Friday, August 02, 2013


“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say 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 cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until 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. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’ (Rev. 2:8-11)

As my family has been reading through the book of Revelation together, we’ve been very blessed to see a few things we had never noticed before.

The book begins with the appearance of Jesus to the Apostle John while he is in exile on the island of Patmos. Jesus begins by instructing John to write seven letters – one for each church in the region of Asia that we now call Turkey.

 In each of these letters, Jesus follows a similar pattern. It goes like this:

Description:  He begins by identifying himself using one of the specific attributes found at the end of chapter one.

Affirmation: He begins by affirming each church for something they are doing right.

Rebuke: Next he points out something he has against them.

Warning: Jesus gives them a warning for what will happen to them if they do not heed his instructions.

Promise: At the end of each letter he tells them what they will receive if they overcome (or endure) unto the end.

In his letter to the church in Smyrna we discovered some beautiful distinctives.

First, Jesus identifies himself as the one “who died and came to life.” This is significant in light of what He is about to say to them.

Next, Jesus lets them know that He sees their poverty and He knows about their suffering under persecution. Curiously, he has no warning for them because he honestly has nothing against them. This makes his promise to them even more surprising: “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.” (v.10)

After telling them that they will endure tribulation for ten days, Jesus’ promise to them is: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” And then he ends with, “The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’”

So, while Jesus has nothing against them, they are still told that they will endure a season of suffering. In spite of their faithfulness and devotion to Him, they are still going to be persecuted. Perhaps even because of their faithfulness they will suffer for Christ.

That’s why Jesus begins his letter to the Church in Smyrna by saying that He is the one “who died and came to life.” He’s reminding them that He also has suffered and died and that He has overcome death and returned to life.

In fact, the people in this Church are very much like Jesus. They are poor, and yet they are rich. They are faithful to Christ but they will suffer great persecution. They will taste death, but His promise to them is a “crown of life” and His guarantee that they “will not be hurt by the second death” which refers to condemnation on the Day of Judgment.

I love the heart of Jesus for these disciples in Smyrna. He sees their poverty, he acknowledges their faithfulness, he has nothing against them, and yet he knows that their faithfulness will lead them through the valley of the shadow of death as they identify with Him. Then, he calls them to remember that he has already travelled that road before them. He reminds them of the finish line beyond their sufferings, and He assures them that this temporary earthly season of pain will soon be replaced by an eternity of joy in His presence.

The Church in Smyrna is a direct opposite of the one in Laodicea. In that letter, Jesus rebukes them for their wealth (calling them “poor”) whereas he commends the church in Smyrna for their poverty, and calls them “rich”. He has nothing against the church in Smyrna and yet in Laodicea he has nothing to commend them for.

It’s also fascinating that, of the seven churches referenced in Revelation, Smyrna is one of the few which remains to this day. Most of the other cities have no Christian presence today. So, even though this humble church faced the sword, they were not wiped out. They endured to pass on their faith to future generations. This should give us all hope as we endure suffering and persecution today.

Unlike their brothers and sisters in Laodicea who were spit out of His mouth, these faithful disciples endured just ten short days of tribulation and entered into an eternal rest with the Lord they loved more than life itself.



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