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6 - Smyrna and Pergamon

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We are beginning lesson six this evening and it will  is bringing us into the second major division of the book.  We are studying now the things which are the things which John has seen and that is the condition of the seven churches in Asia.  These churches are listed in chapters 2 and 3.  There are letters written to each one of the seven churches.

Last week, we studied the first church listed and it was to the church at Ephesus.  We saw the church in Chapter 2:17. This week we come to the second and third churches, and that is the church Smyrna, and Pergamum.  So turn to Revelation Chapter 2, and look at versus eight through 11. 

If you were to leave the city of Ephesus traveling by foot, you would soon come to the city of Smyrna. 

1. The Destination


1.       Lying a little north of Ephesus, on a gulf of the same name. The original city was destroyed about b.c. 627, and was deserted and laid in ruins for four hundred years.

2.      Alexander the Great contemplated its restoration, and his design was carried out after his death.

3.       The new city was built a short distance south of the ancient one, and became the finest in Asia Minor, being known as the glory of Asia.

4.      It was one of the cities which claimed the honor of being Homer's birthplace. A splendid temple was erected by the Smyrnaeans to his memory, and a cave in the neighborhood of the city was shown where he was said to have composed his poems.

5.       Smyrna's fine harbor made it a commercial center; but it was also distinguished for its schools of rhetoric and philosophy.

6.      The city was a seat of the worship of Cybele the Mother of the gods, and of Dionysus or Bacchus.  The city also contained the second temple built by the Romans to accommodate emperor worship.

7.       The Inhabitants of the city were very zealous in their religious practices and could easily tolerate the pantheon of gods that were worshiped there.

8.      The present day city population consists of about a half a million people.

It was to a small group of Christians meeting in a little town that the letter was addressed.  You will see the message to the church in chapters 2:811

  1. The commission for John to write. 

1.       Last week  we concluded that the term angel in the Greek text is means messenger. 

2.      Angels are called messengers throughout this book, and it is possible that the angel here is a heavenly being a guardian angel to the church, many people hold this position and meaning indications support that position. 

3.       The angel mentioned here could be the human messenger, the mailman  who has come from Ephesus with a letter from John is to the Church at Smyrna. 

4.      The church in Smyrna, existed in a very materialistic, idolatrous and polytheistic society. Christians were not held with much regard by the citizens of Smyrna and frequently suffered ostracization, unemployment, and outright persecution.

5.       Their position in society, meant that they were poor, and powerless.

6.      A man named Polycarp was the first bishop of its church, which suffered much from persecution, and he was said to have suffered martyrdom in the stadium of the city, a.d. 166.

7.       The persecution against the Christians came from two sources. The Jews and the Roman elements in the city each had reasons to despise believers in Jesus Christ. 

8.      This obviously lead to the Christians becoming the objects of intense persecution. 

9.      It is interesting to note that the word Smyrna means myrrh that will be significant to our understanding because the essence of myrrh comes as a result of smashing crushing pulverizing a certain herb.

10.   It is from that crushing their came a fragrance that was very valuable.  This fragrance was used in the embalming of bodies in the New Testament.  The fragrance came from the crushing and smashing up of the plant. 

11.   So this letter is addressed to the Church of Smyrna. 

12.   The letters from Christ who is the first and the last. 

a.       The speaks of his sovereignty.  He is the sovereign God .

b.      This suggests the idea of him being the eternal God. 

c.       He is above all in the beginning and at the end.

d.      He is the sovereign one write-in to the little despise Church. 

13.   John also says he is the one who was dead and has come to life.

a.      He is the one who became dead. Was dead (ἐγένετο νεκρὸς)Lit., became dead.

b.      Is alive (ἔζησεν) Lit., lived. Rev., properly, lived again; the word being used of restoration to life. See, for a similar usage, Mat_9:18; Joh_5:25.

c.       So, it is the resurrected one who is going to be addressing himself to the church at Smyrna.

d.      So let's put these two titles together. And what we see is the Jesus Christ is the sovereign God, who died and now lives. 

