The Suffering Church

Bible Book: Revelation  2 : 8-11
Subject: Suffering; Church, Suffering
Series: Deeper - Seven Churches of Revelation

Only 2 churches of the 7 are not rebuked by our Lord. The Church of Smyrna and the Church of Philadelphia. In contrast the Church of Smyrna is said by Jesus to be a “rich” church, while the Church of the Laodicieans is said by Jesus to be “poor”. A more careful look and we find Smyrna to be the “Poor Rich Church,” while Laodicea was the “Rich Poor Church.”

Proverbs 13:7: “There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.”

Matthew 6:22-24: "’The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.’”

“good” - clear or healthy

“bad” – evil or unhealthy

“mammon” – riches

Many of the Pharisees thought that devotion to money and devotion to God were perfectly compatible. This teaching went hand and hand with the commonly held notion that earthly riches signified divine blessing. Rich people were therefore regarded as God’s favorites. While not considering wealth per se, Christ denounced their love of wealth and devotion to money.

“An unguarded heart leads to unbridled emotions which lead to unreasonable thinking resulting in unwise choices.”

Note The Truth of True Riches

Luke 16:9-11: "”And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?’”

“Believers are to use their master’s money (we are stewards) in a way that will accrue fruits for eternity, by investing in the kingdom gospel that brings sinners to salvation, so that when they arrive in Heaven (an everlasting home) those sinners will be there to welcome them.” John MacArthur

Luke 16 v. 18 speaks of “true riches” - Riches that God values, that will last for eternity. Anything money can’t buy and death can’t steal.

Some think there are other human beings with eternal souls. God tests us in the handling of money and possessions to determine the extent of our trustworthiness in dealing with people.

Having been faithful in handling our resources in this life, we will be granted leadership of others in the next.

Luke 19:17, 19: “”And he said to him, Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities. Likewise he said to him, You also be over five cities.'”

I. The Lord’s Presence 8

This verse reminds me that Jesus is omnipotent; He has power over life and death. He is all powerful, almighty God with unlimited authority. He is omnipresent, therefore, He is in all places at all times. He is omniscient, He has infinite awareness, understanding and insight. He possesses universal/complete knowledge. There is nothing He does not know. He is the “Helper” of John 16:7

John 16:7: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”

In suffering the Lord not only comes with promises, but in presence.

He comforts in Suffering - 2 Corinthians 1:3-5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.”

In Revelation 2:8 Jesus identifies in sympathy with His people, identifies in their suffering and reminds them of His suffering. He shows His superiority over even death.

Listen to His Testimony - “I was dead and came to life.”

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.

II. The Lord’s Permission 9

A. Allowed Persecution

“tribulation” - it was their action service that led to their grievous pressures. The Roman Emperor was Domitian. He required the citizens to worship him and to also offer sacrifices to him. When believers failed to do so, they were branded as rebels (intolerant) and called atheists for not worshipping their gods.

As a result many were paraded into the arenas and thrown to the wild animals.

B. Allowed Poverty

“poverty” - having been labeled as atheists by the authority, they lost their jobs and their properties. Word describes beggars, who live not by their own labors, but by the labor of others; destitute.

Prosperity – (“but you are rich”) – 2 Corinthians 6:10 - “as sorrowful, yet always 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 were rich in what they lived for, eternal values that would never change. (heaven’s stock market never fluctuates), riches that could never be taken away. They were rich in God’s love, scriptural encouragement, spiritual blessings, and the fruit of the Spirit.

“I know the blasphemy…” - Jesus in His earthly ministry had known that Jews referred to Him as a blasphemer for acknowledging He was God. Now, His followers received the same treatment.

C. Allowed Perfume

“Smyrna” - The Greek word translated Smyrna was used in the Scripture to translate the Hebrew word for myrrh. It was produced by crushing a fragrant plant which gave off a fragrant aroma of faithfulness to God. Unlike Ephesus, there was no waning of love for Jesus Christ. They were persecuted, crushed, but it incited them to love Christ more.

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?”

Special Note:The Church of Jesus Christ in the world seems to be most blessed in 2 particular settings.

1. Persecution

Cuba, Iran, Iron Curtain, China

2. Poverty

Africa, Haiti

III. The Lord’s Promise 10-11

Matthew 10:28-31: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

A. A Call to Fearlessness

Polycarp – 50 years after this was written

B. A Call to Faithfulness

1. In suffering

2. In prison

C. Reminder of the Future

“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.”