Summary: This sermon helps us understand why sometimes God allows us to suffer.
The Message To Smyrna
8 "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, 'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life:
9I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
10Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death." '
Our look at the Book of Revelation continues this morning.
Today we look at what Jesus told John
about the Christians in the church at Smyrna.
Smyrna was about located 35 miles north of Ephesus.
It also was a seaport city with its harbor right on the Aegean Sea.
Roman emperor Domitian, who banished John to Patmos,
made emperor worship a requirement for all Roman citizens.
Smyrna became a center for emperor worship,
with a Temple to Tiberius Caesar built in 23 B.C.
Once per year, all citizens had to burn incense
on an altar to Caesar.
While burning the incense they would say, "Caesar is Lord".
Those who refused to worship the emperor
could receive the death penalty.
Smyrna had a large Jewish population
and the majority of them were not sympathetic to Christians,
especially Jews who had converted to Christianity.
So to be a Christian in Smyrna
meant persecution from both Romans and Jews.
It was not easy to be a Christian in Smyrna.
Look again at Verse 8. "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, 'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life:
Obviously, this is Jesus who is speaking to John.
In chapter 1 verse 11, Jesus calls Himself, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,"
Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet.
Omega is the last letter.
Jesus was there in the creation described in Genesis.
He is eternal.
Though He died on the cross,
Jesus arose from the tomb and is alive forever more.
Jesus wants John to write this letter to the Smyrna church.
Verse 9. I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
Jesus who sees all,
knows what the Smyrna Christians have done for Him.
Though it hasn't been easy, they have told others about Jesus.
Just like the Smyrna Christians,
Jesus knows what our works have been.
The word "tribulation" could also be translated "afflictions".
The original Greek word here is "thlipsis".
It means: "pressured, in anguish, burdened, persecution, trouble,
to crush beneath a weight."
If we had been among those Smyrna Christians,
would we have kept the faith?
The word "poverty" is translated from the Greek word "ptocheia".
It implies that the Smyrna Christians became like beggars.
There were completely destitute and poor.
That's likely because becoming a Christian in Smyrna
meant losing your job or unable to get one.
They had no way to buy what they needed.
Yet, Jesus says this, (but you are rich).
How can someone be so poor and still be called "rich"?
The answer is simple.
From heaven's perspective, a person can be rich!
Jesus says in Matthew 6:20
but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
James 2:5 says, Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
1 Timothy 6:18 says, Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,
So the question is: Does Jesus consider you to be rich?
Jesus says the Smyrna Christians have suffered "blasphemy".
That means they had been slandered.
Terrible lies had been told about them.
Who was doing the slandering?
Those who claimed they were Jews but were not.
Jesus calls them "a synagogue of Satan".
Those Jews were just like the ones who put Jesus on the cross.
They were full of religious pride,
but rejecting Jesus as their Messiah.
Their place of worship was not a church.
It was called a "synagogue"
and the faithful Christians at Smyrna
referred to it as "the synagogue of Satan".