To the Church in Smyrna8"To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
Okay I may take these out of order but I am looking at my favourite passages in the Bible. I have always loved the letters contained in Revelations to the seven different church's since introduced to them when my former Pastor asked some of the lay preachers to let him choose their passages. Mine was Smyrna and I eventually ended up looking at Philadelphia as well.
First thing I notice looking at it now is that there is absolutely no criticism from the Lord for this church. None whatsoever. That to me is just totally shocking. The idea that a church can get nothing but praise and encouragement seems shocking to me!
The problem is I have been in churches and to be blunt they seem to be full of people who you would believe God would want to criticise. I don't mean this to be nasty about anyone but churches are full of sinners who do not deserve that God would even look in their direction. You know, people exactly like me. We are all weak, we mess up, disagree with each other, count ourselves as better than others, give credit to people not God and do not spend anywhere near enough time with God. If anyone reading this is from my Church be aware the reason I make this list is that these are the sins I identify in my life( and its not intended as an exhaustive list). If I say these are the sins of the church it is just that I believe that you are all like me. That you get it wrong and mess up and feel a lot of the time that you are a very sorry excuse for a Christian. The idea that God would praise us without a "but I have this against you" statement is shocking because we believe God should criticise us not praise us.
Second they are under attack from falsehood. Well lets be honest that could be written today could it not? How many of us hear churches using false doctrine? I honestly believe that because of these mixed messages that different false teachers put abroad that most do not actually know what being a Christian actually means.
One of these false doctrines leads us on to my third point. I have spoken before about the prosperity gospel. The idea that if your bank account has lots of money in it and God gives you lots of stuff when you pray then you must be hyper spiritual. If of course you are in the red and it looks like God does not answer your calls for stuff then you are weak spiritually. But here Jesus is telling this Church categorically what is coming.
10Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
The third point is that this Church is going to suffer. This will involve prison and Jesus commands them to be faithful even to the point of death. What no large bank account? No they were poor. What no answers to prayer giving you what you want? No suffering even unto death. One of the reasons I love Jesus is that he does not mess about or gild the lily here. He tells it to them straight. Remember this is a church that has no condemnation. If you read the other letters there is some very harsh condemnation. This is a good church despite being materially poor. This is a church that is spiritually rich. Christ is not going to stop the suffering because it has a purpose which I will look at in another post. But the message here is not to pray it away. But to keep going, suffering as we will see is for our benefit.