My Notes on Revelation 2:8-11, Letter to Smyrna
Revelation 2:8, Crushed
The Lord's second letter is addressed to the angel of the church at Smyrna, which name is derived from the word for myrrh and means crushed. This name will be significant to the church, for myrrh has to be crushed in order for its fragrance to be released.
Smyrna is located in Turkey, in the modern city of Izmir, just 35 miles north of Ephesus. It is estimated that ancient Smyrna had a population of one hundred thousand, and that there was also a significant Jewish population (as there is today).
To this angel and church, the Lord identifies himself as The First and The Last (the eternal and unique creator) and as the one who was dead but now lives forever. This will be of great significance for this church.
Revelation 2:9, Persecuted
The Lord tells this angel that he knows his works, tribulation, and poverty; nevertheless, the Lord reminds him that he is rich. This then was a church that despite suffering and being persecuted remained faithful to Jesus. We should remember that during his ministr on Earth the Lord pronounced blessings on such and declared them to be spiritually rich (Luke 6:20-23).
The Lord also declares to this angel that he knows the blasphemy of those who claim to be Jews and are not, but who are instead a synagogue of Satan. Thus, it seems that the Jewish community was especially involved in persecuting the Christians in Smyrna (in fact, one can see in the gospels and the book of Acts that the Jews were the first persecutors of the church).
Of such Jews, Jesus states that they are not real Jew, but that they are the synagogue of Satan (a synagogue that serves Satan).
It is important that we understand that these remarks do not stem from an anti Semitic sentiment, but from a theological position (after all, Jesus and John were both Jews). What the Lord means is that by rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, Jews in general had refused to obey God.
Thus, in a heated debate with some Jews, Jesus had told them that, although they were Abraham's descendant, they were the children of the devil (John 8:44). From a New Testament perspective, God is not pleased with all Jews, but only with those who have been spiritual circumcised by Him through faith in Christ (Romans 2:28-29).
Revelation 2:10, Martyred
The Lord tells the angel (and by the angel, he means the church) not to fear what he is about to suffer: they will be tried by the devil, who will throw them into prison; and they will have tribulation for 10 days. Thus, whatever tribulation they were previously having would only get worse: now they would be thrown into prison because of their faith.
Moreover, the number 10 is significant in the Bible. Jacob promised God the tenth of everything He would give him if God would take care of him (Genesis 28:20-22); and God wrote 10 commandments on tablets of stone to represent the Mosaic covenant between Him and Israel (Deuteronomy 4:13). Thus, the number 10 seems to represent commitment and responsibility. Thus, by trying the believers for 10 days, Satan would test their commitment and responsibility to Jesus.
Revelation 2:10-11, Rewarded
In order to prepare his church and encourage them, the Lord is letting them know in advance of the trials that they will suffer. He requests from them faithfulness unto death: martyrdom is certainly in sight. Nevertheless, he promises to give these martyrs a crown of life. In the new testament, crowns form the Lord are promised to those who suffer because of their love for him (James 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:6-8).
The last verse on the letter to the angel of the church at Smyrna begins with the same refrain that closes each of the letters to the angels of the seven churches: everyone should pay attention to what the spirit, the Spirit of God, is saying to the churches.
The Lord reminds the church that no one who overcomes by faith in him (1 John 5:4-5) will be hurt by the second death (the lake of fire).
Thus, throughout the letter, the Lord has reminded this church (which is about to suffer persecution and martyrdom) that even if they have to die for their faith in him, the Lord has already conquered death for them, and he will reward them with life even beyond death. Therefore, they should not fear, but have hope.
Questions for Reflection
Are there Christians, even in our modern times, who are suffering persecution and facing martyrdom for their faith in Jesus Christ? Where is that taking place?
How does this message from Jesus offer these believers encouragement and hope in the face of such adversity?
How does this message from Jesus offer us, who can practice our faith in him freely, hope and comfort when facing death?
Do you believe that that there is life after death? Why or why not?
Today, pray for Christians who are suffering persecution and facing martyrdom throughout the world for their faith in Jesus Christ. Praise Jesus because He has conquered death and because He gives us eternal life even after death. Thank Him for all those Christians who can practice their faith freely (may that is you!).
Invitation to the Reader
I would like to invite you to share your questions, insights, and opinions in the comment section below. I also would like to invite you to read the other devotions I have published on the book of Revelation.
© 2018 Marcelo Carcach