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The Church at Smyrna

"The Unveiling" Uncovering the Revelation of Jesus Christ  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The City

Tonight we come in our study of the book of Revelation to the second church the apostle John writes to from the island of Patmos. If you will remember John was worshipping the Lord one Lord’s day when all of a sudden He was caught up in the Spirit and he saw One like the Son of Man clothed with white garments, and a golden band around His waste. This is none other than Jesus Christ who came to the apostle John and gives Him a command to write down the things that he has seen, the things which are currently taking place in John’s time and the things which will take place after this.
Jesus then begins to pass along messages to the seven churches in Asia minor that John was the head overseer of. Last week we saw the church that struggled with spiritual frostbite. This week Jesus speaks as He walks among the 7 churches and surveys what is happening, and He has quite a different outlook on this church. The church is the church at Smyrna.
This city is the only city that has continued to this present day, although it goes by the modern name Izmir. The city of Smyrna was a harbor city with thriving export and trade. it was located just about 35 miles outside the city of Ephesus, its architecture made the city of Smyrna an attracting and appealing city for those visiting the region.
Though the city was beautiful the hearts of those who dwelled there was not so beautiful, you see from the outside looking in, things look peaceful and serene but if you were to have been a Christian in the city of Smyrna you would have found this place to be anything BUT peaceful.
Smyrna had one of the largest Jewish populations in the region, and these Jews were violently opposed to Christians.
As a result the church in Smyrna was violently persecuted. These poor brothers and sisters in the faith were crushed under the weight of the hatred the Jews felt towards those who proclaimed Jesus to be the Son of God! It really is interesting when you study the word Smyrna it means to crush or break.
IT is actually the root word where we get the word Myrrh from, which is the spice that was brought to Jesus by the wise men. This spice Myrrh releases a sweet smelling aroma but only after you crush it. I am telling you that many times you don’t have any idea what is inside of a person until they become crushed under the intense weight of persecution or trials!
Nevertheless as this herb is crushed and the sweet fragrance begins to fill the air, so did the sweet aroma of worship fill the air as these Christians were crushed for the name of Jesus Christ!
Here again we see that Jesus addresses this letter the angelos, or the messenger of the church in Msyrna namely the pastor at that time.
Revelation 2:8 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.
Revelation
So we learn from this verse who is being written to, and who is sending the message!
Jesus says right off the bat this is not a message from John, this is a message from the resurrected One! Jesus is trying to convey to them His eternality, that He is the beginning and the end the Alpha and the Omega.
Now if you are being ravaged during a time of persecution, don’t you think it would be nice to know that the resurrected Lord saw what you were dealing with and was sending you a letter of encouragement?
Sure it would!
Most of these believers were dying horrific deaths in Smyrna and while they were faced with their grim reality, they were also reminded of their glorious Savior who had overcome DEATH AND THE GRAVE.
JESUS SAYS I KNOW YOUR AFRAID, I KNOW YOU ARE FACING EXTREMELY TURBULENT TIMES, I KNOW SOME OF YOU ARE FACING IMPRISONMENT AND EVEN DEATH BUT I AM WITH YOU!
I AM THE ONE WHO LIVED AND THEN DIED WAS PERSECUTED EVEN AS YOU ARE BEING PERSECUTED BUT I AM ALIVE AGAIN!
When your Lord and Savior has defeated your greatest fear, and you know He walks with you what is there to be afraid of?
This is why the Psalmist writes in
Psalm 27:1 ESV
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 51:
Psalm 27
This is why it is not beneficial for us to worry about death! THE LORD IS THE STRONGHOLD OF MY LIFE! i am telling you beloved their is no fear in death for the child of God the Soverign King of glory is the stronghold of my life!
JESUS CHRIST HOLDS MY LIFE IN HIS HANDS!!! He determines the day and the hour that I go home to be with Him, and I will not go a second before He is ready for me, nor will I stay one second longer than He wants me to!
He holds every breath, every minute of time in His hands!
His plans for you are to give you hope and a future, a future with Him at the center, and full of joy unspeakable and full of glory it doesn’t matter what you may face here on this Earth whether it be cancer, or intense persecution JESUS HOLDS YOU IN THE PALM OF HIS STRONG RIGHT HAND!
If that doesn’t encourage you then I don’t know what will!
It would have encouraged the believers in Smyrna, though they faced hardships they knew they should fear no man because the resurrected King was holding them close to His side.... The church in Smyrna was one of only 2 churches of the 7 churches mentioned in Revelation with no weaknesses. It is interesting to notice that the two churches that Jesus did not rebuke were the smallest most insignificant in terms of numbers and influence.
The current preoccupation of the modern church with numbers and influence must be reexamined. It is more important to be faithful than powerful!
Having low numbers does not mean you are failing, and having high attendance does not mean you are succeeding. This does not mean that we shouldn’t strive to reach as many people with the gospel as we can, on the contrary that is our goal, but if we become preoccupied with numbers, instead of being faithful to the Lord with our own lives we too will fall prey to some of the pitfalls the other 5 churches fell prey to and were rebuked as a result!
Jesus the King of Kings and Lord of Lords reminds them that He is not standing off at a distance with no care of what they are going through.
HE explains to them

