The Seven Churches:

Forerunner, "Bible Study," December 1999

Internal evidence in Revelation shows that a fulfillment of these messages to the churches—perhaps the major one—is an end-time message to all seven at once. Though there may be an application continuously from the era of the apostles until now, that is history. The setting of the book of Revelation is the end-time Day of the Lord (Revelation 1:10) and impacts us today. Therefore, no matter the historical application, all seven messages are pertinent to the end-time church.

Since they pertain to our time, it behooves us to determine if their instruction applies to us individually. Each church, though a part of the body of Christ, is different in various ways, just as individual church members differ. The Ephesian condition, we found, contains a mixture of praiseworthy and blameworthy actions and attitudes. This will be true of all the churches—except for the one we will now analyze, Smyrna.

1. Who addresses the church in Smyrna? Revelation 2:8.

Comment: Lest there be any question, the message to Christians who fit the category and attitudes of Smyrna in the end time comes directly from Jesus Christ Himself. At the beginning of each letter, He makes it clear that this is not anyone else's opinion, but is word-for-word instruction from the Head of the church. We must examine ourselves and see if the message includes any of our attitudes, problems or situations. If so, the message is for us.

2. Is it good to be classified by Christ as Smyrnan? Revelation 2:9-11.

Comment: Though most people in the church of God today like to think of themselves as "Philadelphian," Smyrna is the only one of the seven to receive no criticism whatsoever from Christ! Philadelphia does not receive harsh criticism, but Christ says it has "a little [spiritual] strength," while He mentions nothing at all negative about Smyrna.

3. Is Smyrna, then, a perfect church with perfect people? Did Christ overlook some of its problems? Revelation 2:9-11; Romans 3:23; John 15:2.

Comment: Our Savior is not bashful about pointing out sin—witness some fairly harsh words to the other six! Apparently, a certain number of people today fit the Smyrnan category: They have no major flaws worth mentioning. They are not self-righteous, for that would be pointed out as a major flaw, as said of Laodicea. The Laodicean church is wealthy in physical goods and assumes spiritual wealth, but this is a false self-assessment. Smyrna is apparently of little material wealth, but rich spiritually, as Christ attests (Revelation 2:9).

However, Christ commands those of Smyrna to overcome just like the others if they will be in the Kingdom of God. No one is without sin, so Smyrna must grow in faith, love and obedience like the rest. Some in Smyrna will be tried in tribulation and persecution—jailed and tried to the point of death. Some of them may even die as martyrs! As Christ says, He will prune even a good branch that it might bear more fruit.

4. Does Smyrna have enemies? Revelation 2:9-10; II Timothy 3:12; Daniel 11:32-35.

Comment: Both Smyrna and Philadelphia are beset by those who claim to be Christian but are not. Because Smyrnans are more truly righteous than some others in the end-time church, Satan hates them and brings heavy religious persecution on them. They may be some of those in Daniel 11 who show strength in the face of such persecution and "carry out great exploits."

5. Smyrnans suffer persecution for ten days. How long is that? Revelation 2:10; Daniel 1:12, 14; Numbers 14:34; John 16:33.

Comment: Daniel and his companions ate vegetables for ten literal days, so maybe this persecution will last ten days as well. On the other hand, God sometimes uses a day to represent a year, so maybe Smyrna will face ten years of persecution. Daniel 11:32-35 indicates "many days," "some days" (The Emphasized Bible) or "for some time" (The New American Bible). The commentaries say it could be metaphorical, meaning "a short while." In such a case, we should hope for the best and prepare for the worst! Jesus says those who are His will suffer persecution, but we should not fear, for He has overcome the world. He will see us through it.

6. Though Smyrna is not criticized, her faithfulness is tried. Is it "worth it" to be righteous, given the Smyrnans will be severely tried? Revelation 2:10-11; 3:18-19; Matthew 10:28; Deuteronomy 30:19.

Comment: God will heavily chasten Laodicea and try them "in the fire" of the Great Tribulation. Is it not preferable to be righteous, with God allowing persecution by men within His limits, rather than face God's wrath for sin? Job faced heavy trials, but God, on his side throughout, made them turn out beautifully. Jesus says, "Do not fear those who kill the body. . . . But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell"!

Being truly righteous will bring its problems from outsiders and Satan, but the reward is worth the effort! Smyrna is promised a crown of life and protection from the second death for remaining faithful. If we could choose which of the seven churches we would prefer Christ to consider us part, Smyrna just might be the top choice. We have that choice—by making righteous choices daily. God has set before us the choice of life and death, blessing and cursing, and He urges us to choose life—eternal life!

© 1999 Church of the Great God
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