Summary: Jesus is where Christians place all our hope. The letters to Smyrna and Philadelphia in Revelation 2 and 3 express this hope to us and encourages us to remain faithful.
HOPE OF THE CHURCH
INTRODUCTION… HOPE IN HYMNS
#1 A Lamp In the Night
#2 Great is Thy Faithfulness
#3 My Only Hope is in the Lord
#4 My Hope is Built on Nothing Less
BACKGROUND OF THE CITIES
We are continuing our look at the Book of Revelation this morning, and we are looking at two letters that are similar. I think it is important, before we get into the two passages, to know who the letters are to! This is true of most letters, books, and articles… you understand the meaning of something better when you know the audience.
First let’s look at some characteristics of the city of Smyrna which is the recipient of the letter in Revelation 2:8-11. Smyrna is in Cobb County Georgia and is just north of Atlanta… no wait… wrong Smyrna! Smyrna, the one in Revelation, is located thirty-five miles due north up the coast from Ephesus which we talked about last week. Smyrna was a wealthy city of about 100,000 people, second only to Ephesus in this area. It is considered by historians as the most exquisite city the Greeks ever built because of the streets inside the city, the excellent protected natural harbor, and great roads that led to it. The city was surrounded by hills which were topped by temples for every known heathen god. On the side of one hill was an amphitheater large enough for over 20,000 people. It was constructed for emperor worship. By the time the Book of Revelation was written, emperor worship was commanded to all citizens of Rome. The churches were persecuted because they wouldn’t bow down to Caesar and burn incense in the temple. This letter was personally written to people under pressure. Every word He speaks to this suffering body is one of appreciation. Only two of the seven churches received letters of total commendation and encouragement: Smyrna is one and Philadelphia is the other.
Philadelphia is the second city we will look at today and is the recipient of the letter in Revelation 3:7-13. Philadelphia is famous for it’s cream cheese and cheese steaks… right? No wait… wrong Philadelphia! This Philadelphia in the Apostle John’s day was famous for its wines and healing hot springs. This city became known as the “Gateway to the East” because of its geographic location. The city was founded about 150 years before Jesus. The purpose for the city was to spread the Greek culture, language and manner of life to the east. She was intended to be a missionary city – to promote Hellenism in the land. This letter is written to a church that has done it right and is a church that we would want to make sure we emulate.
READ REVELATION 2:8-11
Revelation 2:8-11 "To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 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. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.”
READ REVELATION 3:7-13
Revelation 3:7-13 "To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars-- I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”