Rev. 2:8-11: “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. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 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 life as your victor’s crown 11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
- In these verses, Jesus words to the church in Smyrna offer insight into the life of a first-century congregation. There are Many Applications for Today’s Believers.
The message was from the Lord Jesus Christ: VS-8. “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.”
- Jesus Greets the Church by Revealing an Important Part of His Character.
- Jesus Wants them to Know He is the First and Last…BECAUSE…Being the First and Last Implies there is Nothing that is Beyond His Control!
- The Believers here Needed to Hear This Truth! WE NEED TO HEAR THIS ALSO!
- The Believers in the Church of Smyrna were Possibly Facing Death…So when they heard Jesus say, “Who Died and Came to Life Again”. They realized that Jesus was Pointing to Life and Hope beyond Death.
- Rev. 22:13 Reinforces this Truth that Only Jesus Christ is the First and the Last: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
VS-9: Jesus starts by Acknowledging their Trials: “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”.
- In their Physical Poverty, Jesus says, the church of Smyrna was “RICH”; that is, they had Spiritual Wealth that No One Could Take Away…Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 6:20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
SO…What Made Smyrna Such a Hostile Environment? There are two Factors:
First: Hostility was caused from the fact that Smyrna was the center for Worship of the Emperor. Any Other Religion was Deemed “Unpatriotic”.
- If Christians failed to Bow to the Emperor and see him as their Savior…If they failed to declare publicly that Caesar is Lord…They were Deemed Criminals.
Second: A Large Jewish population resided in Smyrna, a population that became Strongly Antagonistic toward any Jews who Converted to Christianity.
Jesus predicted hatred for the followers of Christ: John 16: 2-3 “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me”
- As for the Identity of the “Synagogue of Satan,” there are a Couple Views.
One View: This was a Group of Gentiles who Called themselves “Jews” (Chosen People of God). Instead of following Judaism, these self-proclaimed “people of God” worshiped the Roman emperor and spoke out against the Christians in Smyrna.
Another view is that the “synagogue of Satan” was a physical group of Jews who Followed Tradition and the Mosaic Law…Yet in Reality They did Not Know God.
- They were “NOT” Jews in the Sense that they did not have the faith of their father Abraham (Luke 3:8; John 8:40), and They Were “of Satan” in that they had rejected Jesus Christ (John 8:44)
In Rom 2: 28-29 Paul differentiates “TRUE” (spiritual) Jews from those who can only claim a physical connection to Abraham: “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code”.
After Commending the Church in Smyrna for their Spiritual Victories, Jesus warned of Coming Persecution: VS 10 “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”
Some of the Church Members would be Imprisoned, and this Wave of Persecution would last for Ten days. However, Jesus gives Hope to His Church: “Do not be afraid,” He says. The Smyrnean Believers would Have the Courage to Face the Trial.
Jesus Calls them to Remain Faithful in Their Suffering: VS 10: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the Crown of Life”.
- A Specific Crown is mentioned for those who Die as a result of Suffering for Christ.
- This same “Martyr’s Crown” is also mentioned inJames 1:12: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
Jesus makes a Final Promise to the Believers in Smyrna: VS 11: “He who Overcomes will Not be Hurt at All by the Second Death”. The Overcomers, or “Conquerors,” Refer to All Believers
1 John 5:4-5 “For everyone born of God Overcomes the World. This is the Victory that has Overcome the World, even our Faith. 5 Who is it that Overcomes the World? Only the One who Believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
The 2nd Death is a Reference to the Final Judgment of the Wicked (Rev 20:6, 14; 21:8)
- Rom 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”
- Believers will Not be Hurt “at All” by that Judgment; their Sin was Judged at the Cross, and, in Christ, there is NO More Condemnation.
***Here We See How Believers Fit Into the Conflict Between God and the Devil
Like the book of Job, we know that God is Still in Control even in the midst of Persecution.
- Satan Operates Under God’s Divine Authority! Satan Must obtain Permission to operate against believers.
