Summary of passage: John’s letter to the church in Smyrna says Jesus knows their afflictions and poverty and knows of the false prophets. He says they will suffer but encourages them to be faithful and they will earn the crown of life (eternal life).
11) Part personal Question. My answer: “Him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.” Jesus was, is, and will always be. What is important about Jesus is just that: he has always existed and he died for us. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
12a) Jesus knows their afflictions, their poverty, those who are of the synagogue of Satan, and he knows of their future sufferings and persecutions.
b) Poverty is just a state of being here on earth. What matters is after death and if you have Jesus, you have all the wealth in the world. Jesus made himself poor (by being human and sacrificing himself) so that we all may be rich in heaven.
Conclusions: Emphasis on Jesus’ character and persevering in this world. Great reminder for all of us as we trudge through our days.
End Notes: Very, very similar to the letter to the Church in Ephesus. Smyrna was a very wealthy city similar to Ephesus. It was a great trade city and lay at the end of the river Hermus and was a port city. It was big and beautiful and known for its trade in wine.
Smyrna had multiple temples to the Roman gods but eventually the people began to worship the Roman emperor. Smyrna built the first temple to the goddess of Rome in 196 BC and was the first city to build a temple to a Roman emperor in 23 AD. It was the Roman emperor Domitian who first demanded to be worshipped as a god. It was also probably him who banished John to Patmos.
Christians refused to worship the emperor; hence, the persecution Jesus is speaking of here. All they had to do was burn incense and say “Caesar is Lord” once a year and be upon their merry way. They refused and faced death. How many of us would?
Smyrna comes from the word myrrh–the same gift to Jesus at his birth and the perfume used to cover the smell of dead bodies.
Jesus again echoes his appearance to John in these words he chooses to identify himself with.
Just like in Ephesus, Jesus knows their works and their hardships. One form of persecution is economic and Christians lost their jobs and livelihoods for their belief. The word “poor” here in the Greek means abject poverty. They were dirt, dirt poor.
History tells us there was a large Jewish population here hostile to Christians. Paul wrote thus they were not considered Jews in Romans 2:28-9, thus were labeled “a synagogue of Satan.”
Jesus tells them they are rich. Rich in their eyes. Often we don’t see this either. All that really matters is how Jesus sees us.
We will see in Revelation 3 how the Laodiceans were rich but poor.
Jesus tells them to not be afraid; the devil (in the Greek the word is diabolos meaning accuser or adversary) will test them but only for 10 days. God will limit their trials. Prison in ancient times was a holding place for death. Not like it is today.
Scholars will debate the number 10 here. Was it literally 10 days or was it 10 years or was it 10 emperors? The Greek word for 10 days was not literal and an expression of speech–it meant a short period of time. The important thing here is that the persecution was limited by God.
Note: Daniel was tested for 10 days as we’ll read in Lesson 8 Day 2.
God purpose was to test, to purify, to make His people more like Jesus. This would prove how rich they were. Out of the seven cities, this is the only city still in existence today (now called Izmir in Turkey).
We can be tested today and have a heart and live a martyr’s life. Sadly, many Christians don’t.
MAJOR DIFFERENCE FROM EPHESUS: There is no corrections here. No rebukes. Only encouragements and praise. Smyrna is the first of just two churches (the other being the church of Philadelphia Rev 3:7) Jesus has only words of praise.
The Greek word for crown here means the one given to an athlete (not one a king wears). Winners. The crown of life.
The second death is hell or lake of fire (Rev 20:14).
This letter is about persevering through persecution. In the Western world, we are not persecuted as the first century Christians were. Still, in other places in the world, Christians do face life or death over their faith in Christ. It is estimated more Christians died in twentieth century for their faith than any other time frame. Pray for an end to persecution.
Other interesting links: Brief history of Smyrna with photos HERE
Great explanation of Jesus’ message to Smyrna HERE