“The Suffering Church” – Pastor Lee teaches from Revelation 2:8-11
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What specifically did the church in Smyrna suffer from?
- "Tribulation" (Pressure, persecution)
- "Poverty" (Abject, total)
- “Blasphemy" (Slander, lies)
Why were they persecuted, impoverished and lied about?
For many reasons, but primarily for their faith and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.
And for their refusal to conform to the Roman and Greek world they lived in.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
As we go through this passage, keep in mind that we are no different than the ancient believers in Smyrna.
"What goes around, comes around."
If and when we find ourselves in the same situation as the Christian's in Smyrna, will we be faithful and obedient as they?
Let us understand what the Lord Jesus spoke to them, and us.
The Church and the City
"And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, 'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life:"
"...to the angel of the church..."
* The "angel" is the pastor or elder of the church. (Rev. 1:20)
* Poly Carp, the young disciple of John the Apostle, martyred in Smyrna around 155 AD.
* From myrrh, their largest export.
* 40 miles N/W of Ephesus in Asia Minor.
* The only one of the seven church cities still existing (Izmir).
* 100,000 residents.
* Rebuilt by Alexander the Great to be a beautiful city, called the "Crown of Asia."
* Home of many pagan temples as well as the temple of Caesar Tiberius (AD 26).
Christ's Calling Card
"...the First and the Last..."
* Christ Jesus (Rev. 1:8, 17-18, Gen. 1:26, Col. 1:13-19).
"...who was dead, and came to life."
* The resurrected Lord Jesus.
To Christians who are facing persecution and death, this should be comforting.
The Lord knows what it is to be persecuted and die wrongfully, and yet He overcame death to provide us with life eternal.
No matter what experiences the Lord's children undergo, He identifies with us.
"I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan."
"I know your works...."
* Christ tells each of the seven churches that He knows all about them and their circumstances.
* Imagine the encouragement for this persecuted church -- the King of kings knows and cares about their...
"...('I know your') tribulation..."
* "Tribulation" means "a crushing pressure," like grinding wheat, crushing grapes, pressing olives or crushing myrrh into perfume.
* "Tribulation" is not an elective course for the Christian.
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
Again, their tribulation is because of their faithfulness.
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
(2 Tim. 3:12)
And it's our command also:
"Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God..."
(2 Tim. 1:8)
Tribulation for the Christian can sometimes be avoided, if we "conform to the world," but we are commanded not to. (Rms. 12:2)
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
For God's children suffering, both from persecution or physical pain, is not wasted.
Trials and tribulation are beneficial for us, they are the force that builds in us what God desires most:
Character and mature faith:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
And we have something worth suffering for; the Gospel of Jesus Christ is worthy of whatever persecution it brings.
"...for it is the power of God to salvation..."
"...('I know your') poverty (but you are rich)..."
* "Poverty" - "Abject poverty, possessing absolutely nothing, complete destitution."
* The Christians in Smyrna were unemployable because they wouldn't worship Caesar and/or worship in the Greek trade guilds.
"...(but you are rich)..."
* Rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom of God.
Those who give up the comforts of the world for Christ will always be rewarded.
Matthew 5:10-12, 6:19-21
"...the blasphemy...of the Jews..."
* "Blasphemy" - Accusing the holy (Christian) with unholy things.
The Jews were accusing Christians of sexual orgies at their agape (love) feasts, cannibalism, eating the blood and body of Christ (communion), and not affirming the family (putting Christ and the church first).
This led to further persecution by the Romans and Greeks in Smyrna.
"...a synagogue of Satan..."
* A synagogue or congregation.
* A false religious system used by Satan to attack Christ and His followers.
The Lord desired that Jews would become Christians, not persecute them.
Christ takes an attack against His children personally:
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.
There is none!!!
Smyrna, alone with the church in Philadelphia, are the only two of the seven churches who receive no criticism from Christ.
Could this be that their obedience and faithfulness in the face of great tribulation had produced an aroma of sweet-smelling myrrh before the Lord?
Ever wonder why the American church receives so little persecution and tribulation?
Maybe it's because we look so much like the world that we're no threat and need no “tribulation” or crushing!
Christ's Counsel and Encouragement
Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
"Do not fear..."
* Faith cancels fear.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
"...you are about to suffer."
* This is a promise for all Christians.
But why? Weren't the Smyrnaean believers faithful, obedient, keeping God's commands?
Yes, but it may be God's will for many reasons:
Consider Hebrews 11 & 12
"...you will have tribulation ten days..."
* "Ten days" - A short time in Bible phraseology.
Even though this would lead to intense suffering and death, they understood it was:
"Light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory that awaits us in Christ Jesus."
(2 Cor. 4:17)
"...be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life."
* The crown symbolizes victory after battle and its rewards. In this case – everlasting life.
By faith they would not deny Christ, they understood that to deny Christ meant He would deny them before the Father as His own. (Matt. 10:32-33)
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose."
Jim Elliot (Martyred Missionary)
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death."'
"He who has an ear, let him hear..."
* Christ's way of saying: understand!
"He who overcomes..."
* "Overcomes" - He who is victorious in battle.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
"...shall not be hurt by the second death."
* He who is born twice only dies once, he who is only born once dies twice. (Jn. 3:1-8)
The second death -- eternal death for unrepentant sinners consigned to hell for eternity.
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
"But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
The cost of being a dedicated Christian can be high, even death.
As we get closer to Christ's return, Satan's wrath will increase:
Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time."
As God's people, we need to be ready:
1 Peter 4:12 - 14
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