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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

March 26, 2014

Revelations 2:8:11

  1. Introduction. Smyrna was a city was under Roman control. It was a flourishing commercial city with two harbors. It was a wealthy city with fertile soil and excellent climate. Smyrna claims to have been the birthplace of the Greek poet Homer and the primary home of Aelius Aristides the distinguished rhetorician and writer. Aristides said: “Smyrna city was a flower of beauty, such as earth and sun had never showed to mankind.” Many Olympian Games were celebrated in Smyrna. Winners in the games received a crown. The “Crown” was what ancient writers referred to the ‘Crown of Smyrna.” A crown or garland was usually a circlet of flowers or vines. Smyrna was also famous throughout the Roman world for its wealth, science, and medicine. Smyrna has been called “The fairest city”, “The crown of Ioni”, “The lovely” and “The ornament of Asia.” It was also known for its beautiful architecture. The city had beautiful, well-paved, colonnades-lined streets. One street was called the “Street of Gold.” The city had many public attractions such as a public library, a theater that would seat 20,000 people, a grain market, the most magnificent gymnasium in Asia Minor, the Temple of Zeus, and the Temple to Nemesis. In 195 B.C., Smyrna was the first city in Asia Minor to erect a temple for the cult of Rome. Smyrna was the center for the worship of Dionysus (the god of wine). During the reign of Emperor Domitian (81-96 A.D.), refusal to worship the image of the Roman emperor as lord was punishable by death. The Church at Smyrna mentioned only in Revelation 1:11 and Revelation 2:8-11 was known as the suffering church due to the severe persecution it suffered at the hands of the Roman government. This church is the second Church of the seven churches in the book of revelations. Out of the seven churches this church is only one of two that does not get a rebuke from the Lord. This church doesn’t get a word of correction. This church only gets words of encouragement and strength. The letter to Smyrna also has death as a recurring theme. Death is directly mentioned three times in these four verses, and the name Smyrna contains a probable fourth reference as well. Jesus Christ refers to His own death, points to their death as a finish line, and also mentions the second death. While He is not warning that their deaths are imminent, these references combine to produce a sober message.

  2. Verse 8. The letter follows the usual pattern of the other letters with the first part being the identification of the receiver of the letter. The letter is written to the angel, or messenger to the church. We have already addressed this and we know this means to the messenger or leader of the church who would share the contents of the letter to the rest of the congregation. The letter is for the church in Smyrna. The name Smyrna is very important for us in this text. Smyrna means "myrrh," a highly valued spice. Myrrh was a material that was used in everything from medicines to perfume to embalming. Myrrh was retrieved from the trees by either cutting the bark or crushing the leaves. When the leaves were crushed the myrrh would be extracted. The myrrh was valuable, but the leaves had to be crushed to get the Myrrh. Myrrh was worth more than gold in ancient times because of its uses. Many of its uses in Scripture fit with what we know of the church at Smyrna. For example, myrrh was a primary ingredient in the holy anointing oil that God commanded Moses to make (Exodus 30:22-33), which was used to consecrate the Tabernacle, the Ark, two of the altars, all of the utensils, as well as Aaron and his sons. Myrrh was a material that was used in everything from medicines to perfume to embalming. Myrrh was worth more than gold in ancient times because of its uses. The name myrrh means bitter. Myrrh was bitter to the taste, but smelled sweet when it was burned. It didn’t taste all that good, but it smelled so good when burned and it was used to cover the smell of a dead person. Myrrh could make a dead person smell sweet. Myrrh didn’t cure death. But it made it more tolerable.

  3. Verse 8 cont. Jesus encourages the church by sharing that he is “the first and the last.” Jesus wants the church to know he has the first say and the last say on what happens to them. Here in Revelation, this title refers to Jesus’ eternal existence. He is the One who creates and consummates history. He is timeless. He has the first say and the last say. He is the first chapter and he will be the last chapter. Just because some chapters in the middle include some pain and suffering does not meant that is how it is going to end. We know time does not end with suffering. It ends with Him. This reality would have encouraged the church in Smyrna to bear up under suffering. Jesus was letting them know that your situation might start off bad, but God can turn the bitter into something sweet. Jesus tells the church in Smyrna that he always writes the last chapter. Jesus goes on to say that he is the one who died and came to life again. Jesus encourages the people the he is the one who rewrite final chapters. The devil tried to write the final chapter for his life by hanging him on a cross, but Jesus rewrote that chapter and came back to life.

  4. Verse 9. Smyrna was a wealthy city, but the members of the church were poor because of persecution. Jesus tells the church that he knows that they are poor, he knows about their troubles. He knows their poverty and he knows their persecutions and afflictions. I get excited about the fact that he knows what I am going through. He tells them a secret about the kingdom of God. He tells them, that in the kingdom of God, they are really rich. In the world’s eyes they are poor and weak, but in the eyes of God they are rich. Jesus lets them know that in the economy of the kingdom they are really balling and shoot calling. They are rich in God’s eyes. In-spite of their eternal riches, they will have to face some persecution from people who tried to appear spiritual and godly, but in reality were really agents of Satan. Jesus calls them Jews who are really of the synagogue of Satan. Most likely this was a group of Jews who persecuted the church under the guise of doing God’s work. They persecuted them mainly by slander and disenfranchisement. They simply spoke evil about them and hindered their prosperity.

  5. Verse 10. Jesus tells the church to not fear this light and momentary affliction because it will only be temporary. Jesus will have the last say in the matter of their persecution. They will endure hardships of prison and many will face death, but Jesus admonishes them to stay faithful to his word. For the faithful he uses imagery from the Olympic Games and reminds them of a crown they would receive for being victorious. Their crown would not be made of perishable gold, but it would be an imperishable reward.

  6. Verses 11. Jesus ends with a common ending for the readers to heed his word. The result of trusting in him would mean that the person would not have to suffer in the second death which will be mention later in Revelation 20.

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