Saturday in the Twentieth Week of Ordinary Time

Revelation 2:8-11

Letters to the Churches: Smyrna

Smyrna is one of two churches which receive no rebuke but only commendation from our Lord (the other being Philadelphia).  Let us note that our Lord is described in the letters to the churches just as he was described in chapter one in his appearance to John: To the Smyneans, “The first and the last, who died and came to life (1:17-18), to the Ephesians, “The one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands” (1:20).  The same Lord who appeared to John is the same Lord who dictates these letters to these specific churches.

The believers in Smyrna are a beleaguered people.  Smyrna was a place where the imperial cult was highly exalted.  People were to show their civic pride and loyalty to Rome by professing, “Caesar is Lord.”  Those who did not came under suspicion.  One could lose his job in the trade guilds, his property, even be imprisoned, tortured, and executed.  (Please read, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, which happened in the mid-second century roughly sixty years after John’s Revelation, for an ancient account of what Christians endured in the first three centuries of Church history.)  They were undergoing tribulation for declaring, “Christ is Lord,” were poor in this world’s goods (perhaps their property had been confiscated), and were being slandered by Jews.  We note that John refused to acknowledge these Jews as real Jews but instead called them a “synagogue of Satan.”  It was not uncommon for Jews to report Christian activity (such as worship) to the authorities.  But they are not truly Jews because one is a Jew who is not circumcised in the flesh but of the heart, that is, who is a believer in Jesus Christ (Romans 2:28-29).

Jesus tells them that despite their poverty, they are rich (unlike the Laodiceans who despite being rich are poor, 3:17).  Indeed, they are about to endure a terrible if brief tribulation in which some will be called upon to be faithful unto death.  It is the devil who shall initiate this persecution but the Smyrneans are reminded that it is Christ who rules the universe and Satan who in comparison is merely the ugly mascot for the other team.  Yes, some shall die, but they shall also win the crown of life and escape the second death—the only one that matters! 

This was the church which received the greatest commendation of the seven.  Let us remember that our Lord values not those rich in this world but those faithful unto poverty and death for Christ our Lord.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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