Summary: The 2nd in the series, this church had nothing for which the Lord rebuked them. But there is a great lesson to be learned from them.
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.
As we continue in our series on “What Kind of Church Does Jesus Want?” we come to the second church found in Revelation. It is the church of Smyrna. There are many things about this church, as with the other churches in Revelation, that relate to us today. It is necessary that we take a close look at this particular church so that we may learn more about what kind of church this one needs to be.
It is a blessing to study about this particular church. There are many things about it that really have the ability to touch my heart and cause me to stop. There are things about it that make me examine myself. You say, preacher, just how is that a blessing? Any time that you are confronted with the word of the living God, and it points out those areas where you are lacking, it serves as a blessing. When we can see that the very reason that God points things out in our lives is for the purpose of correcting those things, it should bless you and give you a real joy in your heart just to know that the God, creator of the universe, desires to be close and personal with you.
As we begin looking at the church at Smyrna, look at Revelation 2:8. “And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write.” If you remember our time looking at the church of Ephesus, then you would realize that the angel is not the pastor of the church, nor is it the guardian angel. By angel the reference is to the “essential spirit” or the “projected message” of the church. The Lord is addressing the conduct of this particular church.
There is much to learn just from the place of Smyrna. This city as far as culture and history is concerned was among the largest of the cities in the Mediterranean. It was a port city, which was beautiful in its appearance. The city was among the wealthiest of all the cities in Asia at this time, and the estimated population during the time of this letter was approaching 100,000 people.
The name Smyrna actually means myrrh. When you think about the Magi as they bore gifts to Jesus, they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Myrrh is a perfume that was used in the embalming process. That is an attractive name for a city isn’t it? How would you like to live in a place called formaldehyde?
Myrrh, as we have mentioned was a perfume that only gave off its fragrance when it was crushed. History tell us that the city of Smyrna endured earthquakes, attacks and raids, numerous oppressions, if it was a possibility that it could happen, they saw it. No matter how many times they were oppressed, they always seemed to rebound better than they were before economically. They fit their name well. Crushed, but sweeter for it.
Idol worship was prevalent throughout Smyrna, as it was in the majority of the larger cities of that time. Archeology has shown us several of the idol temples that were constructed during that day, and they were sights to behold. The expense and beauty was unbelievable.
Then there was this church. It was the church of Smyrna. It had the same name as the city in which it was founded. It endured the same sufferings as the city in which it existed. It suffered hardships just like every one else. But, there was something different about this church. This was one of two churches found in these seven letters where there was no rebuke offered. Jesus had nothing bad to say about this church, but He did have a message for them.
Notice how Jesus addressed this church. In verse 8 He said, “These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive.” The reference is not of the same weight as we find in chapter one and verse 8. There Jesus said that He is the Alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. Here, He is giving much more weight than that to His message. It is the strongest sense of assurance that can be expressed in the Greek language. Jesus is affirming who he is to this church, and it is for a reason.