Summary: Sermon Three of a series
The Church that Needed Courage
Let us not forget that as we continue this study that we can apply the letters to these churches three ways. These are literal churches. The beauty of our Bible is that we can prove that the places named actually exist, or at least existed. It can be seen in hindsight that each church anc represent a portion of the church age. It is also evident that each one shows elements that are present in our churches today.
Smyrna was a wealthy city second only to Ephesus. It was located about 35 miles north,
It’s main product was myrrh, a perfumed taken from tree bark, used in embalming, more notably recognized as one of the three gifts the Magi brought to Jesus. Its name means bitter, which is a good name for what they faced. Located on a gulf of the Aegean, one of the great cities of Asia, a seat of emperor-worship with temple to Tiberius.
Some think the present angel or pastor of this church, was Polycarp, the disciple of John, we will see a little about him a little later. The history of the planting of this church is unknown, but it was possibly started under Paul’s supervision. During the second century the church was prominent, and it has never ceased to exist. In the People’s New Testament notes it states that in 1889 it was told that there were more than seventy thousand professing Christians in the city.
Paul possibly helped start this church on his third missionary journey as seen in Acts 19.
As we approach this telegram to the church at Smyrna, we are convinced of the Originator, the true Author. In verse 8 it is declared that this message is coming from the one that is the First and the Last. Call Him the Champion, Winner, Master, or any other name you might call one who cannot be defeated, but the best name for Him is God. He is the first to exist, ever existing and He is not ever going away. If eternity had a beginning and ending, Jesus would dwell without its boundaries. This letter was dictated directly from God Himself. The same title is used in Isaiah 44:6, that says, “ Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” You will also read in Isaiah 48:12, “Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.” The first and the last, the one that started it all, it all consist by Him, and it will all end at His will, is the one from whom this letter comes.
Another revelation of the Author is that He is the One who died and is Alive. The resurrection proves it all. Revelation 1:18 declares, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” It is Jesus that is proven by the resurrection. All power is His as the Conqueror of death. Another verse to consider is Romans 4:9, that says, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” He is Lord of all and is sending a message to the church. Sadly, the churches then, just as today, do not listen well, even though there is a clear mandate directly from the throne of God. This letter is coming from Jesus!
The next statement is one that could be seen in a mixed light, yet one that should make us aware of a simple fact. God know our works, whether they be good or bad. Adversity was rampant for this church. Jesus declared to them that in the midst of what they were facing, He knew their works. He knew if they were good or bad, real or fake, faithful or half-hearted. He knew if it was moral or immoral, He knew their works. In 2 Timothy 2:19, a simple statement of fact declares to God’s church what Jesus knows and expects. It says, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” God knows who is His, and those that are His are sealed forever. He is aware of all of our works, and if we belong to Him, we are to depart from iniquity. This is an imperative, not a suggestion. Many that call themselves Christians are guilty of not heeding this command. It means that we are to shun, flee from, stand off from, remove yourself from any deed violating law and justice or an act of unrighteousness. Jesus was aware of all their works, good and bad.