Revelation 2:8-11

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

Text: Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:8-11

THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA

INTRODUCTION:

In chapters 2-3 we see letters to the seven churches.

Why were seven churches chosen?

Seven is the number of completeness or universality in Scripture.

Why were these seven churches chosen?

Each church needed a particular message.

Each church illustrated conditions common in local churches at that time and in all ages of church history.

Each church was composed of individuals who personally needed the instruction and warning.

Each church may represent a period of church history.

The church at Ephesus seems characteristic of the Apostolic period.

The church at Laodicea seems characteristic of the apostasy prior to the return of Christ.

The messages seem to go beyond the local churches mentioned.

I. THE COMMISSION FROM CHRIST - 2:8a

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:8 a - And unto the angel [i.e. messenger] of the church in Smyrna write. . .

The angel is the messenger, the representative of God for the church, the one to whom the Lord would give a message and he would in turn proclaim it to the church. He is the pastor.

Smyrna was located 35 miles north of Ephesus.

Smyrna was a wealthy seaport.

Smyrna was known for its export of myrrh, which was used as perfume and which was also used to embalm bodies of the dead.

Smyrna was known for its emperor worship, and its citizens were required to say that Caesar is Lord. Of course, a Christian could not do this in good conscience because he knew that Jesus is Lord.

Failure to affirm that Caesar is Lord was punishable by law, and those who refused would likely be excluded from the trade guilds, which were comparable to modern-day labor unions. This could result in unemployment and abject poverty.

Also, a large Jewish population was present in Smyrna; and the Jews who rejected the Lord Jesus as their Messiah were generally hostile toward His followers as well.

The believers in Smyrna could expect persecution from both Gentiles and Jews. This is a particular message needed by, and intended for, this particular congregation, the church in Smyrna. Other churches or individuals might need a similar message.

The tense of write suggests write at once and without delay.

II. THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST - 2:8b

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:8 b - . . . These things saith the first and the last, which [i.e. Who] was dead, and is alive [i.e. Who has come to life].

The words the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive have been taken from what Christ said regarding Himself in Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:11 and 1:17-18,

Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:11 - Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:17-18 - (17) And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:

(18) I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

The first and the last means that He is the eternal One - v. 8

He is the eternal One Who existed before the creation and Who will exist after the destruction of the present creation. It is another way of saying that there never has been, and never will be, a time when He did not, does not, or will not exist.

Since He is eternal, He is capable of fulfilling His word.

Note the appropriateness of the character of Christ to meet all the needs of the church at Smyrna as well as the needs of all other churches.

Which [i.e. Who] was dead and is alive - v. 8

He is the resurrected One, the Conqueror of death

By which [i.e. Who] was dead and is alive, Christ refers to His death on the cross for the sins of all humanity and to His subsequent resurrection. He is the resurrected One, the conqueror of death.

Was dead is became dead and indicates that Christ was not always dead prior to His now being alive. At a point in time, He became dead. He was subsequently raised from the dead and is alive for ever and ever.

The tense of is alive indicates an action which occurred in the past. And is alive is literally and lived or and came to life. It is translated is alive in order to emphasize the result of its action.

III. THE COMMENDATION FROM CHRIST - 2:9

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:9 - (9) I know thy works, and tribulation [i.e. afflictions], 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.

1. I know thy works - v. 9

Thy is you (singular) and refers to the angel, messenger, or pastor of this church in Smyrna. He is the representative of the congregation as a whole; and what is said to him is true of the congregation as a whole.

Works are deeds, actions, or accomplishments.

Ephesians 2:10 - For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

2. I know thy tribulation - v. 9

Tribulation has been promised

John 16:33 - In the world ye shall have tribulation.

II Timothy 3:12 - Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

Why does God allow tribulation?

1. Tribulation may be for disciplinary purposes.

I Corinthians 11:30-32 - (30) For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. (31) For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (32) But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

Hebrews 12:5-11 - (5) And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: (6) For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. (7) If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? (8) But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (9) Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? (10) For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. (11) Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

2. Tribulation may be for preventative purposes [i.e. to keep people from sinning].

II Corinthians 12:7 - And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

3. Tribulation may be to teach us some things we need to learn.

Romans 5:3-5 - (3) And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh [i.e. produces] patience; (4) And patience, experience [i.e. character]; and experience, hope: (5) And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Back to Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:9

3. I know thy poverty - v. 9

The word translated poverty indicates an extreme poverty or beggarliness. They were beggarly.

Their poverty may have been the result of their tribulation because their properties and goods may have been confiscated.

Trade guilds connected with paganism may have made it difficult for believers to earn a living.

But thou art rich [i.e. wealthy] contrasts with their extreme poverty. Their physical circumstances indicate that they were in dire poverty, but they were rich spiritually in spite of their physical circumstances.

4. I know the blasphemy of them who say they are Jews, and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan - v. 9

This church had trouble coming from within its assembly - from the legalists.

It is common in churches and had been predicted of the church in Ephesus.

Acts 20:28-31 - (28) Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (29) For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. (30) Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (31) Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

Blasphemy means slander or defamation when used in relation to human beings, but it is consistently translated blasphemy when the King James translators viewed it as slander or defamation of God or of the things of God.

Of them which say they are Jews indicates that it was some people who claimed to be Jews who were doing the blaspheming. Undoubtedly they were physically descended from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, but they were certainly not spiritually descended from him. This means that they were Jews but were not saved Jews.

