The Church Of Smyrna
Revelation 2:8 " And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive. "
"Smyrna" Smyrna church age--Rev. 2:8-11.
Dates 161-313 A.D. Approximate.
This was an age of wide-spread persecution. It was the official Roman persecution whose sole aim was to destroy the people of God and martyrdom was very common.
"Smyrna" means "myrrh" which was an ointment to embalm the dead. It was a precious sweet spice. This was wrapped about in the binding cloths that the Jews used to bury the dead.
The revelation in this is: that even though they might be called to die to self and to actually die in the flesh because of the one they knew, because they were in Jesus, there would be a sweetness there because that death was only the threshold into eternal life w/ Him if they would keep their commitment to the end. Whether it's into heaven from physical death, or death to self and have life w/ sweet works; both are sweet to the Lord. Psalms 116:15 " Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. "
The revelation of Jesus to this church is as the first and the last which was dead and is alive. Literally--which became dead and lived. And many of them were going to become dead and live.
Why does He reveal Himself in this way? It's because this was the time of persecution when there was much more martyrdom possible than at any other time in the church, and Christ shows Himself as the resurrected one and also as the one who has the authority to bestow the resurrection on them as a reward.
For the historical background for Smyrna--see end of study.
Revelation 2:9 " I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. "
Jesus tells these smyrnites: " I know thy works and tribulation and poverty,"
Works is omitted. So it actually reads, "I know thy tribulation and poverty." Because when they were underground being chased and caught and tortured and killed for their faith and hiding out, they were trusting for the next meal: they didn't have an opportunity to do a lot of works for God. It wasn't a time of great evangelistic outreach, God was just calling them to hold fast. He has nothing negative to say about this church. All he says is just be faithful; just keep your eyes on me and trust in me. We really see the love of God there because He knows what His people can bear, and Jesus says He won't allow anything greater to come upon them than what they're able to bear (1 Cor.10:13).
"I know"--I have known you already. Tribulation = persecution. Poverty is the result of persecution-- this is because they couldn't have jobs or a trade-- many were living underground in Rome and never saw the light of day, some of them for their whole life.
"But thou art rich"-- James 2:5 "Hearken, my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? " Spiritually, they were in a better place than most.
"I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not but are the synagogue of Satan."
John 8:36-44 (read)-- Jesus exposes Jews who said they were Jews but are not in God's sight. There were Jews in Smyrna who said they were Jews but were not, who had this same murderous spirit against the people of God.
Romans 2:28,29-- Paul shows those who are true Jews are those who are inwardly of heart; who are truly circumcised, separated from the world and the flesh and truly in their hearts surrendered to God-- those are God's Jews.
Romans 9:6-8-- Paul talks of this true Israel, and in Gal. 4:28,29 we see this same spiritual Israel. Jesus says that these Jews are of the Synagogue of Satan. "Synagogue" literally = the gathering together. What he's saying is these people had been gathered together by Satan. Satan had gathered them together to expound his doctrine so that they could do his works. In response to all this, here's what Jesus says to his church: (v.10)--
Revelation 2:10 "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
"Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer:"
The devil shall cast some of you into prison, but he says fear not.
The only way not to fear is to walk in the love of Jesus and in the power of God. That's the only grounds that we cannot fear because no matter how dedicated we are, we can never get our flesh to do what God wants it to do. The flesh isn't made that way. The flesh is made to preserve itself and experience comfort, and we have to be in a realm above the flesh if we are going to be in that place where we can fear not when persecution comes against us.
"Behold"-- This shows a certainty. He's letting them know what's going to happen so they can be prepared.
"The devil shall cast some of you into prison, (literally or spiritually) that you may be tried." The devil = diablos which means "to throw through". He is the accuser, the one who throws accusations through. Satan is the one doing it, not man. He is; your accuser, your adversary (Rev.12:10).
That you may be "tried" = tested (1 Peter 1:6-8).
"And you shall have tribulation 10 days."
The Greek reads: "You shall have a tribulation of 10 days." That is, you're going to have a tribulation 10 days long. What does the 10 days signify? The meaning according to the symbolism of the number 10 is that they were going to have a full time of tribulation in this world; that their time in this world was going to be fully experiencing tribulation because the number 10 signifies--a fulness of this world, a worldly fulness, a worldly completion.
Some scholars try to shoe horn this to make it 10 emperors. In other words, you'll have persecution under 10 emperors. However, if you look at church history, you'll find that there were more than 10 emperors who persecuted these Christians, and it doesn't really fit.
The better symbol then is the fulness in this world, and you find a number of scriptures to back this up.
Gen. 24:55;31:7-- Where Jacob said to Laban, "you deceived me 10 times." You've done nothing but completely deceive me.
1 Sam. 1:8-- Elkana to Hannah--You've not sons but I'm better to you than a fulness of sons in this world.
Job 19:3-- "These 10 times have ye reproached me."
