General idea: Smyrna is a Greek word for myrrh, a bitter herb used both as an anointing oil and for embalming, and was one of the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus as a young child (Ex. 30:23; Esth. 2:12; Psalm 45:8; Prov. 7:17; Matt. 2:11; John 19:39). The churches of
John is grabbing their attention by reminding them (and us) who Christ is and what He has done. He is not just a Savior and/or best Friend; He gives us life, holds our lives, and will judge our lives. He is the One who overcame life and death for our benefit, and when we seek to run His church our way, we embarrass and dishonor Him and His Way. Jesus lived life in purity and sinlessness for our benefit, to enable us to have eternal life and partake in His fellowship. He knows us more intimately that we can imagine and desires that we be in Him and glorify Him fully. Yet, we tend to fill His call with the void of our stubbornness, recklessness, and selfishness. Yet, He is there, guiding us with a beacon that says I know your pain, I felt your pain, I have experienced your pain and I feel your pain now, too. He has taken our pain away. The tribulations we face are not the things that can derail us from Him; rather, they can form us more in Him in maturity and character.
Vs. 8-10: These letters to the seven churches echo the good, the bad, and the ugly in all churches. They are styled similarly to O.T. Prophets and their oracles against the corrupt and the call to repentance, as in "let's get it right" (Isa. 13-23; Jer. 46-51; Ezek. 25-32; Amos 2-4). Jesus directly challenges them, and us, in how we operate our church, what we doing right, where we are straying, what is heinous about us, and what we can do to get back on track. Christ is here, caring, and is present in our church! He is passionately concerned with what we do and how we do it, and wants to be intimately involved (Matt. ; ; 2 Tim. ; 1 John 4:1).
· Church means a body of believers who come together for worship, instructions, and to serve. This does not refer to a building. Many churches have many different types of people, liturgies, and government. Many are not always true Christians or have God's interests at heart; rather, they are driven by personal agendas or trends that are contrary to the precepts of our Lord. Jesus is attacking our placing personal agendas and power struggles over His lead!
· I know your afflictions. In times of suffering, we may think that Christ is absent, but He is not. He is fully with us!
· Poverty has two meanings: being physically poor and helpless, and being rich in faith (2 Cor. 8:6; James 1:9). It may, perhaps, mean the financial sufferings they were going through. It also refers to a hunger for righteousness and seeking the depths of God's love and virtue, and in so doing, being committed to continue allowing yourself to grow in maturity, to be transformed, and to be renewed. At the same time, it is not allowing personal circumstances to disrupt your faith (Matt. 5:3-6; Rom. 12:1-3; 2 Cor. 8:8-12; Phil. 2:5-9).
· Rich. John reminds them that they are rich when they are the elect/chosen in Him (Luke ; James 2:5). In contrast, the Laodicean church thought they were rich when they were actually poor, as bankrupted in faith (Rev. 3:17).
· Who say they are Jews. A public profession of faith or a genetic legacy must always be backed up with real, authentic faith and deeds (Rom. -29).
· Synagogue of Satan, meaning being apostate is referring to the local Synagogue and of Jews who were very antagonistic to the Christians as they refused to acknowledge Christ as the Messiah and who called the Christians a Synagogue of Satan. This does not refer to an actual Christian "church;" rather, it is a metaphor meaning to oppose Christ, as in refusing to heed the precepts of God's Word and call, and doing the opposite, which is one's own will and agenda. The
· Devil. Here, his name "diabolos" means accuser and slanderer (Zech 3:1; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7; John ; 2 Tim. ; Rev. 12:10).
· Prison refers to a place of detention until a trial or execution took place, much like a city jail today.
· Test you/testing...ten days refers to Daniel 1:12 and the trials he faced. This means our trails will be limited and temporary (Matt. -12; James 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:7; ). To say that this means ten waves of future persecutions or the ten emperors is a stretch, and does not take into account O.T. understandings.
· Persecution refers to the many Christians who were martyred for their faith.
