The Revelation of Jesus Christ Pt 7, 2:8-11

JESUS’ LETTER TO THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA

Jesus’ letter to Smyrna, the second of seven letters, reveals to us that our life is in Jesus, not in this world. Though we die in this life, though we are slain by persecutors, our glorious future with Christ can never be taken away.

Before reviewing this letter, look here for a brief summary on the seven letters in general.

  1. Exposition
  2. Parable
  3. Cultural Relevance
  4. Prophetic
  5. Accompanying Epistle(s)
EXPOSITION

VERSE 8

"And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; these things saith the first and the last, which became dead, and is living"
  1. TITLE OF THE CHURCH

The name Smyrna means “myrrh,” which makes sense because the theme of this letter is death, and myrrh is used in the anointing of the dead.

Myrrh represents death. This is one of the reasons, I believe, it was given to Jesus at His birth, but will not be given to Him in the Millennium, seeing His death is past and never to occur again.

It is also interesting that Esther, when she had to undergo twelve months of purification before being presented to the king, six months of those were with myrrh. Esther was prepared for the king with myrrh. Compare that to us as the church, who must undergo suffering before being presented to our King Jesus.

"...That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." [Phil 3:10-11]

"...Always bearing about in the body thy dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." [2 Cor 4:10-11]
  1. TITLE(S) OF JESUS CHRIST
  • The first and the last
    • Those in Smyrna can be comforted by the fact that Jesus is The First and The Last. Not “a” first or last, but the definitive First and Last. Jesus is equal to God The Father, who is quoted by Isaiah, “Thus saith The LORD The King of Israel, and His redeemer The LORD of Hosts; I am The First, and I am The Last; and beside Me there is no God.” The Father, in Isaiah, tells Israel a similar thing; He says,
      • “Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? Ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside Me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any.” [Isa 44:8]
    • Smyrna can take comfort because Jesus, like The Father, knows the beginning from the end: He knows the future, and nothing takes Him by surprise. Whatever tribulation may come, whatever death they may face, Jesus knows about it and is preparing them now, and will be with them then.
    • A similar thing happens in John. Jesus tells His disciples that they will be persecuted like He is, but that He tells them this so that when it happens, they are not offended.
      • “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also…These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.” [Jn 15:20; 16:1]
      • Jesus says again,
        • “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” [Jn 16:33]
  • Which became dead and is living
    • Jesus provides Smyrna with more comfort in saying that He is the One who not just died, but is living – Jesus resurrected to never die again! This is perhaps the most glorious and most important aspect of our faith. For if Jesus did not rise again, our “faith is vain; [we] are yet in [our] sins.” “But now is Christ risen from the dead” and “in Christ shall all be made alive.”
    • Even if we die, whatever death it may be, even the cruelest persecution, we shall live!
      • “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” [Jn 6:39-40]

