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The Persecuted Church - Church at Smyrna - Part 1

Discerning The Times / Brian Thomas
The Truth Network Radio
May 11, 2024 1:00 pm

The Persecuted Church - Church at Smyrna - Part 1

Discerning The Times / Brian Thomas

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May 11, 2024 1:00 pm

Join us this week for a verse by verse study of the Church at Smyrna, also known as the Persecuted Church of Revelation 2:8-11. 

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Blessings to Israel presents Discerning the Times, a program committed to encouraging you to view current events through the lens of the Bible. Now in honor of the one and only true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, please join us for today's program. Welcome to Discerning the Times.

My name is Brian Thomas. So great to be with you as always. And this week we are continuing with our look at the seven churches in the book of Revelation to see what it is that our Lord had to say to those churches at that time and what those same letters are speaking to us today.

Being joined by co-host Dr. Bruce Logan, who I will bring in shortly. But before I do, I want to remind you that your eternal state is far more important than your current state. If you have never received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I urge you to do so today. Otherwise, you will spend eternity in the lake of fire separated from our Lord. So will you please receive the gift that Jesus gave us at Calvary when he shed his blood for sins?

Give your heart to Jesus Christ on today. All right, so we're going to bring you now co-host Dr. Bruce Logan. And Doc, as we always say, we are always excited about looking at Revelation. And as we get into the second church, we have to remind people that not only was the Lord speaking to the church, then he's also speaking to us now when we look at this letter at Smyrna. Absolutely. And that's very important that you mentioned that, because when you look around at the church culture in our particular day and time now, you see a lot of similarities, you know, a lot of corresponding lessons that the seven churches had in relation to the modern church we're going to see today and in the subsequent messages in this lesson, in this series, rather, we're going to see a lot of things that if you're really discerning, you'll be able to pay attention to that should be concerning to every true Bible believing, church going Christian. So this is a very important topic, a topic that's not addressed nearly enough from most of our pulpits, and I'm excited to get into it.

Absolutely. And we like to refer to this church that we're looking at Smyrna as the persecuted church. So that is the second church in which our Lord had John right to in the Book of Revelation.

I want to share to get us started in the book of Matthew, chapter five, verses 10 through 12. It says, Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake.

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. So I want you to keep those verses in mind as we are going through looking at this church at Smyrna. It reminds me also of an underground church in China that I heard about in. And it actually prays for persecution to come to their congregation.

And we don't hear that today. People are not praying, at least not in our nation, for persecution to come. But there's an underground church in China that actually prays that they would receive persecution. And I'm reminded of in the book of Acts, chapter 13, where the disciples were filled with joy by the Holy Spirit as a result of persecution. So I want our audience to keep all of that in mind as we again are looking at this church at Smyrna. So turn your Bibles over to Revelation chapter number two. And we're going to look today at verses eight through 11. Revelation chapter two, verses eight through 11. And beginning with verse eight and to the angel of the church in Smyrna.

Right. These things, says the first and the last who was dead and came to life. I know your works, tribulation and poverty, but you are rich.

And I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison that you may be tested and you will have tribulation.

Ten days be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death. So, all right, Dr. Logan, let's go back up to verse number eight and let's speak about this church here at this city at Smyrna. Well, first of all, as you pointed out, Smyrna was known as the persecuted or the suffering church. And this message and as a matter of fact, the quote that you started to show off with from Matthew was perfect because it described the church of Smyrna to the T. And one of the things that's interesting about the church of Smyrna and hopefully our listeners have been following along with us because when we did the introductory lesson in this series, we pointed out the fact that of the seven churches, there were only two churches among the seven that there was no negative condemnation or negative concern that Jesus had when he wrote, had the letters written to these churches. I mean, they were like there was nothing bad that the Lord had to say about two of the churches.

The first one was Smyrna and of course, when we get to Philadelphia, that would have been the second one. And it's also important to keep in mind that the listeners really, really bear in mind that there was something special about these seven letters that sometimes goes maybe not recognized or to the extent that it should be. And that these were seven letters that were written specifically, they were given specifically by the Lord Jesus Christ himself to specifically the angel of these seven churches. And we talked about in the introduction of this series that the angel of these churches were the pastors or the overseers or the bishop of these particular church congregations.

