The Revelation Given to John by Jesus Through the Angel
Smyrna is a port on the west coast of Asia Minor. The church was spiritual and the city has survived through the ages. Smyrna was a great trading city, and a religious seat. The first temple in Rome was erected there. It was a city with political heritage and clout. Culture was its vanguard. It had libraries, stadium, music, theater, etc. the city was also the home of man influential Jews. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, was burnt alive there for refusing to say, “Caesar is Lord.”[i]
Dr. David Jeremiah[iv]says, “Living in a country where we are not tortured or killed for our faith in Jesus, it seems remote that we might be called upon to be martyrs. However, martyrdom is not just a torturing death. What if we lose our jobs because we are Christians? What if our children are taunted because they believe in Jesus Christ? Suffering takes many forms.”
Before we go on to see what Yeshua has to say to the assemblies at Smyrna, we must take a moment to contemplate again the fact that Yeshua was dead and is alive. He is alive for all eternity; he has conquered death and the grave and we can shout jubilantly with Job, “I know that my redeemer lives and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though, after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see god, whom I shall see for myself and my eyes shall behold him even after my control has been consumed within me.”[v]
Now listen to the words of the living Redeemer.
I know your works and tribulation and poverty, but you are not poor; you are rich. I know the perversion of those who declare themselves to be Jews and are not; they belong to the synagogue of Satan[vi].”
There is nothing hidden from the all-seeing eyes of Yeshua; he knows our works and the motives behind the works. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He knew the Smyrna Christians labored to enter into his rest through the powerful word of God. He knew they were and we are rich with an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled; an inheritance that does not fade away and is reserved in heaven for us, kept there by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed at the last time. They, and we, are rich is faith that is being tried by fire but will come forth in praise and honor and glory when Yeshua appears.
Yeshua understands that one of the things that were a sore hardship to the assemblies in Smyrna was the legalistic Jews without faith who spoke evil of the believers and the way that leads to eternal life. It is hard to spread the truth when there is a group with perceived authority, with many years of tradition behind them, who argues with the weight of their predecessors behind them[vii].
“And unto the angel of the Church of Smyrna write: I, who speak to you, am the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive…”
The first part of each of his messages to the congregations is an introduction to, or a reminder of, a different part of his character. We can well imagine the assembled believers of Smyrna eagerly waiting the reading of this special letter to them from the Mashiach, who most of them had never seen, delivered by an old man and sent by an angel.
As they held their breath listening to the first words of the message, they must have been struck with the same wonder that filled Martha’s heart as she listened to him say, “I AM the resurrection and the life…” They must have paused and meditated on this glorious truth, before going on to the rest of the message, with tears of joy in their eyes and surrender in their hearts. They would have remembered that their identity with Yeshua in his death, burial, and resurrection was dependent on his resurrection power. Identifying with him through faith immersed them in his death and burial, and they lived in eternal life, free from the bondage of sin and death[viii].
It is because he is the resurrection and the life that the believers at Smyrna and all that came after them down through the ages have the blessed hope that looks forward to the call of the last trumpet, when these bodies of corruption – where we live our time on earth – will be changed in the twinkling of an eye and become incorruptible for infinity. Because he lies, we can live through all eternity in boundless joy even through the hardest trials of this earthly sojourn.
He is the first and the last, the one who watches while we sleep, and even goes into the grave with our mortal bodies to comfort and support. He will not leave us alone through pain or poverty while we are on this earth; and therein rests our wealth, along with the Christians of Smyrna.
To be continued
[ii] Revelation 2:9
[iii] Revelation 2:10
[iv] Escape the coming Night
[v] Job 12:25-27
[vi] Revelation 2:9
[vii] Romans 11:7-10
[viii] Romans 6:3-9