Summary: Smyrna received no criticism from Christ, one of the only ones in Revelation 2-3. But they were going through terrible persecution. Jesus gives them comforting counsel and promises in Revelation 2:8-11.
The Pain Won’t Last Forever
Sermon 2 in the Series “You’ve Got Mail”
July 17, 2011
For the PowerPoint for the sermon, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEXT: Revelation 2:8-11 – “And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; 9 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. 10 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. 11 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.”
* What would you do if when you became a Christian, people started persecuting you, you lost your job, you lost all of your possessions, and supposed friends slandered you?
* What would you do if you were thrown into prison?
* What would you do if the government came into our church this morning and said you had to bow down and burn incense and say, “The United Nations is lord”?
* If you did this, you’d receive a certificate from the government allowing you to operate your business or trade. If you didn’t: no certificate!—And without the certificate, no work!
* What would you do if other religious groups here in town were working for the government as spies to tell on you if you weren’t complying?
* And what if the spies were telling lies about you to defame you and imply you were seditious and a threat to the government?
The message we’re going to look at today is the one to the church at Smyrna. Smyrna was a beautiful city, famous for its wide paved streets that ran from one end of the city to the other. It had a famous stadium, an impressive library and laid claim to the largest public theater in all of Asia Minor.
Smyrna was also fiercely loyal to the Roman Government and there was a large Jewish population that was not very loving to the Christians. Despite these splendors, Smyrna was a cauldron of suffering for believers for the reasons I mentioned above. In the midst of this suffering, I wonder if you would be tempted to ask, “Where is God?”
Unlike of the messages to most of the other churches in Revelation 2-3, Christ has no criticism for the church of Smyrna. I suppose this is what you would expect. If you’re giving it your best in the face of adversity, you don’t need a kick in the tail. This is a letter designed to encourage the church at Smyrna.
Let’s look at it and see what Jesus has for us in His message to the church of Smyrna:
I. NOTICE FIRST OF ALL THE PERSECUTION OF THE CHURCH.
Simply put, Smyrna was not a friendly place to be a Christian. So Jesus assures them that He’s aware of their situation.
In verse 9 He says, “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty (but ye are rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not but are the synagogue of Satan.”
Jesus first recognizes their works. Even while undergoing intense persecution, they were still faithful to do good works for the Lord and others. That ought to be convicting to many of us who live in the safety and comfort of the free world, yet have few works to show for our walk with the Lord.
Then in verse 8 Jesus comforts the Smyrna believers, saying He knows of their trials and their poverty and the betrayal of those who should be their natural allies. Their suffering and poverty were linked. Like I said, Smyrna was not a friendly place to be a Christian. In fact, in all of Asia Minor, Smyrna was probably THE worst place for Christians to live. Cicero called Smyrna one of (Rome’s) most faithful and … ancient allies and Smyrna proved its loyalty to Rome by erecting several temples in honor of Roman gods.
There was even an altar honoring Caesar where once a year, every citizen was expected to burn incense and declare, “Caesar is Lord.” After the incense was burnt, the offerer was issued a certificate. Anyone refusing to acknowledge Caesar as lord was excluded from the guilds and denied a certificate, which meant unemployment and poverty. But to declare Caesar as lord was heresy for Christians, so they refused to do it and were persecuted and left without means of supporting themselves except for manual labor of the meanest sort.