Smyrna is the second of the seven churches of Revelation. The message to Smyrna church shows how the Christian church was split by legalism in the post-apostolic era.
In the message to the church of Smyrna Jesus says: “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘These things said the First and the Last, who was dead and is alive: I know your works, and tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich!), and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:8,9).
Christian church history records show that the second through the early fourth centuries, which are represented by the church of Smyrna, was a time of rapid growth for the Christian church. As the church grew, Christians faced waves of persecution. The believers blamed much of their troubles on the Jews.
In their resentment towards the Jews Smyrna period believers rejected the apostolic teaching that born-again, spirit-led Christians are the true Jews, regardless of their ethnicity. “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart” (Romans 2:28,29).
During the Smyrna era of the third and fourth centuries, church leaders also started to set aside the grace of God in favor of works. They substituted born-again experience and spirit-led Christian life with rituals, ceremonies, rigorous dietary restrictions, long vigils, pilgrimages, and detailed rules and laws.
Thus they began to create a Christian synagogue (the synagogue of Satan). In other words, a church that focused on laws and traditions rather than on Jesus and the Holy Spirit.