Sunday, April 26, 2009

April 26th - Smyrna

Prayer Requests
Dr. Jackson Preaching
Summit in General
Taste of Marietta
Lauren's Grandfather's Health
Tyler and Sarah Going to China
Matthew's Rival Coach
Erin in California

Text - Revelation 2:8-11

So, a recap, how many churches is Revelation written to? 7

Who wrote it? John the Apostle

Who spoke it? Jesus Christ

Where did John write it from? Patmos

Where was John from? Ephesus

Which is the first church Christ writes to? Ephesus

What was their problem? Loveless, cold…even though their doctrine was right.

We’re not 100% sure what Ephesus means, so it’s not really fruitful to examine the name too in-depth. It either means “desire” which could signify a wrong understanding of what love is, or it could mean “remission”, which is a reduction, like their demonstration of love had been reduced. Names are important in examining the Seven Churches of Revelation.

When was Christ crucified? Probably AD30, maybe as late as AD36, but in the 30’s.

When was Revelation written? AD95

That’s a big gap. Why would Christ wait so long to write this letter to his churches, and why did he pick these churches? Any ideas?

These seven churches were seven real places with real people and real problems, but they also represent every church that has ever existed. You can fit most churches cleanly into one or two of these 7 Churches of Revelation, and usually there is one prevailing theme. It took this long for these churches to be thoroughly established, Christ was initiating what is called the “Church Age.”

Just a real brief run-through of the ages, and this list is sort of basic, it could probably be chopped up with more detail. After the flood we start with the Age of the Patriarchs, then with Moses comes the Age of the Law. In here we have kings and exiles, but it’s still the Age of the Law. Near the end of Christ’s life we see the Apostolic Age, and finally the Church Age. There are, I think, two ages to come, an age with a very, very small church presence, when Satan is in charge, and then the eternal age when Christ casts Satan, sin, and death into Hell forever.

A good portion of the New Testament is concerned with the Apostolic Age and people make huge mistakes expecting those sorts of things to be common today. Like when entire families are saved just because one person believed, that is not something that happens today, but is tied to the Age of the Law and brought into the Apostolic Age a little. Similarly, healings and raising from the dead were Apostolic and don’t happen in that way today. Raising someone spiritually from the dead is so much better than raising them physically; healing their soul is so much better than healing their body.

The Bible doesn’t give us a time frame between the Church Age and the Final Age, it doesn’t even address it. At least 1900 years occur between the end of Revelation 3 and the beginning of Revelation 4.

So, the reason that Revelation is written so late is so that the churches are established and ready to usher in the Church Age. Who is the church in relation to Christ? The church is the bride of Christ. I met a girl in Tampa who was convinced she was the bride of Christ, her name was Janice and she was wearing a wedding gown walking around the stadium. We witnessed to her and she was just a little bit crazy…ok…a lotta bit crazy. Christ isn’t going to marry one person and get a house together with a white picket fence and a little dog…Christ being the Bridegroom and the church being the Bride is a metaphor for the relationship and roles of each.

And it’s not something we're sitting around waiting for, Christ is actively working with his bride right now. When John first saw Christ, he was in the midst of seven lampstands. What are those lampstands? A verse we had to skip last week is,

Revelation 1:20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

When it says angels, this word can mean two things, it can either refer to seraphim and cherubim, or it can refer to a messenger. Usually it refers to seraphim or cherubim who are delivering a message; context will tell which it means. Here we are pretty sure its referring to the messengers of these churches, aka their pastors, although perhaps there are ministering angels in charge of each church.

Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?


Hebrews 13:1-2 Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Christ, the King of the universe, is personally holding his messengers in his hands and is dwelling in the midst of his church. It shows where his affection is, and there also ought we set our affection, first on the Bridegroom, then on his bride, which is made up of all of us.

First we see him in the midst of the lampstands, in the letter to Ephesus we see something else, in Revelation 2:1 he calls himself one …who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

Walking in the Bible is often a sign of working; Christ is maintaining his churches, working in their midst. If it is important to him, it should be important to us.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

So, all that said, lets look at another church.

Revelation 2:8-11 And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: 'The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. "'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. 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. 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.'

Smyrna is another port town; its name means the Port of Myrrh. Myrrh is often representative of suffering, where else have we heard of myrrh in the Bible? The wise-men brought Christ gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The gold represented their worldly possessions, the frankincense represented their worship, and the myrrh represented their pain, suffering, and brokenness due to sin.

Smyrna is the persecuted church, the suffering church. Only two churches out of the seven don’t have anything wrong with them, this is one of them, listen to how Christ starts.

v. 9 I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)

They were worldly poor, but spiritually rich.

Romans 8:18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Romans 5:3-5 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

v. 9 the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

Modern day Israel is not Israel. The church is the Israel of God, national Israel has been cut-off from salvation. (Romans 9:6,10:3) The Jews of today share little more in common with the Jews of the Old Testament than a name. Christ very much dislikes modern day Israel, calling them a “synagogue of Satan.”

v. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer.

Do not fear. Why not? It’s probably going to hurt…

2 Corinthians 1:5 As we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

v. 10 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.

Ten days represents a short period of time. The trying is a means of purification. False Christians will quickly fall away, hopefully realize they are false, repent, and be saved. True Christians will be proved true during this time and really shine.

It has been said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church. It is a tremendous witness to be able to look death and adversary’s in the face and be not afraid. How can we do that? Verse 10 continues,

v. 10 Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

How can Christ make this promise? It is what he said in verse 8, “'The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.” Christ has defeated death, he can promise resurrection.

One of John’s close friends was named Polycarp. When John was writing this to Smyrna, he instantly would have recognized, “My friend Polycarp is the pastor of Smyrna!” Later, Polycarp died a valiant death, they tried to burn him at the stake, but he wouldn’t burn. The fire burned all around him, and finally he was killed by the sword. Someone shouted during his execution, “Polycarp, Be strong and play the man!”

This would be quoted 1400 years later in the beginnings of the English Reformation. Hugh Latimer and Nicolas Ridley were tied to a stake in Oxford. Latimer looked over at Ridley and cried out, “Play the man, Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” England would become a bastion for Christianity and a sending ground for missionaries to the rest of the world.

The persecuted church is one of Christ’s favorites because there is no room for hypocrites within this church. There is a story of a house church in China in which five soldiers come rushing in with AK-47 assault rifles and scream, “This church is illegal, you have two options, you can leave now or you can stay and be executed for your faith in Jesus Christ!” Half of the people get up and leave, the other half stay because they will not deny their Saviour. After some leave, the guards put their guns down and say, “We’re Christians, we wanted to make sure we were in the midst of true brothers and sisters before we would join you for worship.”

v. 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.'

He who has an ear means someone whom God has given the ability to understand and hear. Then Christ again gives an audacious, radical promise. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.

The persecuted church will conquer, because they have been tested in the fire and their faith has been shown to be pure because they have stood up for Christ. Beloved, it is scary to think about being killed for Christ’s sake, but it is good for our faith to consider how we would respond in a situation like that. Do we love our life more than we love Christ?

Mark 8:34-38 "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

Smyrna is the persecuted church. Her faith had to be genuine because it was tried in the fire; she was made rich in character and hope through suffering. This church is one to be emulated; while we are not being persecuted, ought not we live as though Christ and his church are all that matters?

After all, Christ and his church are all that matters.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

Ladies, I don’t expect you to act like men, but I do expect you to expect your men (pastors, fathers, brothers, future husbands) to act like men, and to hold them to a high standard.