The Church in Smyrna
John the Elder continues the message from God to the seven churches by addressing the second church, the church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:8-11.
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The majority of the churches to whom God speaks through John in the book of Revelation are given a warning of coming trial or tribulations, and they are also admonished for failing to live faithfully in some way. However, to the church in Smyrna (and later to the church in Philadelphia), there does not appear to be any admonition, but rather encouragement for the faithfulness they have exhibited and encouragement to continue their faithfulness.
The church in Smyrna, John writes, is known by God. God is not now, nor ever, unaware–especially when it concerns his faithful people. The church in Smyrna is facing a difficult future. In fact, they are in the midst of a difficult present. God knows their affliction and their poverty, and God looks ahead and sees future affliction on the horizon for them.
The church at Smyrna is learning and will continue to learn something that seems counter-intuitive. It seems counter to the ways that we all want to live our lives. To follow Jesus, to be a faithful God-honoring, worshipping person, we must be willing to participate in that fruit of God’s Spirit: long-suffering. Patience. Forbearance.
Jesus stated clearly:
- Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. (Luke 17:33)
- If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)
Jesus himself lived out this very thing. He suffered the cross, bearing our sin and shame, and he was raised to new life so that all would have forgiveness, and that God would be glorified.
The words that are shared to the church in Smyrna are not often words that any of us look forward to. Predictions of coming suffering are not our favorite, nor are they what we expect to hear from God when he speaks to us. And yet, God also tells this church that he knows them. To bear up under these afflictions, for God’s reward will come–they will receive the crown of life.
God will not forget them, nor will God fail to honor their faithfulness. So, look ahead to the coming suffering with the knowledge that God will be with you. Prepare now for coming times of desolation. For when we have God with us, even when we are stricken by affliction and poverty, even then, we are truly rich because of God’s love and promises.