The Apostle John was banned to hard labour on to the Island of Patmos for refusal to worship the emperor Domitian. There he saw visions he recorded for the churches in his day in Asia minor, including the message to the church in Smyrna.
8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
9 “‘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. 10 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. 11 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.’
Observation notes and questions
Notes: The city of Smyrna (today Izmir in Turkey) was big and prosperous due to a safe sea port. It was filled with idolatry, notably the worship of Cybele (“the Mother of the gods) and Dionysus or Bacchus. This city also hosted temples for the goddess Roma and for Emperor worship (built for Tiberius in 28 A.D.). During the first century Smyrna hosted a big population of Jews were and they were hostile towards the Jews. The phrase “The First and the Last” has specific reference to Jesus’ rank and authority, rather than his life span or origin. “Ten days” was the (maximum) time period commonly given to a condemned prisoner in the Roman empire, before execution.
- What do you tick up from the tone of this letter about Christ’s attitude towards this congregation?
- From your reading of this letter, what is the context (situation) of the congregation in this city?
- Note how Jesus reveals Himself to this persecuted congregation. Why would these phrases “the First and the Last” and “He who died and came to life” comfort and encourage the church?
- Complete the Revelations series table below by answering these questions (2:8-11):
- How does Christ revealhimself to this congregation?
- What does Christ commendin this congregation?
- What does Christ condemnin this congregation?
- What does Christ exhortin this congregation?
- What does Christ promiseto this congregation?
- What does Christ warnthis congregation?
- In which way could you identify with the suffering church Smyrna?
- In which way did (or would) you find comfort during seasons of hardship with the knowledge that Christ is “the First and the Last.”
- How does (a) your congregation’s and (b) your personal attitude towards suffering and death compare with this congregation?
- What hope does Christ’s message in this letter give you?
Application and Prayer
Pray about your attitude and experience in suffering, especially towards God. Ask the Lord for hope – in this life and the life hereafter. Then pray for a persecuted and oppressed congregation – find some insights here on Open Door’s World Watch List.