|The message to Smyrna, Revelation
Verses 8-11 (NASB)
Smyrna, which is derived from the word "myrrh" or sweet perfume, lies 40 miles north of Ephesus. The current city of Izmir, Turkey is on this site.
There were a great number of persecutions in Smyrna. History records at least 10 great persecutions from Nero (96 AD) to Diocletian (313 AD). These persecutions are reflected in this letter to this church's angel.
The city itself was said to be very beautiful with a population around 200,000. A single street, "Golden Street" ran east and west through the city. There were beautiful Greek temples along this street for Apollo, Asclepius, Aphrodite, Cybele and Zeus. Smyrna was selected from 11 other cities to build a temple to Tiberius (23 AD).
Under Domitian (81-96 AD), emperor worship was compulsory for every Roman citizen. Once a year a citizen had to burn incense on the alter to the bust of Caesar, after which he was issued a certificate. This was mostly a political ceremony (not religious) but when burning the incense, you had to say "Caesar is Lord". Most Christians refused to do this.
As a result of refusal, the Christians received heavy persecutions. An early Christian, PolyCarp, was burned alive at age 86 (156 AD) as the "12th martyr" of Smyrna. He is quoted as saying, "Eighty-six years have I served Christ, and He has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?"As if the Roman emperor worship requirements weren't enough, there was a large hostile faction in the Jewish community which also caused the Christian church much trouble.
To the ANGEL of the church in Smyrna write:This is the everlasting God, who is the first and the last. Even as He conquered death and is alive, so, too, those who suffer persecution at Smyrna and may be killed will receive the CROWN OF Life (Revelation 2:10). Recalling that Smyrna is derived from "myrrh" or sweet fragrance, Paul uses that expression of fragrance in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16. We as Christians are a fragrance in this world (especially among the stench of death).
`I knowTribulation can take many forms. Paul in Hebrews 10:32-39 talks about public reproach and seizure of property. Many of us Christians have not experienced tribulation like that -- are we ashamed of the gospel of Christ?
(b) your POVERTY (but you are rich), andThe world may consider us physically POOR, but we have riches which they cannot understand. As John puts it in 1 John 2:15-17, if we don't love the world, earthly wealth just doesn't matter. Furthermore, Isaiah says that God revives the lowly (poor) in spirit in Isaiah 57:14-15. In fact, this is a condition that God really seeks as explained in Isaiah 66:1-2.
Consider that even while Christ had/has all the riches of heaven, He took on the form of man (what a step down to poverty!) just for us - 2 Corinthians 8:9. That is why he could say in Matthew 10:37-39 that one finds life after they lose it for Christ's sake. You, too, can find your life.
(c) the BLASPHEMY by those who say they are Jews and are not,Ephesus had apostles who weren't apostles, and Smyrna had Jews who really were not.
The SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN shows for the first time in Revelation who the real perpertrator of persecution is. There is an equivalence shown here:
False prophets = ministers of SatanThese "Judaizers" believed in salvation by works. That will never do as they find out in the message to the church at Philadelphia.
Do not fear what you are about to suffer.On the human physical level, the Christian is expected to suffer for their beliefs - 1 Peter 1:3-9. Suffering purifies and reveals the true metal of the believer. If that suffering includes death, a special martyr's grace is given at that time.
Behold, the devil will cast some of you into PRISON,It is a mystery that the One with all power and control PERMITS the devil to test some Christians in this way. It is as though God gives the devil his best shot at trying to bring us down.
you will have tribulation ten days.It is interesting that tribulation usually brings about the spread of the Gospel. That is, when Christians suffer trials, they move to get away. Yet God uses them in their new location to witness for Him.
It is not clear what is the signifigance of the ten days. It may be equated to the 10 periods of tribulation or 10 years of trials under Diocletian. Or it may be symbolic to mean a "short time", relatively speaking, to a God to whom time does not have much meaning because He is the great "I AM".
Daniel and his friends requested a different diet than the king's choice food. They wanted vegetables and water as their diet. So a test was run for 10 days to see what effect Daniel's diet would have on him and his friends. The results can be found in Daniel 1:8-16. The testing of the members of the Smyrna church may be a test similar to Daniel's.
Be faithful unto Death, and I will give you a crown of LIFE.What a glorious promise....but we need these crowns to be able to cast them at His feet (Revelation 4:10). Earlier, the members of the church at Philadelphia were told to hold on to what they have so they would not lose their crown (Revelation 3:11). The crown is just one of the rewards (1 Corinthians 3:12-17) the Christian will receive. See Revelation 2:13 for one, Antipas, who received this crown.
He who has an ear let him HEAR what the SPIRIT saysThis, again, is the Holy Spirit speaking to all the churches.... If they hear and overcome they will bypass the second death. The first death, our physical death, is the result of Adam's and Eve's sin, Genesis 2:16-17. Likewise the second one is spiritual death. But as one act of sin brought death, so too, one act of grace brings life, Romans 5:12-21.
What is the second death?
from the NEW
AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright The
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References to the Revelation of Jesus Christ are in bold italics. All other references are in bold only.