Jesus' description of Himself:
The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life
(Rev 2:8). Later in Revelation, Jesus says, "I am the Alpha and the
Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Rev 22:13).
As first and last of the Greek alphabet, alpha and omega symbolize Jesus' role as the
Creator and Judge of all human life and history (the beginning and end of human history). And His sovereignty
comes into view as the One who died and rose again.
Background: Forty miles north of Ephesus was Smyrna. As an important seaport, it was a wealthy city
and known for its science and medical education. Like Ephesus, it was a center for the Imperial Cult. A disciple
of the apostle John, Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was burned at the stake in 156 A.D. for refusing to worship
the Roman emperor
(see The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna, Concerning the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp.).
Praise (rebuke is absent!):
I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those
who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold,
the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for
ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
The church of Smyrna was recognized for their endurance of persecution, extreme poverty and
suffering from slander.
1) Aware of their persecution by presumably other religions and cults, Jesus Christ commends
the church of Smyrna of their unwavering faithfulness.
2) Aware of their extreme material poverty, perhaps a reflection of the economic cost exacted
by an antagonistic society, Jesus Christ informs the Believers of Smyrna that their faith has made them rich
3) Aware of the slander against them by ethnic Jews, Jesus Christ makes known that the Jews
are not the true children of Abraham and that that the source of their suffering is from followers of Satan. The
implication is that anyone not worshipping Jesus is worshipping Satan.
Without any word of relief, the church of Smyrna is exhorted to endure more until death,
because they apparently could. Of the seven churches addressed in Revelation, only Smyrna and Philadelphia were
fully praised without any rebuke.
Promise to Believers:
He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death
(Rev 2:11; 20:11-15).