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The Church at Smyrna (answers) May 28, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Hell, Revelation of Jesus Christ, Seven Churches of Revelation, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering.
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We did not get to the church at Pergamos but I felt we really got a good picture of the suffering that the church of Smyrna endured, the reasons for that suffering, and the encouragement that John/Jesus gave them. 

The answers are in italics. There was some great discussion last night and  we spent a good bit of time discussing the second death which is not reflected in the notes below. We will be coming back to that when we look at Revelation 19 but the short answer is that the second death is the lake of fire and not Hades or Hell.

There were also a number of great insights made on the tree of life and how to interpret that phrase both literally and symbolically.

  1. In the message to Ephesus, Christ’s relationship to the local church is emphasized (see especially verses 1, 4-5). What is the emphasis of the message to the church at Smyrna (verses 8, 10c-11)? Victory over death (not just victory over persecution).
  2. Compare the Spirit’s message to Ephesus in verse 7 to that of Smyrna in verse 11. What is John/Jesus trying to do with these final words of encouragement to those who overcome? He is trying to encourage them in specific areas that are or should be of great concern to them. The tree of life in Paradise is the place where man can have unbroken fellowship with God. Escaping the second death is the fate of those in Christ who is the one who was dead and lives again. Is the tree of life a literal tree in Paradise or is this a symbol? I believe it is most likely literal based on other passages of Scripture. Can it be both? In this case, whether it is literal or not does not affect the meaning of the passage. If John/Jesus is using the literal tree of life in Genesis as a symbol or if there really is still a literal tree of life, the meaning of the passage is the same. See also Revelation 22:2,14 and Genesis 2:9; 3:22-24. What does this teach us about reading symbolism? Is it intended to hide a meaning that we are clever enough to understand or is it intended to be obvious and through its obviousness impact our understanding of the passage? Symbolism is normally intended to have an obvious meaning rather than a hidden meaning.
  3. Compare the situation in Smyrna described in verse 9 and the situation in Ephesus described in verses 3-4. How are their situations similar? Both are suffering persecution. How are their situations different? The persecution in Smyrna appears to be more intense or deadly than that in Ephesus. Whose physical condition is worse? Whose spiritual condition is worse? Smyrna had very poor physical circumstances but Ephesus which had comparatively better physical circumstances, had a very serious spiritual problem.
  4. Is it likely that the Jews described in verse 9 were ethnic Jews (Compare with John 8:38-45)? Yes. Some think this could be talking about false believers but it is likely that these are ethnic Jews who were involved in the persecution of the Christians.
  5. What is the near and eternal future of the church at Smyrna (verse 10)? A short period of imprisonment and death but they will come out victorious.
  6. The word “tested” in verses 2 and 10 are the same Greek word. How are they used differently? What is the result of the testing in both cases? In Ephesus the false prophets are being tested. In Smyrna the believers themselves are being tested. In both cases the test reveals whether they are genuine or not.
  7. What is the implication of the term “ten days”? It is a short time period (we do not know if it was a literal ten day period or not). This is meant to be a word of encouragement to the believers.
  8. There are two words for crown: one implies royal dignity or kingly authority while the other implies victory in a struggle. Which word would you guess John is using in verse 10 (see also James 1:12)? Victory in a struggle.
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