THE SMYRNA LETTER
Write this letter! The earth-shattering voice blared like a trumpet! I wonder if there was a sense of urgency for John of Patmos as he heard the voice of God and began to record another letter…the second of 7 letters spoken to him in a vision and which he was commanded to deliver to 7 churches in Turkey, (Asia Minor). Why these 7 churches in particular? We’ll get to that later. These letters were revealed to John while he was in exile for preaching God’s Word and for telling everything he knew about Jesus Christ. It was the Lord’s Day and John was worshiping, when suddenly there it was…the trumpeting voice, commanding, Write this down! Send a letter to each of these churches… The One bringing the message to John said He was ‘The Beginning and the End’. Picture the scene, a lonely windswept isle…John trembling as he now wrote the 2nd of 7 letters. (Revelation 2: 8-11). Let’s take a short tour of a town called Smyrna and see what Letter #2 of 7 is all about.
The ruins of the ancient city of Smyrna (now known as Izmir) is situated today about a half hour’s drive north of ancient Ephesus. This town had extremely powerful ties to the government – the imperial rule of Rome. As a result of this tight allegiance, Smyrna raised a temple to the ‘god’ of Rome, dea Roma, and another temple was erected in memory of the Emperor Tiberius. Swearing allegiance to any one other than the ‘ruler’ or dea Roma was punishable as treason. Important ‘men’ were gods. So it is not surprising to learn that Christians in Smyrna lived in quiet fear.
No doubt these Smyrnan believers missed out on the best job offers. No doubt they were often shunned by popular society. It can be assumed they survived through remaining a close and caring community. (But, time now for a drum roll…) Letter # 2 opens with powerful words and deep encouragement from Jesus:
I KNOW HOW MUCH YOU SUFFER FOR THE LORD, AND ALL ABOUT YOUR POVERTY. BUT YOU HAVE HEAVENLY RICHES…
Jesus tells the Smyrna Church that he knows exactly how bad things are for them and He assures them that in spite of poverty they ‘own’ heaven’s riches. The Lord’s words indicate that the Smyrna Church is heavily oppressed. God’s people are being slandered, blacklisted and crushed on every side, and are advised by the Lord to take heed of those amongst them who say they are ‘ people of God’ but who actually support satan’s causes. (Letter # 2 is the first of two of the 7 letters to the 7 churches which openly “I.D.’s” the ancient foe of God’s Kingdom – satan, later referred to in Revelation 9 as Abaddon(Hebrew), Apollyon (Greek) or…(in English) The Destroyer).
Jesus closes this letter urging the Smyrna Church not to fear satan or any persecution the evil one throws at them. The Smyrna Church is reminded to remain faithful, even in the face of death! Letter #2 is heavy stuff. It reaveals a sharp contrast between the situation of the believers at the poor church in Smyrna and the big successful church at Ephesus we read about in Letter #1. But wait until you see the ‘double whammy’ problem of the churches in Pergamos and Thyatira…We’ll be there…next…
Read through this letter again in Revelation 2: 8-11 . Consider answering the following questions as you read: Why do some Christians seem to suffer more for their faith than others? Does suffering mean faith isn’t strong enough…or does it make faith stronger? What strength might the Smyrna Church have which Jesus regards as valuable?
Collect #2 of 7 clues here. The same great promise to the Smyrna Church is also available to you. What is it?
(Coming up next: No. 3 The Pergamon Letter & No. 4 The Thyatira Letter)
Review previous Church: Letter No. 1
© 2011 S. Michaels