The Book of Revelation is an amazing book. The apostle John wrote it while on the island of Patmos. It is a book of prophecy and is the only book that promises a blessing to those who read it.
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. Revelation 1:3 (NKJV)
In Chapters 1-3 we learn that the seven lampstands represent seven specific churches. The stars represent angels and each church had an appointed angel. Furthermore, Jesus stands in the midst of the churches!
“Saying, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ and , ‘What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.’
Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.” Revelation 1:11-13 (NKJV)
When speaking to each church, God recognizes positive things they are doing before speaking an exhortation. An exhortation is a strong word offered to encourage or urge, an appeal, a warning, a word of caution, urgent advice, or an admonishment.
The church of Smyrna is referred to as the persecuted church. God recognized their works, poverty, and tribulation. He then encouraged this church not to fear the persecution and testing that was coming their way. Prison and ten days of suffering are mentioned. God encouraged this church body to remain faithful until death, for then He would give them the crown of life.
“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those 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. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.’” Revelation 2:8-10 (NKJV)
Smyrna is translated myrrh. Myrrh is a spice that was once used for embalming. It was also mingled with wine (drink called gall) and offered to those being crucified so that they would become insensible to pain (Mark 15:23).
Myrrh is first mentioned as a principal ingredient in the holy anointing oil (Exodus 30:23). It was one of the gifts given to baby Jesus by the three wise men from the east (Matthew 2:11). Myrrh symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction. The baby Jesus would eventually grow to suffer greatly as a man and would pay the ultimate price when He gave His life on the cross for all who would believe in Him.
The church of Smyrna was aptly named. It would suffer for a time but eventually, receive a crown of life. Persecution and tribulation can be viewed with bitterness or a thankful heart. The Bible warns us against bitterness, saying it causes trouble and can defile many. So thankfulness is the correct attitude.
To be thankful for tribulation is to be thankful for the opportunity to share in the suffering of Christ. It deepens our dependence and bond with our Savior. We listen and hear Him more clearly when times are dark. In our adversity and darkness, the light within our earthly tents will shine all the brighter. Therefore, we glorify God by our witness and faith.
There will be days when you feel like myrrh. You may perceive that you have been crushed beyond repair or healing. But “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Matthew 8:28 (NKJV) This spice was crushed and mixed with oil to create perfume.
You, dear suffering soul, are a beautiful aroma before God. Take heart since there is no suffering, temptation, or test that is beyond your ability to bear when Jesus is the Lord of your life. Suffering is for but a season. It will end. The reward is purification and refinement. As Jesus encouraged the church of Smyrna, Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. This is because He stands in your midst. He will give you the strength to persevere and your faithfulness will be rewarded. Yes, eternal life with a loving God.