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Wednesday, February 22 2012
In our last study in the Book of Revelation 2:1-7, we saw the divine appraisal of the church in Ephesus. The Lord in His appraisal of this Church did not start by pointing out their weaknesses, but commended their good points before addressing the issue of their departure from their First Love for Him. He offered solution to the problem as well as the consequences of non-compliance.
This week, the Lord is focusing on the Church in Smyrna. We shall first study the background of this city to give us better understanding of the situation of the Church in Smyrna.
To the Church in Smyrna Rev.2:8-11
Smyrna lay just 35 miles north of Ephesus on the west coast of Asia on the Aegean Sea. It was the loveliest of all the cities and was sometimes called "the Ornament of Asia," "the Crown of Asia," or sometimes "the Flower of Asia." It was beautifully situated. It was a Greek colony as far back as 1000 B.C. Around 600 B.C. it was invaded and destroyed by the Lydeans and for 400 years there was no city there at all. Then around 200 B.C the city had experienced death and had literally been brought back to life. It is undoubtedly because of Smyrna's historical past, Christ refers to Himself as, "He who was dead and has come to life."
Another interesting fact is that the city received its name from one of its principle products, a sweet perfume called myrrh. This was a gum resin taken from a shrub-like tree. Though it had a bitter taste, the resin of the tree was used in making perfume (Ps. 45:8), was one of the ingredients used in the anointing oil of the priests (Ex. 30:23), and in the embalming of the dead (John 19:39). Smyrna is Ionic Greek for myrrh, a fragrant perfume used in burial. Many believe this church represents the martyrs of all time and the sweet smelling fragrance of their devotion until death (2 Cor. 4:14-16). It is located in the present day Turkey.
1) The Introduction of Jesus to the Church; Rev.2:8
"And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things said the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive."
It is the risen and ascended, but active Saviour who addresses the church in these messages. Again we see how the perfections of Christ's person and work answers to the needs, problems, and conditions in each church. Since many in this church died for their faith, Christ assures them of their resurrection and future rewards because He is the first and last, the eternal God who became man, died and rose again (1 Pet. 1:3; Acts 2:24).
2) His Comfort and Approval. Rev.2:9 "I know your works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but you are rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan."
Out of the seven Churches written to, only two passed the examination of Jesus Christ. He did not find anything against them. One of them was this Church in Smyrna. I pray that at the end, the Lord will find nothing against Miracle Land in Jesus' name. Amen.
He knows their works (2:9). As with all the churches; Christ knows every work performed. We should be aware that the Lord is keeping records of everything we are doing for Him.
He knows their tribulation (2:9). The word "tribulation" is qlipsis which means "pressure, a literal crushing beneath a weight." The pressure of events is on the Church at Smyrna, and the forces of circumstances are trying to crush the Christianity out of them. They were under great persecution. Polycarp was eighty-six when he was killed for his faith in Christ.
He knows their poverty (2:9). The word "poverty" is ptwceia, and describes absolute poverty or complete destitution. Christ offers no criticism of this church. The saints were faithful in spite of suffering at the hands of their Jewish persecutors. They thought they were poor, but in contrast to Laodicea, which thought it was rich and was poor, these saints were rich (3:17).
He knows their persecutors (2:9b). These were the religious Jews who claimed to be the seed of Abraham. They were, but only physically. Spiritually they were of Satan and under his power and control (John 8:33-34). In Numbers 16:3, Israel was called the congregation of the Lord, but here Christ calls these unbelieving Jews, the congregation of Satan (John 8:33 with 8:44).
Application: Our Lord, so faithful to know and observe our lives and needs, first assures them He knows and cares for their condition and the great suffering on His behalf, and then commends them for their spiritual wealth in the midst of their physical poverty and suffering, much of which was brought about by the religious Jews of Smyrna. So, while poor, they were rich. They were rich positionally in Christ (Eph. 1:3) which, of course, was by grace. They were also rich in that God had counted them worthy to suffer for Him (1 Pet. 3:14-17; 1:6; 4:13-14). Finally, it appears they were rich in their spiritual lives because they were living close to God by faith.
3) His Counsel and Admonition. Rev. 2:10 "Fear none of those things which you shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you shall have tribulation ten days: be you faithful to death, and I will give you a crown of life."
Concerning fear and suffering: "Do not fear" is literally "fear nothing." No matter how small or how severe, the One who has overcome death says, "fear nothing." They could cast their burden on the Lord. He cared and He had overcome (Phil. 4:6-8; 1 Pet. 5:7; Isa. 41:10).
Concerning the future and testing: Some would face prison and severe testing, even death. It would be for ten days, a rather short period. But note the connection of this with Satan. This persecution is attributed to the Devil. It is a continuation of the serpent's battle with the Lord Jesus Christ and those who belong to Him (Gen. 3:15; John 15:18-21). Humans are those we see persecuting the church of Jesus Christ, but invariably, behind the scenes is the old arch enemy, the prince of the power of the air. But never fear, the binder of believers in prison shall be bound, he is a defeated foe (Rev. 20:1-3; Rom. 16:20; Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14-15).
Concerning faithfulness and rewards: Be faithful until death. This means, be faithful to the point of martyrdom. Continue to trust the Lord, be faithful to Him and the truth of His Word even in the face of death.
The promise: "I will give you the crown of life." The reward here is not eternal life. Eternal life is a gift through faith or personal belief in Jesus Christ (John 1:11-12; 3:16; 1 John 5:11-12). This is a special reward for endurance under persecution
Application: Note that victory in this present life is closely associated with occupation and orientation to the weightier things of eternity and the glories which shall follow (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Here is one of those things which should distinguish believers from unbelievers. Believers are to be sojourners who live with a view to eternity, while unbelievers are scripturally classified as earthdwellers (1 Pet. 1:17; 2:11; Rev. 3:10; Isa. 24:17).
