Revelation 2:8-11 – The Church in Smyrna

by | Updated August 2nd, 2021

Smyrna was a coastal city of great wealth. It was located approximately forty miles north of Ephesus. Unger says it had a population of approximately 200,000, one-third of whom were Christian. It was a city known for its wickedness and opposition to the gospel. Unlike Ephesus Smyrna still exits today. The modern name of the city is Izmir.

Smyrna was noted as a city of strong of emperor worship. In 195 BC a temple to the goddess of Rome was constructed and in AD 26 a temple to Tiberius also. These and others were built upon an acropolis which produced a dynamic visual effect and popularly described by the phrase “The Crown of Smyrna.”

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Revelation 2:8-11 – The Church in Smyrna

“And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”

Jesus’ Description of Himself

“These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive” (Revelation 2:8). Our Lord is taking a description of Himself out of chapter one having great relevance to the church He’s addressing. It’s also relevant to the church throughout the ages and particularly to the church of our day.

Revelation 1:17-18 – “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”

  1. The first and the last. This refers to Jesus’ eternal existence and His divinity (Micah 5:2, John 8:56-58). He’s saying that though I am very God I know and understand all you’re going through. I also was persecuted unto death.

    Hebrews 4:14-15 – “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

  2. True life springs forth out of death. Literally, “Who became dead and was made alive.” Without death there can be no life in the Spirit. It’s when we die to self and are crucified with Him that true life in the Spirit ensues. His crucifixion, death, and resurrection sets forth this as an example for us.

    1 Corinthians 15:3-4 – “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”

    1 Corinthians 15:20 – “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept.”

    John 14:19 – “Yet a little while, and the world seeth Me no more; but ye see Me: because I live, ye shall live also.”

    Philippians 2:6-11 – “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

    John 12:24-25 – “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”

    Luke 9:23 – “And He said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”

    Matthew 16:25 – “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.”

Jesus Knows Four Things Concerning the Church of Smyrna

“I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9). “I know” refers to His omniscience. Jesus, as God, the second person in the Godhead, is all knowing. There’s nothing that is hidden from Him.

Hebrews 4:13 – “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

Jeremiah 23:24 – “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.”

  1. Their works. They, in spite of their tribulation, were continuing to labor for Christ. Jesus makes it clear that He takes notice of it and He will not forget their steadfast labor for the kingdom of God. He, likewise, knows your work for Him. It doesn’t go unnoticed by our Lord. There’s a reward awaiting those who set their hand to the plow not looking back (Luke 9:62).

    Hebrews 6:10 – “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”

    1 Corinthians 15:58 – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

  2. Their tribulation. He knew all they were going through and likewise knows all you’re going through. All followers of Christ will go through times of tribulation. None are exempt! The church throughout history has gone through intense times of tribulation. It gets me why we think we won’t go through tribulation. I hope and pray we’ll be raptured out before the great tribulation period but we need to be prepared just in case we’re wrong.

    1 Peter 4:12-13 – “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

    John 16:33 – “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

    Acts 14:22 – “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”

    The fruit of trouble in the life of the believer:

    1. Works character in our life (Romans 5:3-5; Romans 8:28-29; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 5:10).
    2. To experience His power, anointing, and glory upon our life (2 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Peter 4:14).
    3. Discipline and corrective act of God (1 Corinthians 11:30-32; Hebrews 12:3-13).
    4. Cultivates a more intimate relationship with Jesus (Philippians 3:10).
    5. Tests us to reveal our heart and faith (Genesis 22:1). Reveals our heart and brings things to the surface that must be dealt with. God never tempts us to sin but test us for our good.
    6. It brings forth a sweet aroma unto God and the world. Smyrna – myrrh an aromatic substance that comes from a thorny tree but must be crushed to yield its perfume and fragrance. This a picture of Christ, His church, and individual believers. This speaks of the church throughout the ages but especially the second and third centuries.

      The persecution of the Roman government was as the crushing of myrrh. Similar to alabaster jar of perfume that Mary broke and anointed Jesus’ feet with and the house was filled with its fragrance (John 12:1-3). We too must be broken and crushed before the aroma of the gospel is manifest to the world. At no time in the history of the church was such a fragrance of loyalty and faithfulness to Christ exhibited to the world.

      2 Corinthians 2:14 – “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place.”

  3. Their poverty. Their poverty may very well have been in part their tribulation along with persecution. They may have exploited them by the fact they had been robbed in the process of their persecution. It’s interesting the contrast between Smyrna and the Laodicean church.

    To Smyrna He says, “I know thy… poverty, but thou art rich” (Revelation 2:9a). To the Laodicean church He says, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

    James 1:9-11 – “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”

    2 Corinthians 6:10 – “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”

  4. Their false profession. “I know… the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9b). There’s often those who profess to know the Lord but do they really? Spiritually speaking, those who are truly Jewish are those who have had a spiritual experience through the new birth. These claimed to know the Lord through a mere outward display of religiosity and keeping the law but their hearts are far from Him.

    Romans 2:28-29 – “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”

    There are those who claim and appear to know Jesus by mere outward appearance (Matthew 6:1-8). They even seem to be being used of God through the gifts and display of the Spirit and a social gospel by helping the needy etc. but do they really know Him? A study of 1 John is interesting. He deals specifically with false professions. Look up all the phrases such as “If a man says” or “He that says.” It’s easy to talk a good talk.

    Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.”

