January 2, 2004
A Message to Smyrna, Revelation 2:8-11
2:8 Kai. tw/| avgge,lw| th/j evkklhsi,aj Smurnai,wn gra,yon\ Ta,de le,gei o` prw/toj kai. o` e;scatoj o]j evge,neto nekro.j kai. e;zhsen\ 2:9 Oi=da, sou ta. e;rga kai. th.n qli/yin kai. th.n ptwcei,an plou,sioj de. ei= kai. th.n blasfhmi,an tw/n lego,ntwn VIoudai,ouj ei=nai e`autou,j kai. ouvk eivsi.n avlla. sunagwgh. tou/ Satana/ 2:10 mhde.n fobou/ a] me,lleij pa,scein ivdou. me,llei ba,lein evx u`mw/n o` dia,boloj eivj fulakh.n i[na peirasqh/te kai. e[xete qli/yin h`merw/n de,ka gi,nou pisto.j a;cri qana,tou kai. dw,sw soi to.n ste,fanon th/j zwh/j 2:11 o` e;cwn ou=j avkousa,tw ti, to. pneu/ma le,gei tai/j evkklhsi,aij o` nikw/n ouv mh. avdikhqh/| evk tou/ qana,tou tou/ deute,rou
Kai. tw/| avgge,lw| th/j evkklhsi,aj Smurnai,wn gra,yon\ Ta,de le,gei o` prw/toj kai. o` e;scatoj o]j evge,neto nekro.j kai. e;zhsen\
And to the angel of the church at Smyrna write: These things says the first and the last, who became dead and came back to life;
Once again, we have the familiar opening greeting, Ta,de le,gei followed by an Oi=da in verse 9. The relevance is significant as the Lord makes his declaration in the 3rd person singular. However, when we get to the pronouncement of what he knows, he is once again very personal.
Another familiar declaration is his reference to being the first and the last. We saw this in verse 1:17. There is, however, a slight twist as he elaborates. In verse 1:18, we are given a present participle. Christ is the living one. But here, we are given an aorist as we’re told that he came back to life. Christ is the living one. He lives from age unto age. He is truly eternal, whereas we each have a beginning. But Christ became both dead and alive to purchase our redemption. This may have also provided comfort to this church at Smyrna. Here they were about to go through tremendous trials. Yet if they were to be struck down in death, Christ could raise them again as he raised himself.
Oi=da, sou ta. e;rga kai. th.n qli/yin kai. th.n ptwcei,an plou,sioj de. ei= kai. th.n blasfhmi,an tw/n lego,ntwn VIoudai,ouj ei=nai e`autou,j kai. ouvk eivsi.n avlla. sunagwgh. tou/ Satana/
I have known you— the works, and the tribulation, and the extreme poverty— but you are rich— and the blasphemy of the ones calling themselves to be Jews, and are not, but a synagogue of Satan.
Unlike the church at Ephesis, the Lord has no negative comments concerning the church at Smryna. Instead, he comments on the incredible tribulation, which the church has gone through, and will continue to go through. While the church is financially in utter poverty, they are found to be rich in the kindgom of God.
Oi=da, (“I have known”). As stated before, God’s knowledge is very personal. But the use of the perfect tense, here, gives us an added sense of comfort. The Lord hasn’t just come to this knowledge that this church and its members have undergone persecution. He has always known, from the very first instance.
I know thy works, and thy tribulation, and thy poverty… and the blasphemy of the ones calling themselves Jews. This church could not be accused of forgetting the first works, as was the case with the last one. And they also endured persecution to the point of poverty. But the point I especially notice is that they didn’t just accept everyone and their false doctrine. They didn’t close their eyes to the truth. The Ephesians also examined whether people were true believers. But that’s all they really seemed to do. They needed to also do the first works. The members in Smyrna obeyed God’s law. They evangelized. The church was concerned about making disciples of new converts. And they were quick to notice those of false doctrine and those under strong delusion.
Confronting false believers isn’t a matter of fanaticism. It’s also not intended to cause division and strife. 1Corinthians 10 clearly shows us the example with the Jews. All of them were covered by a cloud during the day. And all passed through the Red Sea out of Egypt. And all were even baptized unto Moses. However, God was displeased with most of them. This doesn’t mean that he was just grieved with them. He struck them down and put them to death. They were given over to lusts and to murmurings and to following other gods. Calling these people bad believers is like calling a drug-dealing, professing-Christian backslid. It just doesn’t fit. The scriptures make it abundantly clear that one cannot serve two gods.
As was the case with the Jews, there are many who profess to be Christian and are not. The idea isn’t to search them out. They will reveal themselves in due time. Instead, we must continue in dilligence to the Word of God so that we can notice inconsistencies when they surface. This is our duty. And it’s the church’s responsibility to disciple believers well enough that they can also differentiate truth from falacy. The problem is that most churches are so concerned about numerical growth, as opposed to spiritual growth, that they’ll turn a blind eye to false doctrine. In fact, it’s very common for many churches to propogate false doctrine themselves. The church at Smyrna found such false professors to be a synagogue of Satan.
mhde.n fobou/ a] me,lleij pa,scein ivdou. me,llei ba,lein evx u`mw/n o` dia,boloj eivj fulakh.n i[na peirasqh/te kai. e[xete qli/yin h`merw/n de,ka gi,nou pisto.j a;cri qana,tou kai. dw,sw soi to.n ste,fanon th/j zwh/j
In no way fear those things which you are about to suffer. Look! The Devil is about to cast out from you into prison in order that you might be put to the test, and you will have tribulation ten days; become faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of the life.
The church is told that they are not to, under any circumstances, continue in fear. I have heard pastors preach that it is a sin for people to fear. But this is a present imperative, not an aorist imperative. But there is an emphasis placed here. mhde.n–under no circumstances! There must be a certain amount of anxiety that occurs in situations like the one this church was found in. At times, the various members probably also had fear, otherwise there wouldn’t be the need for this calming imperative. But they were not to become paralyzed by their fears.
ivdou.— Look!!! Here we have an aorist imperative. With all urgency, look and see. Look and see that the Devil is about to cast a bunch of you into prison. He will try you with that fate. He will try you with persecution and with torture, possibly even with death. Remain faithful (gi,nou pisto.j) even to that extent that you do in fact die. Those who remain faithful will in fact receive the crown of life.
o` e;cwn ou=j avkousa,tw ti, to. pneu/ma le,gei tai/j evkklhsi,aij o` nikw/n ouv mh. avdikhqh/| evk tou/ qana,tou tou/ deute,rou
The having an ear one, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches: the overcoming one may not, under any circumstance, be guilty of the second death.
It is a popular falacy to think that these letters were given to indivudal churches. In Chapter 1, John is told to record these words into a book. Here, we are told the purpose is that all the churches might read. There is no private encouragement, nor is there a private rebuke. All is made known that the member who is erring may be corrected. Sometimes people need to be corrected from their delusion that they might not face the second death. Of course this all works through the instrument of faith. But we already know that faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.
May we be much more intent on being fully consistent with God’s word that people may learn sound doctrine and turn from their false ways.
One other thing to note in this verse 11 is the use of the double negative (ouv mh.). This is an emphatic device to make certain the believer understands he is never going to face the second death. Glory to God!