Summary: The Church at Smyrna was a suffering church. They had experienced past afflictions and were going to encounter sever trials so they are encouraged to endure. A suffering church needs to look to their Lord and look to their future.
Lessons from a Suffering Church
Revelation 2:8-11 8 "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.
If the first mark of a true and living church is fervent love, the second is the ability to endure suffering. Being willing to suffer or sacrifice for another proves the genuineness of love. We are willing to suffer only for those we love. Evidently Christians in Smyrna had not lost their fervent love for Christ for they were prepared to suffer for Him. Like Peter and John, they were "rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name" of Christ.
The Church at Smyrna was a suffering church. They had experienced past afflictions and were going to encounter sever trials so they are encouraged to endure. A suffering church needs to look to their Lord and look to their future.
I. CHARACTERISTICS (8)
-First let’s look at some characteristics of the city. The city of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey) is located thirty-five miles due north up the coast from Ephesus. It would be the next city the postman reached on his circular route of the seven churches. Smyrna was a wealthy city, second only to Ephesus. It is considered by historians as the most exquisite city the Greeks ever built. It had an excellent protected natural harbor and like Ephesus a good road gave it access to the interior. It was a planned city with wide streets surrounded by hills which were topped by temples for every known heathen god. On the side of one hill was a 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 compulsory. The churches were persecuted because they wouldn’t bow down to Caesar and burn incense in the temple dedicated to Kaiser curios, Caesar is Lord!
-Unlike Ephesus which is no more, Smyrna is still a large city grown from about 100,000 people in John’s day to about 200,000 today, amazingly one-third of which are Christians. In this large and flourishing commercial center was a small persecuted church to whom this letter was sent.
-The letter to the church at Smyrna 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.
-In the second half of verse 8 we find the titles Jesus’ uses to describe Himself to the persecuted church. The First and the Last, Who was dead, and has come to life, says this:
-The Lord Jesus chose these titles for Himself to inspire confidence in a threatened church. He is the First and the Last. Christ states this is His position in relation to time and eternity. He is the Eternal God who has always existed in the past and will always exist in the future. He is also the One Who Became Dead, referring to His death on the cross and the One Who Lives, referring to His resurrection as the One who conquered death.
-The title is a reminder that even the divine Son of God willingly became subject to the rejection and persecution of man. The Church in Smyrna should anticipate the same ultimate victory over all foes just as Christ experienced. The grave could not hold Christ. He is the One Who Lives, symbolizing His triumph over death, rejection and persecution. They too can experience victory in His Ultimate Victory.
CHRIST, OUR PIONEER LEADER
-You may have heard of people blazing a trail in areas where there are no roads or paths of any kind. People take hatchets and cut out some of the bark of the trees as they go along, and then they easily find their way by these "blazes." They call it "blazing the trail." Christ has "blazed the trail." He has traveled the road himself, and knowing the way, He tells us to follow Him, and He will lead us safe on high.