The second church (of the seven churches of Asia) that Jesus addressed through the pen of John is the church in Smyrna. The message is recorded in Revelation 2:8-11, saying —
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;
9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and [I know] the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but [are] the synagogue of Satan.
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.
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.
Smyrna was a church that was uniquely commendable. Of the 7 churches, only TWO were not rebuked nor told to repent and Smyrna was the first mentioned. That is awesome! Jesus is addressing them but doesn’t have anything to address with them that is wrong. They were spiritually rich (v. 9), thriving, and Jesus promised them a crown of life (v. 10).
Still, when we read about Smyrna, most people, looking from a natural perspective, would not want to find themselves in the position of Smyrna. Few (if any) would put Smyrna’s status in their 5 or 10 year goals. Why? Smyrna is a church which faced poverty, tribulation, suffering, and death! Their name was from the word myrrh which speaks of bitterness, and history describes the severe persecution they endured at the hands of different emperors.
Lesson 1: Spiritual Riches
With Smyrna (like with all of the churches), the Word of God illustrates important lessons for us. Though many seek being rich in this life, it’s more important to be spiritually rich. We want to be “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). Being right with God is far more valuable than any material things. Despite the lies of those who wrongly preach gain is godliness, Smyrna shows us that natural riches are not a barometer of God’s opinion of you. You can be poor in this world, and still abundantly pleasing in His sight. We have to focus on what matters most!
Lesson 2: The Benefits of Suffering
Smyrna also highlights the benefits of suffering. Though no one likes going through, suffering works FOR the Christian. We know that if we love God and are called according to His purpose, ALL things work together for good to us (Rom. 8:28), yet in the middle of lack, trouble, or pain we too often forget how that too is included in the promise of God. We don’t have to fear or resent the things we suffer because we can be assured that when we go through, God is doing something!
- Romans 5:3-5 lays out how tribulation or trouble produces patience, as we learn how to wait on God. As we wait on Him, we gain experience with God and testimonies which give us hope the next time we go through.
- 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 shows how Paul learned to take pleasure in his infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions, and distresses because he saw how God’s strength was made perfect in his weakness, and the power of Christ rested on Him. When we go through and God comes through, He gets an opportunity to show out in us!
- 1 Peter 4:1-2 points out how suffering in the flesh helps us to cease from sin, freeing us from using our time living to the lusts of men so we can instead live to the will of God. Suffering can help us get our priorities in order!
- In Psalm 119:65-76 the psalmist wrote, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word… It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” Affliction can help you get back on track by pushing you to learn God’s Word and keep His Word!
- 1 Peter 5:10 assures that after we have suffered a while, the God of all grace can “make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle [you].” It’s amazing how God can work on us while we go through!
Suffering is not for nothing when you’re saved; God uses it to help us!
Lesson 3: Jesus Understands
Finally, Smyrna reminds us that Jesus understands what we’re going through. As we pointed out in the blog on Ephesus, each letter starts of with the words “These things saith” followed by a unique description of Jesus Christ so we all know who is talking and evaluating. To Smyrna, He is described as “the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive” (v. 8).
Jesus was letting Smyrna, who had to be faithful unto death (v. 10), and the church today know that whatever we have to go through, He has already been through it! He humbled Himself, He suffered, He died (Phil. 2:5-8), and now He is alive! The Bible says He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He gets what you’re going through, and He feels it (Heb. 4:15).
He truly understands. He wants us to come boldly to Him, with all speech telling Him everything, “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). We’re not going through alone; Jesus is with us and is willing to answer our call. He was committed enough to go through for us and now that it’s our turn, He doesn’t leave us in the fire alone in our time of need.
Just like Smyrna, there will be things we have to go through. We have to resolve in our hearts and make up in our minds to not fear what we’ll go through but to be faithful unto the end. We have to hold onto the Word of God above all else. God has a plan and He’ll help us every step of the way. Church, go through!
What did you learn from the church in Smyrna? What stands out to you? Share your comments below!