our hearts in faith that he is going to answer our prayer and examine our hearts with us to help us purify them for his presence now and for his coming later for we will all one day stand before him and give an account, according to our works..
These letters are indeed Christ’s review of his churches and as we talked about in Revelations 1:9-20 now is the time for a review. A review can be a very frightening thing. We just went through our review at work as many companies do at the beginning of the year. It’s a time to evaluate our past performance, our present performance and objectives and set new goals and objectives for the upcoming year and realign ourselves with them and pursue them. It’s a time of accountability as we objectively review our problems, our pursuits and our successes over a given time period. It gives us an opportunity to further succeed at work and is a necessary evil, much like going to a dentist’s office. Reviews often feel like judgment time and so they have a tendency to make us squirm and feel uncomfortable as we come under the microscope and into the light and as our weaknesses and strengths our examined objectively by another’s eye.
There are several things that we are going to look at and examine as we read each of these letters that Christ wrote to these seven churches of Asia. In particular we are going to look at the Church itself, we will look at Christ Himself and how he has revealed himself to that particular church in a very personal manner and ask ourselves why it was important to that particular church for them to see Christ in this particular way and how it relates to the reward he promises to those who overcome. We will also look at their local circumstances as Christ did and what they were enduring at the time the letters were written. Then we will examine both the compliments and the criticism Christ gave them as he examined their work. Christ is not one to give constructive criticism without giving counsel on plans of action and setting goals and objectives to correct their behavior. So we will examine how Christ counsels each church and also how he cautions and warns each church what will happen if they do not listen and take heed to his warning. Finally we look at the rewards Christ promises to each church if they overcome and conquer. He holds these rewards out before the church as one would hold out a carrot on a stick for them to set their eyes on pursue. As we look at each of these rewards, we want to ask why would this particular reward appeal to this particular church in this particular state and time? And finally we want to ask, “How is this letter to this church applicable to us today? What truths and promises here still hold?”
I was wondering as I was studying last weeks passage on the church of Ephesus and this weeks passage on Symrna, what was Christ looking at as he walked among the seven golden lamp stands? What qualities was he looking for? If Christ had a review form for his churches what might it look like? After examining each of the seven letters to the churches, I found seven common areas that I found him looking at specifically with each church and addressing and this is what I came up with. If they had an Evaluation form, I imagine it might look something like this:
Last week Penny covered the letter to the church in Ephesus and we learned how important an ingredient love is to our Christian faith. It really brought home 1 Cor. 13:1-3 which says:
If I speak in the tonguesof men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Without love, we are nothing and all our works and labor we do for the Lord is nothing. The Ephesus church was a busy church, they had some of the great pastors, Paul, Timothy and even John himself. They knew the Apostles and could spot a false one. They were alert and intolerant of false doctrine. When it came to effort, they were hard working, toiling in their labor for Christ, in endurance they were consistent and steadfast, they did not allow themselves to grow tired or lax. Everything on the outside looked great. If I were looking for a church, this would be definitely one that I probably would have chosen. They were intelligent, active and for all outward appearance they appeared as a faithful church.
But we found out last week they were faithful, not in their heart because when it came to love, Christ found them to be loveless, loveless for him. This is what made them an unfaithful church. When it comes to our covenant union with Christ, love is everything. We can be doing everything right and not miss church, not miss a prayer meeting, not a miss a bible study, not miss our devotional time, not miss an opportunity to serve, not miss an opportunity to give generously and on and on and still be doing everything wrong and gain nothing, simply because we have missed love our one and only primary calling to love God and one another.
Luke 10:27 “And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
Andrew Murray once said, “Our love to God is measured by our everyday fellowship with others and the love it displays.”
Do you want to measure your love for God? You only need to measure your own love for people to see how much you love God. You see many “religious” people, who profess to love God and yet show no love for people. It’s easy for them to maintain a right relationship with an invisible God, who is usually silent and only exists in their imagination but their relationships are a mess.
The apostle John records Jesus instructing them in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
How do people know you are a Christian? Not by the cross you wear, the church you attend or by all the good work you do, but by the way you love others. Love is the mark of a Christian.
John further teachers in his letter,
1 John 4:20-21 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
1 John has a lot to say about love. The Apostle John was big on teaching on the importance of love. You can read the emphasis in his Gospel and in his Epistle. Perhaps this is why he is known as the dearly loved disciple because he grasped that without love we are nothing.
Christ cautioned the church of Ephesus to return to it’s first love, to remember and to do the things it had done at first or else he would remove their lamp stand because without love, they too were nothing. Beloved Ephesus no longer exists. Their lamp stand was snuffed out and Ephesus went dark. For years not a single Christian could be found within it.
In 1 Cor. 16:22 Paul ends his letter to the Church of Corinth, “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!’
Love for God is not an option.
8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
Angel of the church
From our previous lessons we understand the Angels of the church to be those who are messengers of the church, ministers of the church, to those who are positioned as lights in this world, represented previously as stars, stars intended to guide people to Christ.
Daniel 12:3 – And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
If the church of Ephesus was a church I would have liked to attend, the city of Smyrna would have been a city I would have liked to live in. It was and still is a beautiful port city on the coast of the Mediterrean Sea of what is now known as Izmir, Turkey. Back in John’s day it about 200,000 people living in it, today it is about 2,000,00.
It was famous for not only being wealthy and beautiful but also for being culturally sophisticated in its day. It was the home of the arts and many temples and statues of various Greek Gods and idols of the day. Smyrna was the birthplace of Homer the poet who wrote the famous Iliad and the Odyssey. It was also a city famous for it’s great Olympic games and contributions to science and medicine.
Aristides once described Smyrna as “a flower of beauty, such as earth and sun had never showed to mankind.” Part of it’s beauty came not only from being located on such a beautiful coast but also from being built around the foot of a mountain called Pagos when it was rebuilt. In about 600BC the city had been entirely destroyed, and was nothing but villages. 300 centuries later Alexander the Great planned to rebuilt it but was unable to, but his successor did. They built the city at the bottom of Mount Pagos with a road of gold wrapped around the bottom of it ending at two temples on either side. One to Zeus and the other to the goddess Cybele, ‘the mother of the gods. The gold road was made to look like a necklace at the foot of the mountain. And at the top, the beautiful arrangement of ornament buildings was made to look like a crown, and so called “The Crown of Smyrna.” Because the city was dead and came back to life, it was identified with the Phoenix rising, the bird symbolizing resurrection from the dead.
