Faithlife Sermons

The Church at Smyrna

Letters to the Churches  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 8 views
Notes & Transcripts
Sermon Tone Analysis
A
D
F
J
S
Emotion
A
C
T
Language
O
C
E
A
E
Social
View more →

Destination—Smryna

Revelation 2:8–11 NIV
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
If you were here last Sunday, you remember that we talked about the message to the church at Ephesus
After reading the message to the Ephesians, you might feel justified in this idea.
Jesus had a strong message for them, one that warned them of what would happen if they did not examine their heart and motivation.
But today we have a very different message—one of understanding and encouragement.
Destination-Smyrna
Today we make a brief visit to Smyrna, only 35 miles to the north of Ephesus
unlike Ephesus, the city of Smyrna still stands to this day. The ruins of the ancient city are surrounded by the modern buildings of Izmir, Turkey.
Also a great port city. It’s proximity to Athens made it a gateway to Europe
Had beautiful architecture and tropical climate
They held exclusive rights to the import and export of the fragrant spice, Myrrh.
Used for fragrance but also in burial procedures.
Sold large amounts to Egypt where they would embalm bodies with the afterlife in mind.
Could it be that the myrrh which the wisemen brought came from Smyrna? Or the myrrh which the women brought for the body of Jesus in the tomb?
History
600 B.C. the Lydian King, Alyattes conquered Smyrna and reduced it to a tiny fishing village
Alexander the Great had a vision to rebuild the city and it became the a major port and one of the most important cities of its day
They took great pride in their history. Their literature filled with references to death and resurrection. “We are the city that was dead and now is alive again”.
Smyrna understood the rise of Rome and declared herself loyal to Rome. They were extremely loyal.
They were a part of the cult of emperor worship:
Not prevalent in Rome, but common throughout the empire
Not only did they have a temple dedicated to the goddess, Roma, they also had a temple dedicated to the Emperor Tiberius.
A an emperor was declared to be a god after his death
A picture of one who would die, yet live again as a god.
In the temple, they prayed for Rome and would pray to the gods and to the emperor.
Issues—Slander, imprisonment, torture and death
“I have served my master for these eighty and six years. How can I now deny his name?”
“..who died and came to life again”. Direct opposition to emperors who declared themselves divine; died and come back to life as divine.
So this is what things were like in Smyrna
Had beautiful architecture and tropical climate
But what was life like for the Christians?
Revelation 2:8–11 ESV
“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. “ ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
Revelations
Alexander the Great had a vision to rebuild the city and it became the a major port and one of the most important cities of its day
NIV“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
Poverty
They took great pride in their history. Their literature filled with references to death and resurrection. “We are the city that was dead and now is alive again”.
Greek word means “extreme poverty”.
Paul uses this same word when writing to the Corinthians. He commends the church in Macedonia for their joy and generosity in the midst of extreme poverty (NIV)
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,
Why? We don’t know. Smyrna was a rich city.
Why? We don’t know. Smyrna was a rich city.
But as we study the early church, this seems to be the norm rather than the exception.
Used for fragrance but also in burial procedures.
Quite possibly they were blocked out from doing business in the Agora just like their Ephesian brothers.
Sold large amounts to Egypt where they would embalm bodies with the afterlife in mind.
Could it be that the myrrh which the wisemen brought came from Smyrna? Or the myrrh which the women brought for the body of Jesus in the tomb?
Slander:
Came from those who claimed to be Jews but were not true Jews.
They endured slander from those who claimed to worship the same God that the Christians worshipped
was said that they had orgies in which they ate the body of Christ and drank his blood.
was said that they were anti-family because they called each other brother and sister. They didn’t care about their real family which was important in Roman culture.
This slander brought about
persecution
The Jews carried enough influence to bring the power of Rome down on these people.
Example: the Jews turning Jesus over to be crucified. They played their cards right
Not only didn’t they recognize the emperor as god, they had strange customs
It’s possible that the Jew’s alignment with Rome brought this harsh condemnation from Jesus “The synagogue of Satan”.
Thrown into prison: a rat-infested dungeon filled with human excrement, very little light and very little food
To die: thrown to the wild beasts in an arena or burned at the stake or some other horrific way
Famous martyr—Polycarp Lived from 69-155. Bishop of Smyrna
“I have served my master for these eighty and six years. How can I now deny his name?”
So What?
“..who died and
So what does this mean for us? We read this and think, Man, if this is what it is like to be a Believer, I don’t know if it’s worth it. Why do we experience afflictions and persecution?
Hardship was promised by Jesus
