The Smyrna Church in Revelation
The second church in Revelation is Smyrna, a church that received no rebuke or condemnation. This is a church worth trying to emulate. See the letter to the first church, Ephesus. See this page for the location of the church of Smyrna in Asia Minor.
"And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;" (Rev 2:8)
Again, the description of Christ in this message "the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive" is taken from chapter 1:
"... I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." (Rev 1:17-18)
The members of the Smyrna church, being reminded that He has the keys of hell and of death, would be encouraged as they seem to have faced persecution as verse 10 says.
"I know thy 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." (Rev 2:9)
Christ said He knew their works which may have led to their state of tribulation and poverty. Despite their poverty, He tells them "thou art rich." This is the opposite to the church of Laodicea which said "I am rich" and yet was evaluated as being "poor." There was also reference to people claiming to be Jews but who were really part of 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." (Rev 2:10)
This is describing a time of martyrdom. In the second century, Jews are said to have brought about the martyrdom of Polycarp, a bishop of the Smyrna church.
It seems that the members of this local congregation faced persecution to the extent that their lives were threatened or worse. Jesus was giving them reassurance that even though He "was dead" He was raised from the dead (Rev 1:5) and that He now lives and has power over "hell and of death" (Rev 1:18); He has power to raise them from the dead also. Faithfulness even unto death will bring its reward:
"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." (2 Tim 4:8)
This is something that the end-time church also needs to remember as there will be great tribulation and martyrdom at that time also.
"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 2:11)
Evidently, the end-time church, whoever they are, that are represented by the end-time application of the message to Smyrna church, will be faithful. This message contains no rebuke and no warning (similar to the message to Philadelphia).The next letter is to the church of Pergamos.
See the chart comparing the messages to the seven churches (downloadable PDF file) for a comparison.
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