Smyrna was about 30 miles away from Ephesus, a two days journey back then. Smyrna was a very competitive city, especially with it’s neighboring towns of Ephesus and Pergamum who were its biggest rivals for the imperial’s favor which they all sought. Smyrna was famous for it’s political loyalty to the Roman Empire. In AD29 all the cities of Asia competed for the favor of erecting a temple in honor of Emperor Tiberius and Smyrna won. It Smyrna would to the aggravation of Ephesus and Pergamum boast and call itself the “Pride of Asia” and wrote on its coins, “First of Asia in beauty and size”
The name Smyrna means “myrrh” in Greek. Myrrh is an expensive spice referred to often in the Old Testament. It was often used for making perfume, incense, medicine because of its aromatic and healing qualities. Matthew 2:11 tells us that the three wise men brought Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh when he was a baby. It was myrrh that was also mixed with the wine that was offered to Jesus as Gall when he was on the cross as a stupefying potion but he refused to drink it. (Mark 15:23)
Both frankincense and myrrh are aromatic gum resins taken from various Arabic trees. A long cut is made into the trees breaking through the bark of the tree to the resin and it drips out like tears and slowly hardens after a few days. Once it is hardened it is ready to be gathered to be prepared for their various uses in perfumes, incenses, medicines and embalming the dead. While the burning of Frankincense often represented prayers going up to heaven, a sweet fragrance offering; myrrh often represented death and was often used for embalming the dead because of its ability to preserve the dead from putrefaction or decaying. John 19:39 tells us the story of Nicodemus buying 100 lbs of myrrh to anoint the body of Jesus for burial.
I find it interesting that both spices flow like tears only from deep cuts that pierce the tree and so our own fervent prayers and sacrifice offerings to God also only come from the deep cuts in our own lives as we are pierced with troubles and turmoil but remain faithful and true to him despite our bitter condition. How sad it is when we are pierced that instead of a fragrant offering to God from our bitter state as we yet trust him and remain loving and faithful in our conditions, a foul smell rises up instead to his nostrils as our cuts reveal what is really in our hearts as bitter circumstances often do.
In Geek myrrh means bitter. Like the barren, fruitless Isle of Patmos meaning “My Killing” was a fitting name for such desolate place that John was exhiled to, so Smyrna meaning “myrrh” bitternessness is a fitting name for the Church of Smyrna because their state was indeed a bitter one. Much like the bitter state of Naomi in Ruth when she wished to be called “Mara” meaning “Bitter” instead of Naomi which meant “Pleasant.” We learned much about living in bitter conditions in the book of Ruth which we just finished and we will learn much more as we look at the Church of Smyrna and their very bitter conditions and how their very bitter conditions probably were the means that kept them from spiritual decay and putrefaction.
I Know Your Tribulation
Syrmna was facing great persecution. They were in very bitter circumstances and Christ says I know your tribulation. I know your anguish and the burden you are bearing. I know it is heavy. As Penny said last week, this “I know”, is an “I know”. Christ sees their tribulation and knows it as if it was his own tribulation and suffering, which it was and still is, for Christ is known as a man of suffering (Isa. 53:3-4)
Isa. 53:3-4 “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.”
It is for the name of Jesus that the early church suffered and it was Christ’s own suffering that they were sharing in.
Phillipians 3:10 – “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,”
1 Peter 4:13 – “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
Romans 8:17-18 – “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Revelation 1:9 – “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”
The early church was a suffering church but they took Christ’s words literally and counted it pure joy to be counted worthy to suffer for Christ on his behalf, to be so identified with him that they suffered for him in his place as Christ did for them. They counted it as the highest honor.
The bishop of Smyrna was a man named Polycarp. Some of you may be familiar with him. For those of you who are not let me share with you his story. Polycarp was an apprentice of John the Apostle as was Ignatius who was the Bishop of Antioch. These men and several others, are important in church history because they were of the generation that knew and had personal contact with the twelve Apostles themselves. They are often called Apostolic Fathers of the church and their writings preserved much of the early Christian theology. They are not part of the canon but as with many of the great men used by God and now known as the Church Fathers, their writings are quite edifying and have helped build up the early church through their leadership and writings.
Polycarp lived from AD 69-155. He would often share with others bits of his and the Apostle John’s conversations together and the stories that Apostle John would share with him. There is one letter preserved by him, it is the Letter to the Philippians. His greatest contribution to Christianity is said by some to be his martyred death which is well documented. During this time there was great persecution of Christians by the Jews and by the Emperors of Roman. Polycarp was arrested simply for being a Christian. At this time he was an old man at 86 years old and it is said the Roman proconsul took pity on him because of his age and said if he would just say “Caesar is Lord” and burn incense to Caesar, he would be released. But Polycarp refused and his response is still being repeated today. Polycarp replied, “”Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me? Bring forth what thou wilt”’ To this the proconsul replied, “I have wild beasts I will throw you to.” And still Polycarp remained faithful to Christ and would not curse him responding, “Call them. For repentance from better to worse is not permitted to us. But it is noble to change from what is evil to what is righteous.” The proconsul continued to threaten him saying, “Since you make light of the beasts, I will have you destroyed by fire unless you change your mind. Polycarp replied, “The fire you threaten burns but only an hour and is quenched after a little. You do not know the fire of coming judgment and everlasting punishment who is laid up for all the impious. Why do you delay? Come! Do what you will.” Polycarp was then sentenced to be bound and burned alive on a stake. As he stood by the stake, he asked not to be bound to it and said, “He who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pier unmoved without the security you desire from the nails.”
Ignatius the Bishop of Antioch another apprentice of John and a close friend of Polycarps that I mentioned earlier lived from AD30 to AD117. He was put to death under the Roman Emperor Trajan who ruled after Nero. It is said that before putting him to death he was interrogated by Trajan and Trajan asked him. “Dost thou then carry within thee Him that was crucified by Pontius Pilot?” To which Ignatius replied, “Truly so; for it is written, ‘I will dwell with them, and walk in them.” Then Trajan pronounced his death sentence. “We command that Ignatius, who affirms that he carries about within him ‘ Him that was crucified.’ be bound by soldiers, and carried to Rome, and there be devoured by the beasts for the gratification of the people.” When Ignatius heard this sentence, he cried out but it was not with sorrow he cried out but joy. “I thank thee, O Lord, that Thou has vouchsafed to honor me with a perfect love towards Thee, and hast made me to be bound with iron chains (which he referred to as spiritual pearls), like thy Apostle Paul.” After saying this, he clasped his chains to his heart with delight and prayed for the Church, commending it with tears to the Lord. The soldiers then carried him to the amphitheater in Rome and on the way, he wrote a letter to his dear friend Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna. In his letter he writes, “…nearness to the sword is nearness to God; to be among the wild beasts is to be in the arms of God; only let it be in the name of Jesus Christ. I endure all things that I may suffer together with Him, since He who became a perfect man strengthens me.”
It is with an understanding of these stories and with the knowledge that there were many more unpublished and unrecorded stories of Christian laymen like them that we move forward in this letter, for it is said in these days that martyrdom was as common as conversion.
The pain that the church in Smyrna faced daily is unimaginable as they would watch their members, their family members, their spouses, their children, their grandchildren drug off by Roman soldiers to face torturous deaths for their Christian faith. It is said that the Heathens believed it was not possible for a genuine Christian to deny Christ. And so the fires of affliction that the Smyrna Christians faced during these days truly proved the genuine Christian who remained faithful unto death and who “conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:11)
It is with this in mind that I would like you to now to read and look at the letter that Christ wrote specifically to the church of Smyrna in her bitter state.
‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
Christ knew the bitter sufferings that the Church of Smyrna was facing and because of this he opens his letter by identifying himself as, “The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.”
What impact do you imagine these words had on the hearts on the Church of Smyrna?
????????Isaiah 44:6 – Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel ???????and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ???????“I am the first and I am the last; ???????besides me there is no god. ???
Christ is reminding them not only of his own deity, for this is how God identified himself in the Old Testament several times. They would have instantly recognized its reference, and seen the connection that Christ was drawing that he is God. And they would also be reminded of Christ’s own resurrection from death, he is the one who died and yet lives.
This would have spoken to the Smyrnaean Christians very personally on many levels. It would have reminded them of Christ’s own promise to give them life, that even though they die they would live.
Matt. 10:39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
Christians are a people who are called to die daily for Christ, to live for Christ at the expense of their own lives as the Smyrnaeans were but in doing so they found as we do we gained a life, a joy that we couldn’t have imagined existed and its only a shadow and a small taste of the one we are to have. Like Christ, we die and yet live.
This idea would even have a deeper connection and illustration in the hearts of the Smyrnaeans. There was a time period the Smyrnaeans had undergone when their own ancient city had been destroyed by the Ldyians and for four hundred years their city had ceased to exist. They had been spread out through villages and on hillsides for four centuries before becoming reformed again and becoming self governing again. In a sense, they had came back from the dead. When they read these words in this letter, “I am he who died and yet lives” it would have risen up some patriotic feelings and understanding coming back to life and full vitality after death because of their national experience and they would have identified much more closely with Christ much like someone who may read them after going through a horrific accident that took away their life as they knew it and experienced a horrible time of recovering but in the end after it all gained a new life as if they were back from the dead.
Christ was literally back from the dead, and these experiences are but shadows of the living reality that we will experience in also being resurrected to life with him, but our experiences help us have some shadow of a context and understand its meaning on a personal level and transfers head knowledge to heart knowledge. These words of resurrection would have spoke on a deeper level to the Smyrnaeans heart even as they do now in various ways to those who are hearing this or reading this and ever had such an experience.
At the same time, Christ was also reminding the Smyrnaeans that just as he had authority over their beginning, he also has authority over their end. They had no need to fear death, or people because he alone was their end.
There are many circumstances that we face in life that would taunt us by saying if we obey God in this, it would be our end. It would be the end of our job. It would be the end of our joy. It would be the end of our comfort. It would be the end of our life. But Christ is our end. Christ determines the point in time at which something ends. He determines our final state. Not our circumstances. Not these Roman Emperors who would be their end. Christ is the true “The End”.
What a peaceful thought knowing that our end is Christ! What a fearsome thought knowing their end is Christ! The same lion that protects those who confess him, will devour those who deny him. We can either stand before Him as our Judge or behind Him as our Savior and Protector.
9 “‘I know your tribulation
I know your burden and your anguish….see above.
and your poverty (but you are rich)
Here Christ looks at the economic condition of the Church of Smyrna. They are poor, poverty stricken going without having their physical needs met because of their love for Christ.
Smyrna was a city that was very devoted to Rome and to the worship of the Roman Emperors as gods. It had started with the deceased Roman Emperors but when Domitian and other Roman Emperors claimed to be Lord and God they went along with it easy enough. Once a year the Smyrneans had to offer incense to the Roman Emperor “gods” in order to receive a token which allowed them to work and so on. Since the Christian Smyrnaeans refused such idol worship they often could not find work, they were forced to live in poverty and endured additional persecution.
Hebrews 10:34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
Our worldview and God’s worldview are often upside down from one another. The Smyrnaeans seen themselves as poor, but Christ saw them as rich. The Church of Laodicea who we will come to in Revelation 3:17 saw themselves as rich, but Christ saw them as poor and poverty stricken. Things are not always as they appear.
Many times its easy for us to think even today that a churches material wealth is a sign of its favor by God and a small church is a sign that they are doing something wrong otherwise God would have blessed them. We must be careful, both churches that avoided rebukes in these letters were either poverty stricken or weak in power.
1 Cor. 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
Riches can and often are a blessing from God, but they have a tendency to make us more self- confident, independent, prideful, boastful, instead of dependent on God, humble and meek. Instead of expanding the kingdom of God, we expand our own kingdom in this world. It takes great strength and great wisdom to handle riches appropriately so that they do not become an obstacle to our ending the kingdom of heaven.
Luke 18:25 “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”.
and the slanderof those who say that they are Jews and are not,
It was not the Romans who persecuted the early Christians so much as it was the Jews. Starting with Jesus and continuing with Paul and the rest of the Apostles and earl church fathers, the Jews would continually stir up the people against the Christians and have them arrested for various reasons and try to get the Roman officials to use their power and authority to persecute the Christians in ways the Jewish law forbid.
The Jews could not stand the idea that the Messiah was a man accused of blasphemy. They could not stand the idea of being saved apart from the law or the idea of dirty Gentiles becoming part of the church. Their hatred blinded them as hatred does to make exceptions for themselves as needed to break their own laws to slander and persecute the Christians and bring the death penalty upon them as they did with Christ and they did with Polycarp bring the sticks to make the fire that would burn him on the stake on a Saturday.
Romans 2:28 – For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man, but from God.
The Jews have always been known as God’s people. But here we see that a true Jew is one who follows Jesus. These are God’s people. Abrahams seed are children of the promise of Abraham. These people who were slandering the Christians, though they claimed ethnic heritage of Judaism, Christ says here they are NOT true Jews, they are not God’s people. Instead God sees them as…
but are a synagogue of Satan.
The unsaved Jews were doing the work of Satan in persecuting Christ and the Christians and in doing so had become a gathering of Satan.
We often think of Satan worship as dark witchcraft, Wicca and such. Here we see that it is a gathering of people who hinder the work of God and it often comes in a religious cloak
2 Cor. 11:14 “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”.
10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer.
Here is the counsel that the church of Smyrna receives from Christ. He knows what they have been through and have faced in the past, here he tells them not to fear or to stop being afraid not because they won’t suffer but because of the reward he promises them at the end.
I am sure they were praying to be rescued, for Christ to intervene and stop the persecutions. Yet here Christ informs them this is not the end of their suffering. Their suffering is not over yet and there is more to come but they are to continue to be courageous in the face of their suffering as they have been.
Matt 10:28 – And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”
More than anything, this reminds us that this is a spiritual war that we are engaged in. Yes, Christ could put an end to all our suffering, but that comes only at the end of the war when the battle is won and we are not done yet. Through our testimonies, through our faithfulness, battles are being won in the spiritual realms. Because of Polycarp’s and Ignatius’s faithfulness unto death, along with many others including Paul’s, Peter’s John’s, and let’s not forget Christ’s spiritual battles were worn. The gospel has spread. What would have happened to Christianity if these men had loved their lives more than Christ? If they choose to “pretend” to bow to Caesar? If they had just went along with it? Surely more could have been done for Christ if they had another ten years? What would have happened to Christianity if it was not suffered for?