And it was his responsibility to read and encourage his, and instruct his congregation of what the Lord specifically and directly was sharing with that church specifically. And as you also mentioned that there's application for these messages that transcend down throughout the church age up until including today. And one of the things that we're going to notice as we begin to unpack this letter to the church of Smyrna is that you're going to notice a stark contrast between the message that Jesus himself gave to the Smyrna church versus the common theme or message that we hear in today's church because what we commonly hear in today's church is in stark contrast to what this letter of Smyrna spoke about and you really hit it at the beginning when you quoted from Matthew, because the church of Smyrna was a suffering church, and I just want to I just made a note here of, and if the listeners would just browse back over to verse nine and 10, it pointed out five struggles that the church of Smyrna was going to have to endure.

The number one was tribulation, poverty, suffering, being thrown in prison, and of course, going through tribulation. Now think about that, if that message today wouldn't go over very well in the average church, because today we want to hear about how we want to be prosperous, how we want to, how this is your season, how we can live the abundant life, how we can live the best life now, but the church of Smyrna had to endure things that was in stark contrast to that. And I just think that the message of the true message of the gospel is really, I mean if you unpack this letter to the church of Smyrna you can really see the true message of the gospel it's all about suffering and giving ourselves over and having no fear for the things that will happen to us in this life, because the life that is to come as you often say is going to be more valuable more important than the life that we have now and you're going to see this as we go through the church of Smyrna, you're going to see this theme, and I know I'm probably going a little long winded on this particular point, but this is just happened to be something that's just a pet peeve of mine, that, you know, this is the message of the gospel that's popularized in today's culture is in stark contrast to the true gospel message that came from our Lord itself.

And so, I just that's a little long winded version of this but I just wanted to, I needed to get that out. Yeah, you're right is definitely in stark contrast to what we see today because again that church there Smyrna they embrace the persecution. And as I was stating the underground church in China is doing the same thing today. And the reason that the church at Smyrna was so greatly persecuted because it was in a wealthy city, but when they had little time for Christians and the city of Smyrna was founded about three centuries before Christ by Alexander the Great and it was known as a commercial center in Asia Minor.

And we know today Asia Minor is present day Turkey, and it was on the route from India and Persia to Rome. I also want to point out in verse eight where the text says first and the last who was dead and came to life. And we know that to be our Lord Jesus Christ it speaks to his death and resurrection. And so I want to encourage the listening audience out there, if you have co workers today, and you have family that have little tolerance for Christians. Keep in mind the words that Christ said he said that there's going to be great reward for you in heaven for eternity, if you will keep your faith and trust in him he says rejoice, because great will be that reward. Because we serve a Lord who died but he conquered death in the resurrection so I want to encourage people out there if you're being shunned, and I just, I can't imagine how how bad it must feel to be basically disowned by your entire family but there are many people out there who are suffering that way. For the sake of being a follower of Jesus Christ and that we want to encourage those people though to not give up and do not lose hope because the Bible declares that there is going to be a great reward for suffering for the sake of Christ.

Amen. And that that message of suffering for the sake of sake of Christ is is accentuated here. If you unpack this letter here to be Church of Smyrna, because if you study and go back and view the history of this particular area, and especially the Church of Smyrna, you're going to see that this was actually fulfilled specifically, you know, in that in within the subsequent years of the church, or these believers in the Church of Smyrna, one of the more famous incidents of course was a bishop of Smyrna, who was actually trained and disciple by the apostle himself. His name was Polycarp and some of the listeners may be familiar with that name. Polycarp was nine in his 90s, when he was burned at the stake because of his faith, because his belief in the Christian gospel. And he was burned at the stake by the Romans, and the story goes that Polycarp, of course, had this letter to the John wrote from Patmos, probably in the back of his mind. So there was an arrest warrant sent out by the emperor, and they came to Polycarp's home, and mind you, he was in his 90s, and they came to his home to arrest him, and he graciously asked the soldiers, could I go and pray and they heard him in there praying, and then he came back out and offered them, could he prepare them, the soldiers something, you know, some food to eat. And, you know, so the soldiers came under conviction and they didn't, they didn't, you know, really want to have to take him in to be executed but they, you know, if they didn't do their job then of course it was going to fall on them so they knew that so they took Polycarp, and he would, they asked him, all we want you to do is recant your belief in Jesus, and we will let you go free, and he famously said that he did have not turned his back on me all of these years, why would I now turn my back on him, and they, and so they he was tied to the stake and burned at the stake and actually the story goes that the flames miraculously went around him and actually was not touching him and they.

