2B.   Letter To The Angel Of The Church In Smyrna (2.8-11)


(2.8)    And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;


1.  Again, we see that the Lord Jesus Christ’s comments are addressed specifically to the angel of the church in Smyrna, though we realize that all in that church were to read, to take heed, and to respond to what the Lord Jesus said.


2.   The church in Smyrna, history records, was one of the most persecuted churches of its day, and its name gives a clue regarding that persecution. The word “Smyrna” corresponds to the word “myrrh,” which was the name of a commercial product of that city. “Myrrh” is a fragrant resin that comes from a small, spiny tree.[1] In ancient times, it was used to make perfume and aromatic oils.[2] Interesting to me is the fact that myrrh’s fragrant odor came out only as a result of the tree it comes from being crushed. In addition, the taste of myrrh is said to be extremely bitter. Do you see the spiritual parallels?


3.   It is to the persecuted pastor of a persecuted church that the Lord Jesus Christ reveals Himself in a special way, as the first and the last, which was dead and is alive. He is the Meeter of all needs. To those persecuted ones He is that One Who voluntarily became a man and suffered unmatched brutality at the hands of His enemies. Therefore, He understands what the pastor and the people in Smyrna are going through.


4.   How sweet a smell it is to the Lord Jesus when one of His Own faithfully endures the fiery trials of persecution for Him and for His cause. Though the taste of tribulation is bitter to the Christian who endures it, it smells very sweet to the Savior, Who endured such for us.


(2.9)    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.


1.   Once again, He claims to be knowledgeable concerning things going on in the life of His man. The construction of the words shows clearly that these words are being addressed to one man. Remember, the Lord Jesus made the same claim to the Ephesian pastor. He knew his tribulation and his poverty. This word “poverty” does not imply that he had to do without a few things for the cause of Christ. This word is used to indicate that someone is utterly destitute.[3] In the way of material things, this man of God had absolutely nothing. Nevertheless, he still worked. He still served God.


2.   He had nothing, that is, except great spiritual wealth. Is it not amazing how little an indication our material well-being is of our spiritual well-being? In the next chapter of the Revelation, we will examine Christ’s words to the Laodicean pastor. That man had great material wealth, but the Lord described him as poor and naked. All children of God are spiritually rich, no matter what kind of material situation they are in on this old earth.


3.   How different are the opinions of men today, who claim that God wants all of His children to be rich and to prosper materially. How out of touch such prosperity proponents are with the Word of God and the will of God.


4.   The opposition to the cause of Christ was, no doubt, great in the city of Smyrna. The Jewish people who lived there led the opposition. The Lord Jesus indicates that they are Jews, but that they really are not. This might serve as a reminder of what Paul wrote in Romans 2.17-29:


17   Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,

18   And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;

19   And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,

20    An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.

21   Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?

22   Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?

23   Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?

24   For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.

25   For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

26   Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

27   And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

28   For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

29   But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.


While being very religious, these physical descendants of Abraham were actually serving Satan in his opposition to God, and God’s man, and God’s children.


(2.10)  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.


1.   The Lord is simply telling His man to fear none of the things which are about to happen to him. He, and some others, would be cast into prison. Prisons in those days were places where someone was incarcerated until he was either executed or banished to exile, rather than places where long sentences were served.[4] Further, this preacher is told who is behind it all; the devil, and that it will only last ten days before he dies. If he is faithful unto death he is promised the Lord will give him a crown of life.


2.   Is that not amazing? “Son, I know it’s very hard being in your situation, and it is going to get harder. My plan for you and some of your brothers in Christ includes ten days of horrible torture that will end in death. My child, be faithful unto death and I will handsomely reward you.” My friends, this should not be difficult for any Christian to accept because Paul wrote, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,” Second Timothy 3.12.


3.   Do such things as this horrify you? They should not. Jesus said, in Matthew 10.28, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” That means, do not fear mere men. And do not fear the devil, mentioned here for the first time in the Revelation, or his minions. Instead, fear God.


4.   This man was promised tribulation. However, notice that there is a difference in God’s Word between tribulation and “The Tribulation.” All Christians endure, to varying degrees, tribulation. “The Tribulation,” however, that seven-year period of time in which the wrath of God is poured out on a Christ-rejecting world, is something which is yet future and which Church Age Christians will not suffer through.


5.   If he was faithful unto death, this pastor was promised a crown of life. “This is one of two places where a martyr’s crown is mentioned as a special reward in eternity for those who sacrifice their lives for the gospel (James 1:12). Most martyrs were killed either by false religious leaders or by pagan governments that opposed their message.”[5] More about these crowns in later chapters.


(2.11) 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.


1.   Again, we see that the Lord Jesus spoke to an individual within the church. However, others were to read and take note and respond. Overcome and you will have nothing to fear of the second death. What did we learn back in First John 5.4-5 concerning a Christian being an overcomer? Every genuine Christian is an overcomer, is he not?


2.   That means that no genuine Christian need fear being hurt by the second death. But, what is the second death? Turn with me to Revelation 20.11-15 to see what the second death is:


11   And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

12   And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

13   And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

14   And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15   And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.


3.   The first death, and these are spiritual separations we are talking about, not physical deaths, took place when Adam sinned against God. In the day he ate, he died . . . spiritually, and was physically removed from God’s presence because of that.


4.   But here in Revelation 20.11-15, unsaved men are brought into Christ’s presence one last time for judgment. It is when they are separated from Him this second time, which is described as the second death, that they are cast into the lake of fire.


5.   Do Christians need to worry about such a fate as this? Never. At the time that this second death takes place Christians are already with the Lord in heaven. 

[1] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1272.

[2] See footnote for Revelation 2.8, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1994.

[3] Rienecker, page 816.

[4] Rienecker, page 816.

[5]  See footnote for Revelation 2.10, Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, (AMG Publishers, 2000), page 1366.

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