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To the Church in Smyrna

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
November 6, 2020 7:00 am

To the Church in Smyrna

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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November 6, 2020 7:00 am

Its short, sweet, and all about life and death. Its the second letter in Revelation, to the church in Smyrna. Its sympathetic and supportive, without a hint of criticism. But it faces the fact that some of the believers who read this letter will die for their faith. Dr. Boice talks about their suffering and about the crown of life they can look forward to.

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Welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet Ministry of finance of convincing evangelicals featuring the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce for more information please contact us by calling toll-free one 804 88 18 and now the alliance is pleased to present the Bible study our preparing you to think and act biblically studying the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and three, the day of a letter to the church, and smart.

Which leads me to ask, knowing what's in this short message. Wouldn't it be nice to belong to a church about which nothing bad can be said specially by the Lord Jesus Christ. Somebody cited may while there is no church like that all sinners churches are made up of sinful people of all churches have problems combines very serious problems and that of course is absolutely true. Yet here the midst of these letters to the seven churches we come to want about which Jesus says nothing critical or two like that smart is one Philadelphia is another. This was the shortest of the seven letters of as only four versus is about a church was characterized by suffering for Jesus Christ that tells us anything at the beginning. It tells us that at least. Here is a church that had not forsaken its first love as the church at Ephesus seems to it.smart is only one of two cities mentioned in these chapters of Revelation that still in existence is represented by the modern Turkish city of Izmir. The other cities are mostly of ruins's murder was located about 35 miles north of Ephesus on an arm of the Aegean Sea and it was arrival of Ephesus, especially in later years of support and Ephesus began to sold out the larger ships could no longer block that Aaron had to go further up the GM to unload instead sat on the slope of a hill climb gently up away from the Aegean. On top of the hill known as Mount podcasts the city was built many public buildings city was known for its loyalty to Rome and had an erected an altar. The goddess of Rome as early as 195 BC when Rome still contending with Carthage for mastery of the Mediterranean say, I wasn't sure that point.

What direction it would go so it was a old thing for them to Don. I made the city a natural center for Emperor worship, which presumably some of the persecution said, we have no record of the beginnings of this church in Smyrna but we can suppose that it was established during the course of Paul's third missionary journey that is in the early 50s and mid 50s of the Christian era suggested by a person acts 19th chapter of acts, verse 10 were told that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord while Paul was in residence and Ephesus.

Presumably, the word spread at that time all the cities. 20 years after John wrote Revelation. The early church father Ignatius stated smart and he wrote four of his letters. There still later, he relocated to Truax as when he was in fro as he wrote two letters back to Ephesus. One, the church itself and one was Bishop name of homeless Polycarp. Polycarp's story is interesting. Polycarp had been a pupil of John the evangelist and the author of the book of Revelation that he was probably the leader of the church at the time John sent this letter to it, he would've been among the first readers of the book of Revelation. Now he was martyred in the year 155 a day date was February 23. It happened at the time of the public games when city was feeling particularly nationalistic or large crowds in the street, climbed the demonstration suddenly in the midst of these exciting days.

Somebody cried out away with the atheists.

What Polycarp be searched for on the guard was an old man at the time, he could probably escape. Didn't he deliberately remained in his home and the soldiers came to arrest Emily invited the man he fed them that he went with them for the governor of the city's labor on the way the officer was in charge of the arresting party said to them, now you need to offer sacrifice to Caesar what harm is and that offering a sacrifice to Caesar and saying Caesar is Lord. Polycarp insisted that only Jesus Christ is Lord, when I entered the arena story says that there was a voice from heaven, whether that was true or not, the story says the voice said be strong Polycarp and play the man is brought before the proconsul highest ranking officer in the city operated on behalf Roman Senate this man gave him the choice of cursing Christ making a sacrifice to Caesar or Diane and Polycarp gave his classic reply. He said 80 and six years have I served Jesus Christ and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me proconsul threatened him with burning at the stake replied you threatened me with the fire that burns for the time and was quickly extinguished. You do not know the flyer which awaits the wicked and the judgment, and everlasting punishment. Do what you will. Crowds were stirred up to a frenzy. By this time I gathered wood for the fire by tearing shops apart along the way leading to the arena that bound him to the stake we have this prayer recorded by the Christians who were there Polycarp prayed all Lord God Almighty father of my beloved and blessed son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have received full knowledge of the God of angels and powers of all creation. None of the whole family of the righteous who lived before they blessed say that I was granted under me this day and hour that I may share among the number of the martyrs and the couple like Christ resurrection to eternal life.

