Revelation 2 Part 2
The Persecuted Church Rev. 2:8-11
The compromising Church Rev. 2:12-17
Last time we saw that the church at Ephesus had lost their first love, their love for Jesus. We learned that if there was ever a time you loved Jesus more than you do at this moment, you’ve backslidden. We found that the solution in Rev. 2:5 is this: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works:” Start over and do the things you did when you were first saved. Remember the early church went astray, not because of doctrine, but because of their personal relationship, or lack, thereof, with Jesus.
Now, let us look at the church in Smyrna.
Rev 2:8 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.
9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan.
10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
The first thing we notice about Smyrna is that this letter does not mention a single fault. This letter was written to people under intense pressure. Jesus commends them for their faithful service despite great persecution and poverty. Only one other church received no rebuke and that was Philadelphia. Interestingly, they are the only two who have had a continuous existence. Smyrna still exists today and is now called Izmir, located in Turkey. There is still a group of Christians there, under cover as persecution exists even today in modern Turkey, The word, “Smyrna” means suffering. Emperor worship was required in the early days of the church there. Christians who refused to obey the emperor’s decree were considered traitors against the government. Tortured, killed in horrible ways. It is hard for us to imagine, living in a country where we are not tortured or killed for our faith in Jesus but, martyrdom is not just a torturing death. What if we lost our jobs because we are Christians? What if our children are taunted because they believe in Jesus? Suffering and martyrdom take many forms. By the way, this is happening in many of ours schools today. Even in grade schools many of our Christian children are not allowed to mention the name of Jesus. That is true persecution.
Then Jesus said, “I know what you are going through, I understand”. 2:9 This same Jesus that had been slandered, falsely accused, whipped, brutally beaten, hung on a Roman cross said, “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich”. The Lord’s values are different from those of the world.
Jesus offered two solutions to this suffering family of Christians in verse 10. 1. was be fearless. Just as David had written in Psalm 23 “Yea tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”. 2. Be faithful, even to the point of death. Are we, on the human level, capable of such a sacrifice?
Then Jesus promised them that They would never have to face the 2nd death. What is the 2nd death? (spiritual death)
In verse 10, we see 10 days mentioned. This is a reference to the 10 Caesars who would persecute the church during corresponding periods of time in church history. It can also represent an unspecified period of time. This church represents the martyred church, the period of A.D. 100-312.
Christians throughout time have been persecuted for their faith. Some of us today may be called upon to suffer in our own lifetime. Just recently in our government there are some leaders that have demanded the churches be closed and Christian pastors jailed for holding services during this Covid-19 pandemic. Some pastors have been heavily fined for opening the church doors on Sunday. What about your church? How would your members react under threat of prison or even death or persecution? Who they obey, God or Satan?
Read the letter to Pergamum, vv 12-17
12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
Pergamum was called “Satan’s City yet it was a cultural center, famous for its library. Deeply involved in worship of the god of healing. Temples of Asclepius were like hospitals. Emblem of Asclepius was the coiled snake on a pole. (The same insignia of the medical profession of today!!) Where have we heard this before? What about Moses and the Israelites in the desert when they were bitten by snakes? Then, the serpent on the pole was symbolic of the crucifixion. Here in the emblem of Asclepius, Satan has taken a symbol of Christ and perverted it. Quite common occurrence for Satan! I am certain that most Doctors today do not realize that their symbol from Satan’s city. In the face of all of this, Jesus commended them for continuing to boldly proclaim Him. He recognized that they were being persecuted and tempted.
However, Jesus said He has something against them in vv 14-15
14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.
15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
“Who, Us? What have we done?”
They had become compromisers. They were allowing evil teachings in their church. Worldly standards had crept into their fellowship.
How would a modern-day church be guilty of this? When those who call themselves Christians commit adultery, cheat in business, or lower their moral standards to suit the situation. Or how about supporting abortions. Yet all the while, being allowed to teach a Sunday School class, sing in the choir, hold church offices. Do we practice church discipline, today? Why? Or Why not?
Jesus warned them of all those who teach and practice this kind of thing. V17. He promised them “Hidden manna: - the nourishment needed for spiritual health. What is our nourishment that makes us spiritually healthy? The Word of God. The White and Black stones signified the verdicts of the courts. Black stones meant guilty. White stones meant innocent. A Christian is innocent in the sight of God because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. The verdict is not guilty.
This church represents the church during the years A.D.312 – 590. The church impure alliance with the Roman Empire. Forced Christianity. When Emperor Constantine came into power, he bargained with Satan to join the church and declare himself a Christian. He declared that Christianity would be the religion of the state. The choice was baptism or death.
This was the birth of Roman Catholicism.
Next week, precious ones. See you then.