Daniel 1:20-- Daniel was 10 times wiser than Neb.'s magicians. In other words, he was better than a whole world full of magicians.
Rev.13:1-- 10 horns crowned = full power of the 10 kings and the antichrist in this world, Rev.17:10-12.
Also we see that man has 10 fingers on his hands = man's works, and 10 toes on his feet = man's walk--the fulness of man in this world.
What must be done by this church? What should be their response to the condition Jesus reveals to them?
"Be thou faithful unto death"-- Keep on being faithful unto death, and if you will, the reward that is promised is: "And I will give thee a crown of life."
This crown in the Greek reads "the crown of the life"-- This is the life that is in Jesus.
"Crowns" = "stephanos", this is not a crown that a king would wear as like a golden crown or diadem, but it is a victor's wreath. It was a crown that in the Olympic games the winners wore. It symbolized victory. It was usually made of olive leaves. Olive tree = Israel, leaves = works--so by this you have victory. Work out your salvation--Phil.2:12,13;Rev.12:10,11; Matt.24:13-- He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
Note here that it's the winner who gets the crown. It's he that overcometh that receives.
This church received no rebukes. There were no admonitions to repent, just hold fast in a troubled age-- be willing to become a martyr if necessary.
Revelation 2:11 "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death."
"He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death"
We find something here that we must keep in our heart: overcoming in God's eyes is said different from what the world considers overcoming. And that's where Christians can get off the track in the last days, trying to overcome all the leftists, and world governments, and Builderburgers, and all the CFR members in the flesh and trying to, in the flesh, stop Satan from having his way. That's not the way of overcoming that God has in mind.
It's a spiritual overcoming by bringing forth the Word of God and defeating Satan in people's hearts and in your own life. Christ overcame death by dying on the cross, and he destroyed the works of the devil when he did that. It appeared that he was totally defeated in people's eyes. We find that we overcome by dying to self and if necessary, by giving our lives for Jesus-- Romans 8:35-39, These verses talk about this overcoming as God sees it.
"He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death"
Rev. 20:5,6, shows the souls in death, and Hades being cast into the Lake of Fire-- this is the second death. This is the second separation. You were separated once from your body but now you're going to be separate from God, and that's the second death.
Rev. 21:8, so the meaning of the reward to God's people. It's shows that many of them will be hurt by the first death. They will taste of death, but if they endured patiently because of the great joy that they know that they have eternal life, and out of their love for Jesus; the second death will never touch them.
"Shall not be hurt of the second death"
"Hurt" = to do unrighteousness to someone.
So he is saying, you're not going to be done unrighteousness by having the second death touch you after you've been washed in my blood and endured for my name. I won't treat you unrighteously.
The crown of life is a reward of victory at the end of the race, the race of patient endurance which results in eternal life.
Spiritual lessons learned from this church age
1.) We are encouraged in the face of martyrdom to be faithful. There's a chance that some of us may be martyred before the Rapture. (Even now in many countries people are being martyred for Jesus). He's calling us to have that same dedication as if we were going to be martyred. Because we need to be even more dedicated than those who will be left to go through the great tribulation, we have to reach an even higher place of surrender to Jesus than that. We have to, as it were, be willing to give our lives as necessary and even be willing to die for Jesus Christ. Sometimes it's harder to live for Him than to die for Him, for some people.
2.) The poverty which may well come on most Christians before the Rapture, we're told not to fear. We may come to a time when doctors loose their license if they treat Christians. People that pray for the sick may get hauled off to jail because they don't have an "official" medical license. We may lack food.
But we will also find a mighty revival in face of national collapse and total chaos. Multitude of souls will come in saying, show me the way out of this mess.
3.) Fear not is a message to saints in trouble. He wants us to learn to walk in the love and peace of God and overcome evil w/ good and not be revengeful or anxious, but to rest in Jesus no matter what's going on around us.
4.) Faithfulness unto death results in a crown of life.
5.) Being not hurt by the second death is a reward promised to all saints of all times.
So we find in Smyrna a church whose love and commitment to God were fanned to a flame by the winds of persecution, and were spiritually healthy and vital even though outwardly they may have been poor and needy, and God had nothing bad to say about them.
This is a striking contrast to the next church we'll look at, because it was free essentially from persecution and the spiritual fruits that they produced were quite different.
Well-protected harbor at mouth of Hermus. Destroyed by rival king in 627 B.C.; rebuilt in 290 B.C. to Alexander's design, after his death. Beautiful city, one of finest in Asia. A center of worship to "the deity of Rome and emperor"; temple to Tiberius there. Persecution of Christians resulted. Held Olympic games in honor to Nero--"Savior of the Entire Human Race." Highly-reputed schools of rhetoric and philosophy. Many Jews hostile to Christianity; carried wood to burn Polycarp in 166 A.D. Its namesake, myrrh, was a precious spice to embalm the dead (see John 19:39,40). Today a city of some 200,000.