Both of soul and body in the immortality of the Holy Spirit.

May I today be received among them, before the is a rich and acceptable sacrifice is now God without falsehood and of truth has prepared before hand and showed forth and fulfill this reason, I also praised me for all things I bless you Laura fighting for the eternal and heavenly high priest, Jesus Christ, my beloved son, through whom be glory to the with him and the Holy Spirit, both now and for the ages that are to come.

A man is an ancient document that records is called the martyrdom of Polycarp in that document points out that Polycarp was the 12th martyr in the city of Smyrna and it ends with the account of those who add their own conviction and testimony to the witness of their leader Polycarp was arrested by Herod when a lot of trails was high priest and study a squad brought us was governor, but our Lord Jesus Christ was raining forever to him the glory, honor, majesty and eternal dominion from generation to generation.

It was a church led by people like that and testimonies echoed in those words about which the Lord Jesus Christ finds nothing bad to say how the message of Jesus of this church has a lot to do with death would might be expected in light of the persecutions were coming significantly.

The name Smyrna is like, and was often associated with the word martyr, which was an ointment used in embalming recall when Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus came to involvement in the body of Jesus Christ, preparing them for burial. They brought a mixture of Merck and aloes, about 75 pounds. Here's a letter that deals with death, yet the overriding message of the letter is that Jesus has conquered death. As a matter fact it's with this reminder that the letter begins.

These are the words of him. It was the first and the last two died and came to life again like the message to Ephesus which Jesus identifies himself as the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden candlesticks. This particular reference is drawn from that vision of the risen Christ, recorded in chapter 1 we go back to chapter 1 verses 17 and 18. We find Jesus saying there. Do not be afraid.

I am the first of the last, I am the living one is dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever and I hold the keys of death and Hades. What that means. One of his conquered death holes for the keys of death and Hades is what is worked out in a very brief compass in this letter to the church at Smyrna. Two verses later in the letter the believers in Smyrna are challenged to be faithful even on the death verse 10 a faithful, even to the point of death, I will give you the crown of life.

And then in verse 11. Promise. It ends a letter at the same note to you overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death messages that they will suffer impact. Some leave and suffer death for his name, but Jesus Christ as triumph over death and so will they. They remain faithful to his name is because now it's important to notice that this church about which nothing bad is set with support afflicted church, which means that to be faithful and be blessed by God is not to be identified with prosperity and easy times the contraries and suffering is a privilege.

The most favored churches are most likely to be those that actually suffer the most favored individuals. Those who are counted worthy to suffer for Christ's sake.

Jesus says four things about this church person only knows its afflictions were the translated afflictions listů Which describes the crushing pressure that used to extract juice from grapes separate the grain from hospice. The crushing time, it doesn't denote mere trouble refers to cruel, relentless grinding pressure which the Christians in Smyrna had undoubtably experienced.

This was a solidly pro-Roman time focused on the imperial cult worship of Caesar difficult for Christians to live in an environment like that very hard for them to make a living afflicted yes very much. Jesus tells him that he knows about their reflections just as he knows about the troubles of Christians are suffering today in many parts of the world you're going through such times knows about your afflictions as well. Jesus said in one place and Matthew Trenton, but even the very hairs of your hand are all numbered.

Another place he talks about private prayer and private giving to the needy and he says that that is notice that it will go unrewarded of those things are true obvious that Jesus knows about those who are suffering and those were persecuted for his sake. So that's the first thing he sent.

Secondly he says that he knows the poverty of the church are two Greek words for poverty first is Padilla given us the English words pen uranium, glorious first.

What was, not wealthy. Someone who has to work with his or her hands.

Manual worker men as a second word the second word is even stronger. It's quite okay and it describes complete destitution might say that the first word refers to a person. There was nothing superfluous while the second word refers to a person with nothing of all, I was in second stronger word that use of the believers here in Smyrna. They have been cut out of the economic fabric of the city and as a result they had nothing.

They were living in the most abject poverty imaginable. He could barely survive, but says Jesus. They are rich in spiritual blessings, storing up treasure in heaven. It's interesting that this church in Smyrna were always poverty is the only church in the New Testament that is described as being spiritually rich is exactly the opposite of the church of Laodicea where we and where the believers were rich material things, but were destitute spiritually see that in chapter 3 verse 17 Berkeley Jesus knows that this church is been slandered out letter doesn't tell us how Christians in Smyrna were slandered, but it's not difficult to imagine what it may have been like, especially since this particular affliction is linked to hostility from the Jews can think of the slander of Jewish leaders against Paul. For example, we have one example in acts 17 Paul was in Thessalonica at the time the leaders there were understandably jealous of his success.

