14. THE CHURCH AGE OF SMYRNA.
Of the seven churches in Asia, it was the church of Smyrna that suffered more persecution at the hands of the Jews than most others. Consequently, this church is used as a type picture of the Church 100 A.D. to 325 A.D., for it was during this time that the Church of Jesus Christ suffered its most wide spread persecution. Prior to this time the Church was considered by Rome to be part of the Jewish faith, and they were granted all the rights the Jews had to worship their own God, and pray to their own God, as long as they prayed for the protection and well being of the emperor, but after the Jewish rebellions of the 60’s and 70’s these rights were withdrawn and both Jews and Christians began to suffer wide spread persecution.
Revelation2:8 And to the church in Smyrna write, “These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: 9 ‘I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
11 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”
This letter to the church of Smyrna is from Jesus, who not only rightfully claims to be the First and the Last, He also rightfully claims to be He who was dead and come to life. By claiming to be the First and the Last, Jesus is not just claiming to be a god, He is claiming to be the One and Only supreme God who was before all other beings, and is the creator of all things. For only He, the supreme God, was before all things and will exist beyond all things.
This is an important point. It was not only the Jews and Christians who believed in a supreme eternal God who was both before all things and the creator of all things; this was a common belief held by the vast majority of the ancient faiths, right back to their beginnings. Jesus Christ is not just the God of the Jews, or the God of the Christians, He is the one and only supreme God, who was before all powers and authorities and was and still is above all powers and authorities.
When we talk about the beginnings, we should bear in mind that approximately 4,400 years ago; the forefathers’ of all the world’s ancient civilizations and faiths were all part of one great ancient civilization, whose central point of focus was the tower of Babel. In those days when the tower of Babel was being built, Shem, the son of Noah, or someone very close to Noah or Shem, would have also been there preaching righteousness to the forefathers’ of all the ancient civilizations of the world.
Because of the preaching of Shem, when God confused the language of the people at Babel, and scattered the nations of the world; each nation, people of every tribe and tongue took with them a good sound knowledge of One and only Supreme God the Creator, the fall of man, death, the world of the dead, God’s plan of redemption, the need for a blood sacrifice, and the promise of a deliver, the Son of God born of a virgin, the coming resurrection from the dead and the final judgment.
All over the world, no matter where you go, those who study ancient civilizations have found the vast majority of these civilizations believed in most of these things, along with a belief in the great worldwide flood. The reason why many ancient people groups mummified the dead is because they believed in the coming resurrection.
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Did you know that the promise of a redeemer, the Son of God born of a virgin, goes right back to the Garden of Eden, when God declared to Satan;
Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” ?
Throughout the Holy Scriptures, the descendants of man are always referred to as being born of the seed of man. Jesus Christ alone is referred to as being born of the seed of woman. Why? Because Jesus Christ was not conceived by the seed of man, He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin (Matthew 1:20).
On the very same day that God promised a redeemer, the spirit of anti-christ also came into being. This is why many of the ancient kings of the world took upon themselves the title of the son of god. The people of the ancient world were expecting the Son of God to come as their redeemer, so Satan raised up anti-christs all over the ancient world to usurp the power and authority of the Son of God, and to draw man’s worship away from God and towards Satan.
So when Jesus Christ identifies Himself as the First and the Last, He is declaring Himself to be the One and Only Supreme God, the Creator of all things, who was worshiped by the forefathers of every nation, every tribe and every people group in the world.
Then, by identifying Himself as the one who was dead and came to life, He identifies Himself as the Lamb of God who was killed on the cross for the sins of all mankind, and rose from the dead three days later.
As an interesting side thought, up until the time Jesus Christ death on the cross, nearly all mankind accepted and believed in the need of a blood sacrifice to cover their sins. But since God sacrificed His Only Begotton Son on the cross for the sins of all mankind, most of mankind have turned away from and now treat as abhorrent the thought of a blood sacrifice. Why? Is it because deep down in our spirit, we all know that Jesus Christ is the only acceptable sacrifice for sin, and for this reason all other blood sacrifices are now, not only abhorrent to God but also to most of mankind?
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This letter of Jesus Christ to the church in Smyrna can be viewed as a letter of both commendation and encouragement. Jesus commends them for their good works, reassures them, by telling them that he knows of the tribulation they are going through and of the poverty they are suffering, then He encourages them by reminding them that they are rich in the things that really matter.
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Jesus knows of the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews but are not, they are a synagogue of Satan.
The word blasphemy means to speak evil of, and to speak untruthfully against, especially to speak evil and untruthfully against God and the things of God. To claim to be a Jew, was to claim to be a child of God.
Those who speak evil and untruthfully against God and the things of God, are not God's children; they are Satan's children. They are not the Church, the dwelling place of God; they are the synagogue of Satan, the dwelling place of Satan (Ephesians 2:2).
Many of the parents and grandparents of the second generation Christian had been devout Jews, and these Christians were under pressure from old friends and family members to bring the Church back under the ceremonial and sacrificial laws of the Old Covenant; thus denying the fullness of the redemption that is available to us through the death of Jesus and the power of God made available to us through Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Those who seek to bring the Church back under the ceremonial and sacrificial laws of the Old Covenant, preach blasphemy against God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. They claim to be the children of God, but they are not, they are children of Satan and the dwelling place of Satan.
In the first of the kingdom parables, the good seed is the gospel of Jesus Christ; which tells us of the full redemption available to us through Jesus death on the cross, and the power God made available to us through His resurrection. Then Jesus tells us that the birds (who are Satan) have come to steal this good seed. Those who say they are Jews, and those who say they are Christians; if what they preach takes away from the gospel and brings us back under the Old Covenant, or under a law of salvation by works and not by grace through the blood of Jesus Christ, they are neither Jews nor Christians, they are of the synagogue of Satan.
The Church in Galatia was also a church like the Church in Smyrna, in that many of it’s members had turned away from believing in salvation through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, and had now turned back to a belief in salvation by works and not by grace. In writing to these people, Paul says, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth?” The truth is we are saved by faith and not by works. Anyone who would have you believe that your salvation or continued salvation is by works, is not an apostle of God but is a servant of Satan.
Jesus encourages the church in Smyrna not to fear the coming tribulation and the imprisonment many of them will suffer, for although the early church in Smyrna suffered persecution more than most churches at the hands of the Jews, during the coming church age of Smyrna (100 A.D. – 323 A.D.), the church throughout the empire would suffer greater persecution at the hands of Rome.
Jesus does not promise the church Smyrna deliverance of their mortal bodies from the coming tribulation, but encourages them by saying; “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Then Jesus ends this letter with the promise that “he who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”
Take note; Jesus does not promise Christians, even overcoming Christians immunity from suffering, tribulation, nor from imprisonment, nor death for the sake of the gospel, but He does promise us if we are faithful until death, He will give us the crown of life, and that we shall not be hurt by the second death. Therefore as Christians we should not fear death.
The words of Jesus Christ to those who are about to suffer tribulation are
Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell.
Revelation2:10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
Written by Kenneth Allan Clark and printed and published by
VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN MINISTRIES INTERNATIONAL. P.O. BOX 144 WYNNUM QLD 4178 AUSTRALIA.
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Scripture taken from the “Clarks English Translation” © Copyright 2011 by Victorious Christian Ministries International. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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