The Uncompromising Church

Bible Book: Revelation  2 : 8-11
Subject: Compromise; Church; Commitment
Introduction

Many refer to this church as the “Suffering Church.” Smyrna is today called Izmir – we have two of our church families that are serving there.

This church’s experience continues to validate the truth that the more the church is persecuted and suffers, the greater has been its purity and strength. In our own lifetime, we have seen the destruction of the Iron Curtain only to find that the church had not only survived, but prospered. The church was powerful, pure, characterized by genuine faith, deep spirituality, humility, zeal, love for the truth, and a single-minded devotion to the Lord.

EXAMPLE: Paul Negrut, Onesimus, T.T., Russia, Ukraine, & Romania

Suffering in persecution has been used to develop the church’s depth.

James 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Peter encouraged suffering believers with truth:

1 Peter 5:10, “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”

“The purest Christian graces are those forged in the furnace of adversity.”

John MacArthur

Revelation 2:8-11 records the successful enduring of a church that chooses not to compromise in suffering.

Trials and persecution strengthen and refine genuine saving faith, but uncovers and destroys false faith.

Smyrna and Philadelphia are the two churches that received no rebuke in His church letters.

I. THE FAITHFUL TRUTH. 8-9

A. HIS OMNIPOTENCE. 8

“the first and the last, who was dead, and came to life” – His names identify His nature, attributes, and character. As He speaks to Smyrna, which means myrrh or bitterness, a sweet perfume used for embalming the dead, an appropriate reference to Christ’s suffering and death. Knowledge of the Lord’s suffering was a great comfort to the believers at Smyrna, who were undergoing horrible persecution.

No matter what experiences God’s people may have, their Lord identifies with them.

Hebrews 4:14-16, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Even though Christ is omnipotent, He identifies in sympathy with His people, identifies with their suffering and reminds them of His suffering. He also shows His superiority over even death.

“who was dead, and came to life”

If He is omnipotent, how could He die?

1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” He died in His incarnate humaneness as the perfect sacrifice for sin, but now “came to life” (by His resurrection) and lives forever. Romans 6:9, “knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.”

Knowing that they were undergoing difficult times, Christ was reminding them that He transcends temporal matters, and, through their union with Him, so should they. Should they face death at the hands of their persecutors, beside them is the One who conquered death and left us with His promises.

Hebrews 2:14, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil”

John 11:25-26, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this’”

Christ can serve as a compassionate and understanding source of power.

Hebrews 2:17-18, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

B. HIS OMNISCIENCE. 9

1. Their Poverty and Persecution.

“I know” – not by observation, but experience.

“works, tribulations, and poverty” – what they did led to grievous pressure, persecution, hostility; being crushed.

Remember – Myrrh does not release its fragrance until it is crushed. They released the aroma of fragrance of Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?”

Under the Roman Emperor Domitian, citizens willingly offered him their worship. The Christians willingly submitted to the Emperor’s civil authority but refused to offer sacrifices to him and worship him. As a result, they were branded as rebels (intolerant) and called atheists for not worshipping their gods.

“I know the blasphemy of those…”

Jesus, in His earthly ministry, had known how the Jews referred to Him as a blasphemer for acknowledging He was God. Now, His followers are charged with blasphemy for acknowledging He is God to them.

This “synagogue of Satan” assembled to plan their attack on the church, thus doing Satan’s will.

2. Their Prosperity.

“but you are rich”

2 Corinthians 6:10, “as sorrowful, yet rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”

2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”

They lived for eternal values that would never change, riches that could never be taken away. They were rich in Christ’s love, scriptural encouragement, spiritual blessings, and the fruit of the Spirit.

II. THE FEARLESS TRUTHS. 10-11

They came in the form of an admonition. He assures them that He was in complete control of their circumstances. God sets limits on what Satan can do to believers; Job. He will not allow them to be tried beyond what they are able to bear.

