Posted by: Brad Beaman | April 30, 2008

A call to be faithful, Revelation 2:8-11

                                                                     

It may be that right now you are undergoing suffering and hardship. You may recently have had the painful experience of being slandered. It may have come just for the simple reason you are a Christian standing on God’s principles.

In your difficulty if you ever start to wonder, does anybody really know what I am going through, be assured Jesus does.

The church in Smyrna was in desperate poverty. They were slandered for their faith and they experienced great affliction. Jesus says I know all about it.

I know your affliction
I know your poverty
I know the slander spoken against you.

Jesus calls the church at Smyrna to be faithful. Jesus walked among them at the church at Smyrna and He was well aware of their situation and how they remained faithful in those difficult conditions.

Revelations 2:8-11
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

This message to the church in Smyrna is the second of seven messages to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2-3. We find that Jesus walks among the churches and observes and evaluates each one of them.

At the church at Ephesus Jesus walked among them and found a hard working and doctrinally pure church. The problem was that they lost their first love experience with Jesus.

In his letter to each church he addresses them; to the angel. Here in Vs 8 we find, to the angel of the church at Smyrna write. The angel was the messenger of the church, most likely the pastor. History tells us the Pastor at the church at Smyrna was Polycarp.

The title for Jesus in this message to the church at Smyrna was the title found in Revelation 1:17 of the exalted Jesus. The first and last who died and came to life.

The Evaluation Revelation 2:9
There is no condemnation for the church at Smyrna. There is for the other churches six that received messages. But even though there was no condemnation for this church it was undergoing extreme difficulty and affliction.

Smyrna was the central place of Caesar worship. Because the Christians refused to bow to Caesar they were afflicted, imprisoned and sometimes even put to death.

The pagans who worshiped Caesar were against this church and so were the Jews. The Christians were being slandered by the Jews. It was the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not. These Jews may have been physical descendents of Abraham, but not spiritual descendents of Abraham. In this message Jesus refers to them as a synagogue of Satan.

These Jews would spread vicious lies about the Christians and join in with the pagans to see Christians put to death. Life is precarious for a follower of Christ in a city of emperor worship.

This church was in poverty. Smyrna was a rich prosperous city, but the Christians isolated themselves from the prosperity by refusing to participate in the politically correct Caesar worship. They lived in destitute poverty in a rich city.

These conditions exist today for some Christians. Standing for Christ in some places can mean affliction, slander and poverty, rejection by family much like what Smyrna experienced. Take comfort in the fact that Jesus says, I know about your affliction and poverty – yet you are rich!

The riches in God’s Economy is faithfulness.

Laodicea Christians did have material wealth. But they compromised with the world and Jesus called them a church of spiritual poverty. They only thought they were rich but they were poor. The irony is the church that thought they were rich were poor and the church that thought it was poor was rich.

The Christians in Smyrna were poor and had a very hard life but they possessed true spiritual riches. When you face affliction, poverty and slander because of your Christian faith it is good to remember Jesus definition of riches.

The Challenge Revelation 2:10

What kind of message does Jesus have for the poor, afflicted and slandered Church at Smyrna? Does he say; just be faithful and you will be rich and comfortable, healthy and wealthy? No. The challenge for Smyrna is: you are faithful and get ready because you are about to really suffer. The devil is behind your intense persecution.

The time for their suffering is ten days. This is most likely a season of persecution that is coming. Jesus calls on this church to set aside fear. Fear can be a paralyzer. It is no wonder the church in Smyrna might be given to fear, given the persecution, but Jesus calls this church to stand up under the persecution. Maybe you have known a time of affliction.

There is affliction and slander for the Christian who really stands Christ. The challenge for Smyrna and for us is to be faithful even to the point of death. History bears out the challenge came and the Christians at Smyrna were faithful unto death.

Polycarp, the Pastor at Smyrna is mentioned in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, written by John Fox and first published in 1563. This book is an encyclopedia of those who have died for their faith in Christ. The story of Polycarp the pastor at Smyrna stands as one of the most prominent.

Polycarp was the pastor of Smyrna. He was apprehended as an old man. They allowed him one hour to pray, before he faced death, which was granted.

His accusers felt sorry for him and pleaded with him, what harm is it to say Lord Caesar and to sacrifice and save yourself. He was silent, but when he was pressed he said, I will not do as you advise me.

The Proconsul (governor of the province) responded; just say this and I will release you.

Polycarp said, for eighty-six years I have served Jesus and he never once wronged me. How shall I blaspheme my King who saved me?

The proconsul said to Polycarp, I will tame you with fire.

Polycarp relied, you threaten me with fire which burns for an hour and is soon extinguished. But the fire of future judgment and of eternal judgment reserved for the ungodly, you are ignorant of, but why do you delay, do whatever pleases you.

The Pagans and the Jews of Smyrna shouted unanimously that he should be burned alive.

Polycarp’s words were, Oh Father I bless you that you counted me worthy, to receive my portion among the number of Martyrs. When he said Amen the fire was lit.

Jesus said to the angel at Smyrna, be faithful to the point of death. And I will give you the crown of life. The message to the Church at Smyrna must have comforted Polycarp; the one who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

The affliction of Polycarp and the little band of believers at Smyrna challenge us to take our faith seriously. This church challenges us to a life of faithfulness.

It is ironic that the death of Christians such as Polycarp has fueled the growth of Christianity. It is not the persecution that fuels the gospel, but like Polycarp’s bold response to be faithful unto death, the bold response to persecution and the grace under pressure.

There are still those today who are slandered and afflicted. The majority Christian martyrs today remain nameless to the outside world. Their faithfulness to Jesus did not make them famous, but Jesus knows. The challenge to be faithful to the point of death remains. It calls us to be faithful even if our difficulty is far less than what took place at Smyrna.

The Reward for the faithful

Our predecessors in the Christian walk met the challenge. They received the reward, the crown of life. They were crowned with the victor’s crown.

Jesus endured the affliction of the cross because of the great joy in obedience to the Father. He suffered affliction and slander because of his desire to make a way of salvation for me and you.

The faithful often face tests. In all this we are called to overcome. They can kill followers of Christ but those who die as martyrs will not be hurt at all by second death. We read in 1 Peter 4:13; But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

Revelation 21:8
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Polycarp spoke of fire his persecutors were ignorant of. Revelation 2:18 refers to “a lake of fire” as the second death. This is what everyone should fear more than anything else.

The challenge is to be faithful. It means we follow Christ even when the cost is high. To the faithful Christian there will be true spiritual riches.

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Responses

  1. Good sermon.
    I’m preaching on Preparing for Adversity this Sunday.
    Mark

  2. I am blessed by reading this article. may God bless you.
    Alex

  3. inspiring sermon keep up the good work of blessing us!


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