Sunday, February 3, 2013

To the Church at Smyrna

And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: 
“I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death. 2:8-11

2. The Church in Smyrna  (AD 100-313)

Easton Bible Dictionary indicates that the name Smyrna comes from the word myrrh.  Myrrh was one of the gifts brought to Jesus at His birth.  The city of Smyrna is about 40 miles north of Ephesus and now has a population of about 200,000 and about 33% of them are said to be Christian.

   The one that is speaking to the church in Smyrna calls Himself the first and the last, many scholars insist that this statement indicates a reference to age.  If Christ is the first, of course, He is eternal and therefore God Almighty.  

Why insist that this statement has any reference to time?  Paul puts a very meaningful slant to Christ being the first and the last.  And he is the head of the body, the congregation.  He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that he might become the one who is first in all things. Col. 1:18 NW

  Alpha and Omega: The description that was applied to God the "Almighty" in 
2:8 is here applied to Christ, showing that Christ is God. The King James Version Bible Study.  What that Bible study does not mention is that only very few translations, mostly the offshoots of King James versions of the Bible, include these words I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last in verse 1:11.  So there is no argument from these words that Christ is divine!

   The idol Dionysus at Smyrna was believed to have been killed and come to life; in contrast to this lying fable is Christ's title, "the First and the Last, which was dead and is alive. Fausset's Bible Dictionary.  Christ says, v.10, I was dead and I came back to life, I will also bring you back to life and when I do you will never again face death.

     Christ has nothing negative to say to this church; He uses only words of praise!   Could it be that the Church was virtuous because that was a period of intense persecution?  Christians in North America have it so easy, and consequently, we are very lackadaisical in our stand for Christ.

Christ knows

   While speaking to this church, twice Christ says.  I know.   The hurting "church of martyrs" needed that encouragement. 

   1. I know that some of you will suffer imprisonment and that some of you will become martyrs, but stand true to your convictions and you will receive the crown of life.  As stated before, an average of approximately 160,000 Christians are being martyred every year.  It has also been calculated that more Christians have been martyred in the last one hundred years than in all the rest of the history of Christianity combined.

   2. I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Matthew Henry wrote, He knows the wickedness and the falsehood of their enemies: ... that is, of those who pretend to be the only peculiar covenant-people of God, as the Jews boasted themselves to be, even after God had rejected them; ... For the synagogues of Satan to give themselves out to be the church or Israel of God is no less than blasphemy. God is greatly dishonoured when his name is made use of to promote and patronize the interests of Satan; and he has a high resentment of this blasphemy, and will take a just revenge on those who persist in it.

    You will have tribulation ten days.  Yet history tells us that the church suffered persecution from 100-313 AD or 213 years!  How does this number equate with ten days?  Mr Smith** answers this way, Since a prophetic day stands for a literal year, the ten days would denote ten years … the last and most bloody of the ten great persecutions of the Christian Church continued just ten years from A.D. 303 to 313.   This was during the reign of the wicked Roman ruler, Diocletian. Constantine, a "supposed" Christian, became ruler in 313 AD and stopped persecution in all of Rome.

    He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.  Later on, in our studies, we will consider the idea that martyrs for Christ are the only people who will not be required to be present at the White Throne judgment.  By their death, they have proven their loyalty and that is the supreme test for a Christian!

** A Commentary of Daniel and the Revelation by Uriah Smith, Seventh Day Adventist.

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