What we are willing or not willing to suffer for, shows how much or how little we value it.
Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison,
This is a reminder to the Smyrnaeans and to us that we have an enemy and just who our enemy really is. It wasn’t the Jews for them, although they were acting as Satan’s obedient demons carrying out his wishes and work. It’s not the false teachers today or others that hinder the work of God. It is Satan.
Eph. 6:12 – For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
The “prison” into which the devil would throw the Smyrnaean Christians must be understood as they understood it. This was not they were going to prison for a few days and then be released. This was they were going to prison for a brief time and then they would be executed and the readers would have understood it that way because back then, they didn’t hold people in prison for long periods of time and release them like they do today. Going to prison meant you were going to be held there until you saw the magistrate and then you would be released or executed.
This is confirmed by the next verse, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.” Christ was asking them to remain steadfast and endure all the way to the end, whatever it may be and he himself would reward them.
that you may be tested, tried, examined, proven
What is being tried?
Your faith, love, patience, obedience, may be tried. – Poole
1 Peter 1:7 – so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
ii. Most specifically in this case, God allowed this attack so that they may be tested, in the sense of being proven. Through their suffering, God would display the true riches of the church in Smyrna to everyone, including themselves – even though He knew they were rich already. – Guzik
A large part of the purpose of being examined, is so that we might be found proven, shown to be faithful and established beyond doubt. To be examined is to studied, probed and to be put to the test, as for its quality, or give experimental use to.
Psa. 17:3 “Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.”
Psa. 26:2 – Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;
Jeremiah 17:10 – “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”
This is what we have been praying for so that sin and any unholiness that is revealed can be dealt with and removed.
How do you feel about the Lord testing your faith? Testing your love for him?
James 1:2-4 – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
and for ten days you will have tribulation.
The “ten days” means simply a period which can be measured, there is an end in sight. It will not last forever and the church will overcome.
What do the ten days mean? – Guzik states:
i. Some think that John really means ten years of persecution. “As the days in this book are what is commonly called prophetic days, each answering to a year, the ten years of tribulation may denote ten years of persecution; and this was precisely the duration of the persecution under Diocletian, during which all the Asiatic Churches were grievously afflicted.” (Clarke)
ii. Others think that John really means persecution over the reign of ten Roman Emperors. “The first under Nero, a.d. 54; the second under Domitian, a.d. 81; the third under Trajan, a.d. 98; the fourth under Adrian [Hadrian], a.d. 117; the fifth under Septimus Severus, a.d. 193; the sixth under Maximin, a.d. 235; the seventh under Decius, a.d. 249; the eighth under Valerian, a.d. 254; the ninth under Aurelian, a.d. 270; the tenth under Diocletian, a.d. 284.” (White, cited in Walvoord)
iii. Still others have taken stranger approaches: “Others observe, that in ten days are two hundred and forty hours, which make up the number of years from 85, when the second persecution began, (under which John at this time was) to 325, when all the persecutions ceased.” (Poole)
iv. Others say that ten days is simply an expression of speech: “The expression ten days is not to be taken literally; it is the normal Greek expression for a short time.” (Barclay)
v. However, there is no compelling reason to believe it means anything other than ten days of severe persecution, with an emphasis on the idea that it is a limited time.
Be faithful unto death,
Be faithful would have been another personal word to the Smyrnaean readers of their history. As a nation they were known for faithfulness. They had been faithful friend and ally to Rome for centuries and were proud of their historic claim and reputation of loyalty. Rome referred to them as pro singulari fide or “the most faithful of our allies.” Faithfulness was regarded as the chief glory of Smyrna by the entire city.
and I will give you the crown of life.
2 Timothy 4:8 – Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
A symbol of honor and recognition. Here is another personal message for the Smyrneans. The crown would have had great significant meaning to them. As we discussed their entire city was built around a crown centerpiece on Mt. Pagos. They were extremely competitive for first place. They were very much into Olympic games. Their athletes and good citizens received crowns. Those who worshipped pagan gods often wore crowns of flowers around their head.
Christ says you want a crown? Your crowns though beautiful are temporary. Your flowers wilt and die. I have a special crown. A crown of life, that I am offering to you and that you can win. A stephanos, a crown of victory to be given to those would overcome and be conquerors of this world for the kingdom of God.
The Church of Smyrna was a victorious church. From the eyes of the world it was a weak church, overcome with poverty and persecution and was anything but victorious. But in God’s eyes they were victorious because they had overcome their love for the world by their love for God and would not sacrifice their love for God for their love and life in this world. They were victorious.
11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
This reminds us that this letter is for anyone who would listen, anyone who would pay attention t what the Spirit has to say to the churches for it has something personal to say not just to the Smyrnaeans but to all of us.
The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
This crown will only be given to those who overcome, those who finish this race, not those who only begin. We have nothing to boast about if we began a race but did not finish it. If we did not run for it with all our heart, all our mind, our strength and all soul. It is going to take everything in us to finish this race well.
We do not conquer not for our own glory but for the glory of Christ. We do not conquer not to win more of this world but more of the next.
As Jesus said, In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (Joh. 16:33)
Because Christ has overcome the world, we too must overcome the world and do overcome the world as pursue living and abiding in Christ by abiding in love. Remember 1 John 5:2-5…
1 John 5:2-5By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
There is a death to be feared and it is not so much the first death as it is the second death as Polycarp pointed out. Our first death is the death of the body and it is a temporary death. The second one is the death of the soul.
Matthew 10:28 “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Lake of Fire
Romans 20:14-15 – “14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Revelation 21:8 – But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Second death is not a temporary death but an eternal death, a death that never ends. It is an eternal separation from God, an eternal separation from light, mercy, love, compassion, goodness, hope and fellowship. It is a state of darkness, loneliness and hopeless without end.
If we do not want God in our life now, God will give us what we want; a life without him. Is this your idea of heaven because this will be the heaven of those who prefer to live without God now. It will be the heaven of those who cannot be found in this book of life. Whose names are written in. Are you in it? Do you want to be in it?
All you have to do is turn around from doing things your own way and turn to God now. You will find that what for all appearances appears to be a death sentence to your life now will bring you greater life and greater joy then you have ever known both now and in the world to come. You too will know the meaning of a resurrected life that no amount of bitterness in this world can keep you from rising up through for the glory of God. If you asked Paul, John, Polycarp, Peter and all the martyrs of old and of today, was it worth it? Were you sacrifices worth it? There would be ten thousands upon ten thousand of responses repeating what Paul told the Romans in Romans 8:18…
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
PEARL OF GREAT PRICE
Saint Mathurin of Larchant, also Mathurin of Sens, or Maturinus was a Priest and Confessor of the late third and earth fourth centuries, who successfully enlightened his native region of Gâtinais, France,[ and was gifted with wonderworking abilities as an exorcist. He is honoured as the apostle and patron of the historic French province of Gâtinais, with his feast day celebrated on November 1.
