Week of January 16, 2022 

SERIES: Revelation: A Message to the Churches    

TITLE: Week #2: To the Church at Smyrna  

Revelation 2:8-11

Message Preview

This weekend Pastor Brian continues our series in Revelation as we study Revelation 2:8-11, the letter to the Church at Smyrna. Here is a preview of the message. 


  1. Revelation contains letters to 7 churches in biblical, Roman Asia Minor. Each is unique in context and community. 
  2. Each of the 7 letters follows a similar pattern. 
    1. Revelation: Jesus reveals himself to each church in unique ways. 
    2. Jesus gives an assessment of the church: commendation, criticism, counsel, and comfort.
  3. We will look at 3 of the 7 churches in depth over the next weeks. 

The City and Church at Smyrna 

  1. The letter was received circa 95 AD. 
  2. The City: 
    1. The modern city of Ismir, Turkey is built directly on the rubble of ancient Smyrna. (Illustration)
    2. There are winding streets ascending Mount Pagus and passing temples to Cybele (Mother Goddess), Apollo, Aasculapious, Aphrodite, heading up toward a shrine to Zeus himself. 
    3. It was a center of Imperial Cult worship for all of Asia.
    4. Their claim to fame is that the city is the birth place of Homer, author of the Iliad and Odyssey.
    5. Name: Smyrna – from the word for Myrrh – burial spice. 
    6. Smyrna is known for its beauty and for its suffering and death.
  3. Historical Background: 
    1. The time period evidences suffering, tribulation, and persecution for Christians – but maybe not exactly how you might think.
    2. Jews did not like that Christians continued to associate with the synagogue. 
      1. The Jews had a deal, agreement with Rome that allowed them to continue practicing Judaism. They “tipped their hat” to Rome and also continued to meet in the Synagogue, observe Sabbath, etc. 
      2. Christians on the other hand, did not “tip their hat” to Rome when it came to the worship of Roman gods and imperial cult worship especially. 
      3. The Jews wanted Rome to know they weren’t Christians. 
    3. “Curse of Minim” (90 AD) – in a document called the Shemoneh Esreh. 
      1. This was an attempt to divest synagogue worship everywhere of those Christians who claimed to be Jewish. (People like John and his disciples.) – persecution intensified.
    4. Later, persecution would come from the Romans perturbed by the Christian worship of Jesus as the Son of God and the King of Kings. 
      1. This was a direct affront to Roman Imperial Cult worship, Roman propaganda, and Roman power. Emperor Domitian expanded emperor worship and the combination of all this pinched the Christians at Smyrna eventually to death.
    5. PolyCarp: Polycarp knew and was instructed by the disciple John. 
      1. The historian Irenaeus (130-200 AD) confirms this. Polycarp was the pastor of the Smyrnan church when the letter was delivered. Polycarp is one of the most famous early martyrs. He was executed there on February 23, AD 155. This is recorded in a letter from the church of Smyrna to believers in Philomelioum, a city of Phrygia. More on that later…

The Letter to the Church at Smyrna

  1. Statement of Revelation (2:8)
    1. “I am the first and the last.”
      1. Indicating Jesus was there when it all started and will be there after it all ends. (Smyrna called itself the 1st among cities).
    2. “Who died and came to life.”
      1. This is perfect for hearers of Smyrna. Resurrection defies worldly power.
      2. Smyrna may take your life, but Jesus will give you real power in life again after death.
    3. Jesus is more powerful than anything on earth, including death! 
  2. Statement of Commendation (2:9) 
    1. Jesus knows – that’s good news! 
      1. Jesus knows their tribulation…their suffering and poverty. (Their riches are in heaven.) 
      2. Jesus knows the slander they are facing from the “Synagogue of Satan” – the persecution from Jews. 
    2. No criticism is given. This is unlike the letters to the other churches. 
    3. This did not mean, however, that they would not suffer. They would, in fact, face tribulation and suffering for their association with Jesus. 
    4. No promise of deliverance from death is given, but they are promised power and life after physical death. 
    5. Jesus knows our suffering intimately. 
  3. Statement of Command (2:10) 
    1. Do Not Fear 
      1. Jesus is telling them: you are about to suffer. The devil is going to throw some of you in prison for testing.
        1. Matthew 10:28 ESV “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
    2. Be Faithful unto Death 
      1. Two Promises from Jesus
        1. I will give you the crown of life
          1. Not a royal crown, but a crown given as an award to athletes. It is a victor’s crown. Whatever their sufferings, they are winners. 
        2. You will not be hurt by the second death. 
          1. Anticipate martyrdom – the first death. But you won’t be hurt by the second death. 
          2. Revelation 20:6 ESV “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”
          3. Revelation 20:14 ESV “The Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

What Does This Mean for You and Me?