14.   What this description says is that the sovereign resurrected god understands their suffering. 

a.       He was subject to persecution and tribulation even to the point of death.  Yet he conquered death. 

b.      He broke the bonds of death, and is the victor over death and that is surely is designed to bring a comforting message to the Christians at Smyrna. 

  1. The commendation is given to this church in verse nine

1.       Tribulation (θλῖψιν) See on Mat_13:21. Referring to the persecutions of Jewish and heathen oppressors. See on Smyrna, Rev_2:8.

2.      Smyrna was being persecuted the Lord says.  As a result of their persecution they had become poverty-stricken in the strictest sense of the word.   The word John uses to describe their poverty is tremendously emphatic. 

3.       They were not just poor, their poverty was abject poverty. 

a.       They were losing their homes, they were losing their jobs.  Their resources, their income.  Their reputation, their standing in the community.

b.      They were marginalized, despised falsely accused and lived with injustice of the worst sort.

4.      Rich In faith and grace. Compare Jam_2:6, Jam_2:7; 1Ti_6:17, 1Ti_6:18; Luk_12:21; Mat_19:21.

a.       But you were very rich as we know a man's life does not consist in the abundance of the things which he possesses a Christian who loses all is not poor, because he has the riches that can never be taken from him.

5.       I know the blasphemy of those that say they are Jews, but are of the synagogue of Satan. 

a.       Blasphemy (βλασφημίαν) See on Mar_7:22. Not primarily direct blasphemy against God, but reviling at believers.

b.      This blasphemy was coming from those who say they are Jews and are not there probably Judaizers born of Jewish ancestry. 

c.       They trace their physical descent from Abraham but did not walk in Abraham's footsteps. 

d.      Jews   Not Christians, as in Phi_3:3; Rom_2:28, Rom_2:29.

                                                                           i.      Actually Jews by birth, but not spiritually. The title is not given them by the Spirit, nor by the seer, but by themselves; and none would use that title except such as were Jews by birth and by religion.

                                                                         ii.      The enmity of the Jews against Christians is a familiar fact to all readers of the book of Acts; and it is a matter of history that their malignity was especially displayed toward the Church of Smyrna.

                                                                        iii.      In the circular letter addressed by the Church of Smyrna to the churches in the Christian world, it is related that Jews joined with heathen in clamoring that Polycarp should be cast to the lions or burned alive, and were foremost ὡς ἔθος αὐτοῖς (as was their wont) in bringing logs for the pile, and in the endeavor to prevent the remains of the martyr from being delivered to his Christian associates for burial.

e.       So these are the ones who are the persecutors. Notice they are called a synagogue of Satan. 

f.        This is interesting.   We see here, Satan's primary workplace.  Satan is directly involved in the religions of the world and uses this position to attack the person and the work of Jesus Christ and his disciples.

g.      The Christian is confronted with three enemies the world the flesh and the Devil.

                                                                           i.      The appeal of the world is toward materialism. 

                                                                         ii.      The appeal of the flesh is toward selfishness and sensuality

                                                                        iii.      the appeal of the Devil is in religion.  Satan’s sphere of activity is the religious sphere. 

h.      Satan has his church. Satan has his ministers and Satan has his doctrine.

i.         Those ministers of Satan are preaching in churches of Satan, teaching the doctrines of demons.

j.        Satan is mentioned in four of the seven letters: 2:9, 13, 24; 3:9.) In the history of the church the most severe persecution has come from religionists.[1]

k.       So what we see in this passage is that the persecutors are coming from the synagogue of Satan. 

l.         The religious sphere that is under the domination of Satan. 

m.    So we see this at this point, Judaism is a satanically motivated religion. 

n.      These words are strong and direct, but other words of Christ himself

o.      The persecution that the Christians were facing Smyrna was so intense that it purified the Christians. 

