The Church in Smyrna: 5 Important Lessons on Faithfulness

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The Bible mentions the church in Smyrna in Revelation chapter 2. I consider it the faithful church because of the difficulties they had gone through and the unique directive given to them by the Lord Jesus Christ. I hope we will appreciate and emulate the example of this church as we go through this simple study.

The Bible mentions many churches in the New Testament. Some had their faults, but some were worth emulating. However, we must remember that there is no perfect church. We have to avoid the mistakes of others and build on the success of others.

The church in Smyrna worshipped the resurrected redeemer.

And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

Revelation 2:8

Jesus states that He is “the first and the last.” This title is a quotation from Isaiah 44:6, referring to Jesus’ eternal existence. The laws of time cannot apply to the Lord Jesus Christ. Time began with him and will end with Him.

Also, it proves the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. From the first century, the deity of Christ has been the issue. It has been the topic wherein many have departed from the faith and have begun their cults. The Pharisees insisted that the Lord Jesus Christ was only human and did not acknowledge Him as the Messiah.

The Lord Jesus Christ is entirely God and human; both cannot be separated. We call it Hypostatic Union: The union of the divinity and humanity of Christ. A good example to note is the temptation of the Lord Jesus Christ. His temptation in the wilderness is not a test if He cannot sin. Instead, it proves He cannot sin because He is God.

Jesus also states He is the One “who was dead and is alive.” This is another proof of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Divinity. This must have given the church of Smyrna great encouragement, knowing that their redeemer and founder is alive and seated on the throne in Heaven.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

1 Peter 1:3

The church in Smyrna endured great suffering.

I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Revelation 2:9

Although the church in Smyrna was suffering greatly, they were still busy with the work of the Lord. And Jesus knew the church’s work even while they were under difficult circumstances. The Lord Jesus mentions three ways in which the church in Smyrna suffered. They experienced pressure, poverty, and persecution.

The word “tribulation” literally means pressure. The Romans governed the city of Smyrna. Therefore, the Romans forced Christians to worship the emperor. Every citizen needed to do so.

They had to light incense and say Caesar is Lord. Of course, many Christians refused. As a result, the Romans tortured Christians in racks, boiled them in oil, burned them alive, fed them to the lions, and crucified them. The Romans also forced them to worship Roman gods. Refusing to do so will be subject to torture and death.

The church in Smyrna also had to deal with poverty. Their poverty was likely due to their faith in Jesus Christ, just like the Christians in Ephesus. The ordinary people hated, despised, and boycotted Christians. People did not want to buy from or sell to them because they were Christians. They had to shut down their business, had no way to make a living, and couldn’t advance in their jobs because they were Christians.

The church in Smyrna also had to suffer persecution. The devil used unsaved people to slander them. They gave false accusations about the Christians so that the public would hate them and the government would punish them. However, They continued to do the work of the Lord despite the pressure, poverty, and persecution.

The church in Smyrna will experience more trouble.

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Revelation 2:10

The church in Smyrna needs more faith because they will suffer more things. The devil would throw them into prison. Whatever the reason, Jesus tells us that the one behind this is none other than the devil himself.

Interestingly, Jesus called the enemy the devil, meaning “the accuser.” Since Jesus established the church, the devil has been trying to destroy it. And there’s a great reason why. God gave the Great Commission to the church. The church sends out gospel preachers. The church edifies Christians and glorifies God. That’s why the devil has been seeking to destroy the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the Bible says the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18.)

We must remember that God allows the devil to make us suffer, not to destroy us, but to try our faith. That’s why the strongest Christians are the ones who have gone through great afflictions.

2My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

James 1:2-4

Jesus also mentioned that the church in Smyrna would have more tribulation for ten days, whether you interpret these ten days as referring to a literal ten days. Or whether you interpret those ten days as referring to ten periods of persecution under ten Roman emperors. The point is the same. The trials we go through are nothing compared to the blessings we will have for eternity.

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18

The church in Smyrna was given a unique mandate.

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Revelation 2:10

Interestingly, Christ gave all other churches of Revelation a command to repent! However, in the case of the Church in Smyrna, Christ gave them the mandate to be faithful unto death.

There is a significant difference between being faithful and being faithful unto death. Many men of God in the Bible were faithful but were not faithful unto death. Noah was faithful but spent his days in drunkenness. Gideon was faithful but, in his elder days, allowed his children to intermarry with the enemy, and many Christians today are faithful for a certain period but, in the end, spend their life away from the presence of God.

Crises, changes, and conflicts are the tests of faithfulness. When crises arise, will you still be faithful? What if when changes happen, will you still be faithful? When conflicts appear, will you still be faithful?

The church in Smyrna was promised a great reward.

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Revelation 2:10

The crown of life is not referring to eternal life because you do not work for eternal life. It is a gift. The crown of life is a special reward for those who endured persecution. Christ promised the church in Smyrna this reward if they were faithful unto death.

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

James 1:12

The purpose of this crown is not for you to keep. It is not for you to carry around and brag. These crowns are not to make you feel good about your life. They are for us to give back to Christ.

10The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Revelation 4:10-11

Polycarp was the pastor of the church in Smyrna. The Roman government martyred him for his faith in A.D. 156. They took him to the theater, where the proconsul tried to persuade him to renounce his faith. “What harm can it do? Just say Caesar is Lord to save your life.” And he would not do it. Afterward, he said

“For eighty-six years, I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my king and my savior?”

Polycarp

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