“Searching the Seven Churches”
The Church at Smyrna – (Revelation Chapter 2 Verses 8-11)
The call here to repent coming to a church (v8). Have not God’s people already done that? Well, Christians often have that notion, that when the call to repent is made it is not for them but the unconverted in the congregation. Not so. The preaching of the gospel which ought always to include the call to repentance and faith is the very means which God uses to keep his people in the way of salvation. This is the reason why the Minister ought always to be preaching the gospel. The church that thinks it doesn’t need this is in a very bad place. And the church that doesn’t like this is in an even worse place. I recall hearing of a man who in Wales preached on the subject of hell. He was told after the service that he would never be invited to preach in this particular church again. He asked why? Because, he was told, there was a lady in the congregation who had never been in a church before, and because of what she heard, would never come again. The preacher went home rejoicing because he had been faithful to God’s word and a woman who needed to hear what she heard, had indeed heard of the consequence of her sin. This is a prize example of unbelievers controlling the church and what she declares. The fault wasn’t that of the woman who attended, but the foolish thinking of a leadership that begins thinking, the way to keep unregenerate people is to withhold the truth from them. If I might personally testify to this very issue. The church I first attended as a young Christian began to venture down this very pathway. We are saved we don’t need to hear the gospel, therefore, don’t preach the gospel. Now today, many years on, there is not a shred of gospel declared in that church, no hell, no cross, no repentance, the pastor is not permitted to even mention the word sin. A Sunday social club is all that is left. Repent!
However, coming to Smyrna. To the angel, the Minister, elders, deacons and to the church itself (v8). Jesus Christ designates himself here in a way that is suitable for the church in Smyrna (v8). He does so regarding each of the churches in a way that is appropriate to the particular need. In Ephesus, we are assured he is ever present in the midst of his church (v1). Here in Smyrna, he designates himself as the one who is sovereign over all history, the world, the church, in all the details of history (v8). This is most comfortable for a martyr church such as Smyrna. He is the Lord who knows (v9). The letter comes from the Lord who also was put to death but also arose again from the dead (v8). Is it not a comfortable thing when someone comes to you when you are suffering as a result of some circumstance and tells you I know what you are going through? Because they themselves have been through a like experience. How much more when it is the sovereign Christ? He who as a result of his humanity knows our every experience. If faced with death for our faith, he knows the terror. He was faced with the same in Gethsemane, almost at the point of heart failure as a result of what lay before him. Or you stand at the grave of a loved one looking into that gaping hole and your heart is broken into a million pieces? He says, “I know” (v9). He has been there before us. To the believers in the Middle East today, facing certain death because they love Jesus, this is for them, from him, “who died and came to life. I know” (v8-9). Death had no hold on him therefore, it can have no hold upon his people, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:27-30).
(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)