So a soldier actually stabbed him to cause him to die. And then the flames consumed him. But anyway, the point being that he was a bishop of Smyrna, and the church and the believers of Smyrna, you know, suffered, a lot of similar types of persecution. And so this, this, this, this admonition and warning that Jesus gave came to pass in that particular region and a lot of it had to do with the believers and the unwillingness to bow down to the Christian faith, I mean I'm sorry bow down to the emperor worship and the pagan worship and give up and recant their Christian belief is the entire reason why they suffered such great persecution of at that particular time.

And, and that reminds me also of the three Hebrew boys in the lion's den, I'm sorry, the three Hebrew boys in the fiery furnace. And the three Hebrew boys was faced with a similar opportunity to bow down to worship the idol of Nebuchadnezzar, and they said, we shall not do it and our God can deliver us but even if he doesn't, we will not bow down and worship your image, and that type of internal intestinal fortitude and stance is what's going to be called for in the day and time that we're living in because, because in America we are comfortable, we don't, we're not really, we're not really concerned about this level of physical persecution, but as we're going to see that even if the, there's other parts of the country, I'm sorry, parts of the world where they are what they are what you mentioned China, they're enduring spiritual literal physical persecution in America we've become comfortable in our lifestyle because we're not dealing with the physical aspect of persecution, but the consequences in terms of our eternal state, as you mentioned often on this program is going to be impacted by our unwillingness to take stands for the attacks that we're seeing in our culture on as regards to our Christian beliefs and the Word of God. Yeah, because as you said tribulation is is already great in the world as a matter of fact, Christianity is the most persecuted faith in the world.

Again, like you said we are comfortable here in the United States we don't really have to face it, as we see in a lot of areas but it is coming I do believe it is coming here is increasing more and more. And as you touched on earlier in verse nine where our Lord was speaking to the very thing he says I know your works tribulation and poverty, but you are rich and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan. And so when we look at this church at Smyrna this was probably the greatest time of persecution to the church, because Satan recognize that the church was having a huge impact on the world. And the thing about it though is the more this church was persecuted, the more it overcame and Christ had no words of condemnation for this church, because unlike the church at Ephesus, it had not left its first love. And so, Satan realize that persecution was not going to destroy the Church of Christ.

And when we look here this city at Smyrna. It was a city where there was a great economic hub with a lot of commercial activity, but those that took a stand for Christ and this is the very thing you were just touching on doc. Those that took a stand for Christ often lost their jobs or the businesses were boycotted, and this led to a lot of those who were rich going bankrupt. And so this church at Smyrna had very little assets, but the church at that time was characterized by material poverty but spiritual power, which is in great contrast to what we see today many churches of our age are the opposite, where there's material wealth, there's spiritual weakness, and it reminds me something that I heard about a couple who was moving to the state of Texas, and they were looking for a church home there and so they went to visit this church, and the guide for the church was giving them a tour. And when he was given this tour he pointed to a particular section, and he actually said this is the millionaire section. And so the husband stopped him he said, this is the what he said, this is the millionaire section this is the section where all the people who give into the millions, this is where they sit, and they have their own personal entrance and exit from the church and they get special priority. But that is not the way we are to operate in the body of Christ and you know anyone that knows Christ is rich in the things that money cannot buy and that's what we need to have our mind and focus on. But you know doc again as you talk about today is all about prosperity, prosperity preachers that's what people want to hear that's what they flock to, but it's in great contrast to what we see at this church.

