Morning Bible Study
apostle has been exiled to the island of Patmos where he is given a “Revelation” by Jesus Christ
John sees a vision of Jesus walking among lampstands. We’ve seen this as a picture of Jesus acting
as a priest, and
every day the priests would go into the Holy Place to clean, refill, and
relight the lamps in the Temple.
The churches are the lamps. The
cleaning and refilling of the lamps are what is taking place as Jesus writes
seven letters to seven churches.
The structure of the
As a general rule, each of these seven letters follows a pattern. Each letter may not have all these elements,
but most of them have most of the elements.
The pattern goes like this:
1) To an angel
Probably refers to the pastor of each church.
2) Description of
Jesus describes Himself differently to each church. From the vision of Rev. 1
Jesus will tell each church what He appreciates about them.
If Jesus has a problem within a church, He will tell them.
Jesus will tell the church what He wants them to do to fix the problem.
(Re 2:7 NKJV)
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Jesus will share how He will reward those who follow Him, those who
:8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write,
Play “Map to
Our friend John had been exiled to the island of Patmos where Jesus
dictated these letters to the churches of Asia.
Smyrna was a city located on the Aegean Sea.
Part of its importance came from commerce, being a seaport and also being
connected to an important inland trade route that ran through the valleys
between Smyrna and Sardis.
The city is now known as the modern Turkish city of Izmir, a large city of
3 million people. Izmir is Turkish for
The city of Smyrna had ancient roots.
Greeks sent their ships to Troy 100 miles to the north in 1200 BC, Smyrna had
already been around for 1,000 years. The
history of the Trojan war was written by Homer, a resident of Smyrna. It eventually became part of the Greek
empire, but in 197 BC it decided to join forces with the Romans.
In order to gain
favor with Rome, Smyrna created a “cult” of Rome, inventing the goddess “Roma”, and not just to
encourage the whole world to worship the city of Rome, but to cement their
city’s connection to Rome.
– “myrrh” (“bitter”)
Smyrna is known as “the persecuted church”.
Though Smyrna was a real, historical city, its name carries some
Myrrh was a
fragrant perfume made from the gummy sap of a tree.
The sap would be collected by
slashing a branch or the trunk of the small tree, and then the gum hardened
into a solid resin.
The resin would then be pounded and ground up, to be mixed with oil, forming a
Myrrh is a picture of persecution: slashing, pounding, grinding
Polycarp was known as one of the great Christians of the age after the
disciples. Some have suggested that he
was the “angel” that Jesus was writing to because he would be known later as
the “bishop of
Smyrna”, though at the time of this letter he would have only been about 27
years old (born AD 69).
You can read
his Letter to the
Philippians online – it reads like something straight out of the New
Testament. Polycarp considered himself a
disciple of John’s.
:8 ‘These things
says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life:
:8 the First and
He’s the one that starts you on your race in life and He’s the one that’s
at the finish line.
:8 who was dead,
and came to life
The church will be going through some rough days ahead. Some would die.
They need to remember that Jesus is the One who conquered death.
The resurrection gives us hope that even if this life ends tragically, it’s
This description of Jesus comes from John’s response to vision of Jesus
(Re 1:17–18 NKJV) —17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His
right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. 18 I am He who lives, and was dead,
and behold, I am alive
He’s your answer
John has already experienced this.
When he saw this vision, he “fell at His feet as dead”.
Jesus said to John the same words that He used to describe Himself to
Smyrna. He’s the one
that takes “dead” and makes it “alive”.
The church of Smyrna, along with millions of others at that time, would be
experiencing their own kind of “death”.
The church in Smyrna was going to be going through great persecution.
They didn’t need a good lawyer.
They needed their Savior.
From time to time we too can find ourselves at the edge of some sort of
We try filling our lives with all sorts of stuff, looking to find meaning,
help, and strength. Jesus is the One you’re looking for.
Some of you are
going through difficult things right now.
Forgive me for being over-simplistic.
A good doctor might help.
A good counselor might help. Maybe a new job or a refinance on the house
But what you need FIRST is Jesus.
You need to see Jesus as your FIRST answer.
: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.
Here is the Commendation for the church. He knows all about their troubles.
– thlipsis – pressing together,
pressure; that which presses upon the spirit - oppression, affliction, distress
We’ve seen this word before and we’ll see it again.
Though this word is used to describe that seven year period of trouble and
the antichrist’s rule that’s coming soon to a planet near you … that’s not what
this is talking about.
This is simply talking about difficulty, trouble, affliction.
– ptocheia – beggary
It’s being so poor that you are no longer able to work, but only able to
beg. This is extreme poverty. Yet Jesus considered them wealthy.
:9 a synagogue of
There was apparently a fairly large Jewish colony in Smyrna. Jesus called them a “synagogue of Satan”
In God’s eyes, being born a Jew or going to a Jewish synagogue doesn’t
automatically put you in a good place with God.
Something has to happen first in your heart. (Rom. 2:28-29)
Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian just like going to a synagogue
doesn’t make you a good Jew.
Apparently in Smyrna, there was a group Jews at the synagogue who were
actually on Satan’s side instead of God’s side of the great spiritual battle.
Jews and the
Imperial Cult would work together to put Polycarp to death in AD 153.
: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.
:10 Do not fear
This is the “Remedy”
(do not fear). Wait … where was the “Rebuke”?
