Revelation  2:8-17   (CLICK HERE FOR BIBLE VERSES)

Hi GAMErs,

Today’s passage is Revelation 2:8-17.  As usual, I encourage you to read the passage yourself first and see what you can glean with the Holy Spirit’s help, then read the GAME sharing below.  Let’s go!

Revelation 2:8 (NIV) 
 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.

On verse 8:  Smyrna was a wealthy port city, located about 35 miles north of Ephesus.  Jesus describes Himself once again as “the First and the Last”, meaning Jesus existed before anything else in creation came into being, and He is the only One who will remain when everything else is gone.  It all begins and ends with Jesus. 

Jesus is also the one “who died and came to life again” – more on that below.

Revelation 2:9-11 (NIV) 
 I know your afflictions and your poverty–yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
10  Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
11  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

On verse 9-11:   The church in Smyrna was going through a difficult time, as they were being persecuted for their faith by a certain group who claimed to be the true Jews but whom Jesus calls “a synagogue of Satan” (v9).  Based on Jesus’ words, things were going to get harder before they got easier.  More persecution was still to come.  As Jesus says, “the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days” (v10).  (“Ten days”, according to some scholars, has been the subject of various interpretations.  Some think it means a literal ten days; others think it means a general but limited period of time; others think “ten” speaks to how complete and intense is the degree of difficulty that they will face).  In any event, Jesus was right.  On February 23, 155 A.D., approximately 60 years after the book of Revelation was written the church in Smyrna would face a heart-breaking situation when Polycarp, the pastor of the church in Smyrna, would be martyred for his faith.

Thus, while sobering the church to the fact that a difficult road still lay ahead of them, Jesus also speaks words of comfort in the following ways:

· First Jesus says that He is the one who died and rose again (v8).  This is especially meaningful for the Smyrnan church, seeing as some of them would be martyred for their faith.  It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Church, remember that in Me there is victory over the grave.  Death has no hold over Me.  And because you believe in me, death has no hold over you anymore either.”  Because Jesus is greater than the grave, Jesus can tell the church not to be afraid of what they are about to suffer (v10a).

· Second, Jesus says, “I know your afflictions”.  Jesus knows what they’re going through and will go through (v9).

· Third, Jesus says that “I know…your poverty – yet you are rich” (v9).  Jesus is reminding the church that the truest riches from God are things that the world cannot give or take away.

· Fourth, Jesus encourages them to be faithful, even to the point of death, and promises them a crown of life (v10b).  He’s helping them to keep the end game in mind.

· Fifth, Jesus reminds them that those who overcome (i.e. those who hang onto faith in Jesus) “will not be hurt at all by the second death” (v11). What is the “second death”?  The second death refers to complete and permanent separation from God after we physically die.  While every single person on earth will go through the first death (the death of our physical bodies), those who trust in Jesus as their Saviour cannot be hurt by the second death.

What can we learn from this?  When you’re going through a very difficult time, remember this:

1. Jesus knows what you’re going through and has compassion toward you.

2. Because Jesus conquered the grave, we have hope for tomorrow and do not need to fear death.  Because of Jesus, death is swallowed up by life and we can say with the apostle Paul, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)

3. The richest people in the world are the ones who have Jesus.

Revelation 2:12-16 (NIV) 
12  “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
13  I know where you live–where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city–where Satan lives.
14  Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.
15  Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
16  Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

On verses 12-16:  Next Jesus has a message for the church in Pergamum.  He tells the church in Pergamum that “I know where you live – where Satan has his throne…where Satan lives” (v13).  In other words, the city of Pergamum was full of wickedness and sinful living.  Jesus says He understands the environment the Pergamum Christians were living in and He commends them for hanging onto their faith, even when Antipas (probably a leader in the church of Pergamum) was put to death (v13).

After speaking encouraging words, Jesus then moves on to the challenging part of his message:  He rebukes the church in Pergamum for following the teaching of Balaam.  Like Balaam in the Old Testament (Numbers 22-25 and 31:15-16), it appears that the Christians in Pergamum were in love with money and were encouraging God’s people to sin in two ways. The first way was by “eating food sacrificed to idols” (v14), which some scholars interpret as referring to Christians yoking themselves with non-believers, since the New Testament elsewhere repeatedly speaks about how it is not necessarily a sin to eat food sacrificed to idols (Romans 14:14; 1 Corinthians 8:7-8).  The second way was by committing sexual immorality (v14).    Jesus also rebukes the church for holding to the teaching of the Nicolaitans, the details of whose false teachings have not survived to this day.

Because the church in Pergamum had strayed from God’s Word in terms of their lifestyle, Jesus tells them to repent.  Otherwise when He returns He will be coming after them with the sword of His Word (“the sword of my mouth”) (v16).  That’s also why when Jesus first addresses the church in Pergamum, He calls Himself the One “who has the sharp, double-edged sword” (v12).

What can we learn from this?

1. When we stray from God’s Word in the way we live, what we need is the Word of God to show us the way back.

2. Jesus cares not about what we say we believe, but about how we live.  Jesus expects His people to live out His commands.

3. Notice that each time so far when Jesus addresses a church in Revelation, the way Jesus describes Himself to that church speaks to a great need in that church.  To the Ephesian church who needed to rebuild a close intimacy with Jesus, Jesus effectively calls Himself the One who keeps His church close to Himself (2:1).  To the Smyrnan church who needed encouragement in the face of death, Jesus calls Himself the one “who died and came to life again” (2:8).  To the church in Pergamum who needed to be brought back in line with God’s Word, Jesus calls Himself the One “who has the sharp, double-edged sword” (2:12).  Whatever season of life you are in and whatever difficulty you are facing, Jesus comes to you as the One who can meet your need.

Revelation 2:17a (NIV) 
17  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna.

On verse 17a:  The “hidden manna” is probably a reference to the bread of life that Jesus offers.  Unlike the manna that the Israelites ate in the desert (Exodus 16), which came and went, Jesus offers the “hidden manna”, bread which sustains us and satisfies us forever, but which is only available to those who by faith trust in Jesus (John 6:35, 51).

Revelation 2:17b (NIV)
…I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

On verse 17b:  I love this picture.  It shows that God has a unique relationship with each and every one of His children, so much so that He has a secret nickname for you that only you and He will know.   In Jesus’ eyes, you are not just a number or a faceless worshiper.  You are a beloved and treasured child, uniquely cherished in Jesus’ eyes.

Lord Jesus, thank You for every powerful lesson we can learn from Your Word.  Thank You that no matter what season I am in or what my need is, I find what I need in You.  You are the First and the Last, greater than the grave, the One whose Word restores me, and the One who loves me uniquely.  Praise You for all that You are to me.  In Jesus’ name, AMEN!

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