The Letter From Jesus to The Local Church at Smyrna

We are looking at the 7 letters that Jesus wrote to 7 unique churches.

In these letters Jesus is giving report cards to 7 individual churches in 7 different spiritual conditions.   In these letters we will see from the master Himself what He is pleased with and what He is not pleased with.

In the first letter to Ephesus we saw that Jesus is happy when we work and labor for Him with patience.  Jesus is happy when we stand up against false teachers.  When we do not just believe everything that someone says.  Jesus is happy with us when we bear things for His names sake. Jesus is happy when we do not faint.  Jesus is happy when we do not leave our first love.  And when we do not stop doing the first works.  What we do needs to be done out of a love for Jesus and a motivation to please Him. He is the first love.

Jesus over and over again ties Love for Him with doing His commandments.  And the first commandments He gave to the church right before He ascended was to go and teach to every creature everywhere.  Jesus has many other things He commanded us but the first works, those that are top priority is teaching people about Him, they are about getting the Gospel out.  Jesus is not happy with any outfit that it not involved in actively getting His Word out and with some heart, with some zeal, with the motivation of a love for Jesus.

It was a powerful first letter.  Stop and think a minute of how few churches are doing the things that Jesus shows pleases Him in just the first letter.

The second letter is written to the Church in Smyrna

Persecution in Smyrna was fierce.  It came from two directions.  It came from those who worshipped false gods and from their lips came hate and scoffing to the one true God, and persecution came from Jews who said with their lips that they worshipped the one true God.

Polycarp was a very well-known first century Christian.  History tells us that Polycarp was a friend of John.  He was killed in Smyrna at 90 years old.  Smyrna was a center of persecution in Asia Minor.  The letter that Jesus dictates to John that is addressed to Smyrna is the shortest of the 7 letters.

And in this letter the local church at Smyrna is commended, there is not one word of reproach or correction.  That is worth noticing.  5 out of 7 get corrected to varying degrees.

While this church does not receive correction in their letter, they do receive some hard news.

Rev 2:8  And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

The first and the last is a reference to a truth that was presented in the preface to these letters.  Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last.  The truth that He was dead, and is alive, was also in the preface to these letters.

These are important truths all the time.  But it appears that they are especially important to the situation that this local body of believers is facing.  Jesus brings up the fact that He is the creator.  He is God.  It is all about Him.  He was before all things.  He is the first.

He created.  Nothing would exist if not for Him.  And He is the last.  He will still be for all eternity.  He knows the beginning to the end.  After this world is burned up and a new heaven and new earth is created.  Jesus will still be.

For of Him, and through Him, and To Him are all things, to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

And then Jesus brings up the fact that He was dead.  He died for their sins.  He paid the price.  And then He rose again.  He is alive.  Proving that His payment was accepted.  The wages of sin is death.  If Jesus was still paying the wages of sin, then He would still be dead.

But He is alive showing that His death was enough.  The debt was paid in full.  He obviously wants the readers of this letter to have these foundational truths on their mind when they read this letter.

Rev 2:9  I know

The first words after reminding them of those foundational truths is I know.  He is the almighty, he knows everything that goes on.  And the one who knows bled and died for them.  Paid for their sin.  They believed on Him and He adopted them.  These people are His children.  He cares for His own.  Deeply.  His love is greater than we can ever understand.

Their almighty Saviour who loves them says.

Rev 2:9  I know thy works,

He sees everything thing that they do in His name.  That should be a reassuring thing for all Christians.  To know that He notices and appreciates every single thing done for Him.

The goal of a Christian should be to please the Lord.  To do things for Him out of a love for Him and a thankfulness for what He has done.  That should be the goal.  And to know that He sees it all and will acknowledge it is an encouragement to do more for Him.

Rev 2:9  I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)

Jesus knows the works they are doing for Him and He also knows about their tribulation and their poverty.  They are poor as far as money is concerned.  This was not uncommon in the early days of Christianity.  Many people would lose their jobs.  Others would refuse to trade with you.  Becoming a Christian could bring hard times financially.

But Jesus says but thou art rich.  Christians might not have much in this world, but they are joint heirs with Christ.  We don’t really have any idea just how much Jesus has in store for us in Eternity.

1Co_2:9  But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Rom_8:18  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

In between telling them that He knows of their tribulation and the hard news that is coming, He makes sure to remind them of the fact that they are rich in the Lord.  That they have great riches in Christ.

Now here comes the start of the hard news.

Rev 2:9  … and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. 

There are several principals here that we should not just pass over.

First Jesus pulls no punches here on describing false religion.  Those who claim the name of the one true God but do not know Him.  Jesus calls it blasphemy.  By far the false professors outnumber true believers.  There are many groups who use His name but are not His.  Jesus calls that blasphemy.

Blasphemy is an indignity offered to God by words or writing.  It is reproachful, contemptuous, and irreverent.

The Jews referenced here (and any other group who does the same thing) were offering words to God.  Prayers, praises, their preaching, they offered it all to God.  But God does not accept it.  To Him it is an indignity, it is reproachful, contemptuous, and without reverence to who He is.  Jesus calls it blasphemy.  Many today do the same thing.