The first source to mention St. Mathurin is the Martyrology of Usuard, written in 875 by a Benedictine monk of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris, his life apparently having been unknown before this time.
Mathurin was born in Larchant between Nemours and Malesherbes in Gâtinais, in northern France. His parents, Marinus and Euphemia, were pagans, and his father had even been entrusted by the Roman Emperor Maximian with the task of exterminating the Christians in the country.
As soon as Saint Maturinus heard the Good News, his heart was entirely converted to Christ, and he sold everything he owned to possess the pearl of great price. Mathurin was secretly baptized by Bishop Polycarp of Sens at the age of twelve, and eventually he converted his own parents.
He was ordained to the priesthood at the age of twenty by Bishop Polycarp of Sens, and began to perform miracles, having a special gift for curing diseases of the soul and body. It has also been suggested that he baptized Emperor Constantius Chlorus in the fountain of Larchant.
His bishop respected him so much, that he gave Mathurin the government of the diocese when he had to leave for Rome. Mathurin then preached the Gospel to Gatinais with such success, that he converted the whole province to Christ.
His fame grew to such an extent, that Emperor Maximian himself requested that Maturinus come to Rome, towards 310 AD, so that his daughter-in-law Flavia Maximiana Theodora, who had been possessed by an evil spirit, could be cured by the saint. Mathurin thus went to Rome where he expelled the demon from Theodora’s body.
Mathurin lived for three more years in the Eternal City (Rome), interceding with the emperor on behalf of persecuted Christians.
He died in peace and was buried in a Roman cemetery. However, Mathurin miraculously indicated that he wished to be buried in Larchant, and so his body was taken to Sens, and then back to Larchant, which became a pilgrimage site.
When the canons of Notre-Dame de Paris were put in possession of Larchant in 1004, they gained the Saints relics. They kept a part in Larchant and placed the other part in the chapel of Saint-Mathurin which they built in Paris in the Latin Quarter.
In Larchant, a church was dedicated to him in 1153, which was carefully reconstructed by the canons of Notre-Dame de Paris. It was flooded with pilgrims and the sick for centuries, particularly at Pentecost. Several kings of France including Louis XI, Francis I and Henry IV made pilgrimages to Larchant. Unfortunately, his shrine was burnt by the Huguenots (French Protestants) in 1568, and his relics were destroyed.
Saint Mathurin was also commemorated by the Trinitarian friars in France, known as “Mathurins” because they were based in the Parisian church of Saint-Mathurin from 1228 onwards. In addition, the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Paris kept their great seal in the Church of Saint-Mathurin (Paris).
Due to his deliverance of the girl with the evil spirit, Saint Mathurin is invoked against particular obsessions, madness, insanity, and as a patron saint of lunatics (fools, mentally ill). By extension he also became the patron saint of comic actors, jesters, and clowns, as well as of sailors (in Brittany), of tinmen (in Paris), and of plumbers.
"MATHURINS, or BRETHREN OF THE HOLY TRINITY, an order of monks which arose at the end of the 12th century, and got this name from having a church at Paris which claims St. Mathurin for its patron saint. All their churches were dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Sometimes they are called Brethren of the Redemption of Captives, because originating at the period of the Crusades, they gave their labor and a third of their revenue to liberate Christian captives from Mohammedan masters. Their founders were two French recluses in the diocese of Meaux - Jean de Mattia and Felix de Valois. By some they seem to have been called the Order of Asses, as they were permitted to use those animals only, and were debarred from riding on horses. A similar order was founded in Spain in 1228, and there called the Order of St. Mary."
WHO ARE THE TEACHERS OF CHRISTIANITY IN AMERICA TODAY?
Article is edited where current U.S. citizens were mentioned.
Who Is The Servant Who Jesus Sends To Prepare The Christians For The Return Of Jesus?
Jesus Told Us In Two Prophecies! From Erasmus Of America
“And therefore, when in the end the Church is suddenly caught from this, it is said “There shall be tribulation such as not been since the beginning, neither shall be.” For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome, they are crowned with incorruption.” Bishop Irenaeus (A.D. 120 – 202), Book V, “Irenaeus Against Heresies, Chapter XXIX.
Bishop Irenaeus was the legal ward raised by Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna, Asia Minor who had been trained and ordained by St. John the Divine who wrote the Book of Revelation. Bishop Polycarp was the last living witness in the Roman Empire who had talked with several of the Apostles of Jesus Christ and many of the 500 witnesses who saw Jesus after being crucified and then resurrected from the dead. And then ascended into Heaven with His Apostles as witnesses.
Bishop Hippolytus trained by Bishop Irenaeus wrote around 200 A.D. that Matthew 24 prophesied the Eagle Christians do not have to go through the Tribulation, but the lukewarm Christians do! In “Treatise On Christ and Antichrist” around 200 A.D. and teaching what Bishop Irenaeus taught him from Bishop Polycarp who in turn repeated what the Apostle St. John the Divine had taught Bishop Polycarp.
Bishop Hippolytus explains that the verse which the heretics thinks means carcass is a play upon a Greek word. Its literal meaning is “fall” rather than the implied “carcass” meaning fallen body. And where did Adam fall? In Paradise! The eagle Christians go to Paradise brought there by Jesus Christ just before the prophesied Tribulation also called “Jacob’s Trouble.” The bad Christians, the tares in the churches, the lukewarm Christians, because they paid no attention to the warning from Jesus Christ to watch for His return, are rewarded for their lack of faith in what Jesus said by being cast into the world Tribulation and flee for their lives from the Antichrist when he arises to power. That is why Jesus Christ warns the lukewarm Christians in Revelation 3:16, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue (vomit) thee out of My mouth.” (Missing words here are “into the world tribulation when it occurs!”)
Having studied the sayings of the Aramaic dialect which Jesus and the Apostles frequently used in the New Testament, “art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot” means that these Christians are very worldly, indifferent to such as Apostolic Christianity, and just as comfortable with evil in the world as good in the world. Such type lukewarm Christians also voted earlier for Hitler in Germany and saw nothing wrong in his plans to replace Christianity in Germany with National Socialism which he founded upon the Theory of Evolution. Even as the Lord rewards Christians rewards or else punishes us for our fruits (our good or else evil works) in life. First Apostolic Christianity and the Bible both strongly taught that we are morally responsible for our actions in this life. We can build moral charcter in this life . The good are welcomed by God into eternity with God which is a wonderful existence wildly beyond human imagination in reward.
Revelation 3: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience (Apostolic Christianity), I (Jesus) will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth.” This refers to the prophesied World Tribulation of the “Last Days.”
