VII #4: Message to the Church in Smyrna
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Sermon 4: Message to the Church in Smyrna

Key Verse: Revelation 2:8-11


All of us instinctively value courage and fearlessness. We honor first responders who race toward danger. We pin medals on the chests of soldiers who demonstrate steely resolve during battle. What may be surprising to some is how the Church in Smyrna could be described similarly. These Christ-followers were living as small minority in a hostile environment. Some were threatened, some lost jobs. Others imprisoned. And while it’s hard for us to imagine, the worst was yet to come. So, Jesus sends a powerful word to them about remaining steadfast. And His words of encouragement to them are still true for us today.



  • Smyrna had a substantial Jewish population
  • The Jews were allowed an exemption to The Imperial Cult
    • The Jewish population, though not the Christian, was everywhere exempted from the loyal duty of emperor worship and only one attempt was made to compel the Jewish nation to accept emperor worship, when *Caligula issued a decree to erect a statue of himself in the sanctuary at Jerusalem (Jos., Ant., 18:262; Jos., Wars, 2:184; Philo, De Legatione ad Gaium, 188, 207–8; Tacitus, Historiae, 5:9). The decree was never carried out, however, due to the death of Caligula in January 41 C.E.
  • The Leaders of the Jewish community felt deep resentment and competition with the Christian movement
  • Thus, this group of Synagogue leaders fueled local persecution of Christians by contrasting the church and the synagogue.
  • The effect was that Christians no longer enjoyed the exemption of The Imperial Cult and were forced to choose between Caesar or Christ.


Synagogue of Satan

  • This is tied to an extremely local moment where a larger group was in an organized way persecuting a smaller group.
  • This phrase should not be used as propaganda, hate speech or violence against Jews
  • We reject white supremacy and antisemitism in all its forms
  • We are committed to loving, listening and serving our Jewish neighbors and friends.


The Text

  1. Let’s recognize that suffering is distributed unevenly
    • “Suffering has a mysterious, unknown component…” (Billy Graham)
    • Some suffer very little; some suffer mightily. All suffering is used by God.
  2. You can have these four things and still be loved and seen by Jesus (2:8-10)
    • Tribulation (θλῖψις) a pressing, pressing together, pressure or oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits
    • Poverty (πτωχεία) beggary, that is, indigence (literally or figuratively): – poverty
    • Slander (βλασφημία) slander, detraction, speech injurious, to another’s good name, impious and reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty
    • Thrown into prison
    • You can have tribulation (the system is against you), poverty (money has left you), slander (people are talking bad about you), and imprisonment (freedom has abandon you) and still be loved by Jesus.
  3. Here is what we can cling to when suffering comes our way
    • You are rich (v. 9)
      • Count your blessings (See verse 4 of the hymn)
    • You need not fear (v. 10a)
      • Remember- Jesus is the first and the last (He knows it all)
      • Jesus knows what you don’t know. Jesus sees what you don’t see. Jesus controls what you don’t control.
    • You will receive the crown of life (v. 10b)
      • There are two kinds of crowns
        • The royal crown (diadeema) a weighty crown of gold and precious jewels. The value is contained in the crown itself
        • The garland crown (stephanos [used here])- a crown awarded to the top competitors and victors


The metaphor John is working with here is that of an athlete striving with many forces against him. Perseverance through pain and suffering will be recognized by Jesus.



How do you respond when you are suffering?

How should you respond to suffering?



Table Talk Card

Please use these questions throughout the week to discuss the message with family and friends.

Take notes below