“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life…’” Revelation 2:8.
The name, Smyrna, means bitter. It was a seaport city, now known as Izmir, which had a large Jewish population who were rabidly opposed to Christianity.
The period of church history represented by this church is 100 to 312 A.D. Notice that Christ represents Himself as, “the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life”, this is almost a direct quote of Revelation 1:17-18a and as you will soon see it is important to the message of the letter.
“I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” Revelation 2:9.
While little is known about the church of Smyrna the Lord’s description tells us enough. There is no criticism of this church as there is for five out of the seven, so when the Lord says “I know your works”; it means they were faithful in carrying out the great commission.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. ‘Amen.’” Matthew 28:19-20.
The tribulation that this church endures is by way of intense persecution of Christians in this city and is a picture of the entire age from 100 to 312 A.D.
The city of Smyrna was very rich and controlled by guilds which are similar to today’s unions, so work could be easily denied to Christians and the shops of artisans would be boycotted. As a result, a skilled person could be driven to poverty overnight just by becoming a Christian.
The Lord’s harsh assessment of the Jews as a “synagogue of Satan” needs to be clarified. When the Jews rejected Jesus as their messiah, their king, they rejected the God who brought them out of Egypt, the God of Moses, and the very God that their entire religion was based upon.
“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son [Jesus]. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:11-12.
“The Father loves the Son [Jesus], and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:35-36.
“Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them. But they shouted, saying, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ And he said to them the third time, ‘Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.’ But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested.” Luke 23:20-24.
You only serve two masters in this world, and by the way, there is no middle ground, you cannot serve yourself (for you then serve Satan), so you can only serve God or Satan.
Having rejected Christ the Jews now served Satan and with it they carried all the hate that they exhibited at the crucifixion.
However this is not a message of hate, many folks hate Jews out of an irrational demonically inspired hatred against them.
Others hate them because they killed the Lord, but in doing so they forget that Jesus Himself was a Jew and all the whitewashing in the world is not going to change that fact.
Couple this with the fact that the Scriptures were faithfully written down by the prophets, transcribed carefully and protected at the cost of life and limb by Jews, See Hebrews 11. Read the words of Paul the apostle, who was persecuted relentlessly by the Jews (being one himself).
“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” Romans 2:28-29.
“…[Jews] who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.” 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16.
The Israelites of old with a true faith in God, like Moses, King David, Elijah, or Daniel, and those Israelites with the same faith were circumcised inwardly in their hearts not just outwardly.
In the same manner so are those who overcome which the Lord speaks to in each of the letters. A person who overcomes is the one who puts their trust in Christ as their Savior (one who is a Christian inwardly).
A church may have a thousand people in it but many of them may not be Christians. So there are many Christians in a church and the rest are as Tim LaHaye likes to say, practicing churchianity (Christians outwardly but inwardly they are lost).
It is the lack of diligence of the true believer and the error brought in by the false believer that has ruined the church, as per Satan’s plan.
This is what is known as the visible and invisible church (or body of Christ). At the rapture of the church the visible church will remain but the invisible church, the body of Christ also known as the bride of Christ will be gone.
Crude as it may sound, the visible church will be gutted of any purpose or witness, yet it may still have many pretenders attending in bewilderment.
At Jesus’ crucifixion it says this of the Jew’s mockery of Him.
“And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ Likewise the chief priests, also mocking with the scribes and elders, said, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.’” Matthew 27:39-42.
You can only blaspheme God, so here is more internal evidence that Jesus is God. And this is the blasphemy of the Jews in Smyrna; their rejection of their Messiah filled them with hatred for the Christians who accepted Him as Messiah, Lord and Savior.
“…[The Jews] who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.” 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16.
The time is coming my friends when the Jews will see Jesus as He is and mourn for their blasphemy and rejection of their Messiah. Pray for them please so as many as possible will get saved now and not have to go through the tribulation.
“…then they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.” Zechariah 12:10b.
