The second and third chapters of Revelation record Jesus’ communication to seven of the churches in Asia. This article is the second in a series of seven reviewing these chapters. Although Jesus spoke specifically to each church, his message is of great significance to all who want to enter the Kingdom of God.
CHURCH IN SMYRNA 2:8-11
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: (2:8)
Noted in the first article, the Greek word aggelos translated here as angel is also translated elsewhere as messenger. (See Matthew 11:10; Luke 7:27; 9:52; Mark 1:2; and James 2:25.) Based upon the context and the specific information communicated in these chapters, “messenger” would be a more appropriate translation.
To Smyrna, Jesus says he is “the first and last” relating to the resurrection mentioned in chapter one – “do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (17 -18). He was the first to be dead and raised again and to remain alive for eternity. He is the last because no one will ever do what he now does and will do in the future. The blessing in 2:11 is “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” Since he informs them that some will die by persecution, focus on the resurrection and the second death will provide encouragement for them to endure.
I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan. (2:9)
Persecution, poverty, and slander cause tribulation, mental pressure. They would receive comfort and reassurance knowing that their Lord understood, even though he was not able to circumvent their problems. At times, situations and circumstances can be negative and trying without immediate release, but peace, joy, and love − all of which are inside realities − can always be realized.
One of the unique and extraordinary aspects of the book of Revelation is the “behind the scenes” view of the spiritual realm. In chapter one, Jesus is seen entirely different than anywhere else in the Bible. Chapter four gives a glimpse of Yahweh’s throne room that is unnerving to the reader because it is so different than anything we have ever seen in our limited five senses realm. As the book progresses, so does the shocking realities of the spiritual realm. In Smyrna, the pious Jews persecuted the beleivers to the point of death. They worshipped in a typical synagogue that gave the appearance of godliness, but the behind the scene reality was they were the synagogue of Satan. The devil uses people to carry out his evil in the world. The devil and his evil workers, unclean spirits and the people they occupy, are also exposed in Revelation.
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Rev 2:10)
The Bible contains numerous records when Yahweh diverted His people from impending doom, especially, but not exclusively, after they prayed. Also, there are many records of God’s deliverance when people were in the midst of trouble such as sickness, disease, famine, attacks, and so on. However, there are also incidents when God did not divert or deliver as was the case at Smyrna. Many times, Yahweh explained why He did not help, and other times, again as with Smyrna, He offered no explanation. Our God is not obligated to help or explain His actions or lack thereof. We trust Yahweh, our God, and Jesus our Lord to do what is right no matter the situation or outcome.
Jesus did forewarn the Smyrna saints about what was going to happen and what they should do.
“Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” If they died after the ten days or lived many years after, the instruction would be the same – stay faithful to the end of your life, and they would receive the crown of life. Life in the age to come is the crown given to those who remain faithful.
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)
We are warned that we can lose the crown of life if we fail to remain faithful. Throughout the New Testament, we are told the blessings of faithfulness and the severe consequences for the unfaithful. Consider the following:
I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. (Revelation 3:11)
You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,
by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)
It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
(2 Timothy 2:11-13)
In view of these verses and many others, the doctrine of “once saved always saved” is incorrect and very dangerous. To understand this very important truth, read the following: 2 Peter 2:20-22; Romans 11:16-24; Hebrews 2:1-3; 3:12-14; 4:1 and 11; 6:4-8; 10:26-39; Galatians 5:19-21; 6:8-9; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 9:27; John 15:1-8; Matthew 7:21-23; Colossians 1:22-23; Ephesians 5:3-12; James 2:18-20: Revelation 3:1-5; Philippians 3:11-14; 1 Timothy 4:16.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:11)
“He who has an ear to hear” is a simple statement with profound truth repeated to each of the seven churches. Many people seem open to information that agrees with what they already believe or what they want to accept and resistant to what is contrary. Accepting with humility and meekness the authoritative integrity of the Scriptures over our own preconceived ideas is essential. Just because you believe something does not make it true! The great question we must always pose to ourselves is, “What does God’s Word say?” Then, we must be willing to adjust our thinking and actions accordingly. The instruction given to the seven churches are not suggestions, for with each, Jesus explained the great benefit of obedience and the dire consequences of disobedience. If we want to enter the Kingdom of God, we better have ears to hear!
The great promise to the faithful at Smyrna was they will not be hurt by the second death and certainly implied is the unfaithful will be hurt. The following tells of the second death, the destiny of all the unbelievers throughout history.
Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power….
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:6, 12-15)
He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.
But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:7-8)
The faithful will be raised with the resurrection of the just and avoid the second death. In our next article, we will learn the promises made to the church at Pergamum.