Jesus also says in verse 9 which say they are Jews, and are not.

The second principal here is that you can say you are something that you are not.  But even more than that.  You can believe that you are something that you are not.

I have no doubt that if you would have asked these people are you Jews they would say yes and fully believe it.  If you would ask these people are you God’s chosen people they would say yes and believe it.

If you would have asked them is God pleased with you and are you doing what God wants, they would have said yes and believed it.

Jer_17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Man has an incredible ability to deceive himself.  The heart wants what the heart wants and it can be desperately wicked.  A man can sear his conscience and talk himself into believing almost anything.

Paul before he got saved, he was persecuting the church with great zeal and thought that he was in the will of God.  He had no doubt about it, but was totally wrong.

Rev 2:9  … and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. 

The third principal here is that people can actually be used by Satan and not know it.  The Jews in Smyrna were meeting in their synagogue thinking they were meeting for God and they were persecuting Christians thinking they were doing the work of God.

But they were not.  The truth of the matter is that they were not God’s people at all and were actually doing the work of Satan.  Totally blinded.  They did not even know.  But Jesus does.  He sees thru all of the ceremony and outward appearance.

Sad to say this same thing is going on today.  There are countless numbers of people who offer words to God and meet in His name.  And think that they are doing His work, but actually they are committing blasphemy and doing the work of the Devil.  They are fooling themselves and to a great degree fool others, but it is impossible to fool God.

After telling them that He knows all about their tribulation and that He knows all about those doing the work of Satan.  He tells them what is about to happen to them.

Rev 2:10  Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison,  

We see here that the wicked one uses people to persecute and even kill Christians.  When it says that the devil shall cast some of you into prison.

That does not mean that the Devil himself went and grabbed them with his hand and put them into prison himself.  It is talking about how it was done under the wicked ones orders, under his influence.  Under his authority.

The Bible gives credit to Moses for the building of the tabernacle, but Moses himself did not build it.  God gave a different man the talent and wisdom needed and that man actually did the work.  However, it was done under the guidance and instructions of Moses.

These Christians are going to be thrown into prison by men but it will be done under the direction of the devil.  And since he is a great deceiver, most likely the men who do it had no idea whose orders they are actually following.

This is another principal that is also going on today.  Great numbers of people who do wicked things think that it was their idea.  Or even that the wicked they do is actually not wicked.  They have no idea who they are being influenced by.

Rev 2:10  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. 

God is going to allow it, and the reason given.  That ye may be tried.  It will last 10 days and then you will be killed.  If you are faithful unto death, then Jesus says that He will give them a crown of life.

Only those who die for the faith get a crown of life.  We have no way of knowing all that it will mean for all eternity, we just have to trust the Lord in that.  He has a reason.  He not only sees our present, Jesus sees our eternity.

And notice the ending verse to this letter and how it is no longer addressed to only the local church at Smyrna.

Rev 2:11  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. 

The letter was to an individual local church with a unique situation.  However, what is being taught in the letter is for all to learn from.

Jesus created all, He is the first and the last, He died for you and rose again.  He did it for Love.  He is watching and knows all things that happen to you.  He has reasons to allow tribulation to happen to you and even sometimes it will be death.  But He will reward you for being faithful for all eternity.  He has reasons that we cannot understand.  He wants all churches to understand these truths.

And then He finishes with He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.  Many get this wrong.  They think it is talking about those that overcome the tribulation of being killed.  But Jesus quit talking about that and is now addressing all the churches.

This is where you must compare scripture with scripture to understand.  We know that the second death is talking about being thrown into the lake of fire.  We also know that only those who do not accept Jesus as their savior go there.  No saved person gets thrown into the lake of fire.  Not even for one microsecond.

So the he that overcometh is talking about those that get saved.  That brings the question.  How is getting saved over coming?

To get saved you have to overcome a few things.

  • False thinking, indoctrination as a child into wrong thinking. You have to overcome that and choose to believe what God said instead.
  • You have to overcome the worlds doubt in God’s word.
  • And you have to overcome your pride. You have to admit you are a sinner, you have to humble yourself and admit that you cannot work your way to heaven.
  • Many have to overcome family and other obstacles to get saved.

This is a fitting way to end this letter.  Yes we might have to endure some things, some very hard things, maybe even death.  But always remember we will never have to endure the lake of fire.  That truth should help put the hard things into perspective.

No matter what I suffer in this life.  I will never have to endure hell.

The slander, lies, cheating, and everything that the lost world can do to me is nothing to be compared with missing the lake of fire.

Instead of burning for ever and ever, I will be walking the streets of gold and talking with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.  And infinitely more important I will be with the Lord and able to worship Him and see His glory for all eternity.

This letter makes it obvious that Jesus wants this truth to be on our minds when we face the tribulations and hardships of this temporary world.

This truth makes me think of the song.

It will be worth it all

when we see Jesus!

Life’s trials will seem so small

when we see Christ.

One glimpse of his dear face,

all sorrow will erase.

So, bravely run the race

till we see Christ.

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