The Footsteps of Paul Blog

A Walk Through the 7 Churches – Smyrna

Posted By: Chris Posted In: Blog, The Seven Churches Date Posted: May 31st, 2012 Comments: 6

Photo (Chris D.) Ancient sepulcher, Asia Minor (Turkey)

Issue #17 – Faithful to the point of death

To grasp an understanding of the significance of these messages to the seven churches, I find it is extremely important to continually refer back to John’s vision of the Lord in Chapter one.

In the message to the church of Smyrna he says,

“These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.” Revelation 2:8

Now, referring back to John’s vividly descriptive vision of the “One” who walked among the golden lampstands, we read:

“I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Revelation 1:17-18

You see? In the opening words of the message to Smyrna they are reminded that it is the same “One” who John saw in his vision and one of the attributes of the “One” described by John directly relates to and remedies the problem the church faces. In this case suffering and death.

How incredibly encouraging and motivating for the church members to know that their Lord is the One who Himself, “died and came to life again” and promises them the same experience:

“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” Revelation2:10

“He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.” Revelation 2:11

In other words He says “Many of you will die, but be assured that in Me, you will come to life again just as I was put to death and am now alive. Why? Because I am Alpha and Omega. Because I hold the keys of death and Hades. I am God!”

Photo (Chris D.) Abraham & Isaac – obedience, salvation & propitiation

We find this same pattern in most of the other messages to the individual churches, for example the church in Pergamum was warned by the Lord about false doctrine. The first line of the message is addressed from “him who has the sharp double-edged sword” (2:12) with the warning in v16 that if they don’t repent he will fight against them “with the sword of my mouth.” Now, if we refer back to the vision John had of the Lord, his description includes, “and out of his mouth came a double edged sword.” It does not take a lot of Bible study to discover that the sword in this context refers to the Word of God. The scriptures. The truth. The logos himself (John 1:1). Jesus is the embodiment of truth. He and his words are the remedy for false doctrine.

The church in Sardis is addressed by “him who holds the seven spirits (or seven-fold Spirit) and the seven stars.” This characteristic of the “One” refers back to Chapter 1:4 “…and from the seven spirits (or seven-fold Spirit) which is before his throne.” The remedy for nominalism and spiritual deadness is a good dose of Holy Spirit!

If you read carefully the start of Revelation, you find in the introductory note that it is from the Father (“…him who was and is and is to come…”) the Holy Spirit (“…from the seven spirits, or seven-fold Spirit, before his throne…”) and the Son (“…and from Jesus Christ….”).

[An aside: This introductory note, Chapter 1:4-8, is both a greeting and a doxology which prefaces the letters to “To the seven churches”. Obviously all seven churches received all seven messages that are embodied in this single letter from the Lord, via John.]

The church in Thyatira is addressed by “the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze”. It refers back to the description of the “One” by John in Chapter 1:13 “…someone like a Son of man….” v14-15 “His eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace…” This characteristic of the “One” directly challenges who and what they were tolerating: Jezebel.

And so on, with each of the messages to the seven churches. The “One” who John saw embodies the remedy – for loss of “first love”, – for suffering and martyrdom, – for false doctrine and false prophets, – for idolatry, – for deadness and spiritual lifelessness and -for luke-warmness and worldliness.

To know God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the remedy. The more closely we know and experience him in our lives and in the life of the church, the stronger, healthier and more effective we will be in bringing glory to his name throughout the earth.

This message to the church in Smyrna we are studying this week not only speaks to a group of Christians in a particular region of Asia Minor in the first century, but speaks to churches and believers everywhere, in every age, who are undergoing the same trials of persecution, suffering and martyrdom. The comfort that these words gave to the church of Smyrna continue to comfort today. It is a non-compromising message – “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life”.

One of the early church Fathers, Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Unless the suffering church of yesterday or today is prepared to believe the words spoken by our Lord to the church of Smyrna and willing to embrace the exhortation given, she will surrender to compromise and very quickly wither and die. Could this be the reason the Church in Smyrna no longer exists?

One man from Smyrna was faithful to the point of death. He was Bishop Polycarp, a church Father who resided in Smyrna in the early 2nd century. Polycarp is recorded as saying on the day of his death, “Eighty and six years I have served him, how then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour? Bring forth what thou wilt.” Polycarp was burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor.

For an in depth study of martyrdom, I highly recommend a soon-to-be-released book by a dear friend and colleague, Dalton Thomas, entitled “Unto Death”. To hear a very recent clip by Dalton go to
Dalton Thomas from somewhere in Asia Minor

« « A Walk Through the 7 Churches – Ephesus

A Walk Through The 7 Churches – Pergamum » »


let the discussion begin!


  • Alison - 1 June, 2012 at 2:46 am - Reply

    Loved the article, Chris

  • John - 1 June, 2012 at 2:51 am - Reply

    Dear Chris,
    I just got a DVD on the writing of the Bible throughout history and the presenter Steven Connolly mentioned a tad more on Polycarp which you can read in the bracket words. He said: ““Eighty and six years I have served him, [he has done me no harm], how then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour? Bring forth what thou wilt.” [Seeing that Polycarp was not afraid of the lions the crowd chanted for him to be burned] and so he was burned at the stake for refusing to [curse Christ] and burn incense to the Roman Emperor.
    Regards,
    John

  • Lloyd Carey - 1 June, 2012 at 5:04 am - Reply

    Not sure about the unto death part, but I realise that if we are going to be effective we have to have that attitude. Easy to say but hard to do. Keep it up Chris as it is challenging and I need that.

  • John - 1 June, 2012 at 5:09 am - Reply

    Dear Chris,
    Since your writing about martydom are you facing the possibility of being killed in Turkey for witnessing? I believe Turkey is a Muslim country where about 20% of Turkish Muslims look upon themselves as Muslims first and citizens of the Turkish Republic second. Most Turks are Sunni Muslims; that is, they are among the majority of Islamic believers. There are Shiite (Shi’a) and Alaouite (Alevi) minorities as well. Radical Sunni and Shiite Islamic groups are involved in terrorism.
    The Alaouites link back to the Prophet Muhammad.
    Regards,
    John

    • Chris - 1 June, 2012 at 7:42 pm - Reply

      John, I feel safer in Turkey than anywhere in the world. Turks are amazingly friendly and very happy to talk about ones own faith.

  • Olive Macleod - 1 June, 2012 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    Hi Chris, I wonder sometimes if we miss something by not being a “suffering” church. As you know, this neck of the woods has become rather “comfortable”!
    Love and blessings,
    Olive

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