Summary: One of seven sermons on the churches of Asia Minor to encourage believers.
Smyrna, You’ve Got Mail!
Revelation 2:8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
How can anyone be rich and poor at the same time? You look at a man who may be a millionaire and live in a fine house, drives a nice car, wears expensive clothes, who literally has everything that money can buy and there is no way that you would say that he is poor. On the other hand you look at a fellow who lives on the “other side of the tracks” as we used to say, who has a difficult time taking care of his family and may have to depend the charity of others and you would say that he is poor. But the Bible tells us that there are two kinds of wealth and two kinds of poverty. A man can have gazillion dollars but is he doesn’t know Christ as his savior; he is the poorest of the poor. On the other hand a man may be poor materially, but if he knows Jesus as his savior, he is richer that King Solomon or King Midas because he is rich spiritually. This was the case of the church at Smyrna. They were poor materially but rich spiritually! Let’s examine the Lord’s love letter to the Smyrna church.
I. The Consolation for the Church
a. He is Lord
Let’s look at the comfort in verse 6. Jesus declares that He is the “first and the last.” This church was having a hard time. They were being persecuted and suffering greatly. The name Smyrna means “suffering.” It comes from the word “myrrh” which is the same spice which the wise men brought to the baby Jesus and it is the same spice mixed with vinegar offered to our Lord on the Cross. It is a fragrant spice but in order to smell it’s perfume it must be beaten and crushed. This church was going through some deep water and it was being crushed by the persecution it was facing. But Jesus is saying “The one who is with you is greater than the one who is against you,” and “I am with you, I have more power than Satan, don’t be afraid, I’ll never leave you nor forsake you.”
b. He lives
Next, Jesus says that “I was dead, but am alive.” He is saying that they killed me but death couldn’t keep me and if I have power over death, surely I have the power to help you. Other people die never to live again in this world but not Jesus. You can go to the tomb of Lenin or Stalin and you will find their bodies. You can go to the tomb of Mohammed or Confucius or Buddha and you find a pile of bones. But go to that little rock hew tomb where the Son of God was laid and you will find it bare and empty. We can sing, “Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph or his foes, He arose a victor from the dark domain and He lives forever with his saints to reign, He arose, He arose, hallelujah, Christ arose!” Friends it is a great comfort indeed to know that we have a Savior who can sympathize and understand our sorrows and suffering and walk through the “valley of the shadow” with us and also be the omnipotent one who lives forevermore.
II. The Conditions for the Church
a. He knows their works
Jesus is not only the all-powerful one, he is the all-knowing one. Whether we live in the first of the twenty first century he knows everything about our condition.
b. He knows their walk
The word “tribulation” in verse 8 sometimes refers to the Roman whip or scourge like the one used on Jesus the night before his crucifixion. Here Jesus uses an even stronger word that suggests the crushing of grain under a huge millstone. Some folks today think that they are having tribulation when a little trouble comes but that is not real tribulation, it’s almost sacrilegious to call it that. The trouble mentioned here is due to their bearing the cross of Jesus. They were really suffering in order to serve the Lord. This church had been blessed with a good pastor but he was no longer with them. He didn’t take another congregation, he was burned at the stake. Polycarp was the bishop of the Smyrna church, had been arrested and condemned to burn because he would not renounce Christ. His executioners called on him to renounce Christ and this was his reply, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He has never wronged me, How then shall I blaspheme my King who saved me?”