p.      Only their love for Christ enabled them to endure persecution and tribulation. 

q.      rebuke.  Notable is the fact that there was no rebuke whatever for these faithful, suffering Christians. This is in striking contrast with Christ’s evaluations of five of the other six churches, which He rebuked. Smyrna’s sufferings, though extremely difficult, had helped keep them pure in faith and life.


r.        One of the reasons there was no fault to be found in the church or Smyrna was because of the intense persecution. 

s.       Its only when the culture tolerates Christians that the doctrine is corrupted, and worldliness becomes a part of the assembly.

5. The Counsel (vrs 10)

  1. Fear not (υηδὲν φοβοῦ) Lit., fear nothing. For the verb, see on Luk_1:50.  Literally stop being afraid
    1. He says do not fear what you're about to suffer.  You are about to be cast into prison that you may be tested. 
    2. You have tribulation 10 days.  This may be a symbolic number

                                                               i.      10 Commandments

                                                             ii.      10 virgins. 

                                                            iii.      A number often associated with testing a limited period of time when they would be tested. 

    1. However, it's also possible that this 10 days, could represent 10 waves of persecution that the church would face from the time of Nero till the end of this church history about 313 A.D1
  1. Behold (ἰδοὺ δὴ) - The particle δὴ for certain, which is not rendered, gives a quality of assurance to the prediction. #. The Devil (διάβολος) - See on Mat_4:1. The persecution of the Christians is thus traced to the direct agency of Satan, and not to the offended passions or prejudices of men.
    1. Trench observes: “There is nothing more remarkable in the records which have come down to us of the early persecutions, than the sense which the confessors and martyrs and those who afterwards narrate their sufferings and their triumphs entertain and utter, that these great fights of affliction through which they were called to pass, were the immediate work of the Devil.”
  2. Shall cast (μέλλει βαλεῖν) Rev., rightly, is about to cast.
  3. Prison (φυλακὴν) See on Act_5:21.
  4. May be tried (πειρασθήτε) Tempted. See on 1Pe_1:7.
  5. Tribulation ten days (θλῖψιν ἡμερῶν δέκα) Lit., a tribulation of ten days.
    1. Suffering can be expected for the ungodly, but why should the godly suffer?
    2. The Scriptures give a number of reasons. Suffering may be

                                                               i.      (1) disciplinary (1 Cor. 11:30-32; Heb. 12:3-13),

                                                             ii.      (2) preventive (as Paul’s thorn in the flesh, 2 Cor. 12:7),

                                                            iii.      (3) the learning of obedience (as Christ’s suffering, Heb. 5:8; cf. Rom. 5:3-5), or

                                                            iv.      (4) the providing of a better testimony for Christ (as in Acts 9:16).[3]

  1. Be thou (γίνον) The exact force of the word cannot be given by a corresponding word in English. Lit., “become thou.” There is to be a succession of trials demanding an increase in the power and a variety in the direction of faith. With reference to these trials, faithfulness is to be not only existent but becoming, developing with new strength and into new applications.
    1. Be faithful unto death.  It's apparent that none of them had yet died, but they soon would, so God commands them to be counted faithful unto death and unto them would be given a crown of life.  #. Unto death (ἄχρι θανάτου) Not faithful until the time of death, but faithful up to a measure which will endure death for Christ's sake. “It is an intensive, not an extensive term.”
    2. While their persecutors could take their physical lives, it would only result in their receiving the crown of life[4]
  2. A crown (τὸν στέφανον) Rev., rightly, “the crown.” See on 1Pe_5:4; see on Jam_1:12. Crown is used with a variety of words: crown of righteousness (2Ti_4:8); glory (1Pe_5:4); beauty Isa_62:3, Sept., A.V., glory); pride (Isa_28:1); rejoicing (1Th_2:19).
  3. Of life (τῆς ζωῆς) The full phrase is the crown of the life: i.e., the crown which consists in life eternal.
    1. The crown of life” is one of several crowns promised to Christians (cf. 1 Cor. 9:25; 1 Thes. 2:19; 2 Tim. 4:6-8; 1 Peter 5:4; Rev. 4:4).
    2. The crown of life is also mentioned in James 1:12.
    3. Believers are encouraged to be faithful by contemplating what awaits them after death, namely, eternal life.


After this we are counseled in verse 11, you will note…

6. The challenge. - He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;

As in all the letters, an exhortation is given to the individuals who will listen. The promise is given to overcomers, referring in general to all believers, assuring them that they will not be hurt at all by the second death (cf. Rev. 20:15).

Rev 2:11 -

Be hurt (ἀδικηθῇ) Strictly, wronged.

Second death - An expression peculiar to the Revelation. See Rev_20:6, Rev_20:14; Rev_21:8. In those two passages it is defined as the lake of fire. The death awaiting the wicked after judgment

In verse 12, please note Note he that overcomes will be given a crown of life.  And we will stop at this point, and observe who is be overcomer.

Is the overcomer, the victorious Christian, is the overcomer the Christian who preserves to the end.  Or is the overcome a Christian kid that overcomes will not be hurt by second death.

I'm convinced that the overcomer is the believer.  Every believer is an overcomer and to demonstrate this I will ask you to turn in your scriptures to

Revelation 2:7 cf Revelation 22:14 cf Revelation 7:14

Revelation 714 teaches us that those who were martyred have forced her robes in the blood of the Lamb Revelation 22 tells us that those that have washed their robes have a right to the tree of life and Revelation Chapter 2 in verse seven tells us that those that have a right to the tree of life are the overcomers so I will conclude from that that the overcome or is the believer.  You will remember the burst and first John chapter 5 in verse one.  He did is born of God over, the world.  He has overcome the unbelief.  The sin of the world

The overcome or is promised a crown of life, which I believe is eternal life, and he will not be hurt by the second death.  The second death is that death which banishes men and women to the lake of fire.  The second death puts me in into the lake of fire.  These Christians are facing the first death martyrdom, but they are promised that they will not be confronted with the second death they will be delivered from the second death.  They will go through the first death, but not the second.  But remember the one that speaking to them has died and is now live.  He will lead them out of death to the resurrection, although facing intense persecution fear not

The church represents any suffering Church

The church in North Korea, China, Russia would find comfort in the example of the church at Smyrna

The church prophetically

The church at Smyrna represents the period of persecution that.  Started with Nero and continue to 313A.D. Polycarp was martyred According to Ignatius Polycarp became the Bishop of Smyrna, shortly after John addressed the letter to the church. As Emperor worship flourihed Polycarp was arrested and led to the judgment hall.  He was offered his life, and freedom if he would take a pinch of incense and drop it on the altar, indicating his worship of the Roman emperor as God.  Polycarp's reply became famous.  He said 80 and six years.  I have served him, and he hah done me no harm.  How can I do now deny my God, and my savior?  And with that Polycarp was martyred, and that took place in the very city of Smyrna

The church personally

From the example of the Smyrna church.  We can learn valuable lessons, because it represents.  The deliverance through tribulation.  This is the lesson that comes from the church at Smyrna.  For believers today, there is no doubt that the day believers face persecution or tribulation.  When faced with suffering, how should we respond?  Should we quit, should we become depressed, should we protest, should we complain if you find yourself suffering tribulation from an unsaved spouse employer government neighbor.  You should learn from the Christians at Smyrna how to live today

God uses persecution to perfect this and to purify us

your response should be to be faithful unto death

when the Lord returns he will reward your faithfulness, in his eternal kingdom

Today, if you face suffering.  Surely God is purifying your faith


[1]Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:935). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2]Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:935). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[3]Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:935). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[4]Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:935). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[5]Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:935). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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