They told the authorities of Paul and his companions were guilty of having caused trouble all over the world and that their defining Caesar's decree saying that there's another king one called Jesus missions didn't proclaim didn't proclaim Jesus, king of course, but they were not storing up trouble, nor were they defying Caesar, but you can understand how an argument like that would go be very likely that this is the sort of thing that was said Smyrna slander against of the worst kind dangerous slander because of the right hands.

It would lead to persecution. Eventually death. The arena as it did in the case of Polycarp. But Jesus says that he knows that he knows what is true, as well as what is false. Moreover is established today in which the truth is going to be vindicated and those who concoct and spread bias will be condemned.

Number four. Jesus knows that this church is soon to suffer the time of even greater persecution, leading to prison and even death. For some, this would grow out of the slander mentioned in verse nine, but it would be worse in two ways. First of all, it would lead to prison and death engine world people are not usually kept in prison, at least not for long as merely holding place while they awaited trial and then they were either acquitted or quite often executed. So if a Christian was to experience prison. It meant that he was in danger of being killed. Let's worsen their slander. Secondly, it said that this new period of persecution would be caused by the devil, not by mere human antagonists. This is the first mention of the devil in the book of Revelation course he comes in again and again many times later, especially in the later chapters. In the grand scheme of things were just TRYING reveal to us the devil is seen behind all of the evil of the world, all the persecution of God throughout history, persecutions, even to death. Yes, all those things are bad, but there are two qualifications.

First time of the persecution will be limited set of the last for 10 days.

Verse 10 sort of know how to take the 10 days of lightning. A short time only last 10 days or been a long time because in Revelation numbers are symbolic 10 is a big number but Ms. Galasso, long time. The weather is short or long is going to last forever. Persecutions will land the people of God will be delivered either by life or by death, and in the end it will be Satan himself was cast in the lake of fire along with the beast, the false prophet and the fallen Angels. And here's another qualification. Although the trial of the believers in Smyrna will be great. It is also something that is ordered by God for their good. This is God orders all things for the good of those who love him suffering would be used has to purify God's people. Job knew that kind of suffering. You may recall verse in the book of Job where he says he knows the way that I take when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold sent about this church looked at what we want to ask now is what about the church today because these letters of the churches that are meant to be instructive.

Starting the church today. Do we have a suffering church in our time. Well, obviously, we do pointed out by people who are concerned with the persecuted church throughout the world that we have seen more martyrs for the cause of Christ in our century than any previous comparable period of history where a bin, murders of Christians in such places as Kenya and South Africa, China, Columbia, nations of the former Soviet Union and other places too many Islamic countries.

It's a crime punishable by death from Muslim to convert to Christianity or for a Christian to try to convert a Muslim recognizing in recent days for me have more martyrs in it and the other period of history breath of fresh that suffering is an authentic mark of the church between Bonhoeffer wrote about it in the cost of discipleship referred to Luther and the Augsburg confession and support.

Remember, of course, Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran, is what he said. Suffering is the badge of the true Christian disciples, not above his master, Luther reckons suffering among the marks of the true church and one of the memoranda drawn up in preparation for the Augsburg confession similarly defines the church as the community of those who were persecuted and martyred for the gospel site is not biblical is not what Jesus taught. Jesus said if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belong to the world. The world would love you as its own, as it is you do not belong to the world, but I've chosen you out of the world.

That is why the world hates you, they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. What's the problem here.

Problem is not the Christians throughout the world are suffering.

That's only to be expected. Jesus is to be believe the problem is that we are not suffering. Most of the people who live in prosperous Western lands some years ago I was interviewing a missionary who had returned from Korea. We were talking about persecution Marion seen much persecution of the Christians. I ask him what he had seen a suffering in America and he said I see no persecution here at all. Say well thank God that's the case, but I wonder, is it really a cause for Thanksgiving is actually evidence we haven't actually been able to stand for much we've compromised our profession and way of life in order to get along with the surrounding evil culture. John RW Stott is written a book on these letters called what Christ thinks of the church. He speaks about many of us when he castigates his own church the Church of England for its compromise, especially as failure to preach the gospel clearly and to insist on church discipline is what Stott writes we were Christians of the Church of England and not suffer much, the ugly truth is that we tend to avoid suffering by compromise our moral standards are often not noticeably higher than the standard world, our lives not challenge and rebuke unbelievers by their integrity or purity, or love world sees in us nothing to hate minor own business, lest anyone should be offended.

