When writing to the first century church in the extremely well of city of Smyrna Jesus says “I know your affliction and your poverty”. The question immediately arises therfore as to why the church was so poor. Well, Smyrna was a great place to be, unless you were unable to express your commitment to Rome by worshiping Caesar. If you refused to do that then life for you would get very hard indeed. You would be looked on as an outsider, a trouble maker and even a traitor. It would be hard to belong to a guild where everyone rallied around loyalty to Caesar, and so your opportunities to earn a living would be pretty much zero.
By end of 1st century AD worship of Caesar had become compulsory and many think that outright persecution had begun again under the Emperor Domitian. If you refused to worship Caesar as LORD, which Christians did, then you risked losing your possessions, your liberty, and even your life.
So when Jesus says to the church in Smyrna “I know your affliction and your poverty” it’s not hard to see what was going on. They were not willing to play the game and put Caesar alongside Jesus in their affections and loyalty.
Their situation was exasperated by a large Jewish population that strongly opposed Christians. At first Rome considered Christianity to be a sect of the Jewish religion and as such extended it certain privileges. Many Jews however did not want to be associated with Christians whom they considered to be blasphemous in say Jesus was the Messiah. They took every opportunity to accuse and slander the Christians to the Roman authorities.
For the Christians in Smyrna, life was very hard. Jesus knew their terrible situation so what would he do? I’ll look at that next time.