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The Persecuted Church - Church at Smyrna - Part 2

Discerning The Times / Brian Thomas
The Truth Network Radio
May 18, 2024 1:00 pm

The Persecuted Church - Church at Smyrna - Part 2

Discerning The Times / Brian Thomas

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May 18, 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.

Thank you as always. And this week we're going to continue with our look at the letters to the seven churches. We are looking at the second of the seven churches, that is the persecuted church, the church at Smyrna. So we began last week with part one. If you missed it, you can listen at our website, blessingstoisrael.com. Just go there and look for the persecuted church, the church at Smyrna part one.

So again, we're going to continue today with part two. But before we do that, I want to remind you, as we always do, 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 God. So will you please accept the gift that Jesus Christ gave us at Calvary when he shed his blood for sin? But you have to receive that gift in order to inherit eternal life. So will you please come to our Lord Jesus Christ on today?

All right. So again, we're continuing our look at the persecuted church. And we talked last week about the fact that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, the Bible says to expect persecution. And we've had the luxury here in our nation that we haven't really faced a lot of persecution in terms of we haven't been threatened to be fed to hungry lions like the early church was and to be sought in half or to be lit on fire. And we talked about that is what the early church face for being proclaimers, for being followers of our great Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But, folks, I want to tell you that the persecution is coming to our nation. It is increasing because we already see the hatred towards Christians in our society. And what it ultimately boils down to is it is a hatred toward God. And we already see today that if you don't bow to the politically correct narrative of that, well, a man can change himself into a woman and a woman can change herself into a man.

If you as a Christian say, no, that's not possible. Well, they're coming after you. And we're in that time again.

We see that the pressure is increasing. And I want to encourage you to stay true to God. He said that there will be great rewards in eternity for those who do not grow weary, for those who do not give up, for those who stay true to his word. And we need to encourage one another to stand true, to stand on the truth and not submit to the doctrines of demons that we see invading our society today. And that we see, unfortunately, a lot of churches are not standing against. And we also talked about the fact that there is a church in China, an underground church, that actually prays for persecution to come. They want to have that persecution.

And it's because they feel as though that will show that they are worthy. They find joy in being found worthy to suffer for the sake of Jesus Christ. And may that be the heart of us all to have that desire to not run from persecution, to not run from suffering, but instead embrace it and have joy. The fact that we are found worthy to suffer for being a follower of our great Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So I'm going to bring in my co-host, Dr. Bruce Logan. And Doc, we're going to pick up where we left off from last week, in which we again was looking at the persecuted church, the church at Smyrna in Revelation, chapter two. So let's pick up with Revelation, chapter number two, verse 10. 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. So Jesus is saying suffering is coming, but don't be afraid.

He's saying, trust me, because there is going to be reward. There's going to be a crown of life. And as we talk about all the time is that today there is just all these feel good sermons out there.

That's all you hear about. You never hear sermons saying, well, there's going to be suffering that is coming. And you need to be prepared and to bear it, suffer through it and look to Jesus Christ, look to the cross. And he's going to reward in eternity. Now, I do want to touch on real quickly.

It says here 10 days. It speaks of you will have tribulation 10 days. And there are different theories out there as to what that means.

I lean towards the idea of 10 periods of persecution under Roman emperors that were going on during that time. But but you have any thoughts on that at all? Yeah, there's two theories about that. And basically, I mean, two primary theories. And of course, you just stated that one.

And of course, that and the other one, of course, takes a little bit more explanation. But it involves the dispensational view, I'll call it that, of the seven churches. And the reason for the dispensational view and why so many Bible teachers espouse the dispensational view is it centers around the fact that Jesus chose this particular grouping of seven churches in order to write letters to. And if listeners will look on a map and just Google a map of the seven churches, you can see their proximity. But if you expand the map, you will see that there were many other churches, congregations in that particular region to the east and to the west that Jesus could have also addressed letters to. But why this particular seven, of course, like, for example, Colossi was only, I believe, 10 miles east of Laodicea, the church. And of course, we know that that was a Christian church because we have a letter in the New Testament to the Colossians and just north of Colossi was the region of Galatia. But that wasn't also chosen for one of these seven letters.

