June 09, 2020 – Tuesday
Revelation 2:8-10 NIV
8 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of Him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.
9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
The book of Revelation was written sometime between 88-94 A.D. in the source I find most credible. Other sources give 90-94 A.D. and 94-96 A.D as the most common. So it was written after the fall of Israel and Jerusalem in 70 A.D. when up to 1.1 million Jews were starved, killed, or crucified. In spite of all of this by 88-94 A.D. the church of those who followed Jesus was roughly 60 years old and had experienced incredible growth even with great persecution by Rome. Roman records record over 45,000 Christians were killed for their faith by crucifixion, by being burned to death as living torches, in the coliseums as gladiators or simply thrown to the lions and bears.
Many Christians had seen much of this and were fearful they would not be strong enough to stand firm in the faith. They were fearful of the persecution. However, surprisingly Jesus only addressed suffering from persecution directly with two of the seven churches He spoke of in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. The first church He spoke of ‘The Church in Ephesus’ He said in 2:3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary clearly implying suffering
However, in our verses for the day, He is addressing ‘The Church in Smyrna’ and the suffering is not implied. Instead it is directly addressed in verse 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. His words seek to comfort while reminding us of the great reward that awaits us for remaining faithful and standing firm while at the same time making it clear persecution will occur.
Look at how Jesus begins this verse, Do not be afraid as He addresses the fear they must have struggled with while under attack for their faith. Then an amazing prophecy, the persecution or prison time would only last for a period of ten days! But in that ten days death could be the result, so Jesus says Be faithful, even to the point of death and if you do so there is an award awaiting you in heaven and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Of course Jesus begins His message to the church in Smyrna with words of great encouragement by reminding them These are the words of Him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. He defeated death and would do the same for them.
A short note: Smyrna is a reference to the fragrant herb myrrh, which releases its fragrance as it is being crushed—an appropriate metaphor for the church that is being crushed by persecution, which crushing releases a “sweet savour” from the Lord’s point of view. So perhaps our own suffering, when the time comes, could also be a sweet fragrance to our Lord.
Bottom Line, Smyrna one of the two churches (the church of Philadelphia the other) where Jesus had nothing against them largely because they were standing firm in the faith no matter their fear. Their persecution was based on one thing and one thing alone – their faith in Jesus as the King of Kings. Because of this they did not lose sight of the goal – eternal life with Jesus and the Father in heaven. We would do well to do the same, keeping the goal in mind where we have the hope of hearing Well done good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21a).
Post Script: Want to see a map of the seven churches of Asia Jesus was addressing? If so, go here.