THE LIVING WORD TRANSCRIPT
Program Air Date - 10-29-06
LESSON TITLE: "THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA: THE CHURCH OF SMYRNA"
Jesus once promised, "...and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age," Matthew 28:20. Isn't it great to know that we always have our God by our side?
Thanks for being with us this morning for the Living Word Program. We are excited to have you with us for this time of offering and praise to our God. We are glad you have chosen to be with us today, as we together study from God's Word and sing songs of praise to His name.
Let me encourage each of us this morning to do our part to make this time together acceptable in His sight. Now let's begin by approaching His throne in prayer.
Thanks to all who participated and help out with our Television taping this past Sunday. We had a good crowd and it was great to see many of you. Hopefully within just a few weeks the tapes will be edited and we will begin using the newly taped songs. Thanks for being a part of this program and for making it a continued success!
Certainly prayer is powerful. However, it's not always the first thing we do when we need help. Our first song this morning encourages us to remember prayer. So won't you join in with the congregation at this time as we sing the hymn, "'Did You Think To Pray?"
(SONG # 1)
Have you ever stopped and asked the question, "Why do we have the Bible?" At one time or another in our Christian lives we have all questioned our faith or what we believe in. But when it comes to the Word of God we need to understand why we have it!
John helps us with our answer in his gospel account, in chapter 20, verses 30-31. There we read, "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." There we have it, we have the Bible so that we may believe on the name of Jesus.
Let's also read from 1 John 5:13. Again, in this verse John helps us with our discussion as he said, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God."
Praise be to God that we have the Bible to help us know who Jesus is. And not only to know who He is but also what He expects of us if we are to be pleasing in His sight. We have been given The Book, The Book Of Books, The Word Of God - to know exactly what we need to know, to know exactly what God wants of His followers.
Isn't that what Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17? There he said, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." Here we have confirmed, all of the Bible is from God, it profits us in all areas of our lives, and it completely equips us for everything we must do in life.
Praise be to God that He has blessed us with such a wonderful and informative book. A book that is perfect, as James said in chapter 1, verse 25 of his book! It is this perfect book from God which gives us all the answers we need and shows us the proper direction in which to go.
So, now let me ask you again, "why do we have the Bible?" May we always realize that we have God's Book to know our Jesus and to obey His Will! Are you doing what God asks?
Our topic today is still related to our series "The Seven Churches Of Asia." Our specific lesson this morning will focus on, "The Church at Smyrna." So, please stay with us and in a few minutes I will return with this study from God's Word. Now it's time to join in our second song of the day, it's name, "Hold To God's Unchanging Hand."
(SONG # 2)
Speaker: Ray Sullins
Thank you for staying with us and now we go back to the book of Revelation as we look together at another good lesson in relationship to the church. We might recall that we've been looking at the seven churches of Asia as was introduced to us in the book of Revelation, and as we found there the first church, Ephesus, that we considered last week, we now go to the second church that actually begins in chapter 2. It is called the church at Smyrna. But as we begin to look at the church at Smyrna, I think it is interesting to again note who the author was and who was speaking.
You might recall at the end of chapter 1 as John now is revealing these things that it is Jesus Christ Himself that several times says that, "I proclaim through you." In fact, you might recall in verse 8 where He says He's "the alpha, the omega, the beginning and the end." You might recall there again in verse 11 where He again states that He is "the alpha and the omega, the first and the last." He is everything to the church and to the churches. But then you might also recall there in verse 17 where He says, "I am the first and the last. I am the one who lives and was dead and behold, I will live forever more." He says, "I have Hades and death in my power." And He goes on there all the way through verses 19 and 20 to say that He then is the one speaking and He asked John to write these things. Verse 19, "Write these things as I address (who?) the churches..." The churches that as He represents here are the seven stars that He says, "are in My right hand and the seven golden lampstands." And so He mentions the church and the angels of the churches. And so then when we begin there in verse 8 and it says, "To the angel of the church in Smyrna write." Notice that it says there, "the star, the seven stars, the angel there, the second star represented by the angel of the church." Who is the lampstand? Again the lampstand that is being represented is the actual second church which is again the church at Smyrna. He says there, "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write." "Write these things, these things." And who is it that writes these things? Read the rest of that verse. He says, "The first and the last who was dead and came to life." Wow! That just again clearly identifies to us although the revelation is of John that as we saw from the very beginning this is not what John was saying at all. This is not about the Will of John at all. What this was about was the revelation of Jesus Christ through John. Well that just speaks volumes about the concept again of inspiration or the Holy Spirit. This was God primarily again the Son of God by the Holy Spirit speaking directly through John that he might do what? Speak to the churches. Speak to the churches and say to them what he would. And so that's why last week when we read there about the church at Ephesus and the angel of the church there represented then again in the star and the church itself represented by the lampstand and He says that "you are working but you've left your first love."
