“Searching the Seven Churches”
The Lord’s Knowledge – (Revelation Chapter 2 Verses 8-11)
The Lord knows about Smyrna’s tribulation and poverty (v9). What form does this take, social persecution, affecting job applications and business opportunities? Which inevitably would lead to poverty. This, of course, is as a result of their faith, because they are Christians. This will increase towards the end of the age under the reign of the Anti-Christ. “Also, it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Revelation 13:16-17). Here Smyrna has a foretaste of this persecution. Under Nero’s government, Christians were sorely persecuted because they would bow to no other than Christ as Lord. The Jews had no qualms about acknowledging other deities alongside their Old Testament God. We know also from the New Testament how they persecuted the apostle Paul throughout the entirety of his ministry. The Jews in Smyrna would be a large part of the employer and business base. It’s thought they would be responsible for informing on Christians, perhaps refusing them employment and to trade with them. These were Jews after the flesh, they had no place in the kingdom of God (John 8:37f). They were driven to destroy the work of Christ, “For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last” (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16)! Natural Jews, “for not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (Romans 9:6).
This poverty (v9), would lead some to destitution, materially, that is. Maybe lose their homes, shops looted, kids denied education. But from the Lord’s perspective, they are rich (Matthew 6:20; Luke 6:20-23; 2Corinthians 6:10). Their faithfulness in the midst of this is evidence that they are rich from God’s viewpoint. Spiritual wealth in the midst of economic ruin. This is not untypical of the life of a Pilgrim, “listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him” (James 2:5)? These slanderous persecutors are a convocation of hell an instrument of Satan (v9b). Sometimes it those who are closest to the truth but never yielded in their hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ, who form the most vicious opposition to the church. But it is going to get worse they are told (v10). It got worse for the early church under imperial Rome. But remember this is for the entire church in all ages to the end, and if we’ve studied church history we know there have been many such times of suffering for God’s people. We have “a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) who have gone before us. The Waldensians, the Scottish Covenanters, missionaries who faced cannibalism, many who did not count their lives dear to them. And, as we are told here, there is moe to come (v10. It will get worse, the cup of sin must fill up before God can judge the world in righteousness. When mankind in sin can no longer invent ways by which he can sin against God, then the end will come. It must get worse for the Anti-Christ to appear and reign for a short while. Satan’s “little while” (Revelation 20:3b). Some hold we are in his “little while” now. But Christ knows, he rules supremely, Satan is a junkyard dog on a chain, he is always under the control of the sovereign Lord. Our Jesus will come and he will deliver his people.
(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)