Last time we covered the letter to Ephesus – they were a good church with strong theology who stood against a lot of religion but they had forgotten that love balances theology we need both and one without the other is only half of the message.
We notice as well this phrase…
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”
How many here have ears? Good almost all of you
We need to understand Jesus wrote these letters for us, through John, for all of us to read and understand and the way they were written, while the have local and historical implication, meaning they were real cities and these letters were given real directives for individual churches they were also written to all the churches and written to us.
As with Ephesus we can become so theological, religious, that black and white thinking overwhelms love and we see enough examples in scripture were love trumps theology/religion
Today this brings us to Smyrna
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the one who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive:
Each opening phrase, is a title Jesus chooses for himself that deals with what the church is going through…”who was dead and now is alive”
Smyrna is a Greek name with Hebrew roots…it means myrrh which is one of the gifts brought to Jesus…it is used in perfume, holy anointing oil, but primary use was for embalming and pain relief.
Myrrh is a gum that gives off its scent by being crushed.
42 miles north of Ephesus in Turkey today it is the third largest city called Izmir. It was a strategic place as a crossroads between Europe and the middle east.
It became a very influential city in the Roman empire, it won a contest to build a statue to Caesar Tiberius. It was one of the key cities to sponsor Caesar worship. Each year, the citizens of Smyrna where expected to take a pinch of incense and offer it over a fire to signify that he was supreme Lord. If they did this, this was basically a political move, then they would be given a certificate that would show them as a good citizen then they could buy and sell, run business and prosper. It didn’t matter if you worshiped any other gods Caesar simply wanted to be acknowledged as the supreme god above all others.
Some Christians went ahead and did this believing it was not a compromise of their faith but those who did not, who could not allow anything to be declared God above Jesus, some were burned at the stake or fed to the lions in the arena.
“I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich!
Jesus knows what they are going through, he sees their suffering, this word also means tribulation…remember Jesus said “in this world you will have tribulation” John 16:33 “but I have overcome the world”
We need to understand, I think we are starting to get it with all that is going on in our world today, that tribulation will come to every Christ-follower.
The way “suffering, tribulation” are used here it means a pressing together, being crushed under pressure, being under duress or difficulty
Anyone here not in tribulation? This is not the “great tribulation”
Poverty – but are actually rich, this implies absolutely without, to the point of needing to beg. Choosing to trust the Lord above their circumstances made them rich
Their poverty could have been eliminated if only they would have offered a pinch of incense on the altar to Caesar.
The book of Hebrews is written with a similar theme where some Christians under pressure to the Jews to adhere to all the Jewish customs, and compromise their belief in Christ as Messiah and then wait until the end of life to proclaim faith in Christ. Hebrews stands firmly against that idea.
These faithful believers would not compromise or bow their knee to any other than Jesus, it cost them their livelihood, and some times their very lives. But Jesus said, they were rich….this made their faith even stronger, because they understood the cost of following Jesus. They were far greater and stronger in the Lord than many of the other churches, their “crushing” gave off a fragrance that touched the whole region.
I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan.
Who is the synagogue of Satan? John knew all about this.
In John 8 we see a battle of words, were sparks fly between Jesus and the religious leaders. Jesus claims to be sent by the Father and that Abraham rejoiced in seeing His day. They claim to be children of Abraham and Jesus says if you were true sons of Abraham then you would rejoice too but instead he says this to them…
For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.
The synagogue of Satan is all of those who claim to have faith but deny Jesus Lordshipespecially those that knew better. These religious leaders knew the scriptures, they understood the prophecies regarding the Messiah but rather than see Jesus for who he was, they denied what they knew to be true and tried for their own desires for money, power, and prestige to pull people away from Him!
Anytime people limit who Jesus is, His power, His love, his righteousness, where they deny what he stood for, to make him too soft or too harsh then they quickly can fall into this.
Some of you have been persecuted for your faith…ladies and gentlemen some have even compromised…we are only in the beginning of challenging times…there will be a peace and normalcy but there will be a push to deny who Jesus is, even in the church as we will see part of that later in Revelation
10 Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.
Testing is always going to be a natural part of a Christian’s life. The enemy of our souls is always looking for ways to discredit the Lord and when God’s people fail, the enemy tries to get glory from it. As we walk humbly before God, because we all will fail, it is a natural part of our growth, we give God glory, even in our failures.
Allow me to remind you of a scripture that no one has as a refrigerator verse…
2 Timothy 3:12
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
Not one of those exciting verses but still true
The 10 days here has one or two possibilities it is either an idiom meaning a short period of time or it does work out with the number of key periods from Domitian – Diocletian covering roughly 250 years then Constantine
As those remain faithful through all of those years of persecution would receive a crown. This crown is the crown of a victor, the reward for winning the race.
BTW under Diocletian, Foxes book of martyrs reports 5 million Christians were killed, I know that sounds horrific but more Christians were killed in the 20th century than all preceding centuries combined, Stalin alone killed 15-20 million Christians.
We always need to remember, what we go through here is so very temporary….we need to have eternity stamped on our eyes because it will come soon enough for each one of us.
11 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death.
Born once, die twice, born twice, die once
We are challenged by Jesus to all pay attention to this…you see I believe I can prove, as we go through our study of revelation that we are raptured (caught up) before the 7 year period that includes the great tribulation but that does not mean that the church wont go through a time of persecution. We need to determine now, before anything takes place what we will do.
That begins when our faith is tested at work, in our neighborhood, with our families and all of the challenges of life.
Do people know you are a Christ-follower?
Are you living the life of a Christ-follower, being faithful to the word, prayer, giving, fellowship, service, and sharing your faith with others. These are not works, but acts of love that Jesus, and the apostles all agreed are important to show the world who you really are