Summary: Fourth in the Revelation series focusing on the church at Smyrna-- the Suffering Church
II.Messages to the Seven churches 2-3 (Things with are)
A. The Message to the church in Ephesus 2:1-7
The passionless church
The one who guards the leadership in each church as He walks among them.
Jesus commended their involvement in ministry (deed), tireless protection of the flock against false doctrine and false teachers and their endurance over time.
They had left their first love.
REMEMBER FROM WHERE YOU HAVE FALLEN
RETURN -- DO THE FIRST DEEDS
Jesus promised to do something drastic if they refused to repent. They would no longer have the privilege of bearing Christ light in a dark place for they had become dark themselves.
Jesus followed his correction with one more commendation.
6 ’Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
The hatred was not for the Nicolaitans but for their deeds. In contrast to deeds of devotion, the Nicolaitans practiced deeds of depravity. No one really knows who these people were.
Their influence was felt all through Asia as they are mentioned again in connection with two of the other churches. It is common held that they taught and practiced some sort of moral compromise with the pagan practices of the day in order to fit in.
6. Call to hear
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 2:7a
This sober call always occurs where Jesus appealed to His hearers to make a significant change.
7. Promise to overcomers
To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’
“To the one overcoming” Jesus will one day grant access to the tree of life.
This tree continually exists in God’s garden (Paradise). This is the same tree mentioned in Genesis. Jesus encouraged those struggling in an age of tribulation and struggle to look to the finish line. John clearly defined his idea of an overcomer.
4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5
According to this verse, John sees all truly born-again believers as overcomers.
No matter what may assail us in this world…
No matter how many times we may trip and fall in this life…
…we are overcomers by faith in Christ and He promises us a grand future.
In this case, Jesus reminded them of the promise to restore access to the tree of life growing in His garden. The tree of life disappeared in Genesis at the beginning of human history and returns here in Revelation at the end. (22:2,14,19)
B. The Message to the church in Smyrna 2:8-11
The Suffering Church
Background of the church at Smyrna
The ancient city of Smyrna was a major city of nearly 100,000 people on the west coast of Asia Minor forty miles west of Ephesus, the modern city of Izmir, Turkey (third largest city). It had good harbor facilities, was at the end of a major road, and was surrounded by rich farmland. Smyrna gave its loyalty to the Romans at an early stage (about 195 B.C.) and never wavered. The Romans often rewarded Smyrna for its loyalty. The city was headquarters for the imperial cult of emperor worship in that area of the empire. Citizens were required at least once a year to offer incense, eat sacrificial offering and swear allegiance to the emperor.
To those who have been appointed to preside over the sacrifices, from Inares Akeus, from the village of Theoxenis, together with his children. We have always sacrificed to the gods, and now, in your presence, according to the regulations, we have sacrifices and offered libations, and tasted the sacred things, and we ask you to give us a certification that we have son so, May you fare well.
We, the representatives of the Emperor, Serenos and Heras, have seen you sacrificing.
Christians were persecuted by both Jews and Romans. In contrast to Ephesus, which dried up when their harbor became unusable due to silt, Smyrna continues to be a thriving city to this day with a population of 200,000 plus. It enjoyed rich history of development up to the Muslim Turk invasion of 1922 where nearly 100,000 Christians and Greeks were massacred and up to one million evacuated.
The only Biblical reference to this church comes from this passage. It is not mentioned in Acts.
Again, it would be fair to assume that those from that city who had been converted at Pentecost returned home to spread the good news. Perhaps it is included when Paul spoke of the spread of the Gospel all through Asia. In contrast to Ephesus, there was a strong Church presence in Smyrna for many years after this letter was written. At one time 22% of the population of Turkey was Christian. Today is has fallen to less than 1%. The Christian influence stood strong up to the 1922 Muslim invasion.