“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. (Revelation 2:8-11)
St. Polycarp’s martyrdom is historical reality. He died for one reason – his unyielding faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. Yet St. Polycarp’s well-recorded death is only one of many lives that were given to reveal and proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ. In light of the cruel and torturous deaths of the first and second generation Christians, all theories that Christianity is a fabricated myth, created for the personal gain of its followers, must be rejected. Even today, many will die for a belief, but none will die for a lie. God allows the deaths of His saints not because He is a helpless or indifferent Lord, but because their deaths are powerful declarations of the free gift of life that is offered to us through the Person of Jesus Christ. St. Polycarp, like many other Christians to this day, was only able to die for Christ because he lived for Christ. His life was radically transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit — the desires, worries, pains and fears of this world no longer bound him. St. Polycarp’s life and death provides an inspirational example for all Orthodox Christians. He gave his earthly life for Christ, and in the midst of his sacrifice, he gained eternal life.