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?