Say suggests that they are saying, are asserting, or are claiming something. What they are asserting is that they are Jews.

They is reflexive and is understood in the sense of that they themselves are Jews.

The omniscient Christ, however, contradicts their claim. They are not Jews. It is reminiscent of what Paul wrote in Romans 2:28-29 ,

Romans 2:28-29 - (28) For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

(29) But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

But introduces a statement in strong contrast to their saying that they are Jews.

They are the synagogue of Satan.

A synagogue is a gathering place or a place of assembly. It was also used of (the congregation of a) synagogue. The reference is apparently to Jews in Smyrna who were hostile to the Christians.

Of Satan suggests Satan's. Satan is the devil, the adversary of Christians. The local Jewish synagogue was apparently what Christ was referring to as the synagogue of Satan or as Satan's synagogue. Rather than being God's assembly or congregation, it was Satan's assembly or congregation.

IV. THE CONDEMNATION BY CHRIST

There is no condemnation by Christ for the church in Smyrna.

Why not?

Persecution straightens out believers and also drives off those who do not mean business with the Lord.

V. THE CORRECTION PRESCRIBED BY CHRIST - 2:10a

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:10 a - 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. . . .

Since there is no condemnation, no correction is needed.

According to verse 10, the devil will cast some of this church's people into prison to try them, and the church will have a trial which will last for ten days. The one who is faithful unto death will receive a crown of life from Christ.

Fear none of is fear nothing of or stop fearing anything of. Its tense implies that they were already fearing something and that this needed to be stopped or discontinued.

Those things is simply what things.

Thou shalt suffer is you (singular) are about to suffer where thou refers to the church at Smyrna as represented by its pastor, the angel or messenger of the church. Stop fearing any of what things you are about to suffer.

Behold is used to heighten the church's awareness and to gain their undivided attention.

The nature of the things which the church at Smyrna will suffer is indicated by the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days.

The devil is the adversary or Satan.

Shall cast is is about to cast, is about to throw, or is about to put. It implies that the devil is actually getting ready to do this to some of you at the very time Christ said it, which implies that it is not going to happen to all of them but only to an undisclosed number of them. Here Satan is seen to be the one ultimately responsible for the persecution of believers.

Into prison indicates where Satan is about to throw, cast, or put some of them.

That suggests in order that or for the purpose that.

The reason or purpose Satan will cast some of them into prison is indicated by that ye may be tried.

Ye is you (plural) and may refer to the entire congregation at Smyrna, or it may refer to those who will be cast into prison. It will certainly be a time of trial or testing for the ones cast into prison; but it will also be a time of trial for the rest of the congregation as well when they see their friends and, perhaps their family members, put into prison.

May be tried is may be tested, may be made trial of, or may be put to the test.

And ye shall have tribulation ten days is predictive of a future event which is really going to happen to people from the church in Smyrna.

Tribulation literally means pressing or pressure; and when used figuratively as it is here, it is understood in the sense of oppression, affliction, or tribulation.

Ten days indicates that they will have tribulation or a trial that will last for ten days, and there is no good reason to take it in any way other than literally. It will be short, but it will apparently be severe.

Be thou faithful unto death indicates the believer's responsibility as he goes through severe persecution.

Thou is you (singular) and refers to the church at Smyrna as represented by its pastor.

Unto death indicates how far the believer is to go in his faithfulness, just as Jesus had been faithful unto His death. It means that the believer should always be faithful to his Lord even though it may cost him his life.

Since there is no condemnation, no correction is needed - Be thou faithful unto death. The tense of be implies that they were already faithful and should continue being faithful or should keep on being faithful.

VI. THE CONSEQUENCE PROMISED BY CHRIST - 2:10b

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:10 b - . . . I will give thee a crown of life.

It suggests, I will give thee the crown which is eternal life.

The faithful one will be given the crown which is eternal life, which means that the faithful one will be given eternal life.

VII. THE CALL TO HEAR - 2:11a

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:11 a - He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. . . .

In he that hath an ear, let him hear, he indicates that the messages to the churches are to be applied to individuals.

VIII. THE CHALLENGE TO THE OVERCOMER - 2:11b

Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:11 b - . . . He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

He that overcometh is the one who overcomes.

What is an overcomer? According to I John 5:4-5 , the overcomer is a saved person

I John 5:4-5 - (4) For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. (5) Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

John 20:30-31 - 30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

It is not a special group of Christians distinguished by their spirituality in contrast to genuine Christians who lack these qualities. Rather, it is a general description of what is normal and is to be expected among those who are true followers of the Lord.

What is the second death? It is seen in Revelation of Jesus Christ 20:14-15

Revelation of Jesus Christ 20:14-15 - (14) And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (15) And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

CONCLUSION:

How should we suffer?

We should suffer as Christ suffered.

I Peter 2:21-24 - (21) For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (22) Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: (23) Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: (24) Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

I Peter 4:12-19 - (12) Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: (13) But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (14) If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (15) But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. (16) Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. (17) For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (18) And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (19) Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

We should keep certain things in mind if we are called upon to suffer for Christ.

It is normal for all believers -

II Timothy 3:12 - Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

God is in control of the situation and knows what He is doing -

Romans 8:28-30 - (28) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (29) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

Psalms 37:23 - (23) The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.

God will not allow the trial to go beyond your ability to handle it -

I Corinthians 10:13 - (13) There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.