Origen Against Celsus around 250 A.D., Chapter XLV: “But that the object of Christianity is that we should become wise.” In many early Christian liturgies for the churches, they liked to use this name for the Christian Church then which was, “Thy Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Catholic in Latin meant the universal church and Apostolic Church meant it followed faithfully the Apostolic Christianity left them by Christ and the Apostles. How strongly do churches today follow Apostolic Christianity when Jesus taught in the New Testament that prayer was made much more powerful by prayer and fasting, not just praying? Very few churches today teach the Apostolic Christian teaching to pray and fast for the most powerful prayers with God such as when asking for such as Miracles of God. We have too much today the churches of self-comfort, not churches of Apostolic Christianity as Jesus gave to us which is True Christianity. Sometimes the best way to hide a great secret is to put it out in front of everyone and people in their “Matrix” trained mentality resist so totally the reality and truths staring them in the face, will resist admitting that truth and reality at all costs if possible!
Jesus Christ told us in plain English whom He was going to appoint to prepare the true Christians for His soon return to earth.
The two prophecies of Jesus Christ in Matthew 24 and Luke 12 Jesus tells us how He plans to prepare the Bride Church for His soon return to earth. When you look for this step by step, you will be startled that Jesus told us so plainly we just did not believe what Jesus told us how to know when it is near for His return to earth.
Two early examples showing even the best Servants of
God are capable of an error at some time or another, the Apostle Paul rebuked
the Apostle Peter whom Jesus Christ said He would build His church upon. The
Apostle Peter had not committed an error in doctrine, but in policy by not
opening the door widely enough for the Gentiles to join the Church of God on
earth. The Apostle Peter corrected his error in policy, but at no time did he
mislead the Christians as to doctrine. And don’t forget that the shadow of
Peter at the time of Pentecost was so highly honored by God that a invalid was
instantly cured by his shadow coming over that cripple in the streets of Jerusalem. And St. Augustine was quite brilliant as a Christian scholar later on wrote and apologized for one earlier Christian stand on Bible prophecy he now judged had been in error.
WHAT IS APOSTOLIC CHRISTIANITY?
The Apostolic Christian Church (ACC) is a religious body in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Japan that originates from the Anabaptist movement.
The Apostolic Christian Church of America is a Christian denomination, based in the United States. Its website states, "The Apostolic Christian Church believes ...
This article is about the Christian Church denomination formed in 1916. For the wider meanings of Apostolic Church within Christianity, see Christian Church.
Official site with introductory description of the church's origins, doctrine, lifestyle, and vision.
According to one of their early writers, the Apostolic Church stands for first- century Christianity in faith, practice, and government, “to make known world- wide the ...
History of the Christian Church, Volume I: Apostolic Christianity. A.D. 1-100.
NOTE: NO ONE CAN TELL YOU WHICH CHURCH YOU MUST BELONG TO. THE INDIVIDUAL MUST MAKE HIS OR HER OWN CHOICE ACCORDING TO YOUR OWN HEART. IT IS YOUR OWN CONSCIENCE WHICH SHOULD BE YOUR GUIDE.
Polycarp's martyrdom is described in a letter from the Church of Smyrna, to the Church of Philomelium "and to all the brotherhoods of the holy and universal Church", etc. The letter begins with an account of the persecution and the heroism of the martyrs. Conspicuous among them was one Germanicus, who encouraged the rest, and when exposed to the wild beasts, incited them to slay him. His death stirred the fury of the multitude, and the cry was raised "Away with the atheists; let search be made for Polycarp". But there was one Quintus, who of his own accord had given himself up to the persecutors. When he saw the wild beasts he lost heart and apostatized. "Wherefore", comment the writers of the epistle, "we praise not those who deliver themselves up, since the Gospel does not so teach us". Polycarp was persuaded by his friends to leave the city and conceal himself in a farm-house. Here he spent his time in prayer, "and while praying he falleth into a trance three days before his apprehension; and he saw his pillow burning with fire. And he turned and said unto those that were with him, 'it must needs be that I shall be burned alive'". When his pursuers were on his track he went to another farm-house. Finding him gone they put two slave boys to the torture, and one of them betrayed his place of concealment. Herod, head of the police, sent a body of men to arrest him on Friday evening. Escape was still possible, but the old man refused to flee, saying, "the will of God be done". He came down to meet his pursuers, conversed affably with them, and ordered food to be set before them. While they were eating he prayed, "remembering all, high and low, who at any time had come in his way, and the Catholic Church throughout the world". Then he was led away.
Herod and Herod's father, Nicetas, met him and took him into their carriage, where they tried to prevail upon him to save his life. Finding they could not persuade him, they pushed him out of the carriage with such haste that he bruised his shin. He followed on foot till they came to the Stadium, where a great crowd had assembled, having heard the news of his apprehension. "As Polycarp entered into the Stadium a voice came to him from heaven: 'Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man'. And no one saw the speaker, but those of our people who were present heard the voice." It was to the proconsul, when he urged him to curse Christ, that Polycarp made his celebrated reply: "Fourscore and six years have I served Him, and he has done me no harm. How then can I curse my King that saved me." When the proconsul had done with the prisoner it was too late to throw him to the beasts, for the sports were closed. It was decided, therefore, to burn him alive. The crowd took it upon itself to collect fuel, "the Jews more especially assisting in this with zeal, as is their wont" (cf. the Martyrdom of Pionius). The fire, "like the sail of a vessel filled by the wind, made a wall round the body" of the martyr, leaving it unscathed. The executioner was ordered to stab him, thereupon, "there came forth a quantity of blood so that it extinguished the fire". (The story of the dove issuing from the body probably arose out of a textual corruption. See Lightfoot, Funk, Zahn. It may also have been an interpolation by the pseudo-Pionius.)
The officials, urged thereto by the Jews, burned the body lest the Christians "should abandon the worship of the Crucified One, and begin to worship this man". The bones of the martyr were collected by the Christians, and interred in a suitable place. "Now the blessed Polycarp was martyred on the second day of the month of Kanthicus, on the seventh day before the Kalends of March, on a great Sabbath at the eighth hour. He was apprehended by Herodes ... in the proconsulship of Statius Quadratus etc." This subscription gives the following facts: the martyrdom took place on a Saturday which fell on 23 February. Now there are two possible years for this, 155 and 166. The choice depends upon which of the two Quadratus was proconsul of Asia. By means of the chronological data supplied by the rhetorician Aelius Aristides in certain autobiographical details which he furnishes, Waddington who is followed by Lightfoot ("St. Ignatius and St. Polycarp", I, 646 sq.), arrived at the conclusion that Quadratus was proconsul in 154-55 (the proconsul's year of office began in May). Schmid, a full account of whose system will be found in Harnack's "Chronologie", arguing from the same data, came to the conclusion that Quadratus' proconsulship fell in 165-66.