  1. As servants of Jesus, we need to be faithful in all circumstances – even those of intense suffering and persecution. 
    1. Polycarp: 
      1. Entered the stadium in Smyrna under arrest. 
      2. In front of an excited crowd, he was asked to renounce Christ and the Church. 
      3. The exchange: 
        1. Proconsul: “Swear by the fortune of Caesar, repent, and say, “Away with the atheists.” 
        2. Polycarp: Motioned with his hand to the Romans and some Jews and said: “Away with the atheists.” 
        3. Proconsul: Demanded that Polycarp renounce Christ. 
        4. Polycarp: “86 years I have served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?”
      4. Polycarp was sentenced to be burned at the stake and was martyred. 
      5. But that was not the end. He served Jesus, who died and came to life… the beginning and the end. 
  2. We need more faith and less fear. 
    1. We need more faith in Jesus, the beginning and the end. The one who died and rose again. 
    2. People are not worthy of our fear. Circumstances aren’t to be feared. Spiritual forces of evil aren’t to be feared (Ephesians 6). 
  3. I don’t know that you will ever stand in a stadium like Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna, but if you live as a disciple of Jesus, you will likely suffer. 
    1. When you suffer, live this way: 
      1. 1 Peter 4:12-19 ESV “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”


Let’s begin our time together sharing God moments and prayer requests: 

  1. What are the “God moments” from these past few weeks?  How have you seen God at work that is unmistakably Him? 
    1. How has He been working not just in your life personally, but in the lives of your family (spouse, kids, grandkids)? 
  2. How did God speak to you through His Word this past week? 
    1. How are you hearing and obeying? 
  3. How can we specifically pray for you and others this week? 

Pray as a group – thanking God for how He is at work and asking Him to answer the requests that were mentioned. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Ask and discuss questions from the list below.

Q: Why is it important to study these letters to these seven churches? What difference can this make in our lives and church today? 

Q: How does Jesus reveal himself to the church at Smyrna? (2:8) What is significant about this? What does this teach us about Jesus? 

Q: How would this revelation about Jesus have been meaningful to the church at Smyrna? How can this make a difference in our lives today? 

Q: What kind of suffering did the church at Smyrna face according to this passage? 

Q: Is it comforting to know that Jesus understands our suffering intimately? How so? 

Q: What command and promise did Jesus give to the church at Smyrna? 

Q: Read Revelation 2:10 and 1 Peter 4:12-19. When we suffer for being disciples of Jesus, how should we live based on these scriptures? 


No matter what we may face in life, we are called to not fear and to be faithful. We can be faithful because we know that Jesus is more powerful than anything on earth, including death. We know that Jesus knows our suffering intimately. We know that Jesus is the beginning and the end, the One who died and rose again! 

Let’s discuss a few more questions as we end out time and look to living out what God has spoken to us this week. 

  1. What did you hear? 
    1. What is your one “take-away” from this week? How did God speak specifically to you through this week’s passage and study? 
  2. What do you think? 
    1. How did this passage and study affirm, challenge, or change the way you think about God and the truths shared? 
  3. What will you do? 
    1. What is your next step? How will you take the truth of God’s Word and apply it to your life this week?   

Close your session in prayer. 


  • Revelation 2:8-11, Matthew 10:28, Revelation 20:6, Revelation 20:14, 1 Peter 4:12-19. 


  • Current Series: Revelation – A Message to the Churches 
    • January 9th: Apokalypsos (Revelation 1:1-20)
    • January 16th: Smyrna: Persecution Comes (Revelation 2:8-11)
    • January 23rd: Thyatira: Pressure to Conform (Revelation 2:18-29)
    • January 30th: Laodocea: Loving Rebuke (Revelation 3:14-22)
  • Next Series: 
    • Revelation – A New Exodus (Begins February 6th)
    • Revelation – The Restoration of all Things (Begins March 27th