Revelation 2:8-11

Letter to Smyrna
The End Times

In my last post, we examined the letter to the Messianic Community at Ephesus.  In this post, Yeshua’s letter to the Messianic Community at Smyrna will be examined.

Historical Setting [1]
 smyrna-3  smyrna-2

Ancient Smyrna
(Pictures Courtesy of Google)

Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey) was an important port on the west coast of Asia Minor thirty-five miles up the coast from Ephesus, with a well-protected harbor, and the natural terminal of a great inland trade route.  It was a rival of Ephesus, with the proud tradition that it had been the birthplace of the great Greek poet Homer, the author of The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Smyrna was destroyed by the Lydians in 627 BCE and for three centuries was little more than a village. It was re-established in the middle of the 4th century BCE and rapidly became the chief city of Asia.

A common danger, the aggression of Antiochus the Great of Syria, had united Rome and Smyrna at the end of the 3rd century BCE.  In 26 CE, Smyrna appealed to this treaty when it petitioned Tiberius to allow the community to build a temple to his deity. Permission was granted and Smyrna built the second Asian temple to the emperor (the first one having been built in Pergamum).

Smyrna was famous for science, medicine, and the majesty of its buildings. Apollonius of Tyana refers to her “crown of porticoes,” a circle of beautiful public buildings that ringed the summit of Mount Pagos like a diadem; hence Yochanan’s reference (Revelation 2:10).  Polycarp, Smyrna’s bishop who was martyred in 155 CE, had been a disciple of Yochanan.

8 “To the angel of the Messianic Community in Smyrna, write: ‘Here is the message from the First and the Last, who died and came alive again: 9 “I know how you are suffering and how poor you are (though in fact you are rich!), and I know the insults of those who call themselves Jews but aren’t — on the contrary, they are a synagogue of the Adversary. 10 Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Adversary is going to have some of you thrown in prison, in order to put you to the test; and you will face an ordeal for ten days. Remain faithful, even to the point of death; and I will give you life as your crown. 11 Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities. He who wins the victory will not be hurt at all by the second death.”’ ~ Revelation 2:8-11 (CJB)

The message from the First and the Last, who died and came alive again.  These were words of encouragement to those who were facing death because of their faith in Yeshua.  Yeshua is assuring them that He was here in the beginning and will be around long after these days are gone.  Yeshua can well identify with what they are facing as He also was put to death.  However, all did not stop with His death; three days later He arose from the grave and is alive forevermore.  He is telling them that they, too, will experience death as He did, and that, like Himself, will be alive forevermore.

I know how you are suffering and how poor you are (though in fact you are rich!  This church was serving under tremendous pressure, since, by the time Yochanan wrote the book of Revelation, emperor worship was compulsory. Since the Believers were unwilling to acknowledge Caesar as Lord, they were looked upon as disloyal to the government. The Roman government committed unbelievable atrocities against those early saints to do away with Christianity.  It had to be comforting to those Believers to realize that Yeshua knew all about their situation. He knew the trials they were facing and the extreme poverty in which they were living. They had lost all for the cause of Yeshua; now they were about to lose their lives, as well.

I know the insults of those who call themselves Jews but aren’t — on the contrary, they are a synagogue of the Adversary.  In addition to all the pressure brought upon the church from without, there were those who claimed to be fellow Believers, but found compromise a convenient escape when needed. Yeshua labeled these as being of synagogue of the Adversary.  Our struggles are not with flesh and blood, but with the enemy, Satan, who uses people to accomplish his purposes. The Jewish synagogue was actually a synagogue of Satan.  A true Jew is not one physically or racially, but spiritually (see Romans 2:17-29). Any religious group Jewish or Gentile, that does not acknowledge Yeshua as God’s Son is certainly acting contrary to God’s will.

Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Adversary is going to have some of you thrown in prison, in order to put you to the test; and you will face an ordeal for ten days. Remain faithful, even to the point of death; and I will give you life as your crown.  These words of Yeshua are comforting even in the face of the most severe form of punishment—death. Yeshua knew the end result of this persecution, and He knew the duration of it—ten days. These ten days could represent ten literal days; however, many believe this to be referring to ten Roman Emperors who reigned from Nero (a.d. 64) to Diocletian (a.d. 305). Yeshua, who was aware of what they were to suffer, says to them, “do not fear.” Their faithfulness will be rewarded with “a crown of life.” This crown has been cited for many years as the martyr’s crown. The Believers in Smyrna endured crushing persecution, but because of their faithful commitment to Yeshua, they continued to live a victorious life in the Lord.

The church in Smyrna was one of the two churches that received no rebukes from Yeshua.

Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities. He who wins the victory will not be hurt at all by the second death.”’  Again, Yochanan concludes with an exhortation to adhere to what has been said and a promise to all who conquer or overcome by faith in Yeshua. To this church which seemingly had lost everything, the final promise that they would not experience further suffering through the second death must have been extremely comforting. The second death is a clear reference to the lake of fire spoken of in Revelation 20:15 and the ultimate state of hell.

Yochanan predicted that the church in Smyrna would be persecuted. Pain is part of life, but it is never easy to suffer, regardless of the reason. Yeshua commended the church at Smyrna for its faith in suffering.  He then encouraged the Believers that they did not need to fear the future – if they remained faithful.  Don’t let difficult times turn you away from God.  Remember that when you suffer, Yeshua suffers with you because you belong to him (Philippians 3:10).  Allow your suffering to draw you toward greater faithfulness. Trust God, and remember your heavenly reward (see also Revelation 22:12-14).  Out of suffering will come the crown of life.

Special Comparative Note on Chapters 2:8-11 [2]

Among Historicist and some Futurists, Smyrna is believed to represent the church during the period of persecution under Roman emperors.  This began with the brief severe persecution under Nero in 64 CE, but became more focused and deliberate under Domitian and many of his successors from about 95 to 313 CE.  The Historicist believe that the ten days (v.10) of tribulation promised to the Smyrnian Believers correspond to the ten years of this final persecution.  “This ten days of Smyrna is one of the greatest arguments for messages of the seven churches being applied to successive ages. This divine time measure forces the issue.”

In my next post, we will look at the letter to the Messianic Community in Pergamos.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Halley’s Bible Handbook: Deluxe Edition

[2] Material in this section is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg

 

3 thoughts on “Revelation 2:8-11

  1. Keep up the good work Don

    I don’t have strong attachments to any thoughts I have on this book. I am not a huge fan of the view that tries to fit each of the churches into some particular time period, as it seems almost as if folks force them to fit. I most commonly hear the letters preached with applications applying to churches today, and that these seven can still be found all over, in different places.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wally

      Thanx for the compliment.

      As I think I stated earlier, the letters representing the various church ages was a new concept for me. I can certainly how see folks can make the connection in hindsight. But, I’m still a little confused as to why what is written to the seven churches presumably at the same time could have been so different in the later part of the first century.

      Don

      Like

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