There is something missing in the letter to Smyrna. There is no rebuke.
Suffering does something to a church.
It purifies it.
Paul warned Timothy:
(2 Ti 3:12 NKJV) Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer
the bishop of Antioch around this time.
He was friends with Polycarp. He
too was a disciple of John. He was
arrested in Antioch and sent to Rome to be killed for preaching Christ. On his
way to Rome he went through the churches of Asia and encouraged them. While in Smyrna, he wrote a letter to the
church in Rome and begged them not to try and get him released because he was
looking forward to being a martyr.
From Foxe’s Book of Martyrs:
“Now I begin to
be a disciple. I care for nothing, of visible or invisible things, so that I
may but win Christ. Let
fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of
bones and tearing of limbs, let
the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come
upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus!”
We really don’t know much about persecution in America.
We certainly can get offended as Christians. We might be called names. We might lose some friends over what we
But we have it pretty good compared to those living other parts of the
In more than 40 nations around the world today Christians are being seriously
persecuted for their faith.
Look at what’s happening in places like India:
Pastor Murli Ghulam
was arrested on July 2 as he was leading a prayer meeting in a believer's home
and charged with bribing and forcing people to convert to Christianity. The
charge was brought by anti-Christian extremists in his village. Murli lives in
an area with strict laws that make it difficult to share the love of Jesus with
people from the area's traditional religions.
Could this one day happen in America?
I’m praying that God might see fit to allow America one last revival before
:10 ten days
Some see it
referring to 10 persecutions under Roman rulers.
Foxe in his “Book of Martyrs” lists ten persecutions under various Roman
rulers starting with Nero in AD 64 and ending with Diocletian AD 303.
Some see it as
referring to a limited period of time for suffering.
They won’t be suffering forever, just for ten days.
Sometimes we go through difficult times because we needed correcting.
We were going down the wrong road and God needed to do something to get our
(Heb 12:11 NKJV) Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful;
nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those
who have been trained by it.
We don’t like these kinds of tough times, but they are
designed to help us turn around and get on track with God.
Sometimes God allows a difficult time in our life to keep us from ever
taking that bad path in the first place.
He sees our tendency to do the wrong thing and He’s trying to keep us
from going the wrong way.
Paul had something in his life that could have made him an extremely
obnoxious, proud person.
(2 Co 12:7 NKJV) And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the
revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to
buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
It’s a difficult truth, but some of our greatest times of spiritual growth
occur when we are going through our greatest difficulty.
(Ro 5:3–5 NKJV)
—3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that
tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not
disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the
Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Sometimes God allows difficulty in our lives as a way of
helping us to grow.
Several times as we’ve been going through the “Truth
Project”, Dr. Tackett has used the illustration of the “cocoon”.
“cocoon” is a difficult situation that causes us to wrestle with
butterfly has to work hard to get out of its cocoon. It has to struggle.
If you take pity on the butterfly and cut its cocoon so it
doesn’t have to struggle, it will not come out fully formed and
functional. The process of struggle in the cocoon is
part of the process that turns a caterpillar into a butterfly.
– peirazo – to try, test: for the
purpose of ascertaining his quality
Whatever the difficulty, it’s not a bad idea to look at it as a test.
You are sitting
in the classroom and the test is on the desk in front of you.
There is a right answer and there is a wrong answer.
The right answer is to “Be faithful until death”
Look at how
Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, handled his “test”
After arresting Polycarp, while his guards ate supper, Polycarp prayed.
From Foxe’s book of Martyrs:
…he prayed with such fervency, that his guards repented
that they had been instrumental in taking him. He was, however, carried before
the proconsul, condemned, and burnt in the market place. The proconsul then
urged him, saying, “Swear, and I will release thee;—reproach Christ.” Polycarp
answered, “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he
never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?”
How will you handle difficult times?
Will you be faithful? It’s a test.
This is what Smyrna,
the city of “myrrh” was all about.
Myrrh is the fragrance that is made by slashing, pounding, and grinding.
When it’s mixed
with oil, the result is a beautiful fragrance.
When you choose to endure sufferings for the sake of being a Christian, it
is very, very precious to the Lord.
It is a sacrifice that brings a pleasing aroma before the Lord.
(Mk 14:3–5 NKJV) —3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat
at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of
spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4 But there were
some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil
wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and
given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.
We know from
John’s account that this was Mary, the sister of Lazarus. She also anointed his
feet and wiped them with her hair.
Her expensive alabaster box had to be broken for the fragrance to come out.
When Mary broke her treasure, John records:
(Jn 12:3 NKJV) …And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Everyone around you is affected when your suffering is
:10 Be faithful
until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
You get the crown by finishing the race, not by quitting.
: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.” ’
:11 the second
Except for those who will be raptured, everyone on the planet will
experience “death”, physical
death, which is the “first death”. Believers
go to heaven. Those who do not believe in Jesus will go temporarily to a
holding place called “hell”. At the end
of the 1,000 year reign of Jesus on the earth, those in hell will be
resurrected and face judgment before God at the Great White Throne. They will then be sent into the Lake of Fire, which is the
“second death”. (Rev.
Dwight L. Moody put it like this:
“He who is born once
will die twice; he who is born twice will die once.”
Have you been “born again”? Have you
given your life to Jesus?
You may experience persecution, you may die once, but you will find eternal