And then if you go the opposite direction and travel west, you would run into Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica. None of those churches also were chosen. But this particular grouping of seven churches. And so the question a lot of scholars ask, why this particular grouping of seven churches? Why not the other?

Why was Colossi left out, for an example, when it was literally only 10 miles away from Laodicea? And the theory is that this church or these seven letters represented seven periods in church history. That's kind of the cliff note answer to what we mean by the dispensational view. And just by way of full disclosure, there were years, you know, in my early Christianity and in my early studies of Bible prophecy, I used to actually be an avid expouser or believer in this dispensational view.

But as time has progressed, I began to look and I've started to question that particular view because you can see characteristics. Well, we've already pointed out their characteristics of all seven of these churches that end our time today. And the reason that's important because, you know, those who hold the dispensational view, they view that they will say that we are living in that Laodicean age. You know, we get when you get to the church of Laodicea, it's the lukewarm church. And so they look at America, they look at the church today as the lukewarm church.

So we're living in the, quote unquote, Laodicean age. And I actually believe it or not, I used to espouse that belief because, you know, things that I saw in the church culture. But then as I began to study it more, you see all of these characteristics. You see compromises we're going to talk about next week when we talk about the church of Pergamos. You see a lot of corruption. You see you see a lot of characteristics from all of these churches.

So I don't know. I no longer, you know, really just dogmatic about the dispensational view. But long story short, that's what that's those two views are, basically the two that really stand out. But I think the most important thing that we need to keep in mind is that this was a letter and all seven of these letters were messages that that all of us and all of believers throughout church history can learn and take lessons. From.

Absolutely. And just one other theory I'll share is of the 10 Roman emperors that were ruling at that time, the last one, Diocletian, was considered the worst. And some people think, well, it could refer to the 10 days of the last 10 years under the rule of Diocletian and Diocletian. And again, he was ruthless. He led a violent attack to destroy the Bible from the earth. He held a lot of public burnings of the scriptures. And it was during this time in which hundreds of Christians were brought into theaters, the amphitheater of Rome and and fed to hungry lions as people watched and cheer, just like we would watch and cheer on a basketball or football game today.

They cheered on people, Christians being eaten by lions. And there were many Christians who were crucified during this time as well. Accounts of people being covered in animal skin and tortured to death by wild, hungry dogs. Some were covered with tar and set on fire to serve as torches.

And you touched on poly carp earlier, burned at the stake. And so there are a lot of people who were persecuted during that early time, during this time period of Smyrna. And one church historian estimated that five million Christians were executed during this period. And so when we look at this time again, it was a time of great persecution. But we have to remember, just as Jesus said, that he would establish the church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail. And we've seen that throughout history that the church has not been destroyed.

It will never be destroyed. And just one last thing I want to point out before we move on to the last verse is that when we go through suffering, we don't enjoy it. But I want to remind us of John Chapter 15, verse two, which speaks about branches that bear fruit or pruned in order to bear more fruit. So for those out there who are gardeners, farmers, you know exactly what I'm speaking of in which when you see a branch that is producing, what do you do?

You prune it. And when you prune it, it does what it branches out and it produces even more. And that is what God does with us. And I can speak to it in my own personal life that I went through some periods of suffering that I did not enjoy. But what happened was in that process, I was motivated to do even more for the kingdom. So I came out on the other side of it producing more fruit than I did beforehand.

And so we have to look at that. There's a pruning process that is painful. We don't enjoy it. But it does produce more fruit for the kingdom. And Jesus says he's going to reward us for that in eternity.

We're going to rule and reign with him. So, Doc, any other thoughts on that before we wrap up with verse 11? Oh, yeah, we're just you really, really hit it on the head. And I'm glad you pointed out a mate and gave us some gave our listeners some clarity on those two different views about the 10 days, because actually. The one you just described as the 10 days or the 10 periods of emperor persecution that that to me, I think that that's a plausible explanation for what was meant when it says you shall suffer persecution for 10 days, because that literally did happen in church history and for the listeners who would be interested in learning more about that particular period. There's a book called Fox's Book of Martyrs.