· Faithful. Ironically, the city of
· Crown of life is not an actual crown. Rather, it represents our victory, a symbol of eternal life, and our reward in Christ for our faithfulness (Psalm 103:4; James 1:12; Rev. 3:11; 4:4, 10; 6:2; 9:7; 12:1-3; 13:1; 14:14; 19:12). The physical layout of the city of
Vs. 11: The perspective in each of these letters is not just about future happenings. Revelation is also a practical guidebook on how to run a successful church and how to avoid the potholes that make a bad church. Each of these seven churches had characteristics that are a template to any church you can worship in today. These churches were real "alive" and "dead" churches that yours, in its vision and operation, are a footprint thereof. So, which one is yours? Which one are you called to be among today?
· He who has an ear. God means what He says (Ezek. 33:30-32; James -27; 2 Pet. 1: 3-11)! This also means that God fulfills His promises. Do you take His Word seriously, learning and applying it? If not, why not?
· The churches refers to the Seven Churches real, actual churches with tangible problems. The phrase is also a representation of all churches that have ever existed.
· Second death. The first death means when we physically die and then go into eternity for rewards and to wait for the resurrection and the everlasting life. This second death means that those who fail to accept Christ will also be resurrected, only to die again in the "lake of fire." Some Jews, like the Sadducees, believed this was annihilation (John -29; Rev. 19:20; -15).
The troubles we face can cause us to fear so we seek to cover them up with our pride and/or bitterness. We try to go it alone when Christ is beckoning us to trust in Him, go His Way, and give our fears to Him. When we refuse to heed His call, it will just be a short time until we are thrown away, given to the devil, since we are working for him anyway. Ironically, our sufferings are far less of a venture and sentence than our poor choices. When we work our lives and church with our corrupt personal power we are in fact abandoning His power and Fruit. Consider this: when we are independent from Christ in our personal lives and in running our churches, we are forsaking and opposing Him. Thus, it is not that much of a stretch or even a job relocation to be a
When we go through the troubles of life, we can either take shelter in Him or seek to go it alone in our fears and pride. When we seek to do His church on our own, we turn it into a church of evil, as diametrically opposed to Christ, as Satan is opposed to Him. We may not be worshipping Satan, but when we run the church by our ways and agendas, we are, in fact, worshipping Satan, because Christ is not only ignored, He is being opposed! Smyrna was a church where people's agendas were in opposition to Christ's. They had sufferings to overcome and learn from, but most chose to run the course their way and tarnish His Way.
The Essential Inductive Questions (for more Inductive questions see Inductive Bible Study):
- What does this passage say?
- What does this passage mean?
- What is God telling me?
- How am I encouraged and strengthened?
- Is there sin in my life for which confession and repentance is needed?
- How can I be changed, so I can learn and grow?
- What is in the way of these precepts affecting me? What is in the way of my listening to God?
- How does this apply to me? What will I do about it?
- What can I model and teach?
- What does God want me to share with someone?
1. If someone slanders you, what do you do? What should you do? How can you better realize the fact that our trials will be limited and temporary?
2. Why is
3. Jesus is passionately concerned with how and what we do in our churches, and wants to be intimately involved. So, how is He involved in your church? What can be done to invite Him further into your church?
4. Why is it that when we seek to run "His" church "our" way, we embarrass and dishonor Him and His Way? Why do we do it? How do our stubbornness, recklessness, and selfishness contribute to a church's dysfunction? What would Jesus say to such a church?
5. How does the fact that Jesus knows your pain and feels your pain help you persevere in times of trials and confusion?
6. How do you demonstrate faithfulness? When we suffer, we may think that Christ is absent, but He is not. He is with us fully. How does this fact strengthen your faithfulness?
7. If this was your church, what could be done to make sure it did not die but be revived to its formerly healthy and vibrant ways?
8. An aspect of maturity is being slow to respond to accusation-as our Lord did. How does knowing that Christ, the Creator and Lord of the universe, approves you help you cope with "feeble mortals" telling you dishonorable things?
9. They were once a vibrant, healthy church that was now starting to die. The application is that a dead or dying church with faithful, Christ-empowered people can be resurrected. How can this give you hope for your church?
10. The question we have to ask ourselves is, are we operating to the opposite tune that Jesus commands as this Synagogue and the
11. How can the fact that Jesus knows us more intimately that we can imagine, and desires us to be in Him strengthen your faithfulness? What can you do to grow in this area and to glorify Him more fully?
12. What causes a Christian to become belligerent against Christ and a church to turn on one another, forsaking their call and duty? How does this ruin a church? How can such a church be turned around?
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4