Fear Not

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer” (Revelation 2:10a). Throughout scripture we’re exhorted not to be afraid. No matter what we may be going through or facing we need not fear if we’re serving the Lord. He will take care of us.

Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Hebrews 13:6 – “So that we may boldly (confidently) say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”

1 John 4:18 – “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

Philippians 1:28 – “In nothing terrified (alarmed) by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition (sign of destruction), but to you of salvation, and that of God.”

Romans 8:31 – “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Your Trouble Will be Limited

“Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days” (Revelation 2:10b).There’s a duration to your trial and testing. It won’t last forever. It will come to an end. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. You’re going to make it. You’ll come out on the other side victoriously. Victory will be yours.

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

1 Peter 1:6-7 – “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

Tribulation ten days: Three possible interpretations

  1. Ten literal days.
  2. Ten years of persecution under Diocletian.
  3. Ten periods of persecution. There were ten periods of persecution in which great numbers of Christians were imprisoned, tortured, and slain for their faith.
    1. Nero 54 AD
    2. Domitian 81 AD
    3. Trajan 98 AD
    4. Adrian 117 AD
    5. Septimius 193 AD
    6. Maximus 235 AD
    7. Decius 249 AD
    8. Valerian 254 AD
    9. Aurelian 270 AD
    10. Diocletian 284 AD

The Promise and Challenge

“Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10c). There’s a reward promised to God’s faithful servants. The Judgment Seat of Christ is for believers only (Romans 14:10-12, 1 Corinthians 3:9-15, 2 Corinthians 5:10-11). We will not be judged as to our eternal destiny that was settled at the cross. This is where reward will be handed out. Some will receive reward while others will be saved yet so as by fire.

Five Crowns given as reward:

  1. The incorruptible crown (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
  2. The crown of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
  3. The crown of Righteousness (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
  4. The crown of glory (1 Peter 5:1-4).
  5. The crown of life (James 1:12).

Faithfulness is required! “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). There’s a special reward for those who faithfully endure times of trial and testing. Job was one such man as well as a myriad of others through history. Job, in the midst of his trouble cried, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15).

James 5:10-11 – “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”

According to Ignatius, Polycarp assumed the office of bishop here at Smyrna. When asked to recant his faith he said, “Four score and seven years have I served the Lord and He never wronged me: How then can I blaspheme my King and Savoir?”

What about us? Would we be faithful unto death? What if we were pressed to deny Him? What would we do? This is a major key to the overcoming life. Those in the midst of the tribulation period overcame the devil and Antichrist with a three-fold formula: 1. The blood of the Lamb, 2. The Word of their testimony, and 3. They loved not their lives unto death (Revelation 12:11).

A Call to Attentiveness

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 2:11a). It’s incumbent on us to listen up and give heed to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the churches. This was true of this church, all the seven churches, the church throughout the ages, and churches today. We must have an attentive ear and also obey all the Holy Spirit says.

Hebrews 3:7-8 – “Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear His voice, Harden not your hearts.”

Matthew 25:29 – “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”

John 7:17 – “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself.”

The Promise to Overcomers

“He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death” (Revelation 2:11b). There’s always a promise to overcomers. God has good things in-store for us. His promises are yea and amen (2 Corinthians 1:20). God is a promise maker and He keeps His promises. You can depend upon it. Every promise in the Word of God is yours. Claim them for yourself. “Standing on the promises of God our Savoir.”

  1. All true believers are overcomers. All true born-again believers are overcomers. That’s our destiny. No matter what you may be going through or what you’re facing God’s plan for you is overcoming victory. Keep trusting and obeying and don’t ever quit or give up. The devil knows that the only way he can win is by getting you to give up. If you refuse to quit you will overcome. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER QUIT!

    1 John 4:4 – “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

    1 John 5:4-5 – “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”

    Romans 8:37 – “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”

  2. Not hurt by the second death. Praise the Lord! As we continue to trust Jesus as our only hope of salvation we have the promise of escaping the fires of hell (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Jesus and the price He paid for us on Golgotha’s hill is the only means of escaping the judgment to come. Death and hell will one day be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death.

    Romans 5:9-10 – “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

    The second death is mentioned four times in Revelation:

    Revelation 2:11 – “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”

    Revelation 20:6 – “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power.”

    Revelation 20:14 – “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”

    Revelation 21:8 – “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

    It’s a hurtfull place. There’s nothing about hell and the second death that will be fun. It is a place of torment which lasts forever and ever. Many jokingly say, “I’m just going to be with all my friends and having a big party.” It will be no party. It’s a place of anguish.

    Mark 9:48 – “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”

    Luke 16:23 – “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torment.”

    Matthew 13:50 – “And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

    Matthew 23:33 – “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell.”

    Matthew 22:13 – “Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

    Matthew 25:41 – “Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”

    2 Thessalonians 1:9 – “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.”

    Revelation 14:11 – “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night.”

This is a place created for the devil and his angels. God never meant it for man but made provision for all mankind to escape this place of torment. Sadly, if you reject God’s provision this will be your lot. Jesus paid the penalty for your sins but you must accept Him as your Lord and Savoir. He is your only hope!

Sinner’s Prayer: (Repeat this prayer. If you mean it you will be saved.) Lord, I confess I’m a sinner. I believe Jesus died for my sins and rose again for my justification. I ask You to forgive me of my sins, cleanse me with Your precious blood, come into my heart, and help me to live for You from this day forth and forever. In Jesus name. Amen.

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