―To the angel of the church inSmyrna write…‖ The persecuted church
The Letter to Smyrna―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: ‗I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. ‗Do not fearwhat you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. ‗He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.‘ ‖ (Revelation 2:8–11)
Interesting Fact…Smyrna is one of two churches addressed by Christ where there is no condemnation; no discussion of sin or punishment coming from the Lord. Why? Perhaps it has been purged of sin through its suffering.
General Background on Smyrna• Name derived from ―myrrh‖. Myrrh was used for perfume and also used for dead bodies; became a symbol for death and may be a picture of suffering for this church• Destroyed, but re-founded by Alexander the Great in 334 B.C.• Built a temple to honor the Roman emperor in A.D. 26; became a seat of the imperial cult• Had about 3,000 people around the time of Christ• Never discussed in Scripture how church was founded• The city (about 300K people) and a church is still there
Spiritual Condition of Smyrna• One of the centers of emperor worship• Each year, a family had to burn incense on Caesar‘s alter and then they were issued a certificate; being without a certificate meant to risk death• Also a center of worship for a number of false deities such as Aphrodite, Apollo, and Zeus – all had temples in the city
The Caesar at the Time – Domitian• Reigned from 81-96 A.D.• Demanded to be addressed as Dominus et Deus (Lord and God), basing the legitimacy of his reign on the emperors divinity• Under Domitian, there arose for the first time the persecution of Christians by the state on religious grounds. In 96 in Rome members of the imperial household were called to account for the charge of violating the state religion. And in the Christian tradition Domitian is unanimously regarded as the first persecutor of Christians after Nero.
Brief Review of Emperor Worship Egyptian kings regarded as sons of gods Alexander the Great encounters divine kingship; worshippedEmperor worship begins in 29 B.C. in Ephesus with Julius CaesarCaligula (A.D. 37) first to allow veneration of living Roman Caesar Those coming after (e.g. Domitian) saw political value from being deified
Polycarp was born in A.D. 70, was a disciple of John, and the pastor of theSmyrna church for a while. He was put to death around 50 years after Revelationwas written for refusing to proclaim ― Kaiser kyrios‖, or ―Caesar is Lord‖. Somehave said he was the 12th martyr in Smyrna. When put forward in the stadium, hewas asked to make the statement ―away with the atheists‖ meaning the Christians, who Rome referred to as atheists because they would not recognize the gods of Rome or the emperor as a god. Instead, he looked to the crowd and motioned,saying ―away with the atheists‖ meaning the Romans who worshipped false gods.Polycarp was then, at 86 years of age, burned and then run through with a sword.
The Opening of the Letter―The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this‖ • ―Who has performed and accomplished it, Calling forth the generations from the beginning? ‗I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last. I am He.‘ ‖ (Isaiah 41:4) • ―Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‗I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me. ‖ (Isaiah 44:6) • ―Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last. ‖ (Isaiah 48:12) • ―You are My witnesses,‖ declares the Lord, ―And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. ‖ (Isaiah 43:10)
The Opening of the Letter―The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this‖ • Christ‘s resurrection stands unique from all other founders of world religions • It was the central message of the apostles‘ teaching • ―who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord‖ (Romans 1:4) • Here, it likely is included to give comfort to the suffering church that, even if they are martyred, they will live because Christ conquered death
―For what remains if Christ has been swallowed up by death — if he has become extinct — if he has beenoverwhelmed by the curse of sin — if, infact, he has been overcome by Satan? In short, if that fundamental article issubverted, all that remains will be of no moment. For the same reason he[Paul] adds, that their faith will be vain, for what solidity of faith will there be, where no hope of life is to be seen? But in the death of Christ, considered in itself, there is seen nothing but ground of despair, for he cannot be the author of salvation to others, who has been altogether vanquished by death.‖ - John Calvin
Bridging the Gap Between History & Faith How do you get from this world to the world of faith? Resurrection of Historical The Jesus Christ from Information Gospel the Dead
“I know your Tribulation…”• Smyrna is the suffering church. Likely persecuted by those of the Imperial / Emperor cult• "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution‖ (2 Timothy 3:12)• ―If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. ‖ (John 15:18)• ―Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. ‖ (1 John 3:13)