Some of some of our listeners may have heard of it. It kind of gives a detailed description of the statistics of what you described, as you begin to point out, the different or the number of persecutions and the different types of tortures and persecutions that Christians had to endure during this period of time. But when you think about it, when you study and think of and consider the magnitude of the persecution. Now, for for for believers living in 21st century America or the 21st century West, it's difficult to wrap our minds around as you begin to describe some of the different types of persecution that they endure, being fed to two hungry lions for entertainment or for a variety of wild beasts for entertainment, being burned at the stake. I mean, all the various types of persecution. And then we're going to when we get to the Church of Pergamos, we're going to see about we're going to learn about an individual who was who was executed in a way that was so horrific that it's hard to wrap our minds around. And when we think in 21st century, in the 21st century West, the level of persecution, we can't it's hard to fathom.

It's hard to it's hard to understand. But the thing that I wanted to just close by saying that those individuals believe they endured that persecution. First of all, they willingly because all they had to do was just recant their faith and they would have been spared a lot of that torture, a lot of that pain and persecution, but they endured to the end because they believed in their heart of heart. And what you say, every opening of this podcast, that your future state, your eternal state is going to be more important and more valuable than your current state. And they believe that those early Christians believe that it was all with every fiber of their being. And it makes me wonder, you know, what is it going to be like when we stand before in 21st century Christians stand before the Lord?

And right behind us or right in front of us are going to be those who stood and endured this level of persecution. You know, it's just something that we really need to consider as 21st century believers, because the level of commitment that we have needs to be, I would say, taken to another level. And this is why I love the study of these seven churches, because it gives us an idea. It gives us a point of reference that we can like as believers today, we could strive to a level of commitment that we can just, like they say, go to another level of our or another level of our commitment to the Lord by studying the lives of these early Christians, which, as I said earlier, is in stark contrast to the modern preaching and teaching today.

And also, I want to point out to one last thing that you always say about our our eternal state. It says it says be faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life. One of the things that that in modern Christianity, modern preaching and teaching, they fail to fail to recognize is that there are going to be rewards in the future. There's going to be rewards in the kingdom handed out to faithful believers. We all are going to have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ to receive of the deeds done in our bodies, whether it be good or bad.

You know, the apostle Paul said, I'm ready. I've kept the faith. You know what's laying up to me, a crown of righteousness, because he endured.

So they're going to be a variety of crowns, a variety of rewards. And one final thing I wanted to point out that we're we're so stuck on, you know, being blessed in this life. And we fail to realize that this life, even if you live to be over 100 is 100 years is just less than a speck of dust compared to eternity. And I just want to close with that because we need to be more future minded, more kingdom minded, more eternity minded than we're all that we are right now minded.

Yeah, that was a great points. And as you were talking, I was thinking to myself what it will be like when we step into eternity, when we step into heaven and people from this church at Smyrna. And they start having conversations with people from this time period. And they say, well, you know, we stood for Christ and we we did it under the threat of being fed to lions and being burned at the stake. And then they look at those from our generation and people will say, well, we we closed church because of the threat of a virus. Now, imagine how that's going to be in contrast. I don't know if we need eternity.

We can have any of those kind of conversations or not. But you just think about how today we don't stand, as you said, like we should be. And it really should be sobering to us when we look at what those people were willing to do and how little people today are willing to do again.

Closing churches because of the threat of a virus, simply because a governor said, well, there's a mandate that you can't gather. Well, the early church, they didn't they didn't say, well, OK, we'll stay home. No, they continued to serve Christ and they paid for it with with great suffering with again, fed to wild animals and all kinds of things done to them.

And we need to take note. And also one last thing I want to point out, the tribulation that it speaks of in that verse. I do think that confuses some people to think that, well, all of prophecy has been fulfilled. But we have to remember this is not talking about the tribulation, which is the seven year period that is coming.

That's the future. This is talking about tribulation, little t. And the Bible says we're all going to suffer tribulation if we follow Christ. But there are foreshadows in the Bible of things to come in the future. That is often the case when it comes to prophecy. So the early church, that was a foreshadow of what's going to come when Antichrist is ruling and reigning on the earth. And those will be there will be those persecuted for not accepting his mark of the beast. So.

