Summary: Afflicated and poor yet incredibly rich. The church would do well to look at what God calls rich and not hold to the world's opinion of riches. Even in the face of persecution, these Believers hold steadfast.
THE CHURCH UNDER PRESSURE – SMYRNA
Rev 2:8-11 "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, anyou 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.”
1. INTRODUCTION – THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA
The pattern by which the Lord addresses the angel of each church is found in looking at this segment of Scripture in this manner:
* The Commission
* The Character
* The Commendation
* The Condemnation
* The Correction
* The Call
* The Challenge
Yet when we come to the second church, Smyrna, there is no condemnation given to this church, because there was so much external pressure being exerted on this church. In fact, there are only two churches of the seven that are given no condemnation and need for correction: Smyrna and Philadelphia.
2. THE CHURCH OF SMYRNA
A. BACKGROUND AND HISTORY OF THE CITY OF SMYRNA
* The city of Smyrna had a long and honourable history behind it. One thousand years before the earthly ministry of Christ, this colony had been established. Seven centuries prior to the arrival of Christ, this city had gone down in defeat to the Asiatic Lydians and would remain that way for three hundred years.
* At the end of these three hundred years, there had been some staunch Greeks who took back over the city and restored it to its former state. In the second century B.C., this city had developed into one of Rome's strongest allies and gained even more strength.
* Smyrna was one of the most beautiful cities of its day. Some historians even debate that Smyrna was the most elegant city that the Grecians ever built. The city sloped down toward the sea and along the sides of the hill was a very large amphitheatre where over twenty-thousand people could sit. It was there that worship to Caesar was granted. ‘Kaiser Curios’ ... Caesar is Lord!
* Those who refused to embrace this total act of allegiance became marked men and were noted as traitors of the government. To be a Christian in the Roman Empire during that bloody era of history was to live in jeopardy every single day. The tortures that were inflicted on Christians are almost unspeakable.
* Some of the Christians in the early church were placed in a rack that bore chains. Their hands and their feet were chained and every time that the believer refused to deny the Lord the chains were tightened to such an extent that they would actually be ripped from limb to limb. Others were thrown to lions. Others were literally cooked alive in boiling pots of hot oil ... and we think we are persecuted today?
B. THE EFFECT ON THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA
* The church at Smyrna was hit by pressure, poverty and persecution. Yet, Jesus brought no condemnation; the Lord has no complaint to speak. The character and conduct of the church at Smyrna was such that it was above reproach.
* The pressure that this church was under made terrible demands upon them. However, their spirit allowed them to pass through such without complaint. There is no greater work of grace than for someone to suffer wrongfully and yet show through it all a gracious spirit.
* The Lord watched these saints at Smyrna. Their spirit under afflication was an incredible example. Our true walk with God will only be revealed through bruising and pressure – unfortunate but true, as we see with the prophets of old and the early church.
* The church at Smyrna mirrored a Lord who had:
- Endured the terrible experiences of the Cross
- Displayed an 'amazing grace'
- Endured the shame of provocative men, and
- Still did not fall prey to anger and resentment
That is a high calling to reach for.
* The Lord simply says, "I know your works." Otherwise, all is silent. Someone here may be at this point now:
- Overwhelmed with great and crushing sorrow
- Longing to hear the voice of God, but only experiences silence
That silence you experience may be a sign not of disapproval but of approval, as was the case for Smyrna.