“I know your Tribulation…”• 2011 in Egypt was rung in with the bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria that left 23 dead• ―About 90 percent of the population here believes that slitting our throats is their way to heaven.‖ – Maged, anonymous blogger in Egypt
―Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faithproduces endurance. And let endurance have its perfectresult, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ‖ (James 1:2–4)
“And your Poverty (but you are rich)…”• ―poverty‖ – ptocheia – state of being deficient in means of support (different than the ordinary word for poverty in the New Testament)• Jesus reminds them to look behind the physical here to their treasure that awaits them in His kingdom. Contrast with the ‗rich‘ church of Laodicea
Blasphemy of the False Jews―…and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. ‖ (Revelation 2:9)• Smyrna was being persecuted by the Gentiles (Romans) on the one hand, and the Jews on the other• Jesus identifies the blasphemy of the Jews as showing their true identity apart from their national identity• ―For ―the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,‖ just as it is written. ‖ (Romans 2:24)• "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, he is a Jew who is one inwardly‖ (Romans 2:28)• ―You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.‖ (John 8:44)
“Do Not Fear What you are about to suffer…”• ―Do not fear‖ – most often repeated command in the New Testament• Notice that God knows the suffering is coming, and yet is allowing it to happen• ―Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. ‖ (1 Peter 4:19)
The True Source of Persecution ―Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. . .‖ (Revelation 2:10)• ―Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! ‖ (2 Corinthians 12:7)• ―For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us. ‖ (1 Thess. 2:18)• ―Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. ‖ (1 Peter 5:8)
Word Study - Tested Greek Meaning peirazo ① make an effort to do something ② discover the nature of something by testing ―Behold, the devil is about to cast ③ an attempt to entrap through inquirysome of you into prison, so that you Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). will be tested, and you will have A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. tribulation for ten days‖ (Revelation 2:10) Interpretation & ApplicationPerhaps the reason Smyrna receives no rebuke is the church has been and continues to bepurified by testing. What do the ten days refer to? Some say the 10 reigns of the RomanCaesars, others say it refers to the 10 horns of the beast, and various commentators say it means just 10 literal days. No one is sure. What is sure, however, is that the statement communicates that there are limits to the devil‘s power and the trials he puts the saints under. The time limits for our testing are controlled by God.
The Goal ―Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.‖ (Revelation 2:10)How long/far into a Christian‘s life must they remain faithful to God before they are proven worthy to obtain eternal life? Can someoneabandon their faith part way through, walk away from God, and still be saved? According to this verse, it is those who are faithful until the end who receive eternal life.
The Goal ―I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, Ihave kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteousJudge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. ‖ (2 Timothy 4:7–8)
Faithful under pressure ―Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; foronce he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. ‖ (James 1:12)
A command to Hear―‗He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.‖ (Revelation 2:7) This phrase is repeated each time in Christ‘saddress to the seven churches of Revelation. In the gospels (it is never used in John), it is always used to highlight radical truths, great principles, and promises.Note that Jesus says it is the Spirit speakingto the churches, even though He is the actualone talking: ―All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness‖ (2 Timothy 3:16)
A Promise to Obtain―He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death ‖ (Revelation 2:11)―Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? ‖ (1 John 5:5)
The Second Death―Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. ‖ (Revelation 20:14)―But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.‖ (Revelation 21:8)
Conclusions• Trials and testing quickly separates the wheat from the chaff. False believers don‘t stick around for persecution, which is one way you can know who is real and who is not.• Trials and persecution from the world will come our way. Suffering does happen and can actually be God‘s will for us. However, Peter reminds us to always trust ourselves to a faithful Creator who always does what is right.• Those who persevere to the end show that they have saving faith.