All right. Let's wrap things up with verse 11. 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. And this is what Jesus wrapped all of his letters up. This is how he concluded them. And as we stated last week, it implies three types of individuals.

Those without ears, those who are dull of hearing and those who are willing to hear. And this reminds me of a time in which I was playing basketball in high school. I was on my my school's basketball team and we were running a play on the defensive end and I was in the wrong position. I ran the wrong play.

And I remember coach yelling out to me the right play. And so, you know, and I kind of nodded to affirm and I still went out and I ran the wrong thing. And so he called a time out and he was, you know, reinforcing to me what the right play was. And I nodded. And what did I do?

I went right back out on the court and ran the wrong play again. And he said, Brian, we just we just called a time out and talked about that. But see, the problem is I heard noise, but I was not perceiving what he was saying because my mind was on a play previously in which I made an error or what was going to come for the next play. And so that is what Jesus is telling us.

He says, OK, you have ears. You need to hear, listen, perceive what it is that I am telling you. Yeah, just to summarize what you just said, I can I would like my favorite word that I like to use in this particular context is discern, have discernment. That is what's needed desperately today amongst us believers being able to discern. He that hath in here, let him hear what the Spirit said unto the churches.

And then it goes on to say that he that overcomes shall not be heard of the second death. And I'll just close by saying that you made some analogies and some points that that stood out to me as I was listening when you were mentioned, for example, how churches closed down because of covid. And the reason why so many churches closed because there was just a lack of discernment. I mean, the one of the things that covid exposed is, as a matter of fact, is is that the level or the lack thereof of discernment among leaders in the American church. And that, to me, is the one thing that stood out above everything else, because it's clear, I mean, it was just the government and factions made it abundantly clear that what the goal, what the ultimatum is this. There's a movement that's happening in the world toward globalism, and it is a prelude.

It is a it is a stepping stone to set the stage for a coming one world government and a one world leader. And it's so blatantly obvious. And but the fact that it was went unnoticed, undiscerned, and even even it's been three, four years later, that you still seldom hear pastors commenting about it or or warning their congregations about it, because there's just such a lack of discernment. And a lot of that lack of discern from just this avoidance that we have of studying Bible prophecy, of studying revelations, the things that are clearly in scripture, there's a coming to pass right before our eyes.

We don't seem to be able to discern. And I'll just summarize the word he that had an earlet him hear what the spirits say that I just like to use the word discernment to kind of encapsulate that entire verse. But the thing that we need to understand that we're going to whether we're discerning or not, whether we have an ear to hear or not, we're all going to have to stand before the judgment seat of price to receive of the deeds done in our bodies, whether they be good or bad. There's going to be a marriage supper coming. And my desire is that myself for sure will be sitting there at the marriage supper of the lamb.

And, you know, maybe get to rub elbows with Paul and Peter and get a chance to just hobnob with some of the disciples and some of the patriarchs. And I'm just really looking forward to that. Oh, man. Yeah, I'm with you on that, Doc.

It's going to be a great time. Absolutely. All right. So I will close with just reminding the listeners that, as you stated, the lake of fire is the second death overcomers. We need not fear it. And that is why we need to hear the word of the Lord and and overcome by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We should expect persecution in this life. When you become a born again follower in Jesus Christ, you should expect persecution. And I think that's one of the things that oftentimes we as Christians don't prepare new converts for that because you're going to get hit by Satan. But we often don't prepare them for that. And and there are those who who really don't do well under that kind of pressure or under that persecution. But we should accept it.

People are going to turn on you, family, friends, co-workers. But we need to be reminded of what Christ said. There is great reward for those who suffer for him. I want to leave you with Acts Chapter five, verses 40 through 41.

And they agreed with him. And when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. So, folks, listen, we need to have that same heart today to count it a joy counted as as a as a thing to to be found worthy to suffer shame for the sake of Christ. We should count that as a joy and not try to avoid suffering as so many do on today. So that is going to do it for this week.

We're out of time. But please come back and join us next week as we are going to look at the next of the seven churches, the church at Pergamos. Until then, remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Bless God's great nation of Israel and to 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 / 2024-05-18 12:06:29 / 2024-05-18 12:16:42 / 10

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