In this section of The letter to the church in Smyrna, we’ll look at the conclusion for the church in Smyrna. It includes what I’ve called the “Hear” section, which is almost always identical in both words and placement in all seven letters. For the church in Smyrna, hearing, or not, leads to avoiding the second death, or not.
We’ll also revisit the chart looking at the “psychology” of this church. Remember, the first look was based strictly on a reading of the letter. Now, with more knowledge, we look again at how we view this church. And in the process, what it means to us.
It’s interesting to see how our view changes from the first impressions. That tells us just how important it is to study the Bible, pay attention to our life and our journey to get or stay on the narrow path. It also puts added emphasis on our need to regularly pray the passages from Psalm 139.
Finally, we’ll look at what Jesus promises to those who overcome. To the ones who are able to rise above the warnings and stay true to Jesus. In each church, no matter how much bad news there is, there are always rewards for those who overcome.
Just as with the people in the Smyrna church, the extent to which we are able to hear what Jesus has to say, and our ability to determine how His words relate to us, will go a long way to telling us whether or not we’re likely to be hurt by the second death.
Will the people in the church in Ephesus be overcomers?
Or will fear overtake them and lead them away from Jesus?
Before we resume with the letter to the church in Smyrna, here’s the breakdown for this particular letter.
|To||the angel of the church in Smyrna|
|From||him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.|
|Divine Knowledge||I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.|
|So -||Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of 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.
|To those who overcome||He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.|
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
As with all the other churches, this means the letter can only be understood via the Holy Spirit. As we saw in the letter to the Ephesian church, it goes back to a prophecy in Isaiah. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s right here – Revelation – The letter to the loveless church in Ephesus.
The psychology of the letter to the church in Smyrna
Before we reach the conclusion, let’s return to the graph at the beginning. After reading all this, where would you put the church in Smyrna now? Do you still like your original positioning? Of have you learned some things that cause you to want to put it someplace else?
To those who overcome:
He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
This is the third time we’re read something like this in the letter to the church in Smyrna. To recap:
The letter is from him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.
In the “So” portion, the action section of the letter, we read Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
And now in the reward for those who overcome, we read He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
It reminds me very much of something in Hebrews. It lays out what happens. How to resist. And the rewards. Of course, it also requires faith and listening to the Holy Spirit. Things we can best accomplish by being trained as complete disciples.
Heb 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Jesus is the reason we suffer through tribulations. He is also the one we must look to in order to survive them.
We might read the verse – Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart – and wonder how that’s going to help. After all, Jesus was God. How can we compare our ability to withstand to His?
We must remember, Jesus was fully man. Fully God, yes, but fully man as well. His pain and suffering were real. Also consider something Paul wrote – that the Holy Spirit is the mind of Christ, in 1 Co 2:16. In other words, remember that we have the Holy Spirit – the mind of Christ.
Not all of it, to be sure. But enough. Enough to withstand. Enough to overcome. If we remember. And if we have faith.
Heb 12:4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, Heb 12:6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
There’s something in here that we have to realize as well. These days, we tend to consider discipline as a bad thing. Many parents are taught not to discipline their children. They should explain things and reason with them instead.
I feel like we’ve lost track of the difference between discipline and punishment. Both words have become almost evil. Even when we become adults, both are seen as bad.
The thing is, in the Bible, discipline is a good thing. It’s something we need in order to learn. We might not like to believe that, but if we’re honest, it’s often the only way.
On the other hand, punishment is the price we pay for disobeying. It’s become disassociated from learning. There’s a distinction there that we must learn. If we don’t, we’ll likely have a skewed view of God.
I recently wrote something for a class I did on Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. We were looking at Moses as an example of someone with a pure heart, in spite of all the problems He had with God during the Exodus.
You may remember, Moses never saw the promised land. So the question came up – Will God punish us today, like when He didn’t allow Moses to enter the Promised Land? I invite you to check it out and see the difference in viewpoint when we use the concept of rewards rather than punishment.
Heb 12:7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
The author gives an example of parents and children. One that, as I said, may be lost on some parents and most kids today,
Heb 12:12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
I just want to explain Make level paths for your feet. If you’re not aware, it’s not about digging, clearing or re-routing a path. It’s about prayer. A prayer like what we read in Psalm 139. One where we pray for God to examine us. See what’s hindering our closeness with Him. Making the paths straight is about removing the obstacles. Not physical obstacles, but spiritual ones. Maybe even the realization that God disciplines us for our own good.
Conclusion – The church in Smyrna
The church in Smyrna is, by all indications in the letter, doing well. They need to stay the course. Or, from another generation, keep on keepin’ on. Keepin’ the Holy Spirit. Staying on the narrow path.
How about you?
Are you there? Are you willing to do what’s needed to get there? And, if you can do that, will you have the strength to “keep on keepin’ on”? You will, if you’re a true disciple and with the power of the Holy Spirit.
I pray that I will do the same. And maybe we’ll meet one day in Heaven.