Summary: Week 5 in a Wednesday evening study in Revelation
“A Message To The Persecuted Church”
Date: June 26,2002
Place: Allendale Baptist
Text: Revelation 2: 8-11
We continue our study in Revelation tonight in chapter 2: 8-11, the 2nd letter to the churches in Asia (modern day Turkey). This letter is specifically directed to the church in Smyrna.
Two things that stand out in this message before we begin:
1. It is the shortest of all the messages or letters to the churches
2. God does not condemn or have anything against this church.
* Some call this the persecuted church. The church of Smyrna was greatly persecuted. We will take a closer look at this later.
* Some call this the financially poor but spiritually rich church.
There is that word angelos which means messenger, and is referring to the pastor of the church at Smyrna.
The word Smyrna can be seen 3 other times in the New Testament:
1. Matthew 2: 11speaking of the wise men that came to worship Jesus brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.
2. Mark 15: 23 speaking of Jesus on the cross they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He refused.
3. John 19: 40-41; And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came bringing a mixture of Myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.
Smyrna means “myrrh”, the substance used for perfume & often for anointing a dead body for aromatic purposes.
This is very relevant to this letter written to the church at Smyrna which means myrrh. This fragrance came from a root of a plant which had to be crushed and beaten for the aroma to come through.
This church, the persecuted church would be beaten & crushed also.
This city was the most beautiful in Asia Minor, and was the center of science, medicine & religion. Because of this city’s intense loyalty to Rome resulted in a strong emperor-worship.
Fifty years after John’s death, Polycarp, the pastor of the church in Smyrna, was burned at the stake for refusing to worship Caesar.
“The first and the Last”
As the Lord addresses each church He reveals some charactistic about Himself.
Remember to the church at Ephesus He said, “From He who holds the seven stars in His right hand.” Meaning Jesus controls the church and the leaders of the church
To this persecuted church the First & the Last reminds them all they have gone through & all they are about to go through, Jesus has already been there.
“Who was dead, and came to life.”
This would be a very comforting message to those who faced death.
But it also reminds us that the King of kings is alive.
When Alexander the Great died his kingdom was divided into 3 kingdoms which all later came to ruin.
It reminds me of the song; “Kings & kingdoms will all pass away, but there’s something about that name.”
“I know your works”
This is a commendation for their service to the things of God.
“I know your tribulation”
The word “I know” is the word oida which means I know from personal experience.
Aren’t you glad when you get down on your knees to pray in times of distress, trails & tribulation there is a God that says “I know I’ve been there.”
Tribulation, again is not referring to the great tribulation. This is referring to hardships.
“I know your poverty(but you are rich)”
On the outside they may have looked poverty stricken but spiritually they were rich in the things of God.
“I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”
In Smyrna was a large population of Jews who claimed to be God’s chosen people and bitterly attacked the Christians. Foxes’ Book of Martyrs tells the story of Polycarp and how in his old age was pursued unto death.
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer”
They were a suffering church now but says its about to get worse.
So many times we tend to blame the immediate person or circumstances. But Jesus gets right to the root of the problem
“Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested.”
I have to stop and say at this point some may ask why was this church so greatly persecuted.
1. They stood in the sight of Greek/ Roman paganism. The Christians in Smyrna refused to say Jesus is like all the other gods.
2. The social & economic life was built around the cults or worship of these gods. For example a fisherman would worship the god of the sea, Christians who refused would be persecuted, not be able to find work meaning they could not support their family.