THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA
Why should we study these churches of Asia in Revelation 2-3? Why should Christians study books like Romans, Colossians, Thessalonians and Philippians? The obvious reasons are because letters written by inspiration of God to specific churches reminds us that Christ knows what is going on in every congregation; that churches have problems because they are made up of people that sin, and err in judgment; that Satan is attacking the bride of Christ in every way he can so that the church will lose her influence. Beloved, we cannot be ignorant of the devil’s efforts or ways of discrediting the church for which Jesus died. We cannot ignore his efforts to attack Jesus’ bride and cause the world to despise and reject the only message that can save it. When God’s people sin, err and fail to live up to the teachings of the gospel, we help the cause of Satan and diminish our influence in the world. Our lights grow dim, and Jesus’ bride is mocked and spurned for her failings. Have you or I caused the hope of the gospel to be ignored by our failings? Will souls cry out in judgment because of our failings to be the light? Being Christ’s bride, we need to be the best we can be for the salvation of men.
In the letters to the seven churches of Asia, John deals with specific problems in each church — and these problems have been replicated time and again in many churches. The church of Ephesus was going through the motions in their relationship with God, as they had left their first love. When we don’t have love for the Lord first in our hearts (Matthew 22:34-40) it shows. It shows in our worship, in our lack of perseverance when hard times come, and in teaching and preaching the gospel.
The church of Smyrna was one of the two churches (Philadelphia is the other one – Revelation 3:7-13) that did not have a specific failing that Jesus had to address. These were encouraged to stay faithful in their service for the Lord. If Jesus were to write a letter about South Cobb, what would he say?
The letter to the church in Smyrna discusses a church that was undergoing persecution. As he starts notice these points:
The description of Jesus (Revelation 2:8). When people are being persecuted, they want to know if it is worth it to endure. In the case of Smyrna, Jesus describes himself as the first and the last. Foy E. Wallace states in his commentary on this, “This sublime language repeats the eternity of the One who addresses this church, whom death could not vanquish, and it was intended for the encouragement of the Smyrna members to follow him even unto death, or martyrdom, with no fear of the consequences.” (Foy E. Wallace, The Book of Revelation, Foy E. Wallace Publications, Fort Worth, TX 1966 p 89-90). Brethren, if or when we suffer persecution, this is when ask ourselves if the price we pay is worth it! Jesus told them that it was. That should be enough for us. While I am not a prophet, it is possible that the church in next few years will suffer persecution – let it be known that the price is worth it. Are we preparing for that possibility?
In every church, Jesus knows what works they were engaged in; he knew whether they paid lip service to service for him or were really committed. He knew what they must endure. There were men who claimed to be Jews that attacked the church, and were, a “synagogue of Satan.” When faced with persecution we truly see where our faith lies, and whether it will weather the storms. Now was the time for them to bolster their faith in God – NOW IS THE TIME FOR ALL OF US TO DO THE SAME THING! Who do you trust? My prayer is that it is Jesus – the one who died for you!
Things were going to get worse for this congregation. Satan would cast them into prison to be tested (see how Satan tempted Job and caused his suffering throughout the book). The idea of tribulation “10 days” suggests the idea of completeness. These brothers and sisters were going to suffer because of their stand for Christ — would they endure?
Jesus encouraged them to “be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” How often we have quoted this verse out of context to encourage faithfulness in attendance, or giving, or service to the Lord. While it does apply in these situations, consider how more intense this would be when you are facing death because of your commitment to Christ! They would be given the opportunity to deny Christ and be set free. If it were you or I, what would we do? Are we so fearful of death that we are afraid to die? Should Christian be afraid to die knowing what we have waiting for us? How do you and I look at death? How serious would this persecution be? TO DEATH! Oh, how we avoid death — talking about it, thinking about it. It is not something that comes up in polite conversation. These Christians were hearing of their friends and loved ones dying for Jesus. It was a reality for them. Jesus called them to die to themselves when they became Christians, and to die literally when necessary for His cause.
