Revelation 2:8-11 Part 2

8) And write the message for the Church in Smyrna:  The First and The Last Who having been dead and did live says these things.

9) I know your distress and poverty (but you are rich) and the blasphemy from those who declare themselves to be Jews and are not but a synagogue of Satan.

10) Fear not the things that you are about to suffer.  Lo!  The traitor is about to cast some from you into prison in order that you might be put to the proof, and you will have affliction ten days.  Remain faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

11) Let the one having an ear hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.  The one who overcomes shall not be unjustly treated by the second death.


Let’s briefly review, once again, what our context is – lest we forget.  Our Lord, as recorded by Matthew in chapters twenty three, twenty four and twenty five, had warned his disciples of that which was about to occur.  Jesus would soon destroy, because of unbelief, hypocrisy, idolatry and adultery, the nation of Israel, the temple, the central worship system, the ceremonial system, the priesthood and the sacrificial system; and He describes in no uncertain terms, the terror that is soon to befall the old covenant nation.

And let’s not fool ourselves, as many do, that this was just another one of Rome’s many military excursions, or one of history’s many attempts at genocide.  Viewing this event now, in the eyes of a human historicist, one could reach either of those conclusions. 

But from God’s view this was, by no means, an ordinary military excursion.  It was the end of an age.  The bodily enthroned Jesus Christ executed the covenant sanctions against Israel, turning off its lights and crashing the entire covenant mountain into the sea, and turning human history upside down (or rightside up, if you will).  The new mountain of God – the Rock which is Christ – would now rest over all the mountains of the earth, and He would be the new Holy Temple among all the nations and peoples of the world.  It, from God’s point of view, was the defining event in the entire history of mankind.

Jesus says that the blood of all the righteous in history would be brought against Israel due to the fact that his apostles and newborn babes in the Churches would be subject to a reign of terror from judaists, as they pursued the apostles and believers into all the Churches during the four decades after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.  Christians everywhere would be scandalized, accused, beaten, and thrown into prison, and killed in the name of, for the sake of, the Christ.

And Jesus Christ, the enthroned King of Kings, writes to the Churches about five or six years before His Parousia of that which was about to take place.  It would be like our Lord said:

“for then shall be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be.”

So, in Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Churches are prepared for “that which is necessary to be done in quickness”.  And they are commanded by Jesus to remain faithful, and to persevere in the face of such persecution, and not to fear the cosmic tumult that must come quickly.

Why?   Because of the world-wide reign of the newly enthroned King of Kings, and because of the union of those rebirthed into the body of Jesus Christ.  It’s what Calvin called the “mystical union” of Christ and the Father’s elect people.  And they include the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” who Jesus came to seek and to save; and it includes all of God’s elect from the Gentile nations of the earth.  The unifying factor for all of His reborn little ones, whether Jew or Gentile, is incorporation into His body.  They become newborns into His family – His heritage – and they all belong to Him.  And none of them are to be “despised” – or thought down on – for none belong to any other save the Christ.

In addition, as we heard several Sundays ago, the first general assembly of the Church, meeting in Jerusalem (as recorded by Luke in Acts chapter fifteen) sent a letter to the Churches from the apostles and elders of the Church who, having been moved along by Holy Spirit, required nothing more of the Churches in this tempestuous time than to eliminate the issues that led to tensions and irritations between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians.  Extreme persecution, and the coming Parousia of the King of Kings required that there be unity among those “in Him”.

So there is our brief context for the preaching and hearing of the Word of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Churches – through the witness of the apostle John.

     The First and The Last Who having been dead and did live says these things.  (Verse eight)  Here is what Jesus said to John (chapter one, verse seventeen) as John sees the enthroned Jesus in all His glorious person:


“fear not.  I Am the First and the Last and the Living, and I became dead and LO, I am living into the ages of the ages…..”


Listen now, as I read what God said, as recorded by Isaiah in chapter forty-four:


1) Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant, and Israel, who I have chosen:

2) Thus saith Jahveh that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, who will help thee: Fear not, O Jacob my servant; and thou, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.

3) For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and streams upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:

4) and they shall spring up among the grass, as willows by the watercourses.

5) One shall say, I am Jahveh's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto Jahveh, and surname himself by the name of Israel.

6) Thus saith Jahveh, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, Jahveh of hosts: I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God.


And again from Isaiah chapter forty-eight:


1) Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah; who swear by the name of Jahveh, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness.

2) (for they call themselves of the holy city, and stay themselves upon the God of Israel; Jahveh of hosts is his name):

3) I have declared the former things from of old; yea, they went forth out of my mouth, and I showed them: suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.

4) Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass;

5) therefore I have declared it to thee from of old; before it came to pass I showed it thee; lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them.

