Part 006 – Smyrna

The Book of REVELATION

A Study

Part 006

To the church in Smyrna… the crown of life …shall not be hurt by the second death (Rev.2:8-11)

To the church in Smyrna

This epistle to the church in Smyrna carries a special message to all the believers who pass through trials and tribulations. The sufferings which Christians in Smyrna were called upon to endure are summed up in the words, “Do not fear any of these things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days.” “Suffering” is God’s refining fire, and for all those who are passing through the fire, there is a purpose and also there is a promise: “…be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (v.10). “Ten” is the number of ordinal completion, pointing to all the days of tribulation. These ten days of tribulation can only refer to all trials and tribulations coming upon all the believers throughout the dispensation. It is also simply and explicitly stated that the overcomers in this church would not be hurt of the second death” (v. 11).

 

Sufferings

Trials and tribulations are the norm for the Christian life, not the exception. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2Tim.3:12). For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Phil.1:29). When the apostle Paul was converted, the Lord said, “For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake (Acts 9:16). Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you (1Pet.4:12).”

 

Glories that would follow the sufferings

The Epistles of James and I Peter have been written to encourage Christians passing through times of trials and testings by holding out before them prizes, rewards, compensations, which are intimately associated with the salvation to be revealed — the salvation of the soul (James 1:21; I Peter 1:9). “A crown of life” is promised to all those who patiently endure the trials and tribulations in the Church in Smyrna, and such overcomers are further assured that they “shall not be hurt by the second death.” The Epistle of James begins its message with the statement, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4) The apostles in circumstances of similar nature, rejoiced that, “they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His (Christ’s) name” (Acts 5:41). All the Christian who patiently endure trials and temptations after this fashion are promised that “when he is tried ['approved' (at the judgment seat)], he shall receive the crown of life” (James 1:12), a parallel statement to Rev. 2:10. Overcoming Christians will wear the crowns which they have won in the present race of the faith while occupying positions of power and authority with Christ during the coming age. But for non-overcoming Christians, the matter will be entirely different — no crowns at the Judgment Seat and consequently, no position of power and authority with Christ during the coming age.

 

The blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not

In this Epistle we also read about “the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Rev.2:10). This blasphemy of these Jews had caused additional and immense sufferings to the true believers during John’s days. These Jews are also mentioned in the Epistle to Philadelphia as “those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie” (Rev.3:9). For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly… but he is a Jew who is one inwardly (Rom.2:28, 29). These Jews are those “…who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen” (Rom.9:4, 5). The Jews are the chosen people of God; and God had been dealing with them for nearly 2000 years. So, when the Lord Jesus came in their midst, they could have very easily identified Him and accepted Him as their king. But, due to hardness heart and the evil influence of their religious leaders, they rejected Him. Whenever the Jews were about to identify and accept Him as the Son of David, the Pharisees attributed all His power to the devil (Matt.12:22-24; 9:32-34; Mark 3:22, 29-30). Denying the works done through the power of the Holy Spirit and attributing them to the devil is a deliberate and unforgivable blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

The Lord Jesus showed to His disciples that He has to pass through sufferings and death to fulfill the Father’s will. But Satan, speaking through Peter, enticed Him to shun the path of sufferings and shame (Matt.16:21-23). We also know that if we desire to attain to the glory awaiting us, we have to tread the same path of sufferings and shame (Luke 24:25, 26; Rom.8:17; 1Pet.1:11; 4:13). Today, among the saved individuals in the churches, there are some who patiently endure all sufferings and steadily press toward the goal of their calling. But there are others who deny the promise of His coming and walk according to their own lusts (2Pet.1:9; 3:3, 4; Jude 18). The latter mock, taunt and persecute the former through their great swelling words and deeds (2Pet.2:1-3; Jude 16-19). They act like the tares among the wheat. The tares enjoy a good share of the space, water and manure but they never bring forth fruit; and they become a stumbling block to the wheat and hinder fruit bearing.

 

The overcomers shall not be hurt by the second death

Exactly what does it mean “to be hurt of” the second death in Rev.2:11? The expression, “the second death” is peculiar to the Book of Revelation and it occurs four times in this book (2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8). In Rev.20:14, “the second death” is defined as “being cast into the lake of fire.” And in Rev.21:8, it is defined as, having “their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.” It is evident in Rev. 20:14 that “the second death” is used referring to the unsaved, and it is equally evident that this expression is used in the other three passages in the Book of Revelation (2:11; 20:6; 21:8) referring to the saved in connection with overcoming (not subsequently being hurt of the second death) or being overcome (and subsequently being hurt of the second death).

Overcoming and consequently ruling and reigning with Christ is the same as realizing an inheritance in the kingdom [Eph. 1:14, 18; 5:5; Col. 3:24; I Peter 1:4].) A similar description of individuals mentioned in Rev.21:8 appears in I Cor. 6:8-10, where an inheritance in the kingdom is in view. From verse eight it is clearly evident that believers in the church alone are in view. In both passages, those being addressed (saved individuals) and the matter being discussed (inheriting or being disinherited, with the kingdom in view) are the same. There is no message to the unsaved in these verses, for the issues of eternal life or eternal damnation are not present.

Revelation 21:8 cannot be equated with Rev. 20:14, even though both verses refer to “the lake of fire” and “the second death.” These two verses are not dealing with the same thing, the same individuals, or even the same time period. Revelation 21:7, 8 deals with the judgment of the saved, preceding the Millennium, with millennial verities in view; and Rev. 20:14 deals with the judgment of the unsaved, following the Millennium, with eternal verities in view. Nothing is the same in the two passages, save the existence of the same lake of fire, with an associated second death.

 

Non-overcomers will be hurt of the second death

Exactly what does it mean “to be hurt of” the second death in Rev.2:11? The promise that those who do overcome will not “be hurt of the second death” would be meaningless unless this promise is taken at face value and allowed to mean exactly what it says, clearly implying that those who do not overcome will “be hurt of the second death.” In the light of Rev. 20:4-6; 21:7, 8, which deals with overcoming and being overcome, this can mean only one thing: Non-overcoming Christians are going to “have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8b). Each of the overcomer’s promises is millennial in its scope of fulfillment. That which is in view through overcoming, or not overcoming — as the case may be — will be realized during the 1,000-year Messianic Era alone. And the same is true relative to the overcomer’s promise to the Church in Smyrna, having to do with the second death. This promise can only be millennial within its scope of fulfillment, which clearly reveals that the conditions alluded to for the non-overcomer in this promise will exist for the duration of the Messianic Era alone, not throughout the eternal ages beyond.

 

Concluding thoughts

After being saved, when we fully submit to the will of the Lord and obey His word, we will suffer in this age. Those who patiently endure all the sufferings and continue to obey Him are the overcomers, who will receive the crown of life and they will not be hurt by the second death in the coming age.

But on the other hand, among the saved individuals, there are many who are not prepared to suffer; and they do not obey Him wholeheartedly in all matters in this age. They are non-overcomers and they will not receive the crown of life and they will be hurt by the second death and will have no part with Christ in the coming glorious age. “…but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1Cor.3:15).