Summary: Smyrna was a church under the great pressure of persecution.
THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF REVELATION
SMYRNA—THE CHURCH UNDER GREAT PRESSURE
TEXT: Revelation 2:8-11
Revelation 2:8-11 (KJV) And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;  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.  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.  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.
I. INTRODUCTION—THE EXPECTATION OF PERSECUTION
-One of the most difficult things for the American church to grasp is the fact that persecution is going on against the church in the world in great intensity. One of the reasons that it is so difficult for us to understand this concept is because of the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans.
-When we look at it from another standpoint, I am not so sure that the American church isn’t facing a “soft” persecution that has been harmful to us. The devil is evil but he is also smart and for the persecution in America to work, he cannot attack like he may be able to function in other countries around the world. Persecution of the American church shows up in a variety of different ways:
• A low level desire for true holiness
• An alarming lack of spiritual discernment
• Worship that has become sorely lacking in seriousness
• A soaring biblical illiteracy
-Some would say that this is not persecution. But the way that “soft” persecution comes in is through the gates of materialism, consumerism, and carnal attitudes.
-Persecution at its very evil root is Satanic as just a cursory reading of this text proved to us.
-According to Open Doors an organization that keeps track of Christian persecution around the world, of the Top 25 nations that persecute Christians, the majority are now Middle Eastern countries that have Islamic beliefs that are pushing them.
-What becomes more sobering is a report from this week (8/21-8/28/16) that now ISIS has recruited some children who are now executing adults. They are called “cubs” and were shown executing some of the Kurds in Raqqa, Syria.
-All of this is moving us toward the end! Before getting into the heart of the text, this is a snapshot of what it might be like to be in a church that is persecuted:
VIDEO CLIP FROM OPEN DOORS: https://youtu.be/VddHB30CAY8
II. THE PROMISE BEFORE THE PERSECUTION
-In light of the coming persecution, Jesus was very clear that it would take place.
John 16:1-3 (KJV) These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.  They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.  And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.
-This is just one of His warnings that He left. All through the Gospels there are other messages that He left. However there are other New Testament warnings that are given as well:
2 Timothy 3:12 (KJV) Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
-When Peter was writing his epistles, he warned of persecution in chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5. All that are godly are going to suffer persecution but he sums up what will happen in 1 Peter 5:10:
1 Peter 5:10 (KJV) But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
-But there was a promise that Jesus left to His church that would be persecuted:
Matthew 16:18 (KJV) And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
-That verse has been twisted in so many different ways over the years especially in Pentecostal churches. It does not mean that someone can charge hell with a water pistol! Its true meaning is that the gates of Hades, the gates of death, will not prevail against the church. The enemies of the church, even Satan himself, can physically kill all whom he may desire but the Apostolic Church is going to just continue to march on!
-Persecution will never destroy a church but it will strengthen that church. The saints become more powerful and the hypocrites and tares bolt because the pressure of the pain will expose them for who they are.