Well, now we then go to the church at Smyrna, and in verse 9 He continues on and He says, "And I know your works." He says, "I knew your works of those at Ephesus. I knew the works of those at these other churches that I will address, but I know your works." He also says, "Your tribulation and poverty." Now this isn't something strange at all because you might recall two weeks ago when we looked at our introduction by looking at chapter 1 that even there John specified himself in verse 9 in this way. He said, "I, John, a brother..." A brother in what? "A brother and a companion in tribulation." Well we know why the book of Revelation was written. It was written by a time of heavy persecution, a time when people were hating the church and they were trying to destroy the church and Christians which make up the church. And because of that, this book was written in a veiled sense and so John says, "In this time of tribulation, this time when I am actually in exile on the isle of Patmus," he says, "you as well are..." Doing what? "Those of Smyrna are suffering tribulation, but..." he says, "I know your works and I know your sufferings, but I also know your poverty."
You know, you might think that in our day and time as Americans, we are so wealthy in comparison to the rest of the world. You might think, "Well, you know it is hard for us to get down even when we do suffer because God has blessed us so much." But imagine if we were poor, if we were those who were poverty stricken who lived in maybe nothing as so many in this world do as maybe a mud hut or a dirt floor who had nothing, nothing, none of the worldly goods or really those things that we often ourselves take for granted or even enjoy on a daily basis. What about that person who has nothing of the world and yet they still suffer? "Wow, what's in it for me," they might think. At first we might think, "Well, how could they even remain strong?" But secondly, we might say, "Well, how much easier to remain strong." What else did they have? They had their mind focused on the only thing that could offer eternal life, Jesus, the first and the last. Jesus, the alpha, the omega, the one who encompassed the entire Hebrew and Greek alphabets, the one who was fully, fully the fruition of what God had intended from the beginning of His Will even before creating the world. Jesus Christ now writes to them and He says, "I know your works." In other words, "I know that you are doing the work of the Lord. I know your tribulation and suffering and I know your poverty, but guess what. Although you are poor in this world's goods," He says, "you are rich." Why were they rich? They had God. They had something that the world could not give them. They had something that if they died at that moment because of hunger, because of lack of shelter, because of tribulation, because of their faith in Christ, they had a greater reward, a greater place, a mansion as the Bible speaks of. That's what John goes on to speak of. The streets of gold, the pearly gates. You see, John was offering them something in this revelation as he said what Jesus told him to that they did not have before, that they really needed to reinforce and really understand and maybe have a better grasp of, that they might realize you're not poor at all and when you work for God and when you endure the sufferings and tribulations as you have, then you will be rich in God. He goes on in that same verse and he says, "I know that blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. I know those who are false workers, who are false teachers, those who are doing contrary to the precious Will of God." and he said, "Although I know them, I know you have remained strong."
Notice verse 10. "And do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer." Notice that he not only said that you have suffered, but notice that he went on to say, "You will suffer." Well that is a part of Christianity, isn't it?" You know we are those who will suffer. In fact, the Bible tells us that if we are worthy before God, we will suffer as a Christian. Not that we might or we can, we will, because when you and I preach Jesus and we stand righteously in this world, we make other people realize their sinfulness, their unrighteousness whether we mean to or not. Our goodness reveals and brings to light even more strongly their bad. And so that's why when he says here, "Do not fear any of those things which you are going to suffer." He says that you are going to suffer because you have works. You are obedient to God and you are suffering already and as you continue to suffer... Well, you might think, "What did they say? Did those of Smyrna say, 'I've had enough. I want out of this. I don't want any more part of it.'" No, that's not what they said at all. What they said and what they thought and what they wanted was that wealth through Jesus Christ, the blessings that were necessary in life and the eternal reward that here John is reminding them of. The things that you are about to suffer," he says, "indeed, the devil is about even to throw some of you in prison." Prophecy. John here, by the help of the Holy Spirit, obviously through the Words of Jesus, is saying, "Look, not only are you going to suffer, but let me tell you how you're going to suffer. Many of you will be chained. Many of you will be put in prison or maybe even in the dungeons for your faith. Many of you will suffer greatly. You might be beaten. You might be spat on. You might be abused in many ways. I know your works. I know your sufferings. I know you're going to suffer more and I know that many of you will even end up in prison and you will be tested and you will have tribulation even for ten days." So specific. How could he know that? God. God reveals the future to John and it is after all of this that he says, "But don't let Satan get you. Don't let those of the synagogue of Satan pull you down. Don't let the things of this world destroy you. But rather," as He states there, "be faithful unto death and I," Jesus says, "I will give you the crown of life. The alpha, the omega, the first and the last, the one who has the grip over Hades and death and all those things. I will give you life, life eternal." Oh what a promise that was kept by Jesus. Oh what an encouragement for those who knew, "Yes, Lord, we're suffering. Yes, we love you, but we're suffering and we want to keep working." Can you imagine again? And you're going to suffer more. We're willing to suffer more because we know what You have promised us.
