Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the one who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive: “I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan. Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life. “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death.” Revelation 2:8-11 NLT
Smyrna is approximately 40 miles north of Ephesus. This city was, likely, impacted by the proclamation of the gospel that we read about in Acts 19:10. A Christian church had sprung up in this city of approximately 300,000 people. Smyrna was known for its worship of the Roman Caesar. Anyone who didn't worship the Caesar was threatened or killed. Many believers in Jesus became martyrs (people who die for their faith) in Smyrna. The name Smyrna is equivalent to myrrh. Myrrh is an aromatic perfume that was derived from a thorny tree. This thorny tree had to be crushed in order to extract the perfume. This process is a perfect description of Christ and what was happening to followers of Jesus in Smyrna. Jesus was presented myrrh by the wise men in Matthew 2:11. Jesus wore a crown of thorns (see Matthew 27:29; John 19:2,5) and was crushed for our sins (see Isaiah 53:5,10). His sacrifice released the aroma of salvation to all who trust in Him. Smyrna was a rich town, but impoverished by pagan lifestyle. The sweet, aromatic presence of Christ was released through the persecuted church there. Their love for Jesus was proved through their suffering. Their material and monetary poverty was not their identification of success. These believers were rich toward God beyond worldly measure. Their eternal inheritance meant more to them than this world in which we live. Persecution, throughout the history of the church, has brought about purity within the church. False, hypocritical, believers will not endure severe persecution. Only the true stay true. The purging affect that persecution has on the church brings about an authenticity that superficial "saints" do not know. Severe persecution destroys false faith but demonstrates, and fuels, genuine faith. It has been said "the blood of the martyr is the seed of the church". We, here in America, often say that we love Jesus, but that is easy to say when we have jobs, homes, restaurants, grocery stores, and so many other amenities. Our faith is not sorely tested. The faith of the believers in Smyrna, most definitely, was. Our superficial worship is nauseating to Our Father. We, in many cases, are spoiled by our conveniences and comforts and don't realize that we are complacent, dry, and spiritually dead. We go through the motions of our "worship", satisfy our weekly "duty", and feel gratified in our religious affiliation. True worship is a life devoted to Jesus Christ, even to death. The believers of Smyrna were true believers. No word of correction is given to them by Jesus. However, He does tell them that they will endure testing for a short period of ten days. This testing will verify their authenticity and bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. True Jews are those who know Jesus as the Messiah and worship Him. Yes, there are many Jews who are known by their ancestry. However, the true Jew is the one who knows God and understands that He manifested Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ!!! Paul said it like this: “No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.” Romans 2:29 NLT Jesus is called the First and the Last in today's scripture. This coincides with several passages in Isaiah: “Who has done such mighty deeds, summoning each new generation from the beginning of time? It is I, the Lord, the First and the Last. I alone am he.” Isaiah 41:4 NLT “But you are my witnesses, O Israel!” says the Lord. “You are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God— there never has been, and there never will be. I, yes I, am the Lord, and there is no other Savior.” Isaiah 43:10-11 NLT “This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies: “I am the First and the Last; there is no other God. Who is like me? Let him step forward and prove to you his power. Let him do as I have done since ancient times when I established a people and explained its future.” Isaiah 44:6-7 NLT “Listen to me, O family of Jacob, Israel my chosen one! I alone am God, the First and the Last. It was my hand that laid the foundations of the earth, my right hand that spread out the heavens above. When I call out the stars, they all appear in order.” Isaiah 48:12-13 NLT Jesus is God!!!!!!! His name is worthy of our absolute devotion. No one else deserves it!! I worship Him and Him alone! I am a Jew through Christ!!! Hallelujah!!
Rev. Curtis Norris