Revelation 2:8-11

Sunday Morning Bible Study

July 24, 2011


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision

John the apostle has been exiled to the island of Patmos where he is given a “Revelation” by Jesus Christ Himself.

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 letters

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

Jesus describes Himself differently to each church.  From the vision of Rev. 1

3) Commendation

Jesus will tell each church what He appreciates about them.

4) Rebuke

If Jesus has a problem within a church, He will tell them.

5) Remedy

Jesus will tell the church what He wants them to do to fix the problem.

6) Listen

(Re 2:7 NKJV) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Jesus says this exact same thing to each church.

7) Promise

Jesus will share how He will reward those who follow Him, those who “overcome”.

2:8-11 Smyrna

:8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write,

:8 angelaggelos – a messenger, envoy, one who is sent

It could be what we call an “angel”, or it could be the leader or pastor of the church.

Play “Map to Smyrna” clip.

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 “Smyrna”


The city of Smyrna had ancient roots.  When the 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.

The Jewish community

There was a large Jewish community that thrived in Smyrna. This will play into the future of the church.

:8 Smyrna – “myrrh” (“bitter”)

Smyrna is known as “the persecuted church”.

Though Smyrna was a real, historical city, its name carries some significance.

Myrrh was a fragrant perfume made from the gummy sap of a tree.
Myrrh was one of the ingredients in the anointing oil of the high priests, as well as that used in the burial of dead bodies.
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 perfume.
Myrrh is a picture of persecution:  slashing, pounding, grinding
Though it’s taste was bitter, it gave off a fragrant smell.
It’s a beautiful picture of persecution, which is bitter to us as we go through it, but to God, our sufferings that we go through in the name of Jesus, being persecuted for following after Him, it is a beautiful fragrance.
Even the way myrrh was made is a picture of persecution.
Myrrh was made from the gummy sap of the Commiphora myrrha tree.
So it is with us, as we are cut and slashed by the word, then ground into teeny bits, as we are mixed with the oil of the Holy Spirit, it becomes a beautiful fragrance to God.


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:

Jesus’ self-description

Is it significant that Jesus doesn’t point to something visible, something physical about His description?

Could it be that this church, under persecution, must learn to lean on what is invisible?  They must rely on their faith.

:8 the First and the Last

He is the beginning and the end.

He is the Alpha and Omega.

All things start with Him and all things end with Him.

He’s the one that starts you on your race in life and He’s the one that’s at the finish line.

:8 came to lifezao – to live, breathe, be among the living (not lifeless, not dead)

: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 not over.

This description of Jesus comes from John’s response to vision of Jesus glorified:

(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 forevermore. Amen.


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”.
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs said that 5 million believers would die for Christ during this time of history.
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 death.
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.
PlayIt’s not over” clip
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 might help.

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.

:9 worksergon – business, employment; an act, deed, thing done

Here is the Commendation for the church.  He knows all about their troubles.

:9 tribulationthlipsis – 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.

The church of Smyrna was going through difficult times and even more difficult times were ahead.
Jesus said,
(Jn 16:33 NKJV) —33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

:9 povertyptocheia – beggary

in the NT poverty; the condition of one destitute of riches and abundance

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 but you are richplousios – wealthy, abounding in resources

This church didn’t have a lot of money, but in God’s eyes they were wealthy.

The church of Laodicea was exactly the opposite:

(Re 3:17 NKJV) Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—

The blessing of poverty

We have this notion that life would be so much better if we had more money.  Would it?
(Jas 2:5 NKJV) Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

:9 synagoguesunagoge – a bringing together, gathering (as of fruits), a contracting; in the NT, an assembling together of men, an assembly of men; a synagogue

:9 SatanSatanas – adversary; the prince of evil spirits

Satan is an adversary of God and His ways.

Satan is our adversary – he is against us.

He will try to stand in your way when you choose to follow God.

:9 a synagogue of Satan

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)
(Ro 2:28–29 NLT) —28 For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. 29 No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.
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.

:10 fearphobeo – to put to flight by terrifying (to scare away); to fear, be afraid

:10 you are aboutmello – to be about; to be on the point of doing or suffering something

:10 to sufferpascho – to be affected or have been affected, to feel; in a bad sense, to suffer sadly, be in a bad plight

:10 the devildiabolos – false accuser, slanderer; devil

Satan is a liar, an accuser, a slanderer.

The word used in verse 9, Satanas, carries the idea of being an adversary

Satan is an adversary of God and His ways.
Satan is our adversary – he is against us.
He will try to stand in your way when you choose to follow God.

I think this is kind of interesting, especially in respect with some of the teachings going around today about spiritual warfare.

Why doesn’t Jesus tell the church to just rebuke Satan?
Why doesn’t Jesus command them to just “take dominion” over the situation, and bind the enemy?

And how is it that Satan can actually have a hand in putting some of them to death?

I wonder if sometimes our perspective on spiritual warfare is just way too carnal.

We tend to focus on our own “comfort”.
So we rebuke the devil when we get a cold.

:10 prisonphulake – guard, watch; of the place where captives are kept, a prison

:10 testedpeirazo – to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining his quality, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself

:10 tribulationthlipsis – pressing together, pressure; oppression, affliction, distress



Paul warned Timothy:
(2 Ti 3:12 NKJV) Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
Ignatius was 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!”

How does that compare with the Islamic suicide bombers?

They die to kill others.  Christian martyrs died because they were telling others about 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 believe.
But we have it pretty good compared to those living other parts of the world.
In more than 40 nations around the world today Christians are being seriously persecuted for their faith. In some of these nations it is illegal to own a Bible, to share your faith Christ, change your faith or teach your children about Jesus. 
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.
After his arrest, people from several neighboring villages rushed to the police station to tell the police how Jesus had changed their lives.  When the police heard the testimonies, they released the pastor on bail.
Could this one day happen in America?  Perhaps.
The way things are going in America, it could be possible that one day laws like those in India might be passed.  But sometimes I wonder if God isn’t allowing America to go downhill in order to help us wake up and realize our need for Him.
I’m praying that God might see fit to allow America one last revival before Jesus comes.

:10 ten days

Some see this as a representation of the entire persecution of the church.

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.


Why suffering?

1.  Discipline

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 attention.
(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.

2. Preventive

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.

3. Growth

It’s a difficult truth, but some of our greatest times of spiritual growth occur when we are going through our greatest difficulty.
Paul wrote,
(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”.

The “cocoon” is a difficult situation that causes us to wrestle with something.

A 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.

4. Testing

:10 testedpeirazo – 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”

:10 faithfulpistos – that can be relied on; believing, trusting
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.

5. Fragrance

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 done correctly.

:10 Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

:10 crownstephanos – a crown; the wreath or garland which was given as a prize to victors in public games

:10 lifezoe – life

This is the noun form of the word translated “came to life” in verse 8.

:10 crown of life

You get the crown by finishing the race, not by quitting.

Jesus was dead and came back to life – He gives us the crown of life at the end of the race.

(Heb 12:1–3 NKJV) —1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

: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 be hurtadikeo – to act unjustly or wickedly; to do wrong; to do hurt

from adikos – descriptive of one who violates or has violated justice; unjust

:11 the second death

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. 20:14-15)

(Re 20:14–15 NKJV) —14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Dwight L. Moody put it like this:

“He who is born once will die twice; he who is born twice will die once.”


Born twice?

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 life.