What He knows and what He Commends

Before Christ gives them their commendation He tells them something very important He tells them that He “knows” their works. This is a beautiful picture the Lord paints for His children because the word for “know” here in the passage means “To pay attention, to set ones eyes upon” but it also has a dual meaning “to ascertain what needs to be done about it.”
“oida”
So when the Lord Jesus Christ tells His children that He “knows” he is telling them that he has set his gaze upon them, and is paying attention to their hardship, and He knows exactly how to handle their situation!
This speaks of intimate knowledge and control, so one might say, “well if God sees the pain and persecution this poor church is going through why wont he do something about it?”
While I understand that sentiment, God has never promised us total protection from everything dire here on this Earth, He promised us the opposite!
They hated Me they will hate you as well, they persecuted the prophets before me, and they will persecute those who serve me after I die it was never in question to the Lord Jesus Christ that there would be persecution!
As the fire of tribulation rises the red hot heat of the Gospel and its power increases. The church exists in America today because our forefathers fled from.... religious persecution. We were founded as a Christian nation under the sovereign rule of almighty God and there were more pastors who signed the declaration of independence than there was politicians.
If you will look throughout history, revival begins where the pressure is the worst! This is how God has worked because where the gospel is preached there will be those who find it offensive and do not want to hear this good news because they will not understand it!
A. Their Works
Jesus looks on as the believers in Smyrna are sharing their faith standing bold, even in the midst of severe persecution.
B. Their Tribulation
The word tribulation (thlipsis) literally means “pressure”. It is the common NT word for tribulation. This is yet another reason why I think this is important is because when people describe the great tribulation they are often NOT describing Biblical tribulation, they are describing the WRATH OF GOD. Which is totally different from the great tribulation.
The word tribulation means persecution, ALWAYS in the NT. So when Jesus speaks of “the great tribulation” He is talking about a time of persecution against Christians like has never been seen before nor will ever be seen again!
This is undeniable proof we are living in the final hours before Christs return.
Let me explain...
If the Christians believed they were living in the last days then we MUST be living in the final hours. The Bible records
2 Peter 3:8 ESV
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
Now one common argument that arises when we discuss this subject is this:
Hasn’t there always been persecution?
I mean I remember when I grew up people believed we were in the last days and that was decades ago....
I understand that logic, but is persecution of Christians worse today than ever before?
Were going to let the Center for the study of Global Christianity answer this for us. They have done extensive research on Christian martyrdom, both historical and contemporary.
Their numbers show that between 2005 and 2017 900,000 Christians were killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. That is 90,000 per year, and 2017 was the worst year of martyrdom on record in the Christian church era.”
The Billy Graham evangelistic association was even quoted as saying that more Christians are dying for their faith in the past decade than in the previous 5 decades.
We are living in the worst recorded era of Christian matyrdom, which proves this gradual progression towards the coming of the Lord pointed to by Jesus Christ in .
Jesus speaks to this poor church and to the churches today through the book of Revelation and says I HAVE SET MY EYES UPON YOU, I SEE YOUR WITNESS FOR ME, I SEE YOUR TRIBULATION AND I KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH IT.
But He also says
HE sees
C. Their Poverty
Revelation 2:9 ESV
“ ‘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.
Revelation 2:
But THEY ARE RICH!
Now think about the reaction from these brothers and sisters going through such immense suffering. How in the world could they possibly be rich, they have no money, they are on the run from the emporer Domitian who wants to make a public example of them if they refuse to worship false gods.
He sees their poverty but declares them rich.. how?
Jesus here is reminding them of their eternal riches! He also is reminding them of a promise he made back in
Luke 6:22 ESV
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!
Luke
Luke 6:23 ESV
Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
So though they are poor they are really rich!
(Haiti)
There are some very poor people who are rich in God’s economy and there are some very rich people who are poverty stricken in God’s economy.
D. The Blasphemy
What blasphemy?
Revelation 2:9 ESV
“ ‘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.
Revelation 2:
The Jews were claiming to be Jews (children of God) but Jesus calls them a synagogue of Satan. Why often times history records that the Jews accused early Christians of cannibalism (the Lord’s Supper) along with other hideous lies.
But what these Jews didn't realize was that by lying on these Christians they were actually blaspheming God Himself!
This persecution reached its peak with the martyrdom of the bishop of Smyrna named Polycarp.
(read excerpt)

Jesus’ Command

Revelation 2:10 ESV
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 tells them up front what is about to happen, He even tells them they are going to die for His gospel. But THEY HAVE AN ETERNAL REWARD!!!
THE CROWN OF LIFE!!!
(preach )
“The second Death”
(preach)
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