Seven Churches - Smyrna
This second study about the seven churches of Revelation is all about the letter to the church in Smyrna.
To the Church in Smyrna - Revelation 2:8-11 .....'Unto the angel of the church of Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.'
The Smyrna period of the church is thought to be from around 100 A.D. - 313 A.D.
We can see that this is a good church because they only receive commendations from Jesus and no rebuke. As Jesus says, this church does good "works" out of love for Him, but they also receive tribulation. Intermittent persecution at the hands of various Roman emperors characterized the experience of the church during this period. Under Trajan (98-117), Hadrian (117-138), and Marcus Aurelius (161-180), persecution was sporadic and localized. The first general systematic persecution of Christians was conducted by Decius (249-251) and Valerian (253-259). Then political oppression reached a bloody climax under Diocletian (284-305) and his immediate successors (305-313). Historically, the period represented by the Smyrna church may well be called the "Age of Martyrdom". The centuries since have been fragrant with the love and devotion of the thousands of unnamed martyrs of this period who were "faithful unto death".
Acts 14:22 ...'Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.'
To truly follow Jesus in this life will bring much tribulation and persecution, because the world does not know Jesus. And Jesus said Himself that if the world hated Him, then the world will also hate those who follow Him.
John 15:19 ...'If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.'
1 John 3:13 ...'Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.'
Is your faith strong enough to withstand tribulation and persecution from the world? Unfortunately, there are many who will fall away from the faith because of the trouble that it will bring, just as Jesus described in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:21).
Now Jesus says that the church of Smyrna is poor, but yet rich. This is one of the marks of living a true Christian life in following the gospel message. The church in Smyrna were physically poor in this world. They didn't have big expensive churches or live lives of luxury, no, they lived simple lives, probably getting by on the basic necessities and using God's money in furthering His kingdom rather than using it on themselves for their own pleasures.
It's interesting that Christ mentions those "who say they are Jews, but are not". And in reality they are of the synagogue of Satan. Some strong words here regarding those who proclaim to serve God, but their lives show they actually follow the world and serve Satan. Jesus here is not talking about literal Jews. See the study concerning Israel in end times Bible prophecy and you will see that the Jews are no longer God's special chosen people. Instead ANYONE who now comes to Christ is regarded as a spiritual "Jew". So Jesus is talking about spiritual Israel here, those who profess to be Christians. If Jesus was to send a letter to the churches of this world today, I think He would say the same thing to them ... "You have churches full of people who say they are Christians, but are the synagogue of Satan". There is a great ecumenical movement happening around the world today to unite the denominations and different religions - This (Babylon) can be classed as the synagogue of Satan, as God is saying COME OUT OF BABYLON MY PEOPLE
"Satan has a large confederacy, his church. Christ calls them the synagogue of Satan because the members are the children of sin. The members of Satan's church have been constantly working to cast off the divine law, and confuse the distinction between good and evil. Satan is working with great power in and through the children of disobedience, to exalt treason and apostasy as truth and loyalty. And at this time the power of his satanic inspiration is moving the living agencies to carry out the great rebellion against God that commenced in heaven."
"AT THIS TIME THE CHURCH IS TO PUT ON HER BEAUTIFUL GARMENTS, -- "CHRIST OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS". There are clear, decided distinctions to be restored and exemplified to the world in holding aloft the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." (E.G.White, CET, p207)
Christ tells this church of Smyrna not to fear the persecution to come upon them. Christ consoles them with the assurance that, despite the prospect of persecution, they need not be afraid, because they would be blessed by withstanding tribulation for His sake ... Matthew 5:10-12 ...'Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.' ... Why does God allow persecution to fall upon His people? God permits the persecution as a means of strengthening and proving the genuineness of their faith. And though Satan may rage against the church, God's hand accomplishes His purpose. How would you fair in this situation? Would your faith prove to be strong and true?
What about the "ten days" of tribulation? On the basis of the year-day principle to determine prophetic time periods, it is interpreted as a period of ten literal years and applied to the period of the most severe imperial persecution (a.d. 303-313), begun by Diocletian and continued by his associate and successor Galerius. This was an attempt to wipe out Christianity by burning the Scriptures, destroying church buildings, and imprisoning the leaders. These rulers believed that the church had grown to such dimensions of strength and popularity in the empire that unless Christianity should be promptly stamped out, the traditional Roman way of life would cease to exist and the empire itself would disintegrate. Consequently they inaugurated a policy designed to exterminate the church. Diocletian's first decree against Christians was issued in the year 303, banning the practice of Christianity throughout the empire. This of course was the working of Satan.
But as we can see, Jesus gives a promise to those who are "faithful unto death", and promises those who overcome that they will receive the "crown of life" and will not be hurt by the "second death". This of course is the reward of eternal life in glory with Him!.
We need to heed this message and learn from the church in Smyrna. They weren't drawn in by worldly attractions and pleasures. Instead they lived simple lives in complete devotion to Christ Jesus. They were overcomers and many of them were faithful unto death. Are you willing to die for Jesus? A time is coming soon when the mark of the beast will be enforced, and you may have to give your life for the Lord. We need to prepare now for the time of tribulation that is coming. Jesus gave Smyrna this comforting message to help strengthen them and to prepare them for the terrible persecution that came their way. And He has given us His Word to prepare us also. Please be ready to give your all for Jesus and He will give you a "crown of life".
This concludes the Bible study on the second of the seven churches of Revelation - Smyrna. For the Bible study on the next church, see Seven Churches of Revelation - Pergamos.