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Thoughtful Things

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The Church of Smyrna

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Smyrna was a large, important city on the western coast of Asia Minor, famed for its schools of medicine and science. The words of Jesus to the church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:8-11 offer insight into the life of a first-century congregation, and there are many applications for today’s believers.

The message was from the Lord Jesus Christ: “These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again” (Revelation 2:8). The identity of the first and the last and the resurrected one could only be Jesus Christ (see Revelation 22:13).

Revelation 2:8-11 “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: 9 “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. 10 “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 havetribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 “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 starts by acknowledging their trials: “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9). In their physical poverty, however, the church of Smyrna was “rich”; that is, they had spiritual wealth that no one could take away (Matthew 6:20).

This is one of only two of the seven churches for which Jesus gives no word of correction. This was an oppressed church, but it was also a healthy church. If you were travelling from the island of Patmos, where the apostle John was writing the Revelation, Smyrna was about 40 miles up the coast from Ephesus. It would have been the next stop for the “postman” after he had visited Ephesus.

Smyrna was a bit like Ephesus in the sense that it was a large, more affluent, port city. Like Ephesus, it was also very proud of its reputation as a city where worship of the Roman Emperors was done with much devotion

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