God’s Message to the Church in Smyrna in Revelation and Your Church

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

The Book of Revelation has a message for the 7 churches that could help us examine the health or sickness of our own church the Church in Smyrna.

The Churches: Past and Present

Smyrna ruins by Carole Raddato, Frankfurt, Ger.

The Book of Revelation has a message for the 7 churches that could help us examine the health or sickness of our own church, including the Church in Smyrna. The 7 churches in Revelation were not just figurative churches or ones that Jesus used as analogies, but these 7 churches were actual physical churches in the locations John gives. This means that these 7 churches existed at the time John wrote these letters to them. Now many Bible scholars see these churches as examples of 7 different church ages too that would occur through church history since the church was founded 2,000 years ago. Most definitely these letters were written for the churches in the first century but they may also be for the churches or church ages that have existed through history. We must remember that these letters to the 7 churches were sent to each of the 7 churches so that they might be read to the congregation so that they would survive as a church. As was the case in the first century church (and churches into the future), these letters or books of the Bible were passed on to the other churches that existed at the time and they were intended to be read aloud to the membership. Maybe you believe these messages to the churches in the Book of Revelation were meant for all the churches (Rev 1:11), and not just those churches that existed then. But these messages can benefit our churches today and our churches would do well to listen to Jesus’ admonishments to these churches which no are longer in existence.


The Church at Smyrna resided in Smyrna, which comes from the Greek word for “myrrh.” Myrrh was the cities chief export and had multiple applications. Myrrh comes from a sap-like substance (resin) that comes out of cuts in the bark of certain trees. Myrrh was used to make medicines, fragrances, perfumes, as a fixative in cosmetics (i.e., with Ester, 2:12), and used for burials for embalming bodies. Myrrh was also used at Christ’s burial (John 19:39), being part of the 3 gifts that the wise men or Magi brought to Jesus to pay homage to the King, On a side note, the word “bitter” comes from the root word for myrrh, so there’s some irony in this word.

The Church in Smyrna

Jesus sends these messages to John to send to the churches because Jesus’ doesn’t want these churches to die, even though all of them eventually did, but there’s also a lesson for the churches today to not repeat the same mistakes they did, chiefly a failure to repent. If the church fails to learn from church history, she is doomed to repeat it. Churches are like human beings; they are born, they live and then they die, but they don’t need to. In trying to help the Church in Smyrna, Jesus tells “the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life” (Rev 2:8), so this letter was written expressly for the Church in Smyrna. Of course, these truths are applicable to us personally and corporately, as a church. Jesus is the Head of the Church, having said, “I will build My church” (Matt 16:18), so He has every right to correct this (and every) church. And He does!

The Suffering Church

Christians suffered greatly in the first century church. Jesus acknowledges that saying, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Rev 2:9). Most people in the West have greater wealth than most of the world’s population, and even if we’re suffering financially, we’re still rich in many ways, so the church may have taken God’s blessings for granted. We can too. Also, there were many false converts in this church, as Jesus said that they are Jews but are not (Rom 2:29; Gal 3:29), or they believe they’re saved but they are not saved at all (Matt 7:21-23). Today, the same thing is happening…unconverted people sitting in church who have never fully trusted in Christ.

Trials and Tribulations

Jesus warns the church that there will be tribulation coming, but He says, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10). Many false converts wash out when trouble, trials and tribulation comes (Matt 13:21), but the “ten days” is actually figurative of a short period of time and not literally 10 days and then it’s over. Jesus assures them that they will be tested and must prove faithful until the end. It is at the end of this age that Jesus will give them “the crown of life.” That should encourage all of us.

Listening vs Hearing

Jesus told the church how to keep from dying, saying, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death” (Rev 2:11). Of course we can hear the truth and not act upon it, but when Jesus says “let him hear” He means, let them hear and obey. It would make no sense for Jesus to simply make sure they hear the message. Hearing about a warning and not acting upon it means we didn’t really listen. We might hear, but we didn’t actually listen and heed His words.


The very same thing could happen to your church and my church if we do not heed Jesus’ warnings to the 7 Churches in Revelation. Any church could be closed and shuttered for good if Jesus sees its usefulness is gone. Thousands of churches do die every year in this nation; even more around the world, but it doesn’t have to be so. Jesus doesn’t have to take away the lampstand of my or your church. Not if we repent and have ears to hear, meaning we listen and obey the Lord (Rev 2:11). It is possible that Jesus too may say to our church, “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Rev 2:5). Churches can fail and thousands upon thousands do, but they don’t have to, if only they would do the first works again and we must stop being lukewarm and repent and listen and obey the words of our Lord.

Here is some related reading for you: The Seven Churches Described in the Book of Revelation

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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