Well now when we begin to read these things and then we go on into the rest of the text and we read places that speak about the trials but yet the victory through Jesus Christ and then we read how that those who in chapter 22 are victorious after they have been found faithful and how they'll receive the great rewards of God. Oh certainly the joy that must have come on their faces. The excitement, the love, the motivation, the ability to know even as I am attached to this stake, even as I will die for my Savior, I am rich. I will have the reward. I will be victorious. Don't you know that just made the Romans and others even madder? When they smiled and they took the persecution and the tribulation and they wondered, "What on earth could these poor people keep following this Jesus for?" Don't you know it made them even madder when they turned to God and they realized that the closer I turn to God the more strength I find.
Notice the last verse there, verse 11, as he encourages them, "Hear what I have to say. Hear." Let them hear what the Spirit says to the church. Remember again as we talked about the star, the angel as it speaks there to the church, the church and the lampstand. So what we have here is a progression of John revealing what Jesus said which obviously the Holy Spirit was involved there to the angel of the church and the angel of the church as revealed to the church itself. So we have all of these parts revealed once again. And then notice what he says after he says, "Be faithful unto death and you will have the crown." He says, "He who overcomes will not be hurt. He who overcomes will not be destroyed (by what?) even the second death." What is John telling this church? "Even if you die for My sake..." Remember Jesus is speaking through John. "Even if you die for the sake of God, you will not have to worry about death. You will not have to worry about death because life, true life, eternal life only begins after death." Oh, if you and I could only get a hold of that and grasp that and understand truly that although we put our confidence in this life and our desires and securities sometimes, this life offers us nothing. Our life will really begin when this life has ended. What we really have to look forward to.
But another thing that is really exciting about the church at Smyrna this morning was the fact that out of all these seven churches only two are not condemned and told to repent for something they're doing wrong. Guess who. Philadelphia is one, the faithful church. The other is Smyrna. Ephesus and Thyatira and Sardis and Laodocea, these churches are all heavily rebuked and they are told there at Pergamus, "What you are doing is wrong. What you are doing is sinful. Repent or else I will come and remove your candlestick and you will lose your souls." But here this little, poor church at Smyrna, these people who had nothing in life were stronger in God than even the rich folks at Ephesus. And they were so strong that even through trial and tribulation and imprisonment, they were willing to be faithful until death and realize that if they overcame, God would not only pull them through and give them the strength and confidence, but eventually He would bless them not only in this life, but in the life to come.
Oh the beautiful lessons that we can learn as well today, brethren, that we need to stand up for God and know we will be persecuted when we do what is right. Will we endure the suffering? We must be those of the church who are faithful, who are known to be faithful, but yet when we make mistakes like Ephesus and these other churches, what should we do? Repent and turn back to God. But at the end of the day, when we find ourselves striving to do the Will of God, will we be found faithful until death? Well you see, we have a motivation just as those of Smyrna, at Ephesus, at these other places. We have the motivation that if we do, we will have the crown of life. Could there be anything greater that we speak of this morning than to know that Jesus Christ who says, "I am all things," will offer you the crown of life? That crown can be yours today if you will obey your God, if you will do those things that He commands through His Word and obey Him in all things then He will reward you.
(SONG # 3 - "At Calvary!")
Thanks for choosing to be with us today for the Living Word program. I hope and trust, that together we have all benefited from this service to our Lord. Let me invite you to join us every Lord's Day morning at 7:30 as we give this time to our Creator.
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How exciting it is to see the example of a faithful congregation like the one at Smyrna. Furthermore, what a challenge this is to us that we strive to do more for God and that we determine to stand strong for His Will, no matter what!