The over-comers would be the ones not hurt by the second death. The second death would be the separation from Jesus throughout eternity. Physical death is not the worst thing that can happen to us – being separated from God, Christ and the Spirit throughout eternity is much, much worse.
Some questions to stir your thoughts:
- 1.How does the description of Jesus bring comfort to someone who may be on the verge of death?
- 2.How does Jesus, knowing their works and tribulations and poverty encourage us, or does it make us feel anxious? What would Jesus say about our works for him?
- 3.Testing is good for us, and one way that we are tested is by trials that may cause us to lose our faith. Tests are good for us to strengthen us! Have you allowed the tests of the last 2-3 years to weaken your faith? Or has your faith in God been strengthened?
- 4.What is worse — physical death that happens when our spirits are separated from our bodies, or spiritual death where we are eternally separated from God, Jesus and the Spirit forever?
- 5.What would Jesus say about you right now as you look at your relationship with him?
THOUGHTS FROM ROMANS 1:24-32
Last Wednesday evening we began a study of the book of Romans. We are, as with other books, going to cover it verse by verse, and see the things Paul says to remind us about God’s grace and our faith in him. This book is powerful to help us know what God, Jesus and the Spirit have done to save us from our sins, and how we should live as a result. Below are some points that we can see just from Romans 1:24-32 (via Ross, Central Church of Christ, Dalton GA circa 1980). Please consider your life. Remember if you have been saved from sin and its results, you have been saved from engaging in these sins. THINK ON THESE THINGS!
“If a person refuses “to have God in their knowledge” (v 28), verses 29-30 show the result. Some people refuse to know the power and eternal nature of God (Romans 1:20-21). They not only refuse to accept the clear evidence of God’s existence but swap those truths for lies (Romans 1:25).
“When a persons’ affections turn to a “homemade God” (1:25) then “homemade” standards will soon follow. (Romans 1:25-32)
“When I won’t allow God and his standards in my mind, then I will come up with something to live by, and usually it will be a standard that pleases myself. SO, if pleasing myself is the goal, I will not be too concerned about pleasing or helping you.
“In verses 26-31, notice that the sins listed could only be pleasing (temporally) to the sinner and certainly not the receiver.
“Selfishness (the worship of self) replaces worship of God.
“When a person denies the evidences of God’s power (Romans 1:20-21) then their reasoning ability in others areas also are skewed (1:31)
“A person who is committed to living that selfish life is worthy of death (v 32). So don’t support them in their evil deeds (v 32). Encouraging evil is as potentially sinful as doing evil.
“Don’t encourage evil (v 32). If I buy books, videos, magazines, movie tickets, or watch TV shows that present evil for my entertainment, isn’t that supporting evil? I think so!
“The point is, as a Christian, avoid evil regardless of where it appears (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Don’t let those ungodly attitudes (vs 24-32) creep into your thinking from any source and know what they are, so you can avoid them.”
IT HAPPENED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT — OR DID IT?
ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS AND THEN LOOK IT UP TO SEE IF YOU ARE RIGHT! Circle the right answer!
- Hezekiah was John the Baptist’s father. TRUE FALSE
- Tiberius Caesar was ruler when Jesus was born. TRUE FALSE
- Jesus made some healing mud by mixing his saliva with dirt. TRUE FALSE
- Peter was the disciple “whom Jesus loved.” TRUE FALSE
- Paul and Barnabas had such a disagreement that they parted company. TRUE FALSE
- It was nearly dusk when the Lord caused a bright light to blind Paul. TRUE. FALSE
- Paul survived a harrowing shipwreck in the Black Sea. TRUE FALSE
- Stephen was seized by a disgruntled group called the Synagogue of the Freedmen. TRUE FALSE
- Paul had a secretary named Tertius. TRUE FALSE
- Mark and Barnabas were brothers. TRUE FALSE
Now some other questions:
- What is the Shortest chapter in the Bible?
- We all know Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but do you know their names before they were changed?
- Who was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot after he killed himself?
- Who was turned down to fill Judas’ place as a disciple?
- How old was Adam when he died?
- Who was a “wild donkey of a man?”