1. One of the great cities of Asia; competed with Ephesus for prominence in culture, business and wealth. Destroyed in 580 B.C., but rebuilt in 290 B.C. Known for its beauty.
2. One of the first cities to incorporate emperor worship. Citizens had to appear before the emperor once a year and offer a pinch of incense on a burning coal and proclaim, “Caesar is Lord”. The Christians would not do this and were persecuted for it.
3. The topic of death and eternal reward is found throughout this letter.
4. “Smyrna” comes from the word myrrh, a sweet-smelling perfume used to care for dead bodies. It’s a gummy resin that releases its aroma when heated or put under pressure.
1. Smyrna had been a city that died & was revived. Jesus was dead & came to life. (1:18)
2. The resurrection of Jesus was especially important to these Christians who were heavily persecuted, some of them being killed. Death could not defeat Jesus or His people.
3. First & Last- A name given to Yahweh in the O.T. Jesus is God. (Isaiah 41:4, 44:6, 48:12.)
II. Jesus’ Message To The Church @ Smyrna
A. Their Current Situation V. 9
1. I know-When we suffer, especially unfairly, it can seem that God has forgotten us.
a. Jesus commended them for the good they were doing in the midst of suffering.
b. Additionally, Jesus saw their suffering and predicted that more was coming and of a more intense nature, but Jesus saw that they were willing to suffer to honor Him.
c. Turn to Psalm 139:1-18
d. Romans 8:31-32 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
2. Their Works- Persecution and unfair suffering had not stopped them re. good works.
3. Their Tribulation-thlypsis– a pressing together; a burden that crushes.
a. John, the human author, was also experiencing tribulation. See 1:9
b. Polycarp (a bishop circa 152 A.D.) was burned to death there. Murderous opposition.
c. Kiddle- ‘From this letter we can gain some idea of the unbounded fortitude (mental and emotional strength) of these early Christians. John assumes that the people of Smyrna…share his own attitude to physical suffering: he speaks lightly of it, as one speaks of familiar things. Words so brief, spoken to nmen who might at any time go to their death, have in them a heroism which even now has power to stir the blood.’
4. Their Poverty-ptōcheía– not just “poor”, but abject poverty, beggarly, to have nothing.
a. Christianity was illegal at that time, and Christians were easy target for plunder.
b. Poverty-Hebrews 10:32-34 But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: 33partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; 34for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.
c. But you are rich- Though poverty stricken, they were spiritually rich.
d. There is a great contrast between world riches and spiritual riches.
i. Worldly riches can be lost, but spiritual riches can never be taken away
ii. Worldly riches can never satisfy the soul, but spiritual riches can.
iii. Proverbs 27:20 Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
iv. Matthew 5:1-12 shows us what spiritual riches are.
5. Synagogue Of Satan
a. Smyrna had the largest Jewish population of any Asian city. Many of the 1st Century Jewish leaders were extremely religious in a self-righteous kind of way, but they had no true love for God or His Son Jesus Christ
b. A synagogue of Satan- John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
c. Rev 12:10- Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren”. That’s what these people did.
B. Their Future Suffering V. 10
1. Their suffering was guaranteed; it was going to happen. They were exhorted to not fear.
a. Luke 12:4-7 “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
b. Steve Gregg- Fearlessness, however, may not necessarily mean the total absence of dread, but rather the refusal to succumb to intimidation, so that threats of harm do not turn them back from their duty to Christ.
c. Augustine-God had one son on earth without sin, but never one w/o suffering.
d. The exhortation from Jesus was to be faithful unto death, it wasn’t to not experience emotional fear. In other words, don’t be frightened into turning away from Jesus.
2. The devil- Satan was behind the hatred and active persecution of these Christians.
3. That you may be tested- to test something to ascertain its quality, whether good or bad.
a. 1 Peter 1:7 …that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…
b. The implication is that they would pass the test. The persecutions would prove how committed they were, and that their hearts were for God.
c. Satan seeks to test us to get us to fail, to “prove” that we aren’t true in our faith.
d. Consider the Christian that “fails”: we look at ourselves and hate what we have done or didn’t do. We have deep regrets that we “failed”.
e. Yet even in our regrets, our faith is proven. Unbelievers don’t grieve over moments of failure, only Christians do. God even uses our failures to prove who we are.
4. Ten days- Various ideas on this: Ten waves of persecution lasting into the 4th century, ten years, ten days, etc. However long it was, it was measured and not eternal.
a. Our suffering is not eternal, but our comfort is.
5. Be faithful unto death- Jesus reminded them that He had been faithful unto death. (2:8)
6. Crown of Life- Jesus does not promise that He will protect His people from martyrdom, but that, if they remain faithful until death, they shall receive the crown of life.