Revelation’s Seven Churches: Smyrna
The seven churches described in Revelation 2 and 3 are representative of the Christian church from the first century until the end of time. They describe the spiritual condition of God’s people in each succeeding generation. The first church, Ephesus, aptly describes the New Testament church with all its zeal for truth and passion for witness. Unfortunately, these early Christians left their first love and substituted duty for devotion. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, their service for Christ degenerated into mere formality. In last month’s lesson we discovered that this can happen to any one of us. We heard the Holy Spirit’s appeal to keep our hearts focused on Jesus, the heart of all true faith.
In this lesson we will study the second of the seven churches: smyrna. The word smyrna means “sweet-smelling incense.” In the second and third centuries the devil viciously attacked the Christian church through persecution. The church at Smyrna has much to teach us. Its lessons speak to all who go through trial and face difficulty.
1Read Revelation 2:8. How did Jesus address the church at Smyrna? What titles did He use? Why do you think Jesus used these particular titles? See also Revelation 1:17, 18.
What an appropriate title for Jesus to address His faithful people in Smyrna. He is “the First and the Last.” The One who was “dead, and came to life.” If Jesus faced persecution, mockery, torture, and death with courage, His people can face it also. The Christ who triumphed over the tomb offers us victory in the face of death.
2 What three distinguishing characteristics did Jesus use to describe the church at Smyrna?
Discover the answer in Revelation 2:10.
3In the face of trials and tribulation, what counsel did Jesus give His people in Revelation 2:10?
Throughout the Bible Jesus encourages His people with the expression “Do not fear.” Through the prophet Isaiah He declares, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10). Speaking to the disciples in the midst of a fierce storm, the Master proclaimed, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (Matt. 14:27). In the midst of our trials He still proclaims, “Do not fear. I am with you.” He does not abandon us in difficulty. He does not forsake us when difficulties come.
4 According to Revelation 2:10 God’s church would be tested. But persecution would be especially fierce for a distinct period of time. How long would this period be? Why would this encourage
In Bible prophecy one prophetic day equals one literal year (see Eze. 4:6 and Num. 14:34). Consequently a persecution of 10 prophetic days would last for 10 literal years. This prophecy was fulfilled exactly in the persecutions of the Roman emperor Diocletian, from A.D. 303-313.
A fascinating spiritual point is revealed here: Tribulation does not last forever. All our trials have a limited duration.
5What admonition did Jesus give the church at Smyrna, and what reward did He offer them?
God’s appeal to each of us is to be faithful to Him where we are. If the Smyrna Christians could be faithful to Jesus in the midst of torture, persecution, and death, we can be faithful in the midst of our trials too. If His grace could sustain them, it can sustain us. The offer of a triumphant crown is ours as well as theirs.
6Read Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21. What word is repeated in each of the final appeals to these seven churches?
In whatever circumstances Christ’s people find themselves, it is possible for them to overcome. No challenge we will ever face is too great for God. We will never be placed in a position from which He cannot deliver us. No circumstance we confront is He unable to handle. Through Jesus we can overcome. His grace is sufficient in all of life’s circumstances. This is reason for rejoicing today, tomorrow, and forever.