Posted by: watchmancurtis | November 17, 2009

Revelation Study Week 4

What does it take for a church to be faithful even when they are being persecuted?  That was one of the questions we looked at today as we examined the letter to the church of Smyrna.  Persecution is not a feel-good topic.  Some of the prophecies that we find in the book of Revelation can make us feel uncomfortable and even fearful if we are not careful.  Today’s discussion was very lively and heartfelt, peppered with a tinge of awkwardness as we began to be aware that some of us are looking at the same picture from different perspectives.  Yet at the heart of that awkardness is an understanding that we all love the Lord and each other.  Knowing that can help us work through any areas of disagreement.  Not that we all have to agree, but that we can certainly agree to disagree in love.

The church in Smyrna was a persecuted church.  The word Smyrna means “Death”.  This church has no words of condemnation or warning of judgement.  What we do find, however, is an encouraging word from the Lord in order to prepare them for the difficult times that are ahead.

Verse 8:  Once again we see Jesus reminding us that He is the First and the Last and that He was dead, but is now alive.  Because He has overcome death He can now offer life to those who follow Him.

Verse 9:  Jesus lets the church know that He is aware of three different things going on in their life and which are still applicable to us. 

  1. He is aware of the tribulation they are going through.  He knows the daily struggles.  He knows the persecution and the sacrifices.  He sees the things that others are unaware of.  He sees our struggles as well.  We may not be going through the same persecution as others, but He is still aware and concerned about the daily problems in our lives.
  2. He understands their poverty.  He knows their (and our) concerns about tomorrow.  He reminds us as well that even though we may be financially poor, we are rich spiritually.  Maybe today we need to examine the many blessings we have and consider how rich we are no matter how fat our wallet is.
  3. Finally, He lets the church know that he sees those who are true and those who are pretending.  There were some who claimed to be Jews, but were actually from the Synagogue of Satan.  They claimed to be righteous.  They claimed to be teaching what God wanted taught.  God, however, knows the heart.  Evidently the church in Smyrna was resisting these pretenders and the false message they were trying to spread.  Sometimes we may feel like Elijah did.  We feel like we are the only ones standing for truth.  More than likely, however, we aren’t.  Yet even if we were the only ones, God would see.  He would be aware, and He would encourage us in the midst of being on that island.

Our discussion about the Jews from the Synagogue of Satan led us into a discussion about the dangers of being pulled back into the law.  There are many people today who are trying to pull Christians into Judiasim.  While I think it is good to remember and study our Jewish roots, we need to be careful that we do not fall back into the legalism of the law.  On the other hand, we don’t  need to go to the extreme of replacement theology or thinking that there is nothing to be gained from the Old Testament except good stories.

Verse 10:  I really like this verse.  The church in Smyrna gets a letter.  I’m sure they were excited and curious about the contents.  When they get the message, though, it is a tough pill to swallow.  Persecution is coming.  Hard times are on the horizon.  When we study End Times sometimes we can get overwhelmed with the difficult things that are coming.  If we are not careful, fear can come in.  The Lord begins by telling them, “Do not fear.”  Do not fear what you are about to suffer.  Yes, there are troubling times coming, but the Lord is reassuring them–and us–that He will be with them.  Some people don’t like to hear about troubling times coming.  Some would like to stick their heads in the sand and pretend like it isn’t happening.  Often times a person who tries to bring a warning is brushed aside as being all “Doom and Gloom.”  Yet the message should be one of encouragment and hope.  The warning isn’t sounded to make people fearful.  The shofar is blown to call people to battle and readiness.  Verse 10 is finished with a promise.  “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  Smyrna means death.  One of our members pointed out that they had died to themselves and were encouraged because of that.  Jesus is also described to this church as the One who was dead, but has come to life.  We also see that they are encouraged to be faithful unto death.

Verse 11:  Here we have another promise.  “He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.”  We find in Revelation 20:14 that the second death is the Lake of Fire.  This is total seperation from God. 

