All 7 churches are dealing with the issue of regaining (or maintaining) their witness
~ Commission (v8a): To the angel of the church in Smyrna write
~ Description (v8b): The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. These are references back to 1:4-5, 8, 17-18.
~ Commendation (v9): I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich!) and the slander brought by false Jews.
~ Rebuke: None
~ Counsel and Consequence (v10): Do not fear what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you in prison – for testing – for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life.
~ Call for Discernment (v11a): He who has an ear, let him hear
~ Promise for Conquerors (v7b): Conquerors will not be hurt by the second death.
Though they have no rebuke, Jesus’ revealed identity points to trials. He rules eternity. He has faced death and overcome to death. The same will happen for them – be faithful to death and I will give you (crown of) life – will not be hurt by the second death.
The devil and his synagogue are attacking but Jesus is granting a crown. We see this false group of Jews here and in Philadelphia (the next church we’ll study).
The eternal ruler (first and last) has put a time limit on our suffering. The ten days likely refers to an undetermined time. (Some say the Great Persecution by Diocletian from 303-313 ending at the Edict of Milan.)
The crown mentioned here (v10) is a victor’s crown – not a royal crown.
[Image] In Smyrna there was a central hill called Pagos – it was referred to as “the crown of Smyrna.”
There were also Olympic games held here – so there was a strong connection to the victor’s crown (which were also used in pagan worship).
Smyrna’s chief export was the source of it’s name: myrrh. And, you may remember from Scripture that myrrh was used to anoint the dead and has become connected to bitterness.
So, we have Smyrna a city thriving on the bitterness of death, but known as a place to find victory.
And, Jesus calls his people through this. Be faithful unto death and receive the true and lasting crown of life.
How can he promise such things? Because he hasn’t just won an earthly game – he has defeated death itself. He “died and came to life.” He rules eternally (“first and last”). So, the promise is that the second death cannot harm you.
Hebrews 2.9 says that this is true of our Savior: “we see…Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”
~ Commission (v7a): To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write
~ Description (v7b): The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
Quoting from Isaiah 22.22 more directly than 1.18: “I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut and none shall open.”
~ Commendation (v8): I know your works.
~ Rebuke: None
~ Counsel and Consequence (v9-11):Open door; Love; Keeping
** synagogue of Satan (again, false Jews) will bow at your feet to know that I have loved you
** because you kept the call to patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of world-wide trial
** I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have so no one seizes your crown.
~ Promise for Conquerors (early – v12): Conquerors will be pillars in the temple of God. He shall never go out. He shall have the name of God, of the city of God, of Jesus.
~ Call for Discernment (late – v13): He who has an ear, let him hear
The consistent effort to not deny Jesus name (v8). Will result in getting new names (v12) of God and of the New Jerusalem, and of Jesus.
There are a handful of passages in Isaiah regarding receiving a new name as a blessing from God to his people and foreigners who come to him. Maybe the most directly connected here is 56:5: “I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall never be cut off.”
Philadelphia was hit by a major earthquake in AD17 that destroyed the city. Following that there were recurrent tremors and quakes for 20 years. You might imagine that pillars were shaken and cast out in the ongoing wreckage. As a result the Roman government stepped in and rebuilt the city when it received the name “Neo-Caesarea” that is the “new city of Caesar.”
Here Christians are promised an everlasting place – to be unmovable pillars in the heavenly temple and be given a new name of a new city of God and the and Christ (v12).
There is a better name, and a better city, and a better temple.
The “temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb (21:22).” So, the emphasis isn’t on being an actual pillar, but permanently connected to Christ, bearing his name, and in no way ever cast out.
Let’s draw some application:
First in regards to suffering.
*** Suffering doesn’t equal failure. Doing well doesn’t mean avoiding suffering. Notice that the churches that Jesus commends as doing well are caught in tribulation. Meaning that a church doing well for the kingdom of God won’t necessarily be avoiding suffering. In fact, it may very well be the opposite.
*** Because the gospel of Jesus Christ always has and always will proceed on suffering.
From Christ’s sufferings to purchase our salvation,
to the reformers who paved the way back to the Bible by their own blood,
to missionaries leaving home and family to seek and save the lost,
to bold witnesses who will not compromise the truth in order to be accepted by the world,
to individuals in this room who will get out of their homes or cubicles or desks to put aside comfort in order to share God’s love,
to those who commit to giving more so that the ministry of Jesus Christ will not die out on this earth.
The gospel of Jesus Christ proceeds on the sacrifice of his people.
Are you willing to sacrifice more?
Jesus is asking us to walk out in faith. It’s as if he says to these churches, “I see what you’re doing, now see what I will do…” He is the keeper of the keys and a door is open (to his Kingdom? to witness? Both?).
*** Further, trials prove faith. The same struggles that come upon unbelievers with no benefit are turned by God into a tool for our good. 1 Peter 1.6-7 reminds us that we rejoice even though we may face various trial now “so that the tested genuineness of your faith…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
This is one of the points of what is happening in the book of Job. God says to Satan, “Have you considered my servant, Job?”
In these letters rather than remove the trials, Jesus is preparing his people to go through them. Are you willing to be faithful unto death?
*** God uses those who suffer. We may feel that we are small and have little influence or possession or power. The church at Smyrna was poor. The church at Philadelphia had little power. But, these things don’t matter. [Image] If we keep his word and refuse to deny his name, he will keep us, he will establish us, he will give us a name.
*** Establish yourself in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Messages in this series
Messages by Greg Taylor