Jesus’  letter to the persecuted & suffering  Church of Smyrna

Jesus’ letter to the church of  Smyrna was a sharp contrast to that written to the Ephesian church.:

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

I know thy of 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.

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.

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  (Rev 2:8 -11)

Smyrna’s background and satanic persecution against the church

Smyrna was a commercial center located 35 miles north of Ephesus.  Its population was about 10, 000 by the time Apostles Paul and John visited. Most importantly, Smyrna was a center of heavy  persecution against the church.  The church was persecuted by the Jews and by the Roman Empire.

The persecution was so severe that the Lord called the opposing synagogue the synagogue of satan and revealed that satan himself was the mastermind.

Jesus highlighted the nature and severity of  the  persecution in His very compassionate letter:

  • The church was very faithful- full of works, tribulation and poverty
  • Jesus said that they were rich. This was a sharp contrast to the church of Ephesus which appeared to have allowed the deceitfulness of riches to distract them from their passionate love for our Lord.
  • The Lord also deplored the blasphemy of those who said they were Jews, “ and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan”
  • The Jewish nation was established to reveal God to the earth.  Jesus basically disconnected Himself from the Jewish synagogue in Smyrna because the elders were actively involved in saying that the Lord was empowered by the devil.
  • He freely called them the synagogue or church of satan because they allowed the devil to use them in this most horrifying manner.  A review of the Gospels and the Book of Acts reveals the depth of hatred and malice held by the leaders of the temple (synagogue of satan) against the Lord and His Church from its inception  (Luke 11: 53 & 54; Matt 23).
  • Jesus revealed that the devil Himself was the master mind of the persecution suffered by the church and encouraged them not to be afraid of the imprisonment they would suffer
  • They would not only be imprisoned, but would have to die for the sake of the gospel.
  • Jesus encouraged the believers to be faithful to death through their tribulation which would last 10 days (1 day = 1 year)

Jesus’ unique identifier with the Church of Smyrna

Again, Jesus used His unique identifier that showed the depth of His compassion for, relationship with and commitment to the Church of Smyrna. He is the “the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive”. In the face of ongoing tribulation and  impending demise for the  gospel, Jesus continued to fulfill  the revelation in the book of Hebrews:

  • He became the Captain of our salvation through suffering – Hebrews 2: 10
  • The Lord therefore spoke of death without fear, He had already destroyed the power of death – Hebrews 2: 14.
  • He therefore encouraged His brethren not to fear, because they would inherit a crown of life
  • He is not ashamed to call us His brethren – Hebrews 2: 11.

Conclusion

Jesus’ letter to the church of Smyrna revealed His faithfulness to His church even in the most difficult times.  This church had been called to the Ministry of Suffering. However, the Lord’s encouraging words remain the same today:

“be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life”.

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