We hold our time so that nobody is embarrassed. That sounds embarrassingly familiar because of not something that's true of the Church of England, along with a description of many Christians here and many of our denominations.

It may be a description of you and me want to be like to get along with. Don't want to cause any body any trouble so we compromise with God and to love the world one time crucified our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. We were different one.

We really did take a stand. What if we really were bold in our allegiance to Jesus Christ the Savior is what Stott says. Supposing we raise our standards and stopped compromising. Suppose we proclaim our message and tightened our discipline with lot but without fear until you what would happen. The church would suffer would be an outcry. We would be called puritanical Victorian, old-fashioned, unpractical, rigid, indeed every imaginable epithet be called into the service of the unbelieving world and the church would again find itself where it belongs outside the gate and in the wilderness. I ask, would we suffer any less vilification United States if we took similar stand final words of Jesus to the church in Smyrna contained a challenge and a promise is initially other case this challenge of the believers is to be faithful. There not to repent, which is what he said the church before and will say again afterwards. There simply to be faithful we going to be faithful even when it's costly. There's a book on revelation by Ralph Grant tells about a young woman from a wealthy family.

It was converted to Christ during a revival scolded by her father and ridiculed by her mother when she was raised this thing.

She was told that she had to renounce her fanaticism or forfeit her in her attempts was given several days to think it over time. Finally came the parents aspirin answers.

She answered this way, she sat down at the piano. She played and sang the verses of this hymn by Henry light was written in 1824 Jesus, I my cross taken all to leave and follow the destitute to spies forsaken file from hence my all shall be. Perish every fond ambition, all I've sought or hoped, are known. Yet how rich is my condition heaven and God are still my own typing finish that last stands of the father was weeping and the father and mother both knelt down to confess Christ, the father said you one you love Jesus Christ that much. We cannot resist the Christians in Smyrna were like that they remain faithful even on the death is a promise. The promise of the church in Sardis to fold the parts point of the same thing. I will give you the crown of life firsthand, and he who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. Verse 11 out a crown is not the crown of royalty and Emperor might wear word is the item may where we get our word diadem emerges here is Stefan Ostler and Stephen comes from it was the crown of the Laurel that was awarded to victors at the athletic games grounds mentioned often in the New Testament. Paul calls it a crown of righteousness. Second Timothy 48 and a crown that will last forever. First Corinthians 925 James calls it the crown of life. One. Verse 12 Peter calls the crown of glory that will never fade away. First Peter 54 there only to do with salvation. The promise of life abundant which God gives his own as a contrast. Contrast of possessing the crown of life is to experience the second death is that the first death is physical separation of the soul in the spirit from the body. The second death is spiritual means of separation of the soul and spirit from God. It's to be transferred, body and soul in the lake of fire at Christ's second coming was we doubt that it's explained in Revelation 20 verses four through six were were told that those who have died for their testimony returned to life again with Christ the second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years when Savonarola was burnt at the stake in Florence Italy in 1498 presiding Bishop said the words were customary.

In such cases, I separate you from the church militant, and from the church triumph savanna Rollo replied in the church militant yes of the church triumphant. No that is not in your power, and it was not this a story from the time of the persecutions of the church by the Roman authorities that tells how a father and a young son were led into the arena to face liens as the gates were opened and the lines came forward the boy said of the father father would hurt father put his arm around the sun and answered thinking of this important promise from a book of Revelation. Yes, son. Perhaps the one swift moment, but he who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

And that's the victory that's prayer father. We prayed at the beginning of the service, we might be given ears to hear the Holy Spirit would say to us, and certainly we have studied and heard much we should receive and apply.

Give us grace to do that was grace above all of the bold and stand firm, and to be faithful, whatever the cost.

So the end receive the crown of righteousness that does not fade away even while heaven and earth vanish from our site Jesus. You are listening to the Bible study hours with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview. Drawing upon the insight and wisdom of reformed theologians from decades and even centuries gone by. We seek to provide Christian teaching that will equip believers to understand and meet the challenges and opportunities of our time and place. Alliance broadcasting includes the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce every last word with Bible teacher, Dr. Philip Reich and God's living word with pastor, the Rev. Richard Phillips and Dr. Barnhouse in the Bible featuring Donald Barnhouse.

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