Hello and welcome back to my seven part series on The Seven Churches of Revelations. Today we are going to break down the letter that the apostle John wrote to the church at Smyrna.
Just like the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul founded the church of Smyrna during his ministry travels throughout the land of Asia Minor (now-a-day Turkey).
In the Prelude to this series, I explained how each one of these seven letters has three implications that Jesus reveals to each church: Identification (identifying the recipient of the letter and Jesus Himself to the church), The Message (presenting to each church either their works/deeds or trials) and lastly A Prophetic Outcome (rewards given to the overcomer).
First lets look at the Identification to the Church at Smyrna:
This letter begins with identifying who it was written to, “To the angel of the church in Smyrna.” Once again meaning ‘actual’ angel.
Jesus then continues in verse 8 (Rev 2:8) by identifying Himself using a specific phrase or symbol that was previously used in scripture to identify Him before. This is a further confirmation that the message came from Jesus Himself and not from anyone else. Here Jesus identifies Himself as “The first and the last” and “who was dead, and has come to life.”
This statement wasn’t just an identification of being the Christ, but a claim as well. A claim of what though? A claim to be God! Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament here, specifically Isaiah 44:6 and Isaiah 48:12 when He referred to Himself as “the first and the last.”
And the second part of this claim “who was dead, and has come to life” is referring to His death, burial, and resurrection (Matt 28:5-Matt 28:6), where He died as the perfect sacrifice, therefore qualified to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29)
Now lets look at The Message:
In all the letters (including this one), Jesus starts off by saying to the church “I know your deeds/trails” (Rev 2:9). Typically Jesus will start off by announcing the ‘good works‘ that the church is doing in the message, but afterwards He will equally rebuke the church for their trespasses. This did not happen here. In this letter, Jesus recognizes the churches tribulations (poverty) but then gives an encouragement (but you are rich!).
You see, Smyrna was a very wealthy community during the time of John, but the church itself was very poor. Even to the point of persecution for their faith from their surrounding neighbors. This church was also known as the ‘long suffering church.’
To better understand their tribulation, take a look at this commentary from The Revelation of Jesus Christ:
The men of this church loved their wives and children even as we love our families. I’m sure that they could have provided well for them if they would have denied their Lord. However, they would not do so seeing that their love looked beyond the present. They were aware that only that which was done for Christ would last. They knew that the day would soon be gone and the night would come when no man could work; therefore, it was far more important that little Johnnie and little Mary be filled with the Spirit rather than food. It was far more important that they be covered with the blood of Christ rather than covered with a roof over their heads. We who live nearly two thousand years this side of these people know that they chose wisely and well. We know that they put first things first. J. Willard Willis The Revelation of Jesus Christ
Paul made a similar statement in 2 Corinthians 6:10 when he was writing his second letter to the church at Corinth. Just a few verses prior, Paul was commending the church for being ‘servants of God’ through hardship and tribulation, lacking and poverty, yet saying that they were rich and possessed all things (salvation through faith in Jesus Christ).
This is the message to the physical church, but what is the message to the body of Christ today? Let us now look at the Prophetic Outcome of this letter.
Jesus stated that this physical church at Smyrna would go through a period of tribulation, not the actual Tribulation Period, but a small time of testing where they would be thrown in jail for ten days (Rev 2:10), but to remain faithful until death.
What we as the Church can take away from this is that there will be those of us who will go through many tough trials throughout this life, but it is temporary (1 Peter 5:10). The trails in this life are meant to mold us, teach us, and bring us closer to Christ. A wise person once told me that you learn more in the deepest trenches than you do on the highest mountain tops.
If we remain faithful throughout our suffering, even until death, the rewards we will receive are beyond what we could possible comprehend (Romans 8:18). Jesus even goes as far as telling us the reward for our faithfulness in tribulation, which is the crown of life (Rev 2:10 / James 1:12).
And last, just as it is in all seven letters, Jesus ends by giving a message to the overcomer. Remember, an overcomer are those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as our savior (1 John 5:4 -1 John 5:5) so Jesus here is speaking directly to His Church.
And His message is a promise that those who overcome will not be hurt by the second death (Rev 20:6).
This concludes Part 2 of my seven part study series “The Seven Churches of Revelations.” In my next study of this series, we will look at and break down the letter given to the church of Pergamos.
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And always remember, why is it important to study Bible prophecy? Because never have we been closer than today..