CHURCH UNDER FIRE, Revelation 2:8-11

January 15, 2012 on 3:39 pm | In REVELATION FOR BEGINNERS | Comments Off on CHURCH UNDER FIRE, Revelation 2:8-11

Ever felt persecuted or attacked for your convictions? The church in Smyrna (in modern day Turkey) certainly was experiencing that. Now Jesus has a message for that afflicted congregation. Following our template for these letters, we should first see those portions of the description of Christ seen in chapter one that meet the needs of this particular congregation. These are Jesus’ words from that description that fit: “These things says the First and the Last, who was dead and is come to life.” Jesus is saying, to paraphrase, “What I begin, I can finish. It may look like it’s the end for you, but don’t worry–you won’t lose out in the end because I will achieve my goals. Besides, I know what it’s like to die–I did and was resurrected. That’s your assurance that you, too, will be resurrected if you should lose your life here.”

In verse 9 He commends the church: “I know your works, tribulation [trials and persecution you’re going through], and poverty (but you are rich).” Interestingly, this is the opposite of the church in Laodicea that thinks it is rich but is really poor. Jesus also knows all about the troublemakers who pretend to be followers of God but really are followers of Satan. They no doubt were also a trial for the church.

As far as censure, this one of only two churches that receive no censure.

In verse 10 Jesus begins His counsel to this congregation, to paraphrase: “You are going to be experiencing some periods of severe trials and suffering ahead, but don’t be afraid. In fact, the devil will see that some of you are thrown into prison. You will be tested for sure. There will even be a 10 year period of specially trying persecution. But be faithful, even if it costs you your life in this world, because your resurrection is assured, and I’ll give you a crown of life–eternal life in a better place.”

Finally, in verse 11, the covenant appears. “He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.” That summarizes the previous promise, i.e. you may die the first death in this old world, but you will be resurrected from that (1 Corinthians 15:51-55). But what really couonts is that you will not have to face the second death experience (ch. 20:6, 14) from which there is no resurrection, i.e. you will spared eternal extermination, you will live with Christ forever. The apostle Paul looked forward to that fulfillment of Christ’s promise when he wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:6-8–“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

This message had special meaning for the congregation in Smyrna–they would have recognized themselves in that message. In the historicist view of prophecy, that congregation would become a symbol of the Christian church as it went through times of terrible persecution. Some scholars give approximate dates of 100-313 A.D. as that time in church history. Today you may be going through tough times. Remember God’s promises in Isaiah 41:10–“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Hebrews 13:5–“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He is able to carry you through just as He did Daniel and his friends with the fiery furnace and lions’ den experiences. Yet, even if we should lose our lives in the process, whether through accident, illness, or martyrdom, Jesus’ promise to us is that if we have been faithful to Him (trusting in Him), there is a crown of life in our future, symbolic of life eternal (i.e. without end). What a wondrous assurance!

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