On the Book of Revelation, Lesson III, Part 2: THE SEVEN LAMPSTANDS – SMYRNA

And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These things saith the first and the last, who was dead, and lived again: I know thy tribulation, and thy poverty (but thou are rich), and the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Fear not the things which thou are about to suffer: behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation then days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. Revelation 2:8–11

Read More Than Conquerors, pp. 79–82


A. THE ADDRESS, verse 8a

This little epistle is shorter than the previous one. Only four verses are devoted to it. And instead of having seven parts it has only five (the fourth and fifth being joined or intermingled), for it contains no Condemnation and consequently no Warning and Threat. When I say, “It contains no Condemnation,” I mean, of course, that this church is not condemned for any wrong it has committed. (It is true that the enemy of the church is condemned, verse 9.) A wonderful church, therefore, this church of Smyrna.

“And to the angel of the church of Smyrna write.”

Smyrna is mentioned next because after Ephesus it was actually next in the line of travel. It was located about forty miles north (and slightly west) of Ephesus. From the time of Alexander the Great it had been an important city. The grave of Polycarp, a pupil of John, is still shown on a nearby hilL Despite many calamities the city has survived and has even grown in importance. Or, let me rather say that the modem city of Izmir, which has replaced it, is situated about two miles from the site of the ancient city. All of the seven cities addressed in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation, and mentioned one by one in Revelation 1:11, were located in what today is Turkey in Asia Minor. All were probably founded as a result of Paul’s work in Ephesus, as indicated above (Lesson 3, Part I, under A).


“If a man die, may be live again?” Natural religion bas advanced ever so many arguments in favor of the immortality of the soul. But surely Scripture presents by far the best argument: Christ actually destroyed the bonds of death. In soul and body he rose again. And he was able to rise again by his own (as well as the Father’s) power because though he became dead, be yet lived, being alive even while dead (his soul alive in his Father’s Paradise while his body was dead in the grave). Are some of the Smyrniots destined to die for their faith? See verse 10. Let this risen Christ “in them” then be their “hope of glory.” That seems to be the point of Christ’s self-designation in this precious little letter.


In nearly every sizable city of Asia Minor there was at that time a considerable number of Jews, due to forced deportation in earlier times, and voluntary migration to these parts for business reasons. These Jews bitterly maligned the Christian Messiah and vilified those who believed in him. Again and again they would incite and infuriate Gentile mobs against the Christians, and prefer charges against them in the law-courts. They would see to it that Christians lost their means of livelihood and were reduced to poverty. Thus, Smyrna’s synagogue had become “a synagogue of Satan.” This synagogue does not here refer, of course, to the building in which the Jews gathered for worship but to the people themselves who gathered there. These people, that assembly, is the synagogue. In all probability the reference is to the mass of people and their leaders, just as in the Gospel according to John the term “the Jews” usually refers to the people acting as their leaders (priests, elders, scribes) bid them to act. And let us not forget that what the Jews, instigated by the Sanhedrin, did to our Lord, and what their children, urged on by their leaders, did to the Christians at Smyrna has often been done in later ecclesiastical history to other true Christians by hordes of sleeping church-members who blindly followed the leadership of their blind guides, the latter acting either by themselves or in and by means of the highest ecclesiastical tribunals. Such courts, let it be remembered, are not infallible! They, too, can be Satan’s tools.

“But thou art rich,” says Christ to this loyal church. In the spiritual sense Lazarus was richer by far than “the rich man” (Luke 16:19–31); and the publican than the Pharisee (Luke 18:9–14). This is the riches of the man who without money and without price has “bought” wine and milk (Is. 55:1). It is riches “toward God” (Matt. 6:20).

It is riches consisting of “treasures laid up in heaven” (Matt. 6:20). Such people are “rich” for the following reasons:

1.  Their riches, being spiritual (forgiveness of sins, assurance of salvation, answered prayer, etc.) cannot be taken away. Material riches quickly vanish. See Matt. 6:20.

2. Their riches produce true satisfaction within, so that they can even enjoy physical blessings, and can be blessed by events which men would brand as “adversities.” Contrast is. 55:2.

3. Their riches can make other people rich also. See II Corinthians 6:10.


These exhortations are, “Fear not,” “Be thou faithful unto death,” and “He that hath an ear let him hear.” The promises are: “I will give thee the crown of life” (everlasting life being here considered the divine reward upon and also the natural result of faithfulness even unto death) and “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death” (everlasting punislunent for body and soul in hell on the day of Christ’s return and thereafter). What are “ten days” of tribulation compared to an eternity of glory?


1. “When Satan tempts a believer, God tries him.” Explain.

2. Explain: first death, second death.

3. Is the following true: “God has two chosen peoples: a. the Jews, and b. the church”?

4. If by God’s decree the impenitent Jews must suffer for their sins (Deut. 27; Dan. 9:27) and must bear the curse which they have invoked upon themselves (Matt. 27:25), then is Anti-Semitism wrong?

5. How would you go about the business of trying to bring a Jew to Christ?

6. Who was Polycarp and what is his story?

7. Just what is meant by “eternal life”?