What on earth have we done with the teachings of Jesus
We are continuing on with our studies into the letters to the Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation. Yesterday we covered the letter to the loveless church. Today we commence with the second letter to the Persecuted church in Smyrna, now a city called Izmir in modern-day Turkey ~
I know your works
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life. “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich). I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison. You may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” ’
He is the first and the last
Henry says – This next letter is directed: To the angel of the church in Smyrna. It was a place well known by its merchants, a city of great trade and wealth. This letter contains another of the glorious titles of our Lord, the first and the last. He that was dead and is alive. It is taken out of Rev. 1:17, 18.
It is but a little scantling of time that is allowed to us in this world. But our Redeemer is the first and the last. He is the first, for by Him all things were made, and He was before all things with God. Christ is the last, for all things are made for Him, and He will be the Judge of all. An unchangeable Mediator between God and man, Jesus, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
He was dead and is alive. Christ died for our sins and purchased salvation for us. Yet He rose again for our justification, and He ever lives to make intercession for us. When we were enemies, we were reconciled by His death how much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.
Poor in temporals, yet rich in spirit
The subject-matter of this epistle to Smyrna includes the declaration of Christ’s omniscience (all-knowing). He has a perfect awareness of all the works of men and especially of His churches.
The letter included the improvement they had made in their spiritual state: thou art rich (Rev. 2:10). They were poor in temporals, but rich in spirituals. Their spiritual riches are propelled by their outward poverty. Some who are poor outwardly are inwardly rich. Rich in faith and in good works, rich in privileges, rich in gifts, rich in hope. Spiritual riches are usually the reward of great diligence; the diligent hand makes rich. Where there is spiritual plenty, outward poverty may be better borne. When God’s people are impoverished in temporals, for the sake of Christ, He makes all up to them in spiritual riches. These are much more satisfying and enduring.
We must expect tribulations
Yet they suffered. I know thy tribulation and thy poverty—the persecution they underwent, even to the taking of their goods. Those who will be faithful to Christ must expect to go through many tribulations; but Jesus Christ takes particular notice of all their troubles. In all their afflictions, He is afflicted, and He will recompense tribulation to those who trouble them. To those that are troubled rest with Himself.
He knows the wickedness and the falsehood of their enemies: I know the blasphemy of those that say they are Jews but are not. Those who pretend to be the only peculiar covenant-people of God. Some may say that they only are the church of God in the world, when they are the synagogue of Satan.
God will take revenge
As Christ has a church in the world, the spiritual Israel of God, so the devil has his synagogue. Those assemblies which are set up in opposition to the truths of the gospel. They promote and propagate damnable errors—the vain inventions of men and rites and ceremonies. These had never entered into the thoughts of God—these are all synagogues of Satan. It is him who presides over them, he works in them, his interests are served by them. He receives a horrid homage and honour from them.
For the synagogues of Satan to give themselves out to be the Israel of God is blasphemy. God is greatly dishonoured when His name is made use of to promote and patronise the interests of Satan. He has a high resentment of this blasphemy and will take a just revenge on those who persist in it.
Our troubles shall rise higher
God foreknows the future trials of His people, and forewarns them of them, and fore-arms them against them. He forewarns them of future trials. The devil shall cast some of you into prison, and you shall have tribulation, Rev. 2:10. The people of God must look for a series and succession of troubles in this world. Their troubles usually rise higher. They had been impoverished by their tribulations before; now they must be imprisoned.
Observe that it is the devil that stirs up his instruments, wicked men, to persecute the people of God. Tyrants and persecutors are the devil’s tools, though they gratify their own sinful malevolence. They do not know that they are triggered by a diabolical malice.
Christ fore-arms them against these approaching troubles by His counsel: Fear none of these things. This is not only a word of command, but of effectiveness. Not only forbidding slavish fear, but subduing it and furnishing the soul with strength and courage. He further showed them how their sufferings would be alleviated and limited.
The time will be shortened
First, They should not be universal. It would be some of them, not all, who should be cast into prison. Only those who were best able to bear it and might expect to be visited and comforted. Secondly, They were not to be perpetual, but for a set time, and a short time: Ten days. It would not be everlasting tribulation, the time should be shortened for the elect’s sake. Thirdly, It should be to try them, not to destroy them. It would be that their faith, and patience, and courage, might be proved and improved. That they be found to honour and glory.
He promised a glorious reward to their fidelity: Be faithful to death, and I will give thee a crown of life. First, There is a sureness of the reward: I will give thee. He who has said it is able to do it; and He has undertaken that He will do it. They shall have the reward from His own hand. None of their enemies shall be able to wrestle it out of His hand, or to pull it from their heads.
A much better life to come
Secondly, The suitableness of it. A crown, to reward their poverty, their fidelity, and their conflict. A crown of life, to reward those who are faithful even unto death. Those who are faithful till they die, and who part with life itself in fidelity to Christ. The life so worn out in His service, or laid down in His cause, shall be rewarded with a much better eternal life.
The conclusion of this message is a call to universal attention. That the whole world should hear what passes between Christ and His people. How He commends them, how He comforts them, how He reproves their failures, how He rewards their fidelity. It concerns all the inhabitants of the world to observe God’s dealings with His own people that all the world may learn instruction and wisdom.
The second death shall have no power
With a gracious promise to the conquering Christian: He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death, Rev. 2:11. There is not only a first, but a second death, a death after the body is dead. This second death is unspeakably worse than the first death. Both in the dying pangs and agonies of it and in the duration; it is eternal death, to be always dying. This is hurtful indeed, fatally hurtful, to all who fall under it.
From this hurtful, this destructive death, Christ will save all His faithful servants. The second death shall have no power over those who are partakers of the first resurrection. The first death shall not hurt them, and the second death shall have no power over them.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Remember that it is but a little scantling of time that is allowed to us in this world
Christ ever lives to make intercession for us
Christ has a perfect awareness of all the works of men
Spiritual riches are the reward of great diligence
When God’s people are impoverished in temporals, He makes all up to them in spiritual riches
Those who will be faithful to Christ must expect to go through many tribulations; but Jesus Christ takes particular notice of all their troubles
Those who are troubled rest with Himself
God foreknows the future trials of His people, and forewarns and forearms them against them
The people of God must look for a series and succession of troubles in this world
His counsel: Fear none of these things
Christ encourages us to be faithful to death, and He will give us a crown of life
The life so worn out in His service, or laid down in His cause, shall be rewarded with a much better eternal life
Christ commends His people, He comforts them, He reproves their failures and He rewards their fidelity
He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death
The first death shall not hurt them, and the second death shall have no power over them.
The Message to Smyrna I know your troubles That you are poor But really you are rich For you can open Heaven’s door. I know the evil things said against you By those who claim to be Jews. They say they are the children of God But they oppose the good news. They support the cause of Satan But you, stop being afraid Of what you are about to suffer There’s no cause for you to be dismayed. The devil may have some of you thrown into prison Yes, you will be put to the test But your troubles will only last for a short time So in My strength rest. Even if it means death Be faithful to Me And I will give you life As your prize of victory. By the late Andrew Feakin [passed away 16th March 2019]
Prayer: Father, I come to You. Help me remember how little time we have here on earth. Thank You that Christ makes intercession for me. Thank You that I am rich in spirit. You alone know the trials I am to face in the future, thank You that You forewarn and forearm us. May I be faithful until the day of my passing from this world. May I be willing to be worn out in Your service and lay down my life for Your glory. Amen.
To the Persecuted church!
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