In this series of blog posts, we’re diving into the seven letters from Jesus to the churches in Revelation chapters 2-3. As we do, we’ll discover what Jesus has to say to these churches that, with one exception, needed to be revitalized.
The second letter in Revelation is written to the church in Smyrna, which probably rivaled Ephesus as the most important city in the area. The city had a large population of Jews who were not fans of this new group of people who worshiped the risen Jesus as Lord. It was also one of the first cities to worship the Roman emperor as divine. While Jews were exempt from this order, they did not want the same protection extended to Christians.
Let’s dive into this letter in Revelation 2:8-11
Jesus is preeminent, v. 8
To this church that finds itself in the middle of a hostile environment, Jesus reminds them that He is the First and the Last. He reminds them that He was dead, but He came back to life. No matter what they may face, He is the conqueror. This is true for churches that find themselves in hostile communities today. As Abraham Kuyper declared, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”1
The predicament, v. 9-10a
Jesus reminds this church that He knows exactly the situation in which they find themselves. They were walking through the middle of spiritual warfare. Members of the church were being thrown in prison because of “the slander of those who claim to be Jews and are not.” Even though Jesus says that the term of imprisonment would be short (10 days), you can still imagine the tension that the church must have felt as they faced this inevitable persecution.
Perseverance and the promise, v. 10b
Finally, Jesus exhorts this church to remain faithful, even to the point of death. Remember that Jesus already reminded them that He is the one who was dead and came to life.
He has already defeated death, the greatest enemy we face in this life. With that reminder, we can be prepared to face any amount of opposition or persecution we may encounter with that promise secured.
Jesus closes this letter like he does each of the seven: “Let anyone who has hears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.” Then he gives a word specific to the church at Smyrna: “The one who conquers will never be harmed by the second death.” Those who have eternal life in Christ Jesus have no fear of being separated from him. If you are in Christ, pastor, you are secure. If your people are in Christ, they are secure.
Jesus has no words of condemnation for the church in Smyrna. That certainly doesn’t mean the church was perfect, but it does mean that they were on the right track. Even though they were surrounded by a godless and wicked culture, they remained steadfast in their faith.
Pastor, no matter what you and your church may face, keep your eyes on Jesus, the First and the Last, the one who was dead and came to life. In Him, you can face whatever comes!
You can find the other posts in this series here:
Published September 22, 2023