VERSE 9-10

"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 of the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tested; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
  1. COMMENDATIONS
  • Tribulation
    • The word tribulation means persecution, affliction, or distress. More literally, it means a narrow place that hems someone in, especially causing internal pressure that causes one to feel confined.
      • It is not a bad thing, not a condemnation that Smyrna is facing tribulation. That may seem like an odd thing to point out; but there can be times where one thinks they must be doing something wrong because of all the tribulation they are facing. Tribulation can have the affect of making us feel like we are no good or not being used properly of God, or that He has cast us off. But on the very contrary! Jesus Christ Himself lists tribulation as a good thing, so take heart.
      • Paul even says that tribulation is a gracious gift. In Philippians He says,
        • “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” [Phil 1:29]
      • We can all easily and comfortably agree that the gift of our faith to believe in Jesus was a gracious gift of God. But what about the tribulation we face? The Greek is very clear. Suffering is a gracious gift. We should try and view it as such. Though it is tough and grievous, yet, we can still choose to praise God in it and have joy: that is what makes us different than the world in affliction. This is not an option, it is a command by Christ.
        • “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” [Mt 5:10-12]
  • Poverty (but thou art rich)
    • The poverty of this world, if it leads to richness of faith, is a good thing! That is a refreshing thing to hear Jesus say. Especially when we are constantly bombarded by the world, who posits that riches and strong faith are interlinked.
    • No, but poverty is not a bad thing. Remember the prayer of Agar,
      • “Two things I have required of Thee; deny me them not before I die: remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full, and deny Thee, and say, who is The LORD? Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” [Prov 30:7-9]
    • And remember what Paul said in Philippians,
      • “Not that I speak in respect of poverty: for I have come to realize, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be satisfied. I have known both how to be humiliated/brought low, and I have known how to overflow: every where and in all things I have been initiated into the mystery to be glutted and to starve, both to overflow and to be lacking. In all things I have strength in the one filling me with strength/power/ability.” [Phil 4:11-13] [Post: Mystery of Contentment]
    • Paul says that Jesus Christ is the source of contentment, not riches. No amount of physical wealth can change your spiritual condition, either. We must find that in Christ. For that is one reason why He came. Paul says,
      • “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” [2 Cor 8:9]
  1. CONDEMNATIONS
  • Smyrna receives no condemnations
  1. EXHORTATIONS
  • I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan
    • Jesus knows about those who are persecuting the Christians here. He knows that they are a part of a synagogue and are claiming to be Jewish. But Jesus also knows the truth, that they are indeed of the synagogue of Satan.
      • It is comforting to know that Jesus knows us in our affliction, in our persecution. Jesus is right there with us and He knows both sides of the story.
        • “I will be glad and rejoice in Thy mercy; for Thou hast considered my trouble; Thou hast known my soul in adversities.” [Psa 31:7]
    • Satan is the “accuser of the brethren” who “accuse[s] [us] before our God day and night.” Zechariah also writes of this, recording, “And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of The LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.” [Zech 3:1] And when those who purport to be believers enter into that role of accusing the brethren, they are really of the synagogue or of the congregation of Satan.
      • We should be careful not to step into that role. Don’t be an accuser of the brethren. Be an encourager, an edifier, an admonisher, of the brethren.
  • Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tested; and ye shall have tribulation ten days
    • Jesus lets His church know what is coming, and He lets them know the end date. He gives them hope that tribulation has an end. Likewise, He gives us hope. Even if He doesn’t give us an exact date, Jesus lets us know there will come a time when it will all be over.
      • “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” [Rev 21:4]
      • “And the ransomed of The LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” [Isa 35:10]
      • “Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.” [2 Thess 2:16-17]
  • Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life
    • Those who endure trials to the very end out of a love for Jesus will receive the crown of life.
      • “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which The Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” [Jam 1:12]
    • There are several crowns listed in The Bible, and they are used to glorify Jesus Christ in heaven. In Chapter four of Revelation, the Elders represent this. John tells us,
      • “And when those living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” [Rev 4:9-11]

VERSE 11

"He that hath an ear, let him hear what The Spirit saith unto the churches; he that is overcoming shall not be unjustly injured by the second death."
  1. ADMONITION
  • He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches
    • Repeated in each letter. An admonition for the reader of the letter, member of the particular church or not, to hear.
  1. PROMISE

Note: those who are overcomers/overcoming are defined in 1 John: “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” [1 Jn 5:4-5]

  • Shall not be unjustly injured by the second death
    • What a comfort this is to us, and to those who once lived in Smyrna! Jesus Christ promises us that we will not be unjustly injured by the second death. Because of our faith in Jesus Christ and what he has done, it would be unjust for The Father to sentence us to Hell. Rather, we will spend eternity with The Father, sharing in and enjoying the fruits of what Jesus Christ has wrought!
      • The second death is Hell. Read below,
        • “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” [Rev 20:14-15]
        • “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” [Rev 21:7-8]

CONCLUSION

Jesus Christ has conquered death. He has resurrected to never die again and one day so too shall we. No matter what tribulation comes, Jesus Christ is with us even unto death. “For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.” [Psa 48:14]

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PARABLE

This letter corresponds to the parable of the wheat and the tares. [Mt 13:24-30, Mk 4:26-29]

  1. The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
    • Verse 9a I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)
      • God has sowed these believers at Smyrna in the earth. He has no condemnation because they are good seed. God also uses sowing to speak of sowing a person/nation in tribulation, that something better may grow up to Him. [Hos 1:11; 2:19-23, Isa 6:13, Zech 10:9-10, Jn 12:24-26]
        • The point is that when God brings persecution in our life, it is from God. It is a result of a sinful and corrupt world, a world ruled by Satan, but God is in it, God is using it, He is planting seeds that will grow up into glorious fruit for His glory through Jesus Christ our Lord.
  2. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this.
    • Verse 9b-10 – …and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. 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.
      • Satan is in the church; he has spies and workers in probably every church. Jesus tells us that we will know them by their fruits. How do they act, what comes out of their mouth when they react without thinking, are they kind, are they patient, are they loving, how do they treat their family, etc… [Mt 7:15-20, 1 Jn 1:5-2:6, Jam 2:14-26]
        • John tells us how to test these spirits by their doctrine regarding Jesus Christ and His manhood. [1 Jn 4:1-4]
          • We are told by The Bible, by God, to test all spirits. Do not believe something just because a pastor or anyone else tells you. We must be diligent to interpret The Bible and other spirits correctly. This is why we call upon God to help us; He has given us His Holy Spirit, the Author of The Bible, to live inside us so that we might not be deceived. [Jn 16:13]
  3. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
    • Verse 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.
      • The tares, the fakes, the wolves, the enemies of the Kingdom: these will suffer the second death for eternity. At the harvest, they will be bound and cast into hell. But we who overcome, who accept the invitation from Jesus Christ, will not be hurt of the second death. [Isa 24:22]
        • Eternal death is real; it is as real as eternal life. Since this is true, we should be wise and strive to win souls so that no man must experience God’s eternal wrath, the separation from His presence, His grace, His love.

