Smyrna: Suffering Saints
Smyrna had been a prosperous city.
It had passed into a security at one time, but was rebuilt by Alexander the Great and Antigonus.
It became a noted and wealthy city almost at once and maintained that condition
many years past the New Testament period.
We have no history of its beginnings.
It could have begun when Paul in Ephesus divided his disciples in order that
all Asia could come to know the gospel.
History tells of the persecution which occurred there and of the ministry and martyrdom of Polycarp.
His martyrdom was in the second century, but he may have been the pastor
at Smyrna when this letter was written.
Only good is spoken of concerning this church.
The Lord identifies Himself as "the first and the last, who was dead and lived again."
He is telling them that He has been through what they are suffering.
He is well-qualified to comfort them and give them assurance from firsthand knowledge.
Commendation And Comfort, 2:9-10a
Christ combines a pattern of commendation and comfort.
The commendation is partly one from the silence.
He has no complaint to bring against them.
He knows their "tribulation."
This is the word previously discussed which pictures outside pressure which threatens to ruin.
He knows their "poverty."
This is a reflection of the confiscation of property used by Domitian as a means of persecution.
The Christians at Smyrna had lost all their material possessions.
So Christ, who sees and knows all, says: "But you are rich."
True wealth is the enrichment of character, not possession of wealth.
This is truly a rich church.
He knows "the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews."
This is probably a reference to the Jews who had escaped persecution and confiscation
of their property by compromise.
Theirs was a legal religion and, by offering of prayers for the emperor,
they escaped the fate of the Christians.
Now they mocked and spoked evil of the Christians, who had lost all out of loyalty to Christ.
Christ says that these are not really Jews.
They are of the synagogue of Satan -- they are the devil's people.
Promise, 2:10a, 11b
The Lord's promise is twofold:
"Be faithful even if it means death and I will give thee the crown of life...
He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death."
He will give to them the crown of life -- a reward for winning the race.
They shall not be hurt by the "second death," which symbolizes eternal punishment.
The unbeliever dies and has another "death" awaiting him.
The believer dies and has eternal life.
Here, as always, is a promise is to the overcoming life.
As in the other letters, the warning is against the peril of spiritual apathy,
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."
Adapted from Worthy Is a Lamb by Ray Summers