Revelation Lesson 6: Troubling Times, but Only for a Season
Revelation Chapter 2: 8-11
“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life’: ‘I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until 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. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”’
Last week we looked at the church in Ephesus. This church had a lot of good things in it, and then some bad. It was very important to them to keep paganism from creeping into the local church, and we should be just as diligent. It is so easy to allow little things to creep in, and they sound so innocent:
I mean, what could be wrong with including statues of Jesus and others to give us some kind of visual reference? What could be wrong with ‘emptying’ your mind so that you can reach Nirvana? What is wrong with doing some of the Yoga stretches to help our health and circulation?
These all seem so innocent but they open the door to paganism, and they never just end there. We are not allowed to have statues of our Lord or anything else; we are not allowed to ‘empty’ our minds – we are to be filled with the Word of God; and you can do a lot of stretching and limbering without doing the Yoga poses.
Paganism plays to our senses, and we can get tied up and tied down very quickly. We are called to worship God in ‘spirit and in truth.’ This should be sufficient.
We will now move on to the church in Smyrna. Please recall that, as we explore these churches, they represent the predominant church of an era; but there are churches that are like these in all eras of the Lord’s churches throughout the 2,000-year history of the New Testament church.
Jesus Knows, Revelation 2 verse 9
One of the hardest things and one of the most sobering things to recall is that Jesus knows. He knows everything. You are not going to surprise Him, not going to catch Him off-guard, and not going to outsmart Him. He knows everything. Why does He know everything? Because He is God! He is the First and the Last. He encompasses all of eternity, and He has already seen the end from the beginning.
The Godhead knew what was going to happen before they ever spoke the world into existence. Jesus knew when He breathed into the man the ‘breath of life’ (in Genesis 2) that that life would cost Him his, and yet still He did it.
Jesus once again refers us to His resurrection. This is the ultimate demonstration of absolute power—the power over death—the power to kill death. He speaks by this authority, the authority of the resurrection. And of course John had seen the resurrected Lord time and time again over the 40 days that Jesus showed himself to the Apostles and other followers.
I remind you that the book of the Revelation is about Jesus; it is His revelation to us. And in it we see the Almighty God. He came as a Lamb – lowly, humbled and meek. But in this revelation, we see the Almighty, All-Powerful God; and He is the head of each local church. He is our Judge and our Sustainer. He is the power and the light of every church that has ever existed in the 2,000 years of the church age.
The name Smyrna means ‘sweet smelling.’ And this church had been through some things that made them a sweet-smelling aroma to our Lord. In verse 9, we find that they had been through some tough times, tribulations as they are called. This church endured extreme persecution under the Emperor Diocletian. The persecution last exactly 10 years, from 303-313 AD when Constantine declared Christianity legal in the Roman Empire. These are the ‘ten days’ of tribulation mentioned in verse 10.
Because of this persecution, this church was very poor in material things; but as far as God was concerned, they were rich. In contrast, the Laodicean church was rich in material things but poor as far as God was concerned.
In verse 10, Jesus encourages this church to ‘not fear.’ Yes, there is great trouble coming; and yes, some of you will be punished, killed and imprisoned. But this is a part of the testing that helps to purify you. Stay faithful and you will receive the crown of Life. This is the call to all of us as the end of the church age grows near.
We are told that, as we approach the end of the church age, the times will get harder; and maybe that some of us – like our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world – will experience imprisonment, various trials, and maybe even death on behalf of the Gospel. But we are called to remain faithful to the Lord, His name, and the cause. Notice in verse 10 once again that it is the ‘devil’ who is against you. He is a true and bitter rival. He targets faithful churches and seeks to destroy them and cause havoc.
The Synagogue of Satan, Revelation 2 verse 9
Churches need to be diligent about the people that come into the church. We need to test everyone and their beliefs and doctrines; and we need to get rid of those that are working for Satan. The word synagogue means to assemble, or an assembly. So, we are told that – just like a church is an assembly that represents Christ, there are assemblies that represent Satan. And we need to be diligent about them and not get involved with them, and they with us. Satan’s assembly is going to mimic the true church. It may even talk about God, have a Bible and seem religious; but it is counterfeit.
The Synagogue of Satan is mentioned twice in the letters to the churches. Here they were working in the church at Smyrna, and they were also trying to be active at the church in Philadelphia in chapter 3. This was an assembly of Jews who were persecuting the Lord’s churches.
There are several lines of Jews. Abraham had Isaac, and Isaac had both Jacob and Esau. They are both Jews, but only the line that comes through Jacob is the chosen line that the Messiah would come through. Abraham also had other children with another woman named Keturah; we meet her in Genesis 25. These too are descendants of Abraham, but they are not of the chosen line. ONLY the children that come from Sarah were a part of the chosen line, and then only through Jacob. There are many lines of Jews in the world, but only a select chosen line is the one to whom the promises are made.
Most of the early persecution of the Lord’s churches came from Jews. They hated the preaching of the Messiah, and they often implored the Roman government to kill off the Christians. Not much has changed today; our greatest enemies are religions – the ones that most often teach tolerance, except when the true churches say that Jesus is the ONLY WAY to be saved, and that the Bible does not need to be updated and/or re-interpreted. It needs to be obeyed. It needs to be applied. It needs to be read, over and over again.
Then the tolerance is gone, and the synagogues of Satan rise up to kill off the true churches.
In 1524, Cardinal Hosius, President of the Council of Trent, said, “Were it not that the Baptists had been grievously tormented and cut off with the knife during the past 1,200 years, they would swarm in greater numbers than all the reformers.” – The Trail of Blood, section 2, page 3.
And then Sir Isaac Newton noted that the “Baptists are the only known Christians that have never symbolized with Rome.” – Trail of Blood, section 2, page 3.
There are some lovely people in the Roman Catholic church. I know some of them, and they truly love the Lord. But they are not aware of the history of the RC church and how they have persecuted and hunted true Christians for a long time before the détente that exists now.
Today, the Roman system is still the enemy of the true churches. The Pope calls into question the Word of God—the power of God. He has called good evil and evil good; and when the true believers stand to speak, we are seen to be intolerant. One day soon this is going to be the catalyst for lots and lots of trouble.
The Lord’s churches need to be diligent to keep the doctrines pure. Test everyone that comes in:
>Who is Jesus?
>How does one get to be redeemed?
>Do you need to be baptized to go to heaven?
>Do you baptize infants for their salvation?
>Is Hell for real?
>Did God literally create the world as we know it in 6 days?
>Was there a literal global flood?
>Are the Jews God’s chosen people?
>Is the Bible the complete Word of God to us, and the complete guide for the New Testament church?
>Can a person lose the salvation that is given by grace from God?
These are some of the questions that will begin to separate the truth from lies, and the people of God from the people of Satan. This is our responsibility as the Lord’s people; we are the Truth to the world.
All Good, no bad and no ugly, Revelation 2 verses 8-11
This is one of the churches in the era. All throughout the church age, there have been churches like this – churches that endure hardships, protect the purity of doctrine, and remain faithful in trials and testing. Jesus, the head of the church, had nothing bad to say about this church. He encouraged them to remain faithful and to keep their eyes on the prize—the Crown of Life.
He promises that they will not have to worry about the ‘second death.’ This Second Death is recorded for us in Revelation 20:11-15,
“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Those who know Jesus as Saviour do not need to fear the second death; this is not for us. Make sure that you are of the synagogue of Christ – that He is your Lord, Master and Saviour.
He cannot be fooled; He is the First and the Last, and nothing is hidden from Him.