A great deal of our conversation today revolved around persecution and being prepared for difficult times.  Personally, I am very concerned about the church in America.  I think that a great part of the church has grown soft.  We have taken for granted our freedoms and drifted away from holiness and repentance.   We almost feel like God would never allow us to be persecuted.  In my opinion that is a dangerous place to be.  The early church endured extreme persecution.  There have been churches throughout history who have gone through difficult times as well.  Even today, there are places where many are killed or tortured for their faith.  It isn’t pleasant to talk about, but I am a firm believer that we need to be preparing our faith to endure persecution.

In discussing our need for preparation we ran into a tad of disagreement in the fact that some of our group feel very strongly that the Lord will not return during our lifetimes.  Some are struggling with the idea of whether studying about these things is all that important.  It is a sentiment that many in the church today have.  They are certainly not alone.  There were others of us; however, who feel very strongly that the Lord will in fact return during our lifetime.  My main point is that even if I am wrong I feel like we need to be ready and prepared.  We also got into a small discussion of Preterism and Kingdom Now/Dominionism teaching.  I’ll be doing a post on this subject soon, but for now I’ll give a brief summation of the teaching.  One of the teachings that comes from these beliefs is that the world is going to get better and better.  Christians are going to take the nations for God, and THEN Christ can return.  They do not believe in a literal 70th week of Daniel, Antichrist, Tribulation, etc.   My concern is that they are setting themselves up for a rude awakening. 

  Even through our small disagreements today, we had a wonderful study.  I’m not even sure our discussion was a disagreement more than just sharing different perspectives.  One of the biggest blessings of our group is that we have people who love the Lord and are willing to share and ask questions.  Questioning makes us study, and challenges us to grow.  I’m thankful for each person in our group and the passion that we all bring to the table.  I’m already looking forward to next week.

P.S.  Pick up a copy of Randy Alcorn’s book, Safely Home, to get a great perspective of the underground church in China.  It is a powerful message that we need to hear today.

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Responses

  1. This is so good!! So much to chew on. Wish I could have been at your class, but am thankful I can “sit in” through your teachings on your blog.

    Sometimes passion can come across as “one being upset or angered”. How wonderful it is when people can be passionate about what one believes, yet respect others’ passion.

    Safely Home…one of my all time favorite books, it is powerful, somewhat unsettling and extremely thought provoking.

  2. We have a really interesting group and passion is not something that we lack for sure. Our motivations are pure even in disagreement and that makes a huge difference when you know that about another person.

  3. Could not find your post on Ephesus but I’m humble to share my look at that church as well as Smyrna.

    Ephesus the Apostolic Church 30-100AD
    Rev 2:1-7, 2 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: 2 ‘ I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place — unless you repent. 6 ‘Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 ‘ He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’

    Ephesus (maiden of choice or desirable) was a wealthy port city in those days and housed one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the temple (of Artemus) dedicated to the pagan goddess Diana which also served as a bank. The city was tourist oriented and heavily commercialized. Over the years silt deposit from the sea pushed the city area miles away from the port and eventually they lost the source of their wealth and the city went into ruins and the church with it. God did not destroy the city, He moved the port. They did not repent, no more church! Look at the description of Christ, His commendation, His reprove and His reward. The lampstand (church) was removed because they did not repent.

    Smyrna the Persecuted Church 100-212AD
    Rev 2:8-11 8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:
    9 ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 ‘ He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’

    Smyrna (associated with myrrh used in burials) also a wealthy port city and famous for worshiping the Roman Emperor, however the Jewish people were allowed their form of worship because of their stubbornness (God called them a stiff-necked people), the city still exists today under a different name. Amidst the pagan worship the Jews were allowed their form of worship and then came the early Christian movement and threats were made to the worship concession given to the Jews. Maintained their faith and were mostly martyred! Look at the description of Christ, His commendation, and His reward (no reprove). They were faithful unto death and shall not suffer the second death.


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