The Words of Christ to the Congregation At Smyrna
Revelation 2:8-11
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things said the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;…

And unto the angel of the Church in Smyrna, etc. This letter is addressed to the Church at Smyrna. "Smyrna is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture, so that we have no means of ascertaining when, and by whom, the Christian faith was first planted there. We may, however, conjecture that that great commercial city did not escape attention either by St. Paul or his associates in missionary effort during his three years' stay at Ephesus? Smyrna stands at the head of one of the finest bays in the world, and from its central position, its easy access, and excellent harbour, it commands the commerce of the Levant. It is the chief city of Ionia, and is situated about forty miles north of Ephesus. It was a very ancient city, and was one of the seven that claimed to be the birthplace of Homer; and it is considered that its claim in this respect was better founded than that of any of the other cities which contended for the honour. It was subject to various vicissitudes both physically and politically. It was overthrown by earthquakes, damaged by conflagrations, laid waste by invasion, and held in turn by AEolians, Ionians, Lydians, and Macedonians. In A.D. it was destroyed by an earthquake, but rebuilt by Marcus Aurelius, with more than its former splendour. It is now one of the most flourishing of the cities of Asia Minor, and, indeed, the most important. Its population amounts to 140,000, of whom there are 20,000 Greeks, 8000 Armenians, about 2000 Europeans, and 7000 Jews. There are more Christians in Smyrna than in any other Turkish city in the world; and it is therefore peculiarly unclean in the eyes of the strict Moslems, who call it Giaour Izmir, or Infidel Smyrna. Religious toleration has always been more fully permitted in Smyrna than in any other cities under Mohammedan control, and rarely has Turkish fanaticism been directed against Europeans. It is a great centre of missionary effort; and in Smyrna the light of Christianity has never been extinct from apostolic times" (Dr. Tait). In this epistle there are five points that arrest our attention.

(1) Wealth is, poverty;

(2) fiends in religion;

(3) saints in persecution;

(4) duty in trial; and

(5) victory in death.

I. WEALTH IN POVERTY. "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, but thou art rich." "I know thy tribulation, and thy poverty." The poverty here is secular, not spiritual; the wealth spiritual, not secular. These two conditions of being arc separable, and are, in the vast majority of cases in human life, detached. Sometimes you find, as in the case of the Laodiceans, secular wealth associated with spiritual poverty; and modern society here in England abounds with examples of this condition. Secular princes, moral paupers; but in Smyrna the case is different. It does not seem morally proper that, according to the order of administrative righteousness, these two conditions should be separate. The sight of secular abundance, where there is moral destitution - the destitution of true virtue - is repugnant at once to our conscience and our reason. Nor is the sight of virtuous affluence in connection with secular indigence and want a less incongruous sight. Antecedently, we should have concluded that, under the government of righteousness, in proportion to a man's moral excellence will be his temporal prosperity; and the converse. Looking at these conditions, separate as they seem to have been in the case of Smyrnaean Christians, which is the better? Decidedly the condition of spiritual wealth with secular poverty, and for the following reasons:

1. Secular wealth is of contingent value; spiritual is of absolute worth. All earthly property is but life leased, and all life leased property decreases in value every day. Not so spiritual; in all worlds and in all times it is of equal worth.

2. Spiritual wealth is essentially virtuous; not so secular. There is no virtue in the possession of material wealth. It comes to a man sometimes independently of his efforts, and often by efforts that involve the sacrifice of all the great principles of religion and fair dealing. Wealth may, indeed, often stand as the effect and sign of great tact, keensightedness, and resolute perseverance, but not always, alas! of righteous dealing. The history of fortune making is too often the history of low cunning, moral falsehood, and legal fraud. Moral wealth, however, is virtue itself; all must feel it is praiseworthy; it secures the "well done" of conscience, the approval of all pure intelligences, and of the great God himself. It is intrinsically meritorious and praiseworthy.

3. Spiritual wealth is essentially a blessing; secular often a bane. Virtue is its own reward; it is the paradise of the soul. But secular wealth often undermines the health, enfeebles the intellect, and carnalizes the heart.

4. Spiritual wealth is inalienable; secular is not. How often temporal wealth takes to itself wings, and flies away! At death all goes; not a fraction is carried into eternity. Not so spiritual. Character we carry with us wherever we go.