You will see these things before you finish the book of Revelation.
The Lord speaks of the Christians of Smyrna as being harassed and in poverty and at the bottom of the social scale, “but you are rich” He says.
Now the most difficult thing for the modern mind to understand is how one can be rich when they are in actuality, poor.
We can understand and accept it when Jesus tells us to store up our treasures in heaven, but that is all pie in the sky by and by. How about right now, how can I draw on those riches right now?
You cannot, but you do not need to, the Christian is rich right now. As a Christian we can have peace.
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.
“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11b-13.
Christ and the wisdom of God will get you through anything this life can throw at you. Many have lost their money, homes and bank accounts, and no life insurance on earth can keep you alive but the Lord has said:
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b.
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Revelation 2:10.
The Lord warns this little church that Satan is about to imprison and kill them, but He tells them not to fear and to be faithful to death.
When the Lord said, “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” Matthew 28:20b. This has the meaning that we have Jesus as a comforter and protector, and constant companion, giving us living grace, so He will give us dying grace as we pass from death to life.
If you are mourning for a Christian loved one who has died try to remember that Jesus was with them all the way through and no matter how awful that moment was, it is over now and nothing more than a vague memory to them and insignificant since they are safe in the arms of Jesus.
Yet perhaps you live that moment over and over again; please do not torment yourself with a memory, rather remember the beauty of that person and look forward to the day you will meet again.
This warning is also pertinent to the savage period in Roman history when Christians were thrown to lions in the arena, burned at the stake, or tortured mercilessly, whatever vile sinful torment that man, energized by demons could conceive was implemented.
This and lesser things like imprisonment, confiscation of belongings and banishment were a constant horror for some two hundred plus years.
The phrase, “you will have tribulation ten days”, may have actually happened in the church of Smyrna, but its prophetic meaning has been one of conjecture.
Was it ten literal days during the persecution of Rome, questionable; or was it ten periods of intense persecution, more likely. During the years of persecution, the persecution was not constant, so there were periods of relief for Christians.
Yet there are the names of ten Roman emperors who actively pursued the destruction of the Christian church.
These emperors are:
Antonius Pious (138-161)
Marcus Aurelius (161-180)
Septimus Severus (193-211)
Of these ten, Diocletian was the worst, so rabid was his hatred that he attempted to destroy the Bible from off the earth by confiscations and public burnings. Interestingly enough his persecution lasted ten years.
You will find that some lists start with Nero (54-68) Nero was a sadistic madman but he was a danger to all around him not just to Christians whom he did indeed treat with extreme cruelty.
So severe was this period of persecution that all that Jesus, “the First and the Last, who was dead, and come to life”, could comfort them with was, “be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life”.
Jesus could say these things because He too had suffered a violent death hanging on a cross for six hours, and in doing so He could offer eternal life to all who would accept His sacrifice as payment for their sins.
And as an eternal reward for their faithfulness they would receive the crown of life, not eternal life, they already had that, but a victor’s crown over death.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” Revelation 2:11.
Those who overcome are those who have accepted Christ as their Savior. They will never see hell or the lake of fire which is the second death.
“Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:14-15.
All of these godless men and women who tormented Christians in this period and throughout time will face the second death if they failed to accept Christ as their Savior in their lifetime.
Many Christians are suffering even today in Muslim countries, imprisoned, murdered, their belongings destroyed, even their children taken from them and used as slaves.
North Korea, Red China, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Pakistan, Africa; communist, socialist, humanist, Islamic, or pagan, all these and more are the sworn enemies of Christianity. And all the while they are attempting to annihilate Israel.
The current atmosphere in this country has led to many opportunities for the enemies of Christ to persecute Christians here also, through lost jobs, unjust court decisions, conflicts within our own families, and godless government interference in our private lives.
“Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Revelation 2:10c.
Revelation 2:8-11 taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 9-26-16, updated on 4-19-22.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.