Summary: 2nd in a series of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2-3
Are you aware that there have been more Christians killed for their faith in recent years than there were during the time of the Caesars? It has been estimated that since AD 70, there have been over 70 million Christians put to death for refusing to renounce their belief in Jesus Christ. This means that on average, just over 36,000 have been killed each year for their faith. Yet, in recent years that figure is closer to 200,000 Christians martyred for their faith every year. And most, if not all, of this persecution occurs in the non-Western world. So, you’d think that the church is rapidly dying in the non-Western world, wouldn’t you? Hardly! Christianity has grown so rapidly that it is now 80% of Christians now live outside what we consider the Western world. 80%!
Most of these Christians do not enjoy the freedoms we enjoy. Most of these Christians live in countries with poor human rights.
Most of these Christians live under the dark shadow of daily persecution because of their faith in Jesus.
“What gives those men and women the courage to stand firm in their belief, even in the face of death?”
“Do I have what it takes to stand firm for my faith in Christ, even in the face of persecution, ridicule, rejection, or even death?”
In Revelation 2:8-11...
Jesus challenges you and me to lay down our lives for Him.
Jesus challenges you and me to remain faithful to Him to the end. Are we ready for the challenge?
In Revelation 2:8-11, we are introduced to the church in Smyrna.
They were a faithful church. They were faithful to the end.
May we be that kind of church!
Let’s see what Christ says to this church (and to us) as we look at Revelation 2: 8-11.
Please turn to Revelation 2:8-11... [Read it]
We really have the same basic outline for all of these letters.
Let’s look more closely at who the addressee is in this letter.
1. THE ADDRESSEE (v. 8a)
The “angel” or “messenger” was likely the pastor or elders of the church in Smyrna. What do we know about this church and this city? Of the 7 churches Christ speaks to, Smyrna is the only city that still exists today. Today it is called Izmir in the country of Turkey. One of my friends that I grew up with in India actually lives in this city. Today, it is a city of around 500,000 people.
The city of Smyrna 2,000 years ago was a city of around 200,000 people, built on the slopes of Mount Pagus, a harbor city 2nd only to the city of Ephesus in exports. The city of Smyrna was described on coins as “First of Asia in beauty and size.” It had the largest public theater in Asia. It also had a famous stadium and library. The city had a strong allegiance to Rome. It was a center of Roman emperor worship. Evidence shows us that it was tougher to be a faithful Christian in this city than anywhere else.
The name “Smyrna” means “bitter.” It is the word used to translate the Hebrew word “myrrh.” Myrrh was used to make perfume and embalm dead bodies. Remember this was one of the gifts presented to baby Jesus by the wise men. Myrrh becomes fragrant when crushed. (We’ll return to this thought later on).
It’s been said, “The trials of life can make one bitter or better.”
It’s also been said that the same sun hardens clay that softens wax. For the Smyrna believers their trials were making them better.
Can you say the same? How are you handling the trials of life?
Are they making you bitter or better?
Christ has some words of encouragement for the church in Smyrna. This church and the church in Philadelphia are the only 2 churches that don’t receive any criticism or call to repentance.
Notice what Christ says to the church in Smyrna. Even how he introduces Himself must have been an encouragement to them.
Look at The Addresser in v. 8b...
2. THE ADDRESSER (v. 8b)
Isn’t it great how Christ introduces himself?
How encouraging it must have been to the church in Smyrna to hear Christ say, “I am the first and the last. I am the One who died and then came to life again.”
The city of Smyrna might have been first in Asia in beauty and in size, but Jesus Christ in the first and the last! Amen?
Jesus Christ is the pre-existent, self-existent, eternal God!
He is the Alpha and the Omega!
He is the First and the Last!
And this same Jesus willingly died as the ultimate sacrifice for your sin and my sin.
This same Jesus died, yes, but rose from the dead! Praise God!