To the Church in Smyrna
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. 9I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do 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 the crown of life. 11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
WHAT DOES THIS PASSAGE TELL US ABOUT JESUS?
v. 8 – He is the First and the Last. This title was used of God in the OT (Isaiah 44:6, 48:12, 41:4) equating Jesus with God. the First and Last of what? Of everything. He is the first word as well as the last word on all things. He is the creator and the completer.
*Do I live with Christ as the First and the Last of all things in my life? Of me? Too often I think of him as on the side of my world and I forget I am just an agent in His world. It is so comforting when I relinquish myself to recognize that whatever situation I find myself in, He is the first and the last word on the matter.
v. 8 – he died and came to life again.
Christ is the only one who rose himself from the dead. He is the only one who actually defeated death, so that those who trust in him might also be raised.
*I can entrust my future, my life, into his hands as I fully embrace that he can carry me beyond death. His resurrection proved that He was telling the truth, that he has authority even over death.
WHAT IS GOING RIGHT WITH THIS CHURCH?
In all accounts, from the world’s perspective, this church is in the pits…it is in a totally undesirable situation: afflicted, slandered, poor, and persecuted to the point of death. Yet THIS is the church for which Jesus has no criticism. This is the church that Jesus considers rich. They are true to Jesus. In the midst of the most terrible suffering, they have shown how loyal they are to Jesus. Indeed is this possibly how they have been so refined?
*this total upside down value system of God just continues to blow my mind. I still don’t think we get it. I don’t get it. I don’t like being uncomfortable. I don’t like to be slandered…and this for doing right. It infuriates my sense of justice. It sucks to be poor. As for persecution…what do I even know about real persecution? Now I don’t think that Jesus is saying that these things are good in it of themselves, yet these things have a way of really showing our true colors…what we really hold on to. I think in this way the Smyrnans are rich. They know where true life comes from, they don’t have any delusional/false securities. When grapes are crushed, sweet juice is revealed. When jars of clay are crushed, the treasure inside is revealed. When we are crushed what will come out? This reminds me of the story of how James, the brother of the writer of this revelation, died. The very person that was responsible for bringing James to the authorities to be killed, was so moved by James’ faith, he asked for James forgiveness and they were beheaded together. God help me to be true to you, to hold onto to YOU in the midst of suffering.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF THEY CONTINUE?
He sees their suffering but does he promise that suffering will relent for their faithfulness? No, in fact he tells them that even more suffering will come. However, even if they die, they will have shown their true faith and would receive “the crown of life.” By going faithfully toward death they are actually going toward true life. By facing the hurt in this life, they will not be hurt at all by the second death.
*I need a transformation of my paradigm…by dying to myself now I can have real life. By holding onto my security now more than Christ, I will be letting go of eternal security (Luke 9:23-27).