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The Suffering Church (Revelation 2:8-11).

FOCUS: Revelation.  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Christ's message to Smyrna

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Introduction to Smyrna.

Of these seven towns that the churches are found in, Smyrna is second largest compared to Ephesus. (Around 200,000 people).
While Ephesus was known for its worship of Diana, Smyrna was known for its Emperor worship.
This is likely where Smyrna gets its name, because “Myrrh” was often used to burn as incense in worship to Caesar.
Has very strong aromatic smell, and it likely enveloped the city.
We can tell from History that there was very large Jewish Population in Smyrna.
We see in other places in Scripture that the Jewish People, who rejected Jesus as the Messiah, were often the most vicious of persecutors of the Christians.
Both the Pagan Caesar worshippers and the Jewish People who reject Jesus in Smyrna unleashed a wicked persecution that lasted for years.
Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, was martyred here at the ripe old age of 86 years old.
He is quoted at the time he was commanded to recant saying, “Four score and six years have I served the Lord, and He never wronged me: How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?”
He was likely the Pastor of this church when this letter was written.
It seems that this is the legacy of this Church.
Of the 7 churches, there is no condemnation levied by Christ against it.
They remained faithful to the end.

Christ’s Depiction (v. 8).

“First and the Last...”
Christ is relating Himself to time here.
He existed in eternity past, and will ever exist in the future.
This would be an encouragement to those under persecution, because this persecution was ongoing and intense. It probably felt like it would never end to them.
Christ relating Himself to time here would help them trust Him, knowing that He is already on the other side of whatever trial they were facing at the time.
“…who was dead, and has come to life...”
This obvious points to Christ’s victory over death and His resurrection.
Whatever persecution may come, the Church as Smyrna could trust that remaining faithful to Christ would reap a reward far more than the temporal peace that would come with the rejection of Christ.
This is why Polycarp could say was what he said.

Christ’s Commendation (v. 9).

Here we see Christ exercising His Omniscience by saying, “I know...”
He knows their “tribulation”. He’s not just measly aware of this fact, He knows it deeply, and far more than they who were suffering know about it.
He sees the pressures that they face to capitulate their faith.
He knows their “poverty”. The word here for poverty isn’t just lack of wealth or poor.
It carries the idea that they were social outcasts.
They were boycotted.
They were stolen from.
They were beaten up and robbed.
They were cancelled.
He knows about the Jewish persecution that they were facing.
When Christ calls the synagogue a “Synagogue of Satan” He is pointing out the sorry state of the Jewish religion by this time.
The Temple had been destroyed.
There was a general shift in Judaism towards Keeping Mitzvot, or keeping the Law for salvation.
Around this time Talmudic Judaism was developed at Yavneh, which codified Judaism into a Works religion as opposed to a faith alone religion (Genesis 15:6).
While modern Jewish People (without Messiah) are Apostate, we are called to “make them jealous” and win them Christ: Romans 11:1-14.
Because they are Apostate and lost, Jesus says that they are “Jews, and are not.”
These Jews are are ethnically Jews, but are against God.
Similar to what Paul says in Romans 2:28, 29.
They are now capable for being used by Satan, therefore “Synagogue of Satan”.
Christ understanding and knowing these things calls them “rich”. They had everything that they needed in Christ
2 Corinthians 6:10 NASB95
as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.
James 2:5 NASB95
Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

Christ’s Course of Action (v. 10).

While not needing to repent, Jesus still gives them a course of action.
He tells them of a “testing” that is coming.
“testing” is similar to the word for trial.
These are things permitted by God for the refining of the Believer.
1 Peter 1:6-9.
Our faith is tested to see its quality refined.
Ending at the day were are glorified with Christ, and sin no longer remains in us.
2 Corinthians 13:5.
This is also what we as believers are to do, examine or test ourselves.
This is where we evaluate our hearts and lives and see if they match up with what we say we believe.
Jesus tells them to not be afraid of what it coming.
His encouragement doesn’t relieve the trial, that is still on its way, but to be encouraged that difficult trials do not have the final say, gives great encouragement to persevere through them.
1 Corinthians 10:13. Jesus provides the way through the difficulties in life.
There is no promise of relief in this life either. The suffering that they were going to face could very well end up in their death.
Those who remain faithful are promised the Crown of Life, that is eternal life.
Those who remain faithful are those who are truly saved.
The trial is what weeds out the truly saved from the falsely confessed.

The Call to Heed (v. 11).

“Second Death” is the eternal life of the unbeliever.
This is what awaits them after they die here.
Those who “overcome” will not be touched by it, but rather overcome it, because Jesus overcame it.
Romans 8:28-32.
Romans 8:37–39 NASB95
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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