“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.’” Revelation 2:8 (ESV)

Before being destroyed in an invasion around 600 B.C., Smyrna was a beautiful city located in Asia and situated on the Aegean coast. About 300 years after the invasion it was rebuilt and became the home to temples of Zeus and Cybele. Upon becoming allies with Rome, Smyrna built a temple to the goddess Roma and later built a temple to the Roman Emperor Tiberius.

The church in Smyrna was shepherded in part by the infamous martyr Polycarp who was appointed as bishop of Smyrna by John the apostle of Jesus. It is very possible that Polycarp was the one who read aloud the book of Revelation to the church when it arrived in Smyrna from the apostle.

The letter to the church in Smyrna is the shortest of the letters to the seven churches and contained no rebuke from Jesus. He said,  “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.  Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.” (Revelation 2:9-11 ESV)

Maybe two of the most encouraging words in Jesus’s exhortation to the church in Smyrna are the words “I know.” The reassurance that their Savior and Lord had not forgotten them must have encouraged them immensely. For whatever reason they were probably suffering financially, they were being slandered and some of them were about to be thrown into prison. They were about to face horrible tribulation and some of them even death for the sake of the gospel. Jesus wanted them to know that he was intimately acquainted with all of these circumstances and did not want them to fear anything of which the devil would tempt them. Jesus promised he would reward them for their faithfulness.

Jesus told the Smyrna Christians that they would suffer tribulation for ten days. In keeping with the character of Revelation this is probably not a literal ten-day period, but representative of a short or complete period of time. The apostle Paul wrote that our afflictions are momentary; they are not eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17). Jesus’s words to Smyrna should encourage us as well. He is intimately acquainted with our tribulation. Not only has he told us that we would have tribulation in this world, he has overcome this world and all that the devil devises against us. Because he has overcome suffering, persecution and death, we can take heart (John 16:33). He will not leave us as orphans, he will come to us (John 14:18).

Like the church in Smyrna, Jesus exhorts us to be faithful unto death. If we are we too will receive the crown of life. There are no “participation trophies” awarded in heaven. Everyone who is faithful unto death is given a victors crown. The apostle James wrote that those who remain steadfast when being tested by trials will receive the crown of life (James 1:12). To the one who conquers the second death has no power. The second death is the eternal condemnation into the lake of fire for all those who have not believed on Christ. Conquerors need not fear this death. Jesus has promised eternal life.

Is the crown of life waiting for you? Will you be condemned to the second death?

Scriptures for meditation:
Romans 8:35-37

Copyright © 2024 Steve Pruitt/lovnJesus.com

Leave a Reply