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Smyrna- The Seven Churches of Revelation

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The Seven Churches of Revelation


B. To the Church in Smyrna(2:8-11).

8 “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. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 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 the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. [1]

1.     The Church (2:8).

2:8. Smyrna, a large and wealthy city 35 miles north of Ephesus. Like Ephesus, it was a seaport. In contrast to Ephesus, which today is a deserted ruin, Smyrna is still a large seaport with a present population of about 200,000. Christ described Himself as the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. Christ is portrayed as the eternal One (cf. 1:8, 17; 21:6; 22:13) who suffered death at the hands of His persecutors and then was resurrected from the grave (cf. 1:5). These aspects of Christ were especially relevant to the Christians at Smyrna who, like Christ in His death, were experiencing severe persecution.

The name of the city, Smyrna, means “myrrh,” an ordinary perfume. It was also used in the anointing oil of the tabernacle, and in embalming dead bodies (cf. Ex. 30:23; Ps. 45:8; Song 3:6; Matt. 2:11; Mark 15:23; John 19:39). While the Christians of the church at Smyrna were experiencing the bitterness of suffering, their faithful testimony was like myrrh or sweet perfume to God.

2.     The Strong Points (2:9).

2:9. I know your afflictions and your povertyyet you are rich! Besides suffering persecution, they were also enduring extreme poverty (ptōcheian in contrast with penia, the ordinary word for “poverty”). Though extremely poor, they were rich in the wonderful promises Christ had given them (cf. 2 Cor. 6:10; James 2:5). They were being persecuted not only by pagan Gentiles but also by hostile Jews and by Satan himself. Apparently the local Jewish synagogue was called the synagogue of Satan (cf. Rev. 3:9). (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.

3.     rebuke.

There was no rebuke whatever for these 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.

4.     exhortation (2:10a).

2:10a. The word of Christ to these suffering Christians was an exhortation to have courage: Do not be afraid (lit., stop being afraid) of what you are about to suffer. Their severe trials were to continue. They would receive further persecution by imprisonment and additional suffering for 10 days. Some have taken these words “for 10 days” as a symbolic representation of the entire persecution of the church; others think it refers to 10 persecutions under Roman rulers. The most probable meaning is that it anticipated a limited period of time for suffering (cf. Walvoord, Revelation, pp. 61-2). Scott finds precedence in Scripture that 10 days means a limited period of time (Walter Scott, Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 69). He cites Genesis 24:55; Nehemiah 5:18; Jeremiah 42:7; Daniel 1:12; Acts 25:6. Alford holds the same position, citing Numbers 11:19; 14:22; 1 Samuel 1:8; Job 19:3 (The Greek Testament, 4:567).

The problem of human suffering, even for a limited time, has always perplexed faithful Christians. Suffering can be expected for the ungodly, but why should the godly suffer? The Scriptures give a number of reasons. Suffering may be (1) disciplinary (1 Cor. 11:30-32; Heb. 12:3-13), (2) preventive (as Paul’s thorn in the flesh, 2 Cor. 12:7), (3) the learning of obedience (as Christ’s suffering, Heb. 5:8; cf. Rom. 5:3-5), or (4) the providing of a better testimony for Christ (as in Acts 9:16).


5.     promise (2:10b-11).

2:10b-11. In their suffering the believers at Smyrna were exhorted, Be faithful, even to the point of death. While their persecutors could take their physical lives, it would only result in their receiving the crown of life. Apparently up to this time none had died, but this could be expected. Later Polycarp, having become the bishop of the church in Smyrna, was martyred, and undoubtedly others were also killed (cf. Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary Critical, Experimental and Practical on the Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1945. 6:662). “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). The crown of life is also mentioned in James 1:12. Believers are encouraged to be faithful by contemplating what awaits them after death, namely, eternal life.

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).[2]

1.      Remember What Life’s all about-

a.      This isn’t it-

It will be worth it all- Rom. 8:18 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. [3]

b.      God is on a mission in our life

                                                              i.      To make us Holy

                                                            ii.      To get us ready for heaven

2.      Remember that there is a spiritual dimension too-

a.      Job-

b.      Stephen-

3.      Remember God-

a.      Who he is

b.      What he knows

c.      How he cares


[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

cf. confer, compare

lit. literal, literally

pp. pages

p. page

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

[3]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

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