6) Thou hast heard it; behold all this; and ye, will ye not declare it? I have showed thee new things from this time, even hidden things, which thou hast not known.

7) They are created now, and not from of old; and before this day thou heardest them not; lest thou shouldest say, Behold, I knew them.

8) Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from of old thine ear was not opened: for I knew that thou didst deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.

9) For my name's sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off.

10) Behold, I have refined thee, but not as silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.

11) For mine own sake, for mine own sake, will I do it; for how should my name be profaned? and my glory will I not give to another.

12) Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel my called: I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.


So, our Lord, speaking to Israel through Isaiah, in the context of the worship of images and idols, says “I am the First and the Last”.

Therefore Jesus repeating His Own words from Isaiah, and speaking directly to John, declares Himself to be Yahveh of old, The First, The Last, and The Living!  And the context is plain, and clear, and in the context of idolatry, that there is none other than Him; and that any other understanding of Him is an idol and is a false god! 

And the Church at Smyrna is to be comforted by these Words from Jesus, for they are immediately reminiscent of, and connected to, the same words to Jacob, and to Isaiah (as we just read), and to Jeremiah.  And John is to know that the resurrected, ascended and enthroned Jesus is Yahveh of old; and He comes with the terrible Sword of indignation for His enemies – and comfort, protection and salvation for His people.

Jesus is God.  He is self-existent, independent and omnipotent.  And He, having been raised from death, is never to die again.  Death is no master over Him.  He is alive forever more. 

As the apostle Paul says in Romans chapter six:


8) But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him;

9) knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death no more hath dominion over him.


So the Church at Smyrna is to understand what Jesus says to them; and they are to take great comfort in Him – that He is alive from death, and that they have died in Him to their former heritage in Adam and are made alive in Him in His resurrection, and that they are justified having been made alive in Him (all of which Paul wrote earlier to the Church at Rome).

It’s also comforting to the Church that Jesus “knows”.  He knows their distress and poverty – although they’re “rich”.  This is one of Jesus’ first comments to every Church (all seven of them)…….He knows!  He said He knows.  They belong to Him; and He knows all about them.  He knows them!  They are newborn little ones in Him.

And He is completely victorious over death and the grave as the “first fruits” of all those who die in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:20-22), guaranteeing our resurrection as well, so that even “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54).  So, regardless of the cruelty of all of their persecutors, the newborns in Smyrna can’t be defeated, either in their present circumstances or even in their deaths.

But it wasn’t easy being a Church member and a believer in Smyrna.  They are “distressed”.  That’s the same word as “tribulation” in other parts of the Scripture, except this isn’t the mega-tribulation promised to Israel.

This distress (or tribulation) to the Smyrnan Christians comes as a result of the worship of the enthroned God-man, Jesus Christ…..NOT the mega-tribulation resulting from being idolaters and adulterers.  Worshippers of The Christ did not take part in temple worship and veneration of the pantheon of gods and eating of that which was sacrificed to idols.  Worshippers of The Christ did not participate in “roma” veneration – the worship of the state.  Worshippers of The Christ did not take part in the sexual practices that were considered to be “normal” in the satanically infested pagan world order.

And they must have suffered greatly in this regal, and august, and powerful city of the immense Roman empire.  To be in the world, but not of the world order, in this dynamic (but profane and godless) city must have heaped upon them much distress.

Jesus says, “I know your distress…….”  I know about the persecution that you receive from the entire population of that city when you don’t go to the temple; and you don’t sacrifice your animals and your children; and you don’t eat those things that were sacrificed; and you don’t participate in the porneia so common to the pagans. 

I know what they say about you; and I know what they do to you!  And I know your poverty!

I know about the confiscation of your property; I know about the fact that you’re shunned, and they don’t buy your goods at the marketplace; I know that, as a result of your faithfulness, you have little; and I know that what you do have is subjected to vandalism.  I know that your pastor in Ephesus was exiled to Patmos for preaching the Gospel, for he was deemed a troublemaker by the Roman state.  I know the apostle Paul was run out of Ephesus for preaching and worshipping only One true God, and he no longer is available to you.  You have not aligned yourselves with Rome; you have not aligned yourselves with those barbarians who sacrifice to false gods; you have not aligned yourselves with the judaists!

I know your distress; and I know your poverty.

“But you are rich……….”

The Christians in Smyrna were in poverty due to persecution for Jesus’ sake.  They were not in poverty due to laxity in duty, or to a lack of industry, or due to a misappropriation of God’s Law, or due to laziness.

Because of the Name of Jesus Christ, the Christians of Smyrna were persecuted.  And because they were persecuted they were in poverty.  That’s the context of James’ words in chapter two of his letter:


5) Hearken, my beloved brethren; did not God choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him?