Yeah, that's that's so, so true. And another thing I would like to point out is that, and you kind of alluded to it that it mentioned in verse nine, that he says, I know your works, your tribulation and poverty but you are rich and you touched on that but he says, I know them the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not that's very important, because they are the synagogue of Satan. And one of the things I wanted to point out because this, this is actually, interestingly, was one of the causes of a lot of the persecution that the Jews have, I'm sorry, the, the Christian converts of Judaism had to deal with in in the first century to just to make a long story short, it was one of the things that that struck me as interesting was that it was mostly as a result of see a lot of times we have, we assume that the persecution was directly by the hands of the Romans, but in reality, it was actually the Jews who were instigators of much of the persecution at the first century Christians had to endure. And if you were a Jew in the first century Orthodox Jew who gave up Judaism and accepted Jesus Christ, you were no longer qualified to partake in synagogue ceremonies and worship, you were pretty much cast out now was interesting I found out that that the Romans would allow the Jews to be exempt from a lot of their Roman religious call worship.

But if you were cast out of the Judaism out of the, out of the synagogue, then you were no longer under that covering. And so now you became a target of the Romans because they looked at the first century Christians as dissidents, because they flat out refuse to take part in emperor worship and a lot of the other pagan practices that were common back in those days worshiping idols and so on and so forth. And so, there was the Jews that was actually instigator was kind of similar to the fact if you recall when Timothy was stoned it, I'm sorry when the first martyr was stoned to death. In the book of Acts, that he was stoned to death by the Jews, because he was preaching Christ to the Jews and they stoned him to death.

And so that was a major component of why many of the Jews in the first century had to endure this type of persecution now of course that escalated later, especially under this particular time under the Emperor Domitian who went out of his way to target Christians, and of course, that this this persecution accelerated and accentuated down through the first century, but it really took heart and took root during this time, and, and it was a lot of it was instigated or screwed on by the actual Jews who, and this text says who who say they are Jews, but are not. And that kind of reminds me of a lot of people in today's time, who say they are Christians say they are believers, you know, say they are church members and followers of Jesus Christ, but yet they endorse practices and ideology and worldview that's clearly outside of the confines of the gospel. So I just think there's an interesting parallel there that, and a lot of time because we live in America because, you know, we can go to a grocery store, right, and and just see just items just everywhere which is, we take things just in this culture that we live in we take so many things for granted, but there are there implications behind our level of comfort, that's going to come back and we're going to have to answer for, because also we're going to find out that continue to unpack these letters to the seven churches that at the end of each of these letters. There's an admonition about the future of future rewards or refute or future condemnation if we don't repent.

And I think that that's should be highlighted. For those who get into the study of the seven churches. And before I move on to verse 10 I want to piggyback on what you just talked about in speaking of how Christ said, you know, those who who say they are Jews and are not.

I want to give the definition, what the New Testament says concerning the definition of a Jew in Romans chapter two, verse 28 through 29 it states, for he is not a Jew, who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart in the spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not from me in but from God. So it's about the heart is not about legalism and any church that preaches a gospel, other than the gospel of Jesus Christ, he is a false church. And one of the two heresies that we often see is the false doctrine of Christ, and then we see the mixing of law and grace, and practically all cults adhere to one of these things so those are red flags for us to look for. But those are great points you made doc that today yes there are a lot of people who profess to be Christians. There are a lot of churches who say they are a Christian church. And when we put what they believe in and what they stand for up against the Bible. We see that no, these are not true Christians these are, this is not the real church when we see the church supporting things like abortion, going along with a Marxist movement like Black Lives Matter.

That's not the true church and so that's the very thing that as you said Jesus was speaking of concerning this this church here at Smyrna, in which he's telling them, you know, he knows the blasphemy of those who say they are are Jews but are not. Well we're going to pause there for this week as we are out of time but we will be back next week with the second half of our look at the persecuted church, the church at Smyrna. But before we close I just want to encourage you that as believers in Christ. We must be prepared for persecution, as the Bible tells us that to follow Christ, the world is going to hate us.

And we've had the luxury here in our nation that we haven't faced a lot but persecution is coming. So we must be prepared and we must not fall away as we look to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So thank you for joining us please come back next week as we continue to discern the times by viewing life through the lens of the Bible. Until then remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Bless God's great nation of Israel until the only wise God be glory through Jesus Christ forever.

Amen. Thank you for tuning in to Discerning the Times. Please come back and join us next week as we continue to encourage you to view current events through the lens of the Bible. Until next time remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem bless God's great nation of Israel and seek first the kingdom of God. Discerning the Times is presented by blessings to Israel.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-11 12:06:55 / 2024-05-11 12:16:48 / 10

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