Summary: Lessons from the Church of Smyrna. Email me for powerpoint slides and video clips.
We are just getting started in a study of one of the most intriguing books in the Bible. The book of Revelation. The author is John. When this book is written, John is the only surviving member of the 12. He’s been exiled to the Island of Patmos for his belief in and worship of the ONE true God. And while there he receives a vision from Jesus.
In the first chapter, v. 7, John says, (TAB) “…He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him…”
In the last chapter, v. 20, Jesus says, (TAB) “… ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’” Rev. 22:20
In the vision John reveals that Jesus’ 2nd coming won’t be like His first. He will come as a (TAB) warrior king to judge the earth. This book shares all the details leading up to and beyond.
But 1st, Jesus tells John to write (TAB) 7 letters to 7 different churches. Now, for the Jews numbers are more than just a unit of measure they hold symbolic significance. And the number “7” is a symbol of completion. This has led many Bible teachers to speculate that perhaps the 7 letters to the 7 churches is more than it seems. Maybe they reveal 7 periods in all the church age. Whether that’s true or not, one things is for sure, these letters are incredibly relevant for the church & Christians even today. They are like x-rays with which we can examine our spiritual health.
And honestly, we’re not ready to hear about the coming judgment until we 1st hear Jesus’ words to these churches.
Last week we looked the letter to the church of Ephesus. Today it’s the letter to the (TAB) church of Smyrna. Let’s open to Revelation chapter 2.
The name “Smyrna” comes from this cities chief export back in the ancient times – (TAB) Myrrh. Which makes us think, of the wise men. Also, at the end of Jesus life, Nicodemus buys 75 lbs of myrrh & aloes to prepare Jesus body. Both might’ve originated here.
Look at chapter 2 beginning with v. 8 (READ v.8-11). And we have the letter to the church of Smyrna.
Like all 7 letters notice how it’s addressed to the “angel” of the church? (TAB) The word for angel in the original language is the word “messenger”, which probably means this is a reference to the pastor of the church rather than an angelic being.
We also notice that Jesus refers to Himself as, the one who (TAB) “died and came to life again”. Jesus does this purposely. In 600 BC, Smyrna was destroyed. All that was left were rubble & a small village living there… years later when Alexander the Great came through and had a vision to rebuild the city and did. So the history and lore of Smyrna is that they were dead and came back to life. But more than that, Jesus’ references to His death and new life would have been a real encouragement to this church. Because they were struggling, they face extreme difficulties. Jesus say in v.9,
“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.”
(TAB) This is an afflicted and struggling church because: #1 (TAB) the culture is immersed in Caesar worship. The citizens worship the reigning Caesar, as well as past dead Caesars. It’s a huge part of the culture and it’s bearing down heavy on the church. See, without a valid, legal exemption, to refused to worship Caesar meant you wouldn’t be hired to work. It meant you weren’t welcome to buy and sell at the city’s public square. So not only were the Christians here discriminated against but without an income, they were very poor.
There was another reason they were afflicted & struggling, because, (TAB) the local Jewish synagogue wanted no connection to them. See, the Jews didn’t worship Ceasar either - BUT they had a legal exemption due to an arrangement between Rome and Israel. The church.. had no exemption. But the Jews didn’t want to jeopardize their standing in the community with other “NON Caesar worshipers” so they took every opportunity to demean, reject and separate themselves from the Christians.
So the Christians had the Roman citizens of Smyrna and the Jews both against them. So, with Jesus referencing His death and new life - it’s like He’s saying, “I know your struggle – remember I died – people hated and even killed me – but that didn’t hold me down... don’t let it hold you down either. Because the new, eternal life I have – you have too. I know you poverty, but really.. you’re rich.” They were rich spiritual, rich eternally in Christ.