· Church means a body of believers who come together for worship, instructions, and to serve. This does not refer to a building. Many churches have many different types of people, liturgies, and government. Many are not always true Christians or have God’s interests at heart; rather, they are driven by personal agendas or trends that are contrary to the precepts of our Lord. Jesus is attacking our placing personal agendas and power struggles over His lead!
· Smyrna, now called Izmir in Turkey, was a beautiful, large, prosperous, and loyal city and the center of the Emperor worship practice. Furthermore, there was a tough, antagonistic Jewish Synagogue there, giving the Christians a squeeze in the middle of persecution and hostility. The city officials were betraying and falsely accusing the Christians. The Jews kicked them out of their fellowship, a scandalous act for a Jew. This Smyrna church was composed of people who were burnt out and were starting to lose their faithfulness. Thus, instead of continuing to fight the ravages of persecution with trust and obedience to Christ, they decided to ignore His precepts and do their own thing. Even though they professed to worship and honor Christ, they did not do so fully in their deeds and attitudes (2 Cor. 4:4). They were once a vibrant, healthy church but were starting to die. This city of Smyrna was destroyed and laid in ruins, then rebuilt, as in resurrected (800-300 BC). The application is that a dead or dying church with faithful, Christ–empowered people can be turned around and resurrected! John’s disciple, Polycarp, became the Bishop there and did resurrect it until he was martyred 30 or so years later (or at this time, depending how you date Revelation–another proof for a late date for Revelation if he is the “Angel”).
· I know your afflictions. In times of suffering, we may think that Christ is absent, but He is not. He is fully with us!
· Poverty has two meanings: being physically poor and helpless, and being rich in faith (2 Cor. 8:6; James 1:9). It may, perhaps, mean the financial sufferings they were going through. It also refers to a hunger for righteousness and seeking the depths of God’s love and virtue, and in so doing, being committed to continue allowing yourself to grow in maturity, to be transformed, and to be renewed. At the same time, it is not allowing personal circumstances to disrupt your faith (Matt. 5:3-6; Rom. 12:1-3; 2 Cor. 8:8-12; Phil. 2:5-9).
· Rich. John reminds them that they are rich when they are the elect/chosen in Him (Luke 6:20; James 2:5). In contrast, the Laodicean church thought they were rich when they were actually poor, as bankrupted in faith (Rev. 3:17).
· Who say they are Jews. A public profession of faith or a genetic legacy must always be backed up with real, authentic faith and deeds (Rom. 2:28-29).
· Synagogue of Satan, meaning being apostate is referring to the local Synagogue and of Jews who were very antagonistic to the Christians as they refused to acknowledge Christ as the Messiah and who called the Christians a Synagogue of Satan. This does not refer to an actual Christian “church;” rather, it is a metaphor meaning to oppose Christ, as in refusing to heed the precepts of God’s Word and call, and doing the opposite, which is one’s own will and agenda. The Church of Smyrna was starting to doubt that Christ was coming back so they taught the opposite of His instructions. This is a parody of who Satan is and how he operates. The question we have to ask ourselves is are we operating to the opposite tune from what Jesus commands, as this Synagogue and the church of Smyrna were starting to? If so, we are being a church of Satan!
· Devil. Here, his name “diabolos” means accuser and slanderer (Zech 3:1; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7; John 15:20; 2 Tim. 3:12; Rev. 12:10).
· Prison refers to a place of detention until a trial or execution took place, much like a city jail today.
· Test you/testing…ten days refers to Daniel 1:12 and the trials he faced. This means our trails will be limited and temporary (Matt. 5:11-12; James 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:7; 3:14). To say that this means ten waves of future persecutions or the ten emperors is a stretch, and does not take into account O.T. understandings.
· Persecution refers to the many Christians who were martyred for their faith.
· Faithful. Ironically, the city of Smyrna was known for their faithfulness to Rome, but its church started to withdraw their faithfulness to our Lord!