Updated: May 13
What can we learn from them?
Each church usually has a commendation, a criticism, and a correction
To the Church in Smyrna –the persecuted church-under Satanic attack
Smyrna was a beautiful city with a temperate climate and was a loyal Roman colony. The church in Smyrna was probably founded by Paul between 53-56 AD). The church father Polycarp lived in Smyrna in those days and beyond but was martyred at the stake at age eighty six (in 155 AD). According to the story the flames would not touch him so they had to kill him with a sharp weapon. He died refusing to recant his faith in Jesus Christ.
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.
Jesus knows about life and death having experienced both. Jesus also knew all about their suffering church in Smyrna. Many were thrown out of their jobs for being Christian and lost their livelihoods. Their goods would be confiscated and they would be badly beaten. Jesus considered these faithful brothers and sisters as rich in the things of God. Many Jews were the first to be the accusers of the Christians who as such were more like Satan the chief accuser of the brethren than like the righteous Jews they ought to be as commanded by the Law. Jesus warns them about the intensifying of their suffering which is about to happen in which they will be imprisoned and after ten days they will be put to death for holding onto their faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus tells them to be faithful even though it costs them their lives.
11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Those who are victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
These saints in Smyrna were called to be bearers of the Gospel light. The first death may engulf them but they will never be affected by the second death where the devil and his angels will be cast into the everlasting lake of fire (Gehenna).
THE COMMENDATION & CRITICISM
Jesus’s commendation is highly significant because He has no major criticism!
Ephesians 2:9 says:
“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."
Jesus said He knew four things about the church in Smyrna:
1. Jesus knows their good works.
"I know your works:" That is the same phrase Jesus used when speaking to the church of Ephesus. The church in Smyrna likewise was working as unto the Lord, and Jesus recognized their ministry.
God knows your works today.
God sees. God knows. God will not overlook it.
2. Jesus knows their pain.
The Greek word can be translated: tribulation, affliction, trouble, anguish, persecution, burdens. We could probably add the word pain. Jesus is saying, “I know you look afflicted and poor, but I consider you rich!"
God sees your afflictions today.
Why does it seem to take suffering to remind us that God is sovereign and will work everything out for our good and His glory?
Romans 8:28 ("All things work together for good to those who love God"). We have the choice of how we to respond to all our problems.
We need to have a scriptural view of suffering. Consider myrrh, of which the city of Smyrna was named after. When the myrrh fruit was crushed, it releases an aroma and was also used to anoint the priests. If you have suffered, you are now someone who can use that pain to minister to others. What an appropriate gift for Jesus from the Magi: gold (for a king), frankincense (for a burial) and myrrh (to anoint a priest).
We can be most effective after we have been greatly bruised and crushed--and an aroma that is pleasing to the Lord arises from our suffering.”
3. Jesus knows their poverty.
In fact, Jesus states that they are rich! The word for poverty means abject or absolute poverty. They had absolutely nothing. That was because of the persecution from Satan they were facing. Jesus is aware of us when we are in a helpless state, both spiritually and otherwise.
Jesus sees what you are going through today.
4. Jesus knows their persecution.
"And I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan."
The Jews in Smyrna were particularly against Christianity. It didn't help that Christians replaced the catchphrase of Caesar worship, "Caesar is LORD" with "Jesus is LORD’’ when you are abandoning the compulsory worship of the state emperor.
Jesus is saying that when we face persecution and trouble from people, do not forget who your adversary is really. It is not the person in front of you, it is Satan!
Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12 that, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
You are not fighting against your colleagues, your teachers, your in-laws, your clients, that especially hostile guy in the workplace, the people slandering you on their blog, or through that email they sent you—your struggle is not against flesh and blood! It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms! Who writes their lines?
"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 10 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.”’
Jesus' correction for them is not to fear. They were about to have 10 days of tribulation, including prison. This could have literally been 10 days, or as some have said there were the 10 years that the Rome violently persecuted Christians during this time. Either way, what is most important is that their suffering would be temporary. This promise would encourage them that there was an end in sight to their suffering.
It is a sobering thought that Jesus did not spare them, but rather told them it is about to get worse, a lot worse, perhaps even resulting in death.
The Christians had a choice, to compromise or to be faithful. You see, Caesar worship was required by Rome. If you persisted with Jesus is Lord and not Caesar, you would be at risk of execution.
What would you do?
Many of us would probably run from suffering because of fear, and we would just lie and get the certificate to spare our lives and the lives of our families.
But Jesus here says, “Don’t be afraid; don’t run!”
THE REWARD-THE CROWN
Sometimes we are surprised by our suffering. It seems to come out of nowhere. And sometimes it seems like it will never end. But we are not to be surprised. We are to be ready. We are to endure to the end, even if that end includes death. Why? Because Jesus promises a crown. For the Smyrnaeans, it would be the crown of life--to not be hurt by the second death.
Consider Jesus, and the suffering He endured. "Gethsemane" means "olive press." It has the same meaning that myrrh does. Jesus had to suffer, to give His life as a ransom for many. He did so for others, for you and me.
Peter, who was eyewitness to Jesus' suffering, uses this as the motivation for you and me in our sufferings:
"Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for human desires, but rather for the will of God" (1 Peter 4:1-2).
"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen"(1 Peter 5:8-11).
Had the church in Smyrna been the most prepared of the 7 churches for the ultimate test of probable martyrdom? What do you think?
For those who stand strong amid severe trials, the best is yet to come. We will receive the “crown of life” and reign with Jesus forever. Be encouraged, child of God. Buckle up your armour and get back into the fray. Do not run from the troubles of life. You are richer and better equipped than you think. Jesus is coming back soon! Jesus knows your troubles. He knows your poverty. He knows your enemies.
Jesus says, “Do not fear. Be faithful, and I will give you the crown of life.” Are we willing to be faithful to the Lord no matter the cost?
For an in depth study on the church at Smyrna see Pilgrim Benham (Calvary Chapel)-COMFORT THROUGH THE HARD TIMES: LESSONS FROM THE CHURCH OF SMYRNA
 Greek peirazo Lit; test, try , assay. The testing of the believer’s strength , loyalty, faith , patience etc. i.e. testing of direction and character.  Numbers chapters 22-25 and 31 see also 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 11.
For full text for printout and access to the other 'The 7 churches of Revelation' click below