Verse of the Day Devotion: Revelation 2:8 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:
Over the seven days, I will be looking at what John wrote, by the inspiration of God, to the seven major churches in Asia Minor. In these seven letters, God gives a message to each that is specific to each and speaks of issues that could fit the Churches throughout history. It is important to look at these and examine our church and ultimately ourselves to see where we stand regarding these.
Now we come to the Church in Smyrna. In our focus verse it says, “The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this.” Revelation 2:8b. This is clear evidence that it is Jesus, the Christ, who is speaking here. In Revelation one we see both ideas brought forth. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8. Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Among the Jewish rabbis, it was common to use the first and the last letters of the Hebrew alphabet to denote the whole of anything, from beginning to end. Jesus as the beginning and end of all things is a clear reference to eternity and could apply only to God. Then farther down we read, “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” Revelation 1:17-18. These two references specifically state He was the beginning and end, but also the one who was dead but came back to life.
Smyrna was a large, important city on the western coast of Asia Minor, famed for its schools of medicine and science. The words of Jesus to the church in Smyrna offer insight into the life of a first-century congregation. Jesus starts by acknowledging their trials, which were many. “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.” Revelation 1:9. First, in their physical poverty, they were extraordinarily rich due to their spiritual wealth they had laid up for themselves in the good work they do. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;” Matthew 5:19-20.
They also received much blaspheme from those claiming to be Jews but were not. Synagogue members at Smyrna presumably considered opposition to the church to be consistent with Israel’s tradition, since they thought Jesus followers had departed from the tradition by making elevated claims about Jesus. From these verses’ perspective, their attempt to denounce Jesus’ followers, especially when this could lead to imprisonment and/or death was incompatible with loyalty to Israel’s God. However, for John who was writing God’s message to them, those who denounced Christians thereby denounced the God to whom they bear witness to and therefore called it blaspheme. Also, the Jews who denounced them joined forces with civic and provincial authorities who worshipped other gods in the effort to get the Christians arrested.
Then He encourages them. “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Revelation 2:10. Back in this time, and in the Old Testament times, “ten days” seems to be a round number to indicate a limited period of time. He is telling them to remain strong and not to fear what will come. He does not want them to be surprised, so He tells them that Satan will have some of them thrown into prison. The threat of imminent suffering often inspires fear (Aristotle, Rhet. 2.5.1). However, this revelation counters the fear by giving them confidence that members of the community will not be abandoned but will be brought through the suffering with God’s help to everlasting life by way of the resurrection.
Difficult times are coming for all of us Christians. Some will go through more trials than others, however, we all will no doubt go through some degree of troubles. However, one thing we can be confident in, and that is Christ will be with us to strengthen and remind us of the great eternal future we have awaiting us. Do not let the fear of man and the enemy take away our peace and joy for we know where we are going, and it is a wonderful place.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.
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