Revelation of Hope
In this session we will continue in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2. We come to our second church located at Smyrna. This letter is filled with encouragement for this church that was about to face a time of limited persecution and suffering for Jesus. We also see in this letter to the church at Smyrna the call to persevere, and the promise of the royal eternal crown of life.
Jesus describes the type of perseverance that the church in Smyrna had obtained in Luke 8:15.
“But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.
There is no rebuke for this church; only the defense, comfort and promise of the Savior; that He knows their affliction, and will deliver them from it. Lastly we see Jesus give them the promise of deliverance in the symbolism of the number 10 in verse 10.
a) Smyrna – Root word Myrrh– Located in modern day Turkey just North of Ephesus, on the Aegean Sea. At this time Smyrna was a very wealthy and important city during the Hellenistic and Roman eras. Smyrna was a harbor city, located on a trade route, with an abundance of fresh water from the Meles River. The famous Greek Philosopher Homer was from Smyrna. One of the most famous ancient marketplaces called the Agora was located in Smyrna. The Agora will be important to us later in our study of Revelation 13 when we look at the Mark of the Beast.
b) Smyrna was the seat of Emperor Worship in Asia Minor, and was famous for its round portico buildings on the summit of Mt Pagos. These buildings were described as the “diadem” as they were considered the crown of culture in that city. Jesus gives John a play on words later in Revelation 2:10 that would have been familiar with the hearers as He offers them the crown of life.
c) The church at Smyrna was probably evangelized by Christians associated with Paul or John as it was only 35 miles from Ephesus. John was involved with this church as he appointed Polycarp as its Bishop/Leader.
d) Polycarp, a protégé of John was from Smyrna. He was Bishop in Smyrna and was martyred at 80 years of age. He would have been present when the Revelation was delivered to the church at Smyrna. You can read the story of his martyrdom online at Wikipedia. Irenaeus said this about Polycarp, “Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna…always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true.”
e) Jesus words have eternal authority, as He is the First and the Last. This means Jesus has preeminence in all things, and possesses eternal life within Himself. Jesus died and was resurrected. Our whole faith system hangs on not only on Jesus’ sacrifice for sin, but His resurrection from the dead. His resurrection is so important because it qualifies Him to be able to offer eternal life to us. Jesus is comforting this church with that truth. They can be assured that their faith will deliver them from the persecution they were about to face, and the death that many of them would die as martyrs.
a) Smyrna was a very wealthy city at this time and the wealth of Smyrna revolved around the Agora. The Agora was the place of culture, business, and the trades. The Christian church being taught that Jesus was Lord of Lords and the Savior of all, would have avoided the system of mammon in Smyrna because it revolved around Emperor Worship. The city was wealthy; they were poor (beggary in the Greek) because of their fidelity to Christ. Jesus tells them they are rich in Him. In Luke 12:21, Jesus tells us that we should be rich toward God. The church of Smyrna was rich in God.
b) The slander/blasphemy – Greek – BLASPHEMIA – to slander a good name, speak in an injurious way about someone. The Jews who rejected Jesus as Messiah considered the followers of Christ as heretics. They made claim to be the people of God, to posses His Covenant, and host His presence at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Christian Church taught that they had a New Covenant given to them by God, that they were the Temple, and that they hosted the presence of God within themselves by receiving the Holy Spirit. Naturally the Jews who rejected Jesus as Messiah in Smyrna were speaking against the teaching of the Church. At this time the Temple and Church coexisted until AD70. Romans 2:29 – But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
c) Jesus is affirming the church of Smyrna that they are the people of God. Jesus even calls the Jews who were slandering them a synagogue of Satan. Any place of worship that does not worship Jesus, is not partnered with Jesus. We see the Jewish persecution of the Church throughout the book of Acts, and finally ending in AD 70, when the Temple was destroyed.
a) Perfect love casts out fear – This church was encouraged not to fear, as fear would rob them of their glory as the people of God and the integrity of their message. Fear – Greek – PHOBEO – to be put to flight, to be scared away
b) It is the devil who brings persecution, pain and suffering to people. Jesus came to give life to the full. The assignment of the enemy is in contrast to the comforting words of Jesus to His church in Smyrna. The devil may be the author of the imprisonment of God’s people in Smyrna, but faith cannot be imprisoned. Acts 16:16 and Acts 12
c) Persecution for ten days – This is symbolic and not literal. Jesus is telling the church that their suffering and persecution is limited and will pass. 10 is the number of God’s word, and God’s works. We have 10 Commandments, Passover was on the 10th Day of the first month, and The Day of Atonement was on the 10th day of the 7th month. God sent 10 plagues on Egypt. The church of Smyrna was going to be delivered by the God of the 10’s!
d) Jesus offers them a real crown of eternal royalty and victory all in the backdrop of the crowned rich city of Smyrna that boasted a false diadem of wealth and power.
e) Jesus calls them to be faithful – Greek – PISTOS – trusty, faithful, of persons who show themselves faithful in the transaction of business, the execution of commands, or the discharge of official duties
a) We can only receive spiritual revelation and illumination from God when our spirits are open to hearing. God speaks in veiled language that can only be understood in the context of relationship with Him. All Christians are given the grace to hear Him as we claim not only a relationship with God, but we claim to have His very flame in us in the Person of the Holy Spirit.
b) Hearing His word impacts us to the point of unwavering faith, as His word contains authority, power and creativity to form in us all we need.
c) Not being hurt by the second death – This is deliverance from the Great White Throne Judgment – Revelation 20:11-15
d) The Scriptures teach that Adam gave us the inheritance of death as mankind’s first representative before God. Jesus, who is the second Adam, gives us life as God’s perfect representative as a Man. Romans 5:14, 1 Corinthians 15:22, 1 Corinthians 15:45 – Jesus will not allow us to be admitted into to eternal judgment which is the second death in the spiritual reality that we call hell.
e) Scripture comforts us with these words – we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. – 2 Corinthians 5:8
f) There is no call to repent or change course for this church, as they were already moving in the perseverance of faith.
Blue Letter Bible.com
Charles Taylor – Commentary on the Book of Revelation
George Eldon Ladd – Commentary on the Book of Revelation
George Eldon Ladd – The Gospel of the Kingdom
Loraine Boettner – The Millenium
Harold Eberle – Victorious Eschatology
Holman Bible Dictionary
NIV – Interlinear Greek New Testament
NASB – Interlinear Greek New Testament
Jonathan Welton – Raptureless
George Peter Holford – The Destruction of Jerusalem
Rapture Fever – Gary North
The Prophets Dictionary – Price
Early Christian Martyr Stories – Bryan M. Litfin