5. Spiritual wealth commands moral respect; not so secular. A wretched flunkeyism shouts "Hosannah!" to a man in lordly mansions, or wrapt in purple robes, however corrupt in heart he may be. But strip the hero of his grandeur, and reduce him to pauperism and beggary, and the miserable devotee will recoil with disgust. But spiritual wealth commands moral reverence everywhere.

II. FIENDS IN RELIGION. "I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and [they] are not, but are the [a] synagogue of Satan." Though the "Jews" here described are fiendishly bad, they had their synagogue, their place of worship. They perhaps attended to the forms of religion, read and expounded the Scriptures in their own way, but their religion was fiendish. "Are the synagogue of Satan." Satan has ever had much to do with religion. Religion, not godliness, is at once his shrine and his instrument. Religion has been and still is the greatest curse of the world; it is the nursery and the arena of every fiendish sentiment. It was religion that put to death the Son of God himself. There are churches and conventicles that are rather the "synagogues of Satan" than the temples of Christ; in their assemblies there are fiends in human form, service, and voice. They breathe the spirit of intolerant sectarianism and bigotry, and disseminate degrading and blasphemous views of the all-loving Maker and Manager of the universe. The difference between what is called religion and Christliness is the difference between light and darkness - life and death. Satan has ever had his synagogues.

III. SAINTS IN PERSECUTION. "Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days." Christ, when on earth, assured his disciples that they should have "tribulation." In the world they shall have "tribulation." And now from the heights of eternity he sounds the same warning. The words suggest four things concerning their persecution.

1. It was religious. It came from those who belonged to the synagogue, and those who prided themselves on being Jews descendants of Abraham, who was the father of the faithful. A spurious religion has ever been the chiefest and the bitterest fountain of persecution. Inquisitions have been constructed, chains have been forged, tortures have been inflicted, and martyr fires been kindled by the men of the synagogue.

2. The persecution was severe. "I know thy tribulation." It consists of impoverishment, "blasphemy," and reviling, and imprisonment. "Cast some of you into prison." Corrupt religion dries up the fountains of social sympathy in the human breast, dehumanizes human nature - turns man into a devil.

3. The persecution was testing. "That ye may be tried." As if Christ had said, "You are to be subject to a trying, a sifting, a testing process. It must be shown, to yourselves and to those who look on, what there is in you of empty, hollow, cowardly profession. I cannot excuse you from this necessity."

4. The persecution was short. "Ten days." It is idle, puerile, to inquire what exact period of time is involved in these words. I take the idea to mean brevity. It is a short period. All the afflictions of the good are brief. "Our light affliction," etc. The storm may be sharp, but it will be short. Great trials seldom last long. The sufferings of the good here are not penal, but disciplinary; not judicial, but paternal. "What son is he that the father chasteneth not?" etc.

IV. DUTY IN TRIAL. How are the trials to be endured?

1. With courage. Servile fear is at once an uuvirtuous and pernicious element in the mind; it is inimical to the healthy growth of our faculties, and to the maturing of our moral manhood. Hence Christ everywhere proscribes it. He enjoins courage: "Fear not," be intrepid, be brave, endure with magnanimity, struggle with invincibility. "None of these things move me," said Paul; and:

2. He enjoins faithfulness. "Be faithful." Do not let the fiercest storms cause you to swerve one iota from rectitude. "Quit you like men;" "Be strong in the Lord." Be faithful to your God and your conscience.

3. He enjoins perseverance. "Unto death." If you can be faithful up to death you will be faithful afterwards, for your obligations will remain, your temptations will be gone.

4. He enjoins reflectiveness. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches." Let the mind ever rest in deep and devout thought on the Divine which is speaking everywhere on all things.

V. VICTORY IN DEATH. "He that overcometh shall not he hurt of the second death." The "second death" is the death of the soul, the death of that which makes all life valuable. From such a death the truly loyal and faithful shall be delivered, and, more than this, he shall have a "crown" and a "wreath of life." A crown stands for the most elevated distinction, the highest honour. This distinction James calls "a crown of life;" Paul, "a crown of glory;" Peter, "a crown of righteousness." What is the crown of life? Perfect moral manhood. - D.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

WEB: "To the angel of the assembly in Smyrna write: "The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life says these things:

The Words of Christ to the Congregation At Smyrna
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