More Churches – Smyrna
I realize I said we were only going to look at two of these churches, but there is so much here, I believe we need to look at more of them.
In Revelation 2:8-11, Jesus is talking to the Church at Smyrna. We know that it is Christ who is talking, because He starts out in verse 8 by saying, “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:” Notice that all of these warnings are written to the angel of the church. The word angel means messenger, envoy, one who is sent, a messenger from God. So, what He is saying is that He is giving this letter to the messenger for that church at Smyrna. Then He goes on with His credentials. He says, “The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:” So, who is writing this? The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last…I have had some say that this must be talking about Jehovah, God the Father, because He is the first and the last, but you must finish the verse. He goes on to say, “who was dead, and has come to life.” That can only be talking about Jesus! The fact that He begins by saying that He is the first and the last only confirms the Trinity, they are one and the same.
The next thing He says, in verse 9 is, “I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich!” Think back to the church at Laodicea in chapter 3, verse 17 where He told them, “You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” Do you see the contrast? The church at Laodicea thought they were rich, monetarily, but they were spiritually destitute. On the other hand, the church at Smyrna is poor monetarily, but He says they are truly rich spiritually. We get so caught up in the things of this world that we often forget what we are here for. Don’t let anyone tell you that you will be wealthy if you are in God’s will, that is simply unscriptural. I’ve had people give me reasons why they think Christ was wealthy, but if He was wealthy, why did He not have a home? Jesus said Himself in Luke 9:58, “But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” Also, if Christ and His disciples were wealthy, then why did He have to perform a miracle, in order to pay their taxes? We see this in Matthew 17:27, “However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.” So, Christ and His disciples weren’t wealthy as this world sees wealth because that stuff didn’t matter to them.
Jesus goes on at the end of verse 9 saying, “I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan.” You see, there are a lot of people and churches and pastors out there that don’t preach the truth. Christ said that He knows who they are and that they are really serving Satan. This is why it is so important to study the Bible literally and in context, and never try to put our own interpretation on it. These people who were opposing the church at Smyrna thought they were serving God, because of the way they had interpreted the scripture, but Christ said that they were serving Satan.
He starts out verse 10 by saying, “Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer.” I love that He had to tell them that. So often we look at people who have suffered or even been martyred for Christ as somewhat superhuman. But, they are just like you and me. They are afraid of the unknown just like we are. So, Christ needed to tell them not to be afraid. He goes on in verse 10 to say, “The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days.” Okay, He tells us not to be afraid, but it’s going to be bad, and He even says that some of them will be thrown into prison, but then He limits it. He says that He will let Satan persecute them, but only for a little while as a test. I love that when Christ allows us to be tested, He gives us the answers to the test first. In fact, He even tells us the reward for passing the test up front. At the end of verse 10 He says, “But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.” So, we will be persecuted, we may even face death, but if we remain faithful, He will give us a crown of life. In the Greek language, there are two words for crown. One of those words means a crown, like a king would wear, but the other word, stephanos, which is the one used here, means a victor’s crown. Winners of athletic events and even the original Olympics would be presented with a crown, a stephanos. Christ is saying that if we endure, we will be given a trophy, a reward, for our perseverance, and that reward is life…eternal life. But, here’s the thing, we can all endure, we can all be the victor because we have the secret weapon…Jesus. Christ told us in John 16:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” You see, we truly have nothing to fear! Yes, we will face trials, and we will face sorrows, but we will never face them alone! We can take heart…because Christ has already overcome the world! It doesn’t get any better than that!