To the angel, divine messenger of the church in Smyrna write.
These are the words of the First and the Last, absolute Deity, the Son of God who died and came to life again:
I know your suffering and your poverty, but you are rich. And how you are blasphemed and slandered by those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of satan. They are Jews only by blood and do not believe and truly honor the God whom they claim to worship.
Fear nothing that you are about to suffer. Be aware that the devil is about to throw some of you into prison. That you may be tested in your faith, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful to the point of death if you must die for your faith, and I will give you the crown consisting of life.
He who has an ear let him hear and heed what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God will not be hurt by the second death— the lake of fire.
In 600 BC, the Lydin king, Attalus, conquered and destroyed Smyrna. But thanks to Alexander the Great’s vision to rebuild the tiny, humble village. Smyrna was resurrected, becoming one of the greatest city of its day.
The closest Roman port to Europe, Smyrna thrived. It had the exclusive right to import and export the expensive, fragrant spice— myrrh. Valued for its use in burial procedures. Immense amounts were sold to Egypt. Known for its architecture, flowers and tropical-like climate, Smyrna’s inhabitants treasured their city, especially its history.
For the Christians in Smyrna, swearing loving loyalty to Jesus was costly. Tribulation, poverty and slander were daily companions. Considered a subculture by the Jews of the city. They could face imprisonment, even death.
How did these Christians persevere?
They believed and repented— internalized Christ’s words of wisdom and warning.
Financial tribulation was almost a certainty for a Christian in Smyrna. You could lose your job. Be cast our of trade unions. Prohibited from independently selling your wares.
Jesus encourages us to pursue spiritual, not earthly treasures.
Some people store up treasures in their homes here on earth. This is a shortsighted practice. Don’t undertake it. Moths and rust will eat up any treasure you may store here. Thieves may break into your homes and steal your precious trinkets. Instead, put up your treasures in heaven where moths do not attack. Where rust does not corrode. Where thieves are barred at the door. For where your treasure is.There your heart will be also.
The eye is the lamp of the body. You draw light into your body through your eyes, and light shines out to the world through your eyes. So if your eye is well and shows you what is true, then your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is clouded or evil, then your body will be filled with evil and dark clouds. And the darkness that takes over the body of a child of God who has gone astray. That is the deepest, darkest darkness there is.
No one can serve two masters. If you try, you will wind up loving the first master and hating the second or vice versa. People try to serve both God and money— but you can’t. You must choose one or the other.
Here is the bottom line. Do not worry about your life. Don’t worry about what you will eat, or what you will drink. Don’t worry about how you clothe your body. Living is about more than merely eating, and the body is about more than dressing up.
Look at the birds in the sky. They do not store food for winter. They don’t plant gardens. They do not sow or reap. And yet, they are always fed because your heavenly Father feeds them. You are even more precious to Him than a beautiful bird. If He looks after them, of course He will look after you. Worrying does not do any good. Who here can claim to add even an hour to his life by worrying?
Nor should you worry about clothes. Consider the lilies of the field, and how they grow. They do not work or weave or sew, and yet their garments are stunning. Even King Solomon, dressed in his most regal garb, was not as lovely as these lilies. Think about grassy fields. The grasses are here now, but they will be dead by winter. Yet God adorns them so radiantly. How much more will He clothe you, you of little faith, you who have no trust?
So do not consume yourselves with questions. What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? Outsiders make themselves frantic over such questions. They don’t realize that your heavenly Father knows exactly what you need. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too. So do not worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow worry about itself. Living faithfully is a large enough task for today. Matthew 6:19-34
“Christians have orgies in their gatherings.”
“Christians are cannabals. They drink the blood of Christ and eat His body!”
“Christians call each other brother and sister. They don’t care about their families, just each other.”
These were some of the rumors spread by both Jews and pagans in Smyrna.
Jesus declares the Spirit, not biology, is the foundation of faith.
Therefore, the one who confesses and acknowledges Me before men as Lord and Savior, affirming a state of oneness with Me. That one I will also confess and acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven. But the one who denies and rejects Me before men. That one I will also deny and reject before My Father who is in heaven.
Do not think that I have come to bring peace on the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword of division between belief and unbelief. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household when one believes and another does not.
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross, expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come and follow Me. Believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life in this world will eventually lose it through death, and whoever loses his life [n this world for My sake will find it. That is, life with Me for all eternity. Matthew 10:32-39
Those who professed allegiance to Jesus risked imprisonment, even death. A rat infested dark dungeon filled with human excrement awaited some. Others would die burned at the stake or ravaged by wild beasts in an arena.
Jesus warns His followers that being His disciple requires sacrifice.
If any of you want to walk My path, you’re going to have to deny yourself. You’ll have to take up your cross every day and follow Me. If you try to avoid danger and risk, then you’ll lose everything. If you let go of your life and risk all for My sake, then your life will be rescued, healed, made whole and full. Listen, what good does it do you if you gain everything— if the whole world is in your pocket— but then your own life slips through your fingers and is lost to you?
If you’re ashamed of who I am and what I teach, then the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when He comes in all His glory, the glory of the Father and the glory of the holy messengers. Are you ready for this? I’m telling you the truth. Some of you will not taste death until your eyes see the Kingdom of God. Luke 9:23-27
How did these Christians in Smyrna prevail? Never denying loving loyalty for Jesus?
They learned to overcome the weakness of the flesh by thinking eternally, not temporally. One day they would be resurrected to a superior life with Jesus. This truth fortified their faith and obedience. Enabling them to persevere, despite experiencing tribulation and temptation.
Unfortunately, spiritual immaturity handicaps many Christians today. Failing to grasp that in the days of His earthly life, Jesus offered up both specific petitions and urgent supplications for that which He needed, with fervent crying and tears to the One who was always able to save Him from death. He was heard because of His reverent submission toward God, His sinlessness and His unfailing determination to do the Father’s will. Although He was a Son who had never been disobedient to the Father, He learned active, special obedience through what He suffered. Having been made perfect, uniquely equipped and prepared as Savior and retaining His integrity amid opposition, He became the source of eternal salvation, an eternal inheritance to all those who obey Him. Hebrews 5:7-9
This promise of an eternal inheritance miraculously floods my being with gratitude. Whatever I used to count as my greatest accomplishments, I’ve written them off as a loss because of the Anointed One. And more so, I now realize that all I gained and thought was important was nothing but yesterday’s garbage compared to knowing the Anointed Jesus my Lord. For Him I have thrown everything aside— it’s nothing but a pile of waste— so that I may gain Him. When it counts I want to be found belonging to Him, not clinging to my own righteousness based on law but actively relying on the faithfulness of the Anointed One. This is true righteousness, supplied by God, acquired by faith. I want to know Him inside and out. I want to experience the power of His resurrection and join in His suffering, shaped by His death. So that I may arrive safely at the resurrection from the dead.
I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me. Nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go. Brothers and sisters, as I said, I know I have not arrived. But there’s one thing I am doing. I’m leaving my old life behind, putting everything on the line for this mission. I am sprinting toward the only goal that counts— to cross the iline, to win the prize, to hear God’s call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus the Anointed. All of us who are mature ought to think the same way about these matters. If you have a different attitude, then God will reveal this to you as well. For now, let’s hold on to what we have been shown and keep in step with these teachings. Philippians 3:7-16