- The Least Understood Facet of Satan and his Present Role With the Believer is How Much (Or how Little) Authority he has and How he Gets to Exercise it.
Dr. Barnhouse in his book “The Invisible War” describes how when Adam chose to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, He Dropped the Scepter of Authority God had given him over the newly created Earth…AND THE DEVIL PICKED IT UP!
At this point Satan became the new master (Prince and Power of the Air Eph. 6) of the planet, However it is an Authority totally Under the Delegation of GOD.
- Satan has a right to it because Adam and Eve Listened to him instead of God.
- 1 JOHN 4:4 “The Whole World Lies in the Hand of the Evil One.”
- This explains Why Jesus Must Ultimately Invade the Earth and Reclaim it for God.
We see this happen in Rev.11:15 when the angels sing: “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
Though the World system and All it Contains is Under the Authority of the Devil…HE IS STILL UNDER GOD’S ULTIMATE AUTHORITY!
- Satan must get God’s Permission to do anything against those who belong to God!
- If Satan is at work in a Church at any level, the Lord Granted him the Right!
- For Satan to be Able to Take YOU Through a Test…God Must Allow IT!!
- Therefore, it was Gods Will to test this church at Smyrna…And You and Me as Well!
KEY: If Affliction is Outside Pressure or Persecution, as in Job or the Church of Smyrna…Then it is a TEST of FAITHFULNESS!!
- FACT: Credit Accrues to a Church or Individual’s Spiritual Account When they Faithfully Endure Suffering for Their Lord.
Jesus offers these Believers a Prescription for their Painful Situation, But it Can be a Very Difficult Pill to Swallow…“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give You Life as Your Victor’s Crown!”
Key Question: So How Can YOU & I Enjoy the Safety of Jesus, Being Held in the Palm of his hand, At the Same Time Be in Such A Painful Situation?
First, Nothing Traumatic Happens in the Life of a Believer (or Church) Unless it First Passes Through the Hand of the Lord!
- Jesus knew that the Devil was about to throw some of these believers into prison, and that they would be Tested for 10 Days. In Fact He Authorized It!
FACT: If we are in His hand, under His Authority and Protection, it is IMPOSSIBLE for Satan to Harass US Without Jesus Permitting it.
Every Christian is Secure in Jesus Right Hand…What We Must Understand is it is a Normal Part of His Care to Test and Discipline Us!
- Our True Character Reveals Itself Under Pressure and Pain!
- For the Church of Smyrna this Test Revealed Something Beautiful…A Faithful Heart!
- We Need to Believe that any Pain we Experience is God Ordained for Our Good! Romans 8:28
Second, A Person’s or Churches Existence Extends Beyond its Present Trials. No Matter what We Face on Earth…ETERNITY ALONE IS OUR TRUE HOPE.
Vs 10 “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown!”
I have had believers ask me Why do We Remain on the Earth after Becoming a Disciple of Jesus, “Why doesn’t He just Rapture Us Out the Moment We Believe and Save All the Grief and Hardship?”
Well…We have been left here to Demonstrate certain things related to the Stewardships with which God Entrusts Us…Stewardships of Life, Time, Possessions, Spiritual Gifts and Responsibilities, The Gospel, Relationships, etc.
- I Cor 4:4 “It is Required of Stewards that one be found Faithful!”
- We will give an account of Faithfulness (Or Lack of Faithfulness) in carrying out these Stewardships at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
I Cor 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
- The Victor’s Crown is Validation of the Believers Faithfulness in the Midst of Trials.
When Tested, the Church of Smyrna’s Hearts Revealed Willing Rather Than Willful Dispositions. They did Not Chafe at their Circumstances but Trusted the Lord in the Midst of the Most Severe Pressures.
Earlier I said that…Credit Accrues to a Church or an Individual’s Spiritual Account When they Faithfully Endure Suffering for Their Lord.
POINT: AS WE FAITHFULLY ENDURE EVERY TEST AND HARDSHIP GOD WILL MAKE US MORE PERFECT IN HIM AND WE WILL RECEIVE THE VICTOR’S CROWN!