I think we must be on the same page and realize that hardship was promised by Jesus.
“I know your afflictions and your poverty”
Jesus is not surprised by what they are going through
Article in Mennonite Weekly Review warning against having a suffering mentality.
author writes that Jesus calls us to sacrifice so that we are “freed up” to follow him.
Article got off track when it author says that we are not called to suffer.
Tell that to Jesus who tell his followers “in this life you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!
Or when he tells his disciples that they will be drug before the Sanhedrin
Or tell that to Paul when he tells Timothy in of all the suffering he had endured and then comes out with this shocking statement: “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Here’s the problem: Peter says that Christ is a rock that makes man stumble.
When we live our lives in a way that exalts the life, person, truth of Christ in the eyes of man, it causes them to stumble
They begin to doubt the human inventions and ideas that they have built their lives upon, whether they admit it or not.
Their feet begin to feel clumsy and they start to stumble
Stumbling is humiliating. It’s embarrassing
What do you do when you are embarrassed? You feel threatened. You lash out. You attack the one you perceive has embarrassed you.
So we should not be surprised when we suffer hardships and persecution for the name of Christ.
2. Hardship makes us spiritually aware
When we suffer hardships, our eyes are turned off the things of this world and more to the things of God.
We are so prone to let our eyes wander and get distracted by the things around us, to get puffed up by our own abilities.
God knows this and uses hardship to get our attention off us and on to Him.
“I know your poverty—yet you are rich!”
The Bible speaks much about the riches that we as Believers have. But they are not material riches. They are spiritual riches and future riches.
3. Hardship is for our good and for the glory of God
Speaking of suffering and trials
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,”
Remember that God always has your good in mind.
Helicopter parents: hovering around to make sure their child doesn’t get hurt
These children don’t learn very well.
Wise parents will allow their children to sometimes fail, sometimes take a tumble and get hurt. It’s hard and it grieves us as parents.
But we rejoice when our children learn and begin to make wise decisions because they have learned from.
In the same way, hardship and persecution brings strenght and refining to Believers.
James says that the testing of our faith brings patience or perseverance. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you will be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.
We’ve probably met people who seemed to have life handed to them on a silver platter and whose character seems to be lacking.
But other people who go through great trials and whose character is rich and strong and mature.
Example: Ida Mullet
Some disagreement whether it brings growth in numbers
But if you talk to believers from countries where it is difficult to be a Believer, you are struck by the quality of their faith. Their strenght, their joy, the depth of their love for their Savior.
Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny C.S. Lewis
They become RICH in the things of the Lord
But this not just for our good. The main aim of all that takes place is for the Glory of God. God is more concerned about his glory than about our comfort
This is uncomfortable for us to admit, but it’s true.
As we go through our trials, as we endure, people around us should be saying, look how he endured that hardship! Look what faith she had! Look what strength she had! What patience!
4. Hardship is momentary
“You will suffer persecution for 10 days”
It was probably longer than that, but Jesus is saying here that their persecution will not last forever.
“It feels like forever since I have felt well!”
In the scope of eternity, our lives, our experiences, our hardships, our joys, are but a blip.
Paul endured hardships that just didn’t seem to end. Constantly harassed.
But he says this:
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Hardships cause us to fix our eyes on eternity. And in light of eternity, our suffering is only momentary!
Jesus: “These are the words of the First and the Last”. The bookends on time.
From eternity past to eternity future. Our lives are like the blink of an eye in the scope of God’s eternal purpose and plan.
4. Hardship is rewarded
“I will give you life as your victor’s crown”.
“You will not be hurt by the second death.”
Suffering is for God’s glory, but he doesn’t just take the glory and leave us to be destroyed.
Instead, he promises reward for those who suffer and endure.
Other pictures in

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God

and serve him day and night in his temple;

and he who sits on the throne

will shelter them with his presence.

16 ‘Never again will they hunger;

never again will they thirst.

The sun will not beat down on them,’

nor any scorching heat.

17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne

will be their shepherd;

‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ v

‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

Their reward: Eternal Life, Purpose, REST, nourishment. Everything that we crave and desire on this earth is promised to those who overcome.
So I encourage you. And let’s encourage each other!
Be Faithful!
Related Media
Related Sermons