CULTURAL RELEVANCE
  1. These things saith The First and The Last, which was dead and is alive.
    • Smyrna was an ancient city, going back over 1,000 years before Jesus wrote this letter.  In fact, the city was destroyed by a succession of wars, although not completely destroyed, its economic and political unity were. Lysimachus, one of Alexander’s generals, rebuilt the city to its former glory, creating “the crown of Smyrna” [see below]. He did such a great job that those in Smyrna boasted that they had died and come back to life as a city.
      • Jesus says to the believers in Smyrna that Smyrna is not the one who was dead and is alive, Jesus Christ is the First and The Last, He is the One who died and resurrected Himself. Cities come and go, they are temporary, But Jesus Christ is eternal.
  2. I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
    • In Smyrna there was a Jewish Synagogue, which the members of persecuted the Christians.
      • Jesus described the Pharisees in John, Jews that did not recognize their Messiah, Jesus Christ, as being blind to the truth, and whether they know it or not, as is with all unbelievers, apart of the “Synagogue of Satan.”
  3. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
    • Alexander the Great personally planned the city, and it was called ‘the ornament of Asia’ because of its beauty and splendor. It could also be called, “the crown of Asia.”
      • On the highest point of Smyrna, around Mount Pagos, there was a circle of temples, which was commonly called, “The crown of Smyrna.” The various priests for these temples wore golden crowns which were awarded at the end of the year for their service.
        • Jesus says that crown is nothing. If you want the true crown, the crown of life, the crown that only The First and The Last gives, be faithful to Him even unto death. Those false gods may grant you a crown that will fade and die, but if you confess Jesus Christ before men, if you stand strong and die for The Great Name of Jesus Christ, He will give you an everlasting crown of life.
    • One of the temples there was to a mother goddess called “Cybele.” This false god was commonly depicted wearing a crown.
      • Jesus is telling the believers at Smyrna that Smyrna and Rome’s false gods are not the ones who grant us crowns and rewards, but it is Jesus alone who gives us the crown of life.

PROPHETIC

The Church at Smyrna is prophetic of the persecuted church. 54 A.D – 313 A.D

  1. The devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days
    • Although this was very literal for the believers at Smyrna, this may be alluding to the 10 Caesars. [Name & Date (AD)]
      1. Nero 54-68
      2. Domitian 95-96
      3. Trajan 104-117
      4. Marcus 161-180
      5. Septimus 200-211
      6. Maximinus 235-237
      7. Decius 249-251
      8. Valerian 257-260
      9. Aurelian 270-275
      10. Diocletian 303-313

ACCOMPANYING EPISTLE

The epistle of Philippians corresponds to this letter from Jesus to Smyrna.

  • The essence of Philippians is joy in the midst of all trouble; joy in the midst of every situation.
    1. 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.
      • While writing Philippians, Paul was imprisoned for his faith in Jesus. Through this he has joy, is still bold in the gospel, and encourages the believers and Philippi to endure.  [Phil 1:12-30; 4:1-9]
    2. These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
      • One of the greatest passages in all the Bible occurs in chapter two. This is where we see Jesus, who was made in the fashion of a man, humbled Himself unto death and receives the Name above all names that at The Name of Jesus Christ every knee should bow. [Phil 2:1-11, Isa 45:23]
    3. and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
      • Paul also talks about evil workers, deceivers, and those who are not actually Jews. [Phil 3:1-7]
    4. be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
      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.
      • Paul talks about enduring and running the race, being faithful to the very end. He talks about leaving behind these earthly things and reaching forward to the high calling of Jesus Christ no matter what happens here on earth. [Phil 3:7-21]

One thought on “The Revelation of Jesus Christ Pt 7, 2:8-11

  1. Pingback: Notes on Seven Church Letters of Revelation – Bright And Morning Star

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