It’s not that our Lord has chosen many just because they are poor; but that many he has chosen are poor because they are persecuted for the Name of Jesus.  They are “poor as to the world”, but they are to be “rich in faith”.

The Church at Smyrna was rich; rich in the most basic and ultimate sense.  Regarded by the world as poor, but making many rich.  As having nothing, yet possessing all things.

Listen to the apostle as he writes of these things to the Church at Corinth, right across the Aegean from Smyrna (2 Corinthians 6):


1) we entreat also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain

3) giving no occasion of offense in anything, that our ministration     be not blamed;

4) but in everything commending ourselves, as ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,

5) in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings;

6) in pureness, in knowledge, in long suffering, in kindness, in Holy Spirit, in love unfeigned,

7) in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,

8) by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true;

9) as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;

10) as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.


And our Lord Himself said that when we are persecuted for His Name, we are filling up His suffering.  We suffer in Him and for Him.  As the great puritan theologian, John Owen, said: “all our persecutions are His in the first place, ours only by participation.”

The Church as Smyrna was suffering.  It was suffering – destitute – for Jesus’ sake.  But, you see, it wasn’t the Roman government that was the worst of it; and it wasn’t the pagan world order that was the worst of it. 

“I know…… the blasphemy from those who declare themselves to be Jews and are not but a synagogue of Satan.”

Let’s listen to this apostle John in chapter eight of His Gospel.  He quotes Jesus beginning at verse 39:


39) They answered and said unto him, Our father is Abraham. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.

40) But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I heard from God: this did not Abraham.

41) Ye do the works of your father. They said unto him, We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

42) Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I came forth and am come from God; for neither have I come of myself, but he sent me.

43) Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word.

44) Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and standeth not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof.

45) But because I say the truth, ye believe me not.

46) Which of you convicteth me of sin? If I say truth, why do ye not believe me?

47) He that is of God heareth the words of God: for this cause ye hear them not, because ye are not of God.


“I know the blasphemy…….from those who say they are Jews but are not but a synagogue of Satan.”  Jesus prophesied it back in Matthew chapter twenty four; and now he knows it’s happening to the Church at Smyrna.  And He makes it explicit in His message as to exactly who their opposition is!  It is judaists from Israel, and judaists in the local synagogues.

“Blasphemy” is a strong term meaning vicious vilification of the Messiah and of His “little ones” who worship Him.  There were all manner of denunciations and slanders and accusations against Christ and His Church among the people of Smyrna, and accusations to the Roman Government in Smyrna.

The Acts of the Apostles (by the way, Luke traveled with Paul!) is rife with instances in which judiasts incited Jewish mobs in Israel and Gentile mobs in the nations against Christians and Christ’s Church.  What was happening in Smyrna was exactly the same.

Our Lord called them a “synagogue of Satan”.  The term “satanos” means accuser!  The word “diabolos” (devil) means “slanderer”!

Synagogue of Satan is the right term for them (of course it is!  Jesus said it.)  “Synagogue” doesn’t mean the building, but the “assembly” of those who concocted their blasphemies and planned their slanders and accusations and assaults on the Church in Smyrna.  They stirred up persecution among the Smyrnans and among the representatives of the Roman government.

And, apparently, they were so successful that the Church was in distress and poverty.  But our Lord had said that because of their blasphemous pursuit of Christ and His apostles and His Church, all the blood of the righteous would be required of them at His Parousia.  And that condemnation continues to this day for a state that was set up only for judaists; and one which forbids the preaching of Jesus Christ.

As we come to the end of our time here this morning, let me just bring this home to us in our time.  Our country is sliding quickly into a quagmire of political correctness, as we all know.  And it’s becoming an ever more popular “myth” that Jews and Gentiles all worship the same god; and that all non-Christian Jews are true believers in the same God Who Christians worship… they just don’t add the New Testament as we do.  After all, we all claim Abraham as our father.

But that’s a slanderous lie!  Jesus said to the judaists, in John chapter five:


46) If ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for he wrote of me.

47) But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?


You see, there’s no such thing as a judaist who believes in the one true God.  Only Jews united to the Christ believe in the one true God.  The others are of their father, who is the father of lies.   That’s not me!  Jesus said it!

All the letters of the apostles warn the Churches about the blasphemous judaists.  And I leave you with one of them – Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi, chapter three:


2) Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the concision (i.e., those who mutilate themselves while in unbelief);

3) for we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh:

4) though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh: if any other man thinketh to have confidence in the flesh, I yet more:

5) circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

6) as touching zeal, persecuting the church; as touching the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless.

7) Howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ.

8) Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ.

The accusers and slanderers are the worst for the Church at Smyrna.  They are, indeed, a synagogue of their father, who is the original accuser.