For some time it seemed as if Schmid's system was likely to prevail, but it has failed on two points:
There is a life of St. Polycarp by pseudo-Pionius, compiled probably in the middle of the fourth century. It is "altogether valueless as a contribution to our knowledge of Polycarp. It does not, so far as we know, rest on any tradition, early or late, and may probably be regarded as a fiction of the author's own brain" (Lightfoot, op. cit., iii, 431). The postscript to the letter to the Smyrneans: "This account Gaius copied from the papers of Irenaeus ... and I, Socrates, wrote it down in Corinth ... and I, Pionius again wrote it down", etc. probably came from the pseudo-Pionius. The very copious extracts from the Letter of the Smyrneans given by Eusebius are a guarantee of the fidelity of the text in the manuscripts that have come down.
Polycarp, an eminent Christian father, was born in the reign of Nero. Ignatius recommended the church of Antioch to the care and superintendence of this zealous father, who appears to have been unwearied in his endeavors to preserve the peace of the church, and to promote piety and virtue amongst men.
During the persecution which raged at Smyrna, in the year 167, the distinguished character of Polycarp attracted the attention of the enemies of Christianity. The general outcry was, "Let Polycarp be sought for." When he was taken before the proconsul, he was solicited to reproach Christ, and save his life: but with a holy indignation, he nobly replied: "Eighty and six years have I served Christ, who has never done me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?"
When he was brought to the stake, the executioner offered, as usual, to nail him to it; but he said, "Let me alone as I am: He who has given me strength to come to the fire, will also give me patience to abide in it, without being fastened with nails."
Part of his last prayer, at his death, was as follows: "O God, the Father of Thy beloved son, Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of Thyself; O God of angels and powers, of every creature, and of all the just who live in Thy presence; I thank Thee that Thou hast graciously vouchsafed, this day and this hour, to allot me a portion amongst the number of martyrs. O Lord, receive me; and make me a companion of saints in the resurrection, through the merits of our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. I praise and adore Thee, through thy beloved Son, to whom, with Thee, and Thy Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, both now and forever. Amen." -- Power of Religion.
Polycarp (Greek: Πολύκαρπος Polýkarpos; AD 69–155) was a 2nd-century Christian bishop of Smyrna. According to the Martyrdom of Polycarp he died a martyr, bound and burned at the stake, then stabbed when the fire failed to touch him. Polycarp is regarded as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches.
It is recorded by Irenaeus, who heard him speak in his youth, and by Tertullian, that he had been a disciple of John the Apostle. Saint Jerome wrote that Polycarp was a disciple of John and that John had ordained him bishop of Smyrna.
The early tradition that expanded upon the Martyrdom to link Polycarp in competition and contrast with John the Apostle who, though many people had tried to kill him, was not martyred but died of old age after being exiled to the island of Patmos, is embodied in the Coptic language fragmentary papyri (the "Harris fragments") dating to the 3rd to 6th centuries. Frederick Weidmann, their editor, interprets the "Harris fragments" as Smyrnan hagiography addressing Smyrna-Ephesus church rivalries, which "develops the association of Polycarp and John to a degree unwitnessed, so far as we know, either before or since". The fragments echo the Martyrology, and diverge from it.
With Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp is regarded as one of three chief Apostolic Fathers. The sole surviving work attributed to his authorship is his Letter to the Philippians; it is first recorded by Irenaeus of Lyons.
The sole surviving work attributed to him is Polycarp's letter to the Philippians, a mosaic of references to the Greek Scriptures, preserved in Irenaeus' account of Polycarp's life. It, and an account of The Martyrdom of Polycarp that takes the form of a circular letter from the church of Smyrna to the churches of Pontus, form part of the collection of writings Roman Catholics term "The Apostolic Fathers" to emphasize their particular closeness to the apostles in Church traditions. Outside of the Book of Acts which contains the death of Saint Stephen, the Martyrdom is considered one of the earliest genuine accounts of a Christian martyrdom, and is one of the very few genuine accounts from the actual age of the persecutions.
There are two chief sources of information concerning the life of Polycarp: the letter of the Smyrnaeans recounting the martyrdom of Polycarp and the passages in Irenaeus' Adversus Haereses. Other sources are the epistles of Ignatius, which include one to Polycarp and another to the Smyrnaeans, and Polycarp's own letter to the Philippians. Other sources, such as Pionius' Life of Polycarp or excerpts from Tertullian and Eusebius of Caesarea are considered largely unhistorical or based on previous material. In 1999, some third to 6th century Coptic fragments about Polycarp were also published.
According to Irenaeus, Polycarp was a companion of Papias, another "hearer of John" as Irenaeus interprets Papias' testimony, and a correspondent of Ignatius of Antioch. Ignatius addressed a letter to him, and mentions him in his letters to the Ephesians and to the Magnesians.
Irenaeus regarded the memory of Polycarp as a link to the apostolic past. He relates how and when he became a Christian, and in his letter to Florinus stated that he saw and heard Polycarp personally in lower Asia. In particular, he heard the account of Polycarp's discussion with John and with others who had seen Jesus. Irenaeus also reports that Polycarp was converted to Christianity by apostles, was consecrated a bishop, and communicated with many who had seen Jesus. He repeatedly emphasizes the very great age of Polycarp.
According to Irenaeus, during the time his fellow Syrian, Anicetus, was the Pope, or Bishop of Rome, in the 150s or 160, Polycarp visited Rome to discuss the differences that existed between Asia and Rome "with regard to certain things" and especially about the time of the Easter festivals. Irenaeus said that on certain things the two bishops speedily came to an understanding, while as to the time of Easter, each adhered to his own custom, without breaking off communion with the other. Pope Anicetus—the Roman sources offering it as a mark of special honor—allowed Polycarp to celebrate the Eucharist in his own church. They might have found their customs for observing the Christian Passover differed, Polycarp following the eastern practice of celebrating Passover on the 14th of Nisan, the day of the Jewish Passover, regardless of what day of the week it fell.
In the Martyrdom, Polycarp is recorded as saying on the day of his death, "Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong", which could indicate that he was then eighty-six years old or that he may have lived eighty-six years after his conversion. Polycarp goes on to say, "How then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour? Bring forth what thou wilt." Polycarp was burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor. The date of Polycarp's death is in dispute. Eusebius dates it to the reign of Marcus Aurelius, c. 166–167. However, a post-Eusebian addition to the Martyrdom of Polycarp dates his death to Saturday, February 23, in the proconsulship of Statius Quadratus—which works out to be 155 or 156. These earlier dates better fit the tradition of his association with Ignatius and John the Evangelist. However, the addition to the Martyrdom cannot be considered reliable on only its own merits. Lightfoot would argue for the earlier date of Polycarp's death, with which Killen would strongly disagree.
Because the Smyrnaean letter known as the Martyrdom of Polycarp states that Polycarp was taken on the day of the Sabbath and killed on the Great Sabbath, some believe that this is evidence that the Smyrnaeans under Polycarp observed the seventh day Sabbath.
