[Yesterday morning in Sunday school at Kosmosdale Baptist Church
I taught from Revelation 2:8-11, "the letter to the church in Smyrna;" below are some of my teaching notes for this lesson.]
Translation of the Text
8 And write to the angel of the church in Smyrna:
Thus says the First and the Last, the [one] who became dead and he lives:
9 I know your hardships: abject poverty– but you’re rich!– and the slander from those calling themselves Jews when they’re nothing but a synagogue of Satan. 10 Fear nothing that you are about to suffer. Look! The devil is about to throw some of you into prison in order that you might be tested, and you will have hardships for ten days. Become faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 Let he who has an ear hear what the Spirit says to the churches: the victor will certainly not be injured by the second death.
Introduction of the Author
In Smyrna, “the first city of Rome” in Asia Minor, which had supported Julius even before he was Caesar, Emperor-worship was not only widespread, but also enforced by law. Christians would have found it particularly difficult to make a living in an area of enforced emperor worship.
Acknowledgement of the Smyrnan’s Hardships
The use of “synagogue” in this passage heightens the contrast between the slanderers’ claimed Judaism (i.e., their claim to follow God) and the reality that they have rejected God as He is revealed in Christ and thus they have become satanic. “This [verse] is analogous to Paul’s claim that to be a Jew means to be circumcised in heart, which can even apply to those who are not physically circumcised, i.e., non-Jews (Rom 2:8-3:1; cf. his figurative use of “Israel” in Gal 6:16; cf. 1 Cor 10:18)." The “slander” mentioned in this verse may refer to the Jewish community denouncing Christians before the Roman authorities. Such slander would result in Christians losing the ancient Jewish exemption from enforced Roman state worship; Christians would therefore be subject to Roman persecution.
(For other passages on Christians in poverty, see 1 Cor 1:26; Jas 2:5.)
kai before th;n ptwceivan is epexegetical: the poverty and the slander against the Smyrnan Christians being the content of their persecution.
Admonition and Encouragement to the Smyrnans
Due to their support of Caesar, Smyrna was known as the crown city. In common practice, a crown was placed on the head of the deceased. This phrase indicates a major theme in the book of Revelation: namely, that the Lord will reward his servants who are faithful unto death with eternal life. This is not works-righteousness, as the faithfulness is not tied to any specific activity, but rather to an attitude of trust in Christ alone and fidelity to him as Lord, which– out of love for Jesus– will not fail to confess him even unto death (Jas 1:12).
Charge to Heed the Word
Promise to the Victor
“The second death” implies a first death: the first death being physical and the second death being the sentence to the lake of fire at the final judgment.
Labels: Bible study