1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

His grace is sufficient to carry them through any trial.

2 Corinthians 12:9, “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Psalms 56:11

“In God I have put my trust;

I will not be afraid.

What can man do to me?”

A. A CALL TO FEARLESSNESS. 10

A second century document entitled, The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna Concerning the Martyrdom of the Holy Polycarp. The whole multitude, marveling at the nobility of mind displayed by the devout and godly race of Christians, cried out, ‘Away with the Atheists; let Polycarp be sought out!”

But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard (that he was sought for), was in no measure disturbed, but resolved to continue in the city. However, in deference to the wish of many, he was persuaded to leave it. He departed, therefore, to a country house not far distant from the city. There he stayed with a few (friends), engaged in nothing else night and day than praying for all men, and for the Churches throughout the world, according to his usual custom. And while he was praying, a vision presented itself to him three days before he was taken; and, behold, the pillow under his head seemed to him on fire. Upon this, turning to those that were with him, he said to them prophetically, ‘I must be burnt alive.’

And being come about evening (to the place where he was), they found him lying down in the upper room of a certain little house, from which he might have escaped into another place, but he refused, saying, ‘The will of God be done.’ So when he heard that they were come, he went down and spake with them. And as those that were present marveled at his age and constancy, some of them said, ‘Was so much effort made to capture such a venerable man?’ Immediately then, in that very hour, he ordered that something to eat and drink should be set before them, as much indeed as they cared for, while he besought them to allow him an hour to pray without disturbance. And on their giving him leave, he stood and prayed, being full of the grace of God, so that he could not cease for two full hours, to the astonishment of them that heard him, insomuch that many began to repent that they had come forth against so godly and venerable an old man.

‘What harm is there in saying, Lord Caesar, and in sacrificing, with the other ceremonies observed on such occasions, and so make sure of safety?’ But he at first gave them no answer; and when they continued to urge him, he said, ‘I shall not do as you advise me.’ So they, having no hope of persuading him, began to speak bitter words unto him, and cast him with violence out of the chariot, insomuch that, in getting down from the carriage, he dislocated his leg (by the fall). But without being disturbed, and as if suffering nothing, he went eagerly forward with all haste, and was conducted to the stadium, where the tumult was so great, that there was no possibility of being heard.

Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp!’ No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. The proconsul sought to persuade him to deny (Christ), saying, ‘Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists.’ But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, ‘Away with the Atheists.’ Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, ‘Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ’; Polycarp declared, ‘Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury; how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?’ And when the proconsul yet again pressed him, and said, ‘Swear by the fortune of Caesar,’ he answered, ‘Since thou art vainly urgent that, as thou sayest, I should swear by the fortune of Caesar, and pretendest not to know who and what I am, hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian.’

While he spoke these and many other like things, he was filled with confidence and joy, and his countenance was full of grace.

Immediately then they surrounded him with those substances which had been prepared for the funeral pile. But when they were about also to fix him with nails, he said, ‘Leave me as I am; for He that giveth me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile.’ They did not nail him then, but simply bound him.

When he had pronounced this amen, and so finished his prayer, those who were appointed for the purpose kindled the fire. And as the flame blazed forth in great fury, we, to whom it was given to witness it, beheld a great miracle, and have been preserved that we might report to others what then took place. For in the fire, shaping itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr. And he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace. Moreover, we perceived such a sweet odor (coming from the pile), as if frankincense or some such precious spices had been smoking there.

At length, when those wicked men perceived that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go near and pierce him through with a dagger. And on his doing this, there came forth a dove, and a great quantity of blood, so that the fire was extinguished; and all the people wondered that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one, having in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the Catholic Church which is in Smyrna. For every word that went out of his mouth either has been or shall yet be accomplished.”

B. A CALL TO FAITHFULNESS. 10-11

James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

The readers are challenged to take this message to heart. (11)

NOTE: Second Death

Revelation 20:4-6, “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”