William Cave wrote "... the Sabbath or 'Saturday' (for so the word sabbatum is constantly used in the writings of the fathers, when speaking of it as it relates to Christians) was held by them in great veneration, and especially in the Eastern parts honoured with all the public solemnities of religion. This is plain, not only from some passages in Ignatius and Clemens's Constitutions, but from writers of more unquestionable credit and authority. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, tells us that they assembled on Saturdays... to worship Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath."
Some feel that the expression the Great Sabbath refers to the Christian Passover or another annual holy day. If so, then the martyrdom would have had to occur between one and two months later as Nisan 14 (the date that Polycarp observed Passover) cannot come before the end of March in any year. Other Great Sabbaths (if this is referring to what are commonly considered to be Jewish holy days, though observed by many early professors of Christ) come in the Spring, late summer, or Fall. None occur in the winter.
The Great Sabbath may be alluded to in John 7:37. This is called the Last Great Day and is a stand-alone annual holy day immediately following the Feast of Tabernacles. It is, however, disputable whether such biblical references mean a common practice or just onetime events.
Polycarp occupies an important place in the history of the early Christian Church. He is among the earliest Christians whose writings survive. Saint Jerome wrote that Polycarp was a "disciple of the apostle John and by him ordained bishop of Smyrna". He was an elder of an important congregation which was a large contributor to the founding of the Christian Church. He is from an era whose orthodoxy is widely accepted by Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodox Churches, Church of God groups, Sabbatarian groups, mainstream Protestants and Catholics alike. According to David Trobisch, Polycarp may have been the one who compiled, edited, and published the New Testament. All of this makes his writings of great interest.
Irenaeus, who had heard him preach in his youth, said of him: "a man who was of much greater weight, and a more steadfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics". Polycarp lived in an age after the deaths of the apostles, when a variety of interpretations of the sayings of Jesus were being preached. His role was to authenticate orthodox teachings through his reputed connection with the apostle John: "a high value was attached to the witness Polycarp could give as to the genuine tradition of old apostolic doctrine", Wace commented, "his testimony condemning as offensive novelties the figments of the heretical teachers". Irenaeus states (iii. 3) that on Polycarp's visit to Rome, his testimony converted many disciples of Marcion and Valentinus.
The parable of the pearl, which we encounter in the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, in the profundity of its meaning is very much like the previous parable of the treasure hid in the field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it (Matthew 13:45-46).
In antiquity, pearls where valued very much, perhaps even more than in our time. Christ's contemporaries were ready to pay a great deal for a good pearl, and therefore they understood perfectly well the words of Jesus, that in order to acquire the Kingdom of Heaven it is necessary to give up everything for the sake of acquiring that which Christ offered to them.
In the parable, the pearl is the symbol of the Gospel preaching. The merchants are men who are seeking knowledge. In the world there are many pearls, i.e., many forms of knowledge, but only one knowledge is genuinely precious faith in Jesus Christ. It is appropriate to compare men who are carefully acquiring the knowledge of Christ and are gradually apprehending the truths of the evangelical life that leads to the blessedness of the Kingdom of Heaven, with a merchant who seeks pearls, and, who having sold many small ones, buys with the money gained from them the one that is unique and precious. "He that possesses the pearl knows that he is rich," says John Chrysostom, "but others often do not know that they have a pearl in their hands, because the pearl is not big: the same can also be said about the truth. Those possessing it know that they are rich, but unbelievers, not understanding the value of this treasure, do not know of our wealth."
If in the parable of the treasure hid in the field the discourse was about the sudden finding of God's truth, then the parable of the pearl tells about the finding of this truth after a long search. Such was the path of Prince Vladimir, the Enlightener of the Russian people, who in the Church's troparion is directly called "the merchant who sought the goodly pearl". He sought the truth faith and found it. As a Christian, Prince Vladimir was able to value the Gospel as the most precious thing that a man can have and Christ as the Only One Whom it is possible to submit to until the end and to serve.
Saint Justin the Philosopher can serve as an example of one who sought the truth and found it only in the teaching of Christ. In his work "Dialogue with Tripho, a Jew", he writes that while still a pagan he studied all the philosophical systems of that time (Second Century) and was especially enamored of Plato's teaching. But all his knowledge did not give him an answer to the questions that interested him about God, about the soul, its immortality, etc., until an elder (Saint Polycarp, according to tradition) told him about Jesus Christ and the prophets who foretold His coming. Having studied the prophecies and the Gospel itself, Saint Justin found the one true and beneficial philosophy the pearl only in them.
In the lives of the holy God pleasers it is possible to find not a few examples of how the words of Sacred Scripture, sinking down into the souls of men who were unbelievers but who were seeking the pearl, put them on the track of this treasure to faith in Christ and to life in Him.
So let each of also also seek this one pearl which is the most precious the faith of the Gospel. Search the scriptures …. says the Lord …they are they which testify of me (John 5:38). We shall find the precious pearl of Christ by attentive and prayerful study of the word of God, for it brings us to the narrow way of finding that which the Lord spoke of to Martha, the sister of Lazarus who was dead for four days the one thing… needful (Luke 10:42).
In the book "Way of the Ascetics", by Tito Colliander, we encounter a chapter under the title "On the Pearl of Great Price". The author writes of the signs of finding the precious pearl: "…the deepe r you pressed into your own heart, the farther and higher you climbed out of yourself. The outward conditions of your life are the same: you wash dishes and care for the children, you go to work, draw your salary and pay your taxes. You do everything pertaining to your external life as a person in a society, since there is no chance of leaving it. But you have resigned yourself. You have given away one thing in order to receive another.
"…and if I have Thee, what more do I ask on earth? Nothing, answers St. John Climacus, but ceaselessly praying, silently to cling to
Thee. Some are enslaved by riches, others by honour, still others by acquiring possessions; my only desire is to cling to God.
"Prayer, with all it contains of self renunciation, has become your real life, which you keep up as though only for the sake of prayer. Walking with God (Genesis 6:9) is from now on the only thing that has real value for you, and it includes all heavenly and earthly events. For him who bears Christ within himself there is neither death nor illness or any earthly clamour; he has already stepped into eternal life, and that embraces everything.
"Night and day the heavenly seed sprouts in your heart and grows, you know not how. The earth produces of itself, your heart's soil, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear (Mark 4:27-28).
"The saints speak of something they call the inextinguishable light. It is a light not of the eye but of the heart that never ceases to walk in purity and clearness. It swiftly leaves the darkness behind, and constantly strives towards the day's height. Its constant quality is to be continually purified. This is the light of eternity that can never go out, and that shines through the veil of time and matter. But the saints never say that this light is given to them, but that it is given only to those who have purified their hearts in love for the Lord on the narrow way which they have freely chosen."
It is worth renouncing everything for the sake of obtaining that which Christ offers us the pearl of His teaching and the life of blessedness in Him.
THE PEARLS OF IGNATIUS
THE GREATEST PEARL