Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Revelation 2:8-11 Smyrna

Now we have the church at Smyrna. Smyrna was located about thirty-five miles north of Ephesus. It was in a powerful place for trade on the Aegean Sea, and was known for its harbors, commerce, and marketplaces. Today it exists under the name Ismir. One of John’s students, Polycarp, was a minister there until he was martyred about A.D. 155. Smyrna has for its root meaning "bitterness," and means "Myrrh," an ointment associated with death. We see in the meaning of the word a prophecy of the persecution and martyrdom which was to befall the members of the Smyrna Church.

Verse 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.”

Christ presents Himself as the first and the last (Alpha and Omega) and the one which was dead and now is alive. This last description as the one who was dead and is now alive is very important for this church, as they are the persecuted and martyred church. Notice how these first two descriptions of Christ, in the letter to the Ephesians and here, describe Christ as He was described in the first chapter of Revelation.

Verse 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.”

Christ commends them for their works. He tells them that He is very aware of the tribulation they suffer, and the poverty they endure because of their stand for Christ, but that they are rich in what counts, spiritual richness. This is in stark contrast to the last church, (Laodicea) which we will see is very wealthy, but spiritually poor. Christ prefers our spiritual richness to monetary wealth. He knows the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews but are really of the synagogue of Satan. One way of viewing this is that religious, zealous Jews had been persecuting Christians right from the start. Paul was one of the best before he became a Christian himself. Satan was using the Jews in Smyrna to do this. There was a large contingent of them in Smyrna and they were strongly opposing the church. They were directly instrumental in the execution of Polycarp. Another way of viewing this is that there were always groups (and still are today) of Jews, and Gentiles converted to Judaism, that said that if one were really to be saved, besides accepting that Christ was the Messiah, one had to observe O.T. Judaism…all of the laws, all of the festivals, etc. They were making salvation contingent upon observing the 613 laws rather than by Christ’s death. They were working for Satan putting people under the burden of the law again. Both of these groups qualified as the synagogue of Satan. A true Jew is one who accepts Christ as his savior, (Rom. 2:28 “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” ) and understands that he does not need to observe the 613 laws for salvation.

Verse 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.”

He now tells them to not fear the things they are going to suffer. That the devil will put some of them in prison where they would be tried (not only just a court type of trial, but trial in the sense of tribulation). They will have ten days of tribulation, but they should be faithful unto death. Luke 12:4-5. “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that hath no more that he can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear Him.” For this they will receive a crown of life. This is why the resurrection is so important to them. They need to have something to hold onto to get them through what they are suffering.

Verse 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.”

Again Christ addresses the individuals in the church. To the one that listens and overcomes - in this case remains faithful to death, they have the promise that they will not be hurt by the second death. The first death is the physical death. Christians live twice and die once. Physical life, physical death, and eternal life. Unbelievers live once and die twice. Physical life, physical death, eternal damnation. The last is the second death which will take place in the lake of fire. Rev. 20:14. .

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