4) His Challenge and Assurance .Rev.2:11 "He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches; He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death."
The promise to the overcomer is that he shall not be hurt by the second death. The second death is eternal separation from God in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:1, 14). Believers may face physical death, but because they have had a second birth (John 3:3-7), no believer will ever face the second death (Eph. 2:1, 5; John 5:24; 11:25. Some in Smyrna, as Polycarp, would die a martyr's death, so the Lord is reminding them of this fact. It was not easy to be a Christian in Smyrna yet the letter to them was full of praise.
Contributor: Alex Alajiki
Friday, February 10 2012
In last week's study titled "Encounter with The Glorified Jesus" we looked at John's encounter with Jesus; his command to write what he saw and the first of the things that was revealed to him.
In today's study we shall be considering the contents of the first of the letters written to one of the 7 Asian churches - the letter to the church in Ephesus and from it learn lessons from the Lord's appraisal of this church and discover that the book of Revelations is not all about mysteries and symbols but that and a lot more!
1. The Recipient of the letter
1TO THE angel (messenger) of the assembly (church) in Ephesus write: These are the words of Him Who holds the seven stars [which are the messengers of the seven churches] in His right hand, Who goes about among the seven golden lampstands [which are the seven churches]:
THE angel (messenger) of the assembly (church) in Ephesus
The first issue to consider is "who was this message written to?" seeing that John was asked to write it to the "angel" of the church in Ephesus. In the New Testament, the Greek word for angels (aggelos) was not only used for heavenly angels, but also used for human messengers, such as John the Baptist in Matthew 11:10
"For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee." See also Mark 1:2 and Luke 7:27
2. The Aspects of His Appraisal
In the next six verses we will consider Jesus' appraisal of the church in Ephesus. Looking through these verses one will have no doubt that His method of appraisal was perfect and have transcended centuries to our present era. It will pass any day for a perfect blueprint of personnel appraisal!
"I know your industry and activities, laborious toil and trouble, and your patient endurance, and how you cannot tolerate wicked [men] and have tested and critically appraised those who call [themselves] apostles (special messengers of Christ) and yet are not, and have found them to be impostors and liars. I know you are enduring patiently and are bearing up for My name's sake, and you have not fainted or become exhausted or grown weary."
(a) He Emphasized the Positives
He started with and discussed their achievements - the positives of the church; their laborious toils and troubles, their patient endurance and how they detested the wicked and tested the false prophets. Verse 1 He commended their efforts; he focused on their strengths (their enduring patience and consistency) Verse 2.
Jesus, in His appraisal of the church in Ephesus revealed the blueprint for appraisals; this has been adopted by the secular world today.
They recommend to: Open the appraisal meeting with positive comments and discuss any objectives set whether they have been achieved.
Despite the fact that He had some issues with the church; He showed us that focus should never be on the negatives.
So what are the positives we can imbibe? What were the things He was pleased with?
From verses 2 & 3 we see the following: the active (Eccl 9:10); the hardworking (Proverbs 12:14) those who refuse to quit (Gal 6:9); those who can't stomach evil (Psalms 15:4), those who test all spirits and get rid of false prophets (1John 4:1), the persistent (Matt 24:13), the courageous (1 Corinthians 16:13), and those who don't grow weary (Gal 6:9).
(b) He Addressed the Negative
"But I have this [one charge to make] against you: that you have left (abandoned) the love that you had at first [you have deserted Me, your first love]."
He was sincere with them; He identified their weakness and told them what it was. He did not leave them confused or unsure of where they stood with Him. He was clear about His expectations - they had left their first love.
For us today, it is a call for soul searching. The Bible says in the end time the love of many will wax cold. It is a call for us to go back to our first love, back to when we yearned for Him daily; to follow Him closely and love Him deeply.
(c) He offered solution to the problem as well as the consequences of non-compliance
Remember then from what heights you have fallen. Repent (change the inner man to meet God's will) and do the works you did previously [when first you knew the Lord], or else I will visit you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you change your mind and repent.
He did not leave them without a way of escape; He offered the solution to their problem. Effectively He was saying this is your shortcoming and this is the way to overcome it.
Once again the secular world recommends that "there is an understanding of the next steps going forward"
"Yet you have this [in your favor and to your credit]: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans [what they are doing as corrupters of the people], which I Myself also detest.
He did not leave them in the state of "wallowing in their failures" but went further to commend them for hating the works of the Nicolaitans. (The Nicolaitans were a sect that lead lives of unrestrained indulgence, that ate things offered to idols, Nicolas (the founder) allowed other men to marry his wife and supported either polygamy or the holding of wives in common.)
The secular world today recommends starting an appraisal with a positive and ending with a positive.
(e) He offered a reward for those who would comply - an incentive
He who is able to hear, let him listen to and give heed to what the Spirit says to the assemblies (churches). To him who overcomes (is victorious), I will grant to eat [of the fruit] of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
A perfect motivation; but for those who are able to hear, listen and give heed.
Unfortunately many have removed themselves from where they would be able to hear; talk less of listening and giving heed.
The book of Revelations is not all about mysteries and symbols but that and a lot more! Today's study should serve as a beacon for church leaders and those who criticize or appraise others. It is also a reminder for every one of us to go back to our first love, focus on doing the things that please the Master and steer clear of the things He detests; and finally to remember that the ultimate pursuit should be heaven.
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai