Persevere! (Revelation 2:8-11) - September 22nd 2013

    Followers of Jesus paid a price to claim the name of Christ in a pagan world. Smyrna was about 56 kilometers north of Ephesus and faced the Aegean Sea. The city had been destroyed, only to be rebuilt later. A golden street ran from the harbor to the top of Mt. Pagus. Temples to various ancient gods lined the street. The city held strong ties to Rome and was home to a considerable Jewish population. Paul may have founded this church while he was staying in Ephesus.

    2:8 To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last. (1:17; 22:13) Smyrna’s nature cult serving Cybele recognized the cycles of birth and death in nature. Yet this reference points to Jesus’ victory over death. 1:18 I am the Living One, I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! (1:18)

    1. Confront Evil.
    Evil is real. Man’s inhumanity to man destroys harmony in many ways.
    The Bible teaches:
    1) God created the universe without evil and suffering. (Genesis 1)
    2) God created humanity with the ability to choose to stay in harmony with God or to reject God. (Genesis 2)
    3) People chose to do what they wanted rather than obey God. (Genesis 3)
    4) Wrong choices led to evil and suffering. (Genesis 3) 
    If you could eliminate all evil, suffering and sin by giving up free choice, would you? We all make choices and every choice produces results. All choices have consequences.
    Non-believers of Smyrna hated Christians and their attempts to live in purity. God expressed knowledge of their difficulties.
    2: 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!
    Many of these believers were under grinding pressure and had lost everything. They lived in destitution (similar to Hebrews 10:34).
    They were encouraged to avoid measuring themselves by the world.
    2:9 I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
    Roman government exempted Jews from Emperor Worship. Yet the government hated Christians and often stood as adversaries to believers.
    We could easily wonder why God allowed such behavior.
    If God intervened every time misused freedom would cause suffering, would we be free? There is no freedom without consequences.
    2: 10 Do 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.
    The slandering ones would seek to destroy these believers but God would strengthen them in the face of persecution. After a limited time the persecution would die down.
    Persecution should not surprise the Christian. (Matthew 5:11; 1 Peter 4:12-16)

    2. Claim Christ.
     2:10 Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. The people of Smyrna were faithful to Rome. God wanted them to be faithful to Him, whether they lived or died. He promised them the victor’s crown (symbolic image). The key word is not crown but life. The life believers are promised does not fade away. It is the resurrection life, eternal life.

    2: 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.
    Overcomers prove the reality of faith by choosing to go to heaven with a good conscience rather than stay on earth with a bad one. 
    You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
    The promise of protection from eternal pain through the second death has been called “the martyr’s assurance.” The second death refers to eternal separation from God (Revelation 20:11-15).

    Many are tempted to turn from God in the face of evil. Christians believe the cross shows us that God personally understands the full impact of evil. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus empowers believers to overcome evil’s greatest threat (1 Corinthians 15:56, 27).

    The New International Version is the Bible translation used in this study.