Let’s read Revelation 2:8-11 which says, “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: ‘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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death’” (NASB).

The church at Smyrna was known for being persecuted for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The word Smyrna means myrrh, which was “an aromatic gum from a shrub that had to be crushed to emit the full, sweet fragrance it was noted for.” This first century church suffered intense persecution from the Roman Empire because Christianity exposed the falsehoods of their pagan gods. Roman Emperors issued edicts resulting in open persecutions and believers were crushed for their faith in Christ, but their testimony was as a sweet fragrance to God.

It is beautiful to see how the Lord Jesus presents Himself to the church at Smyrna. He tells them in verse 8 that He was “the first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life.” He knows that many of them were facing the threat of death each day and He comforts them by reminding them of His death and glorious resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15, the great “Resurrection chapter,” Christ’s resurrection is set forth as the proof that we too, if called upon to die, shall be raised from the dead. Verses 21-23 declare, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits: afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming.”

In verse 9 He assures them, “I know your tribulation.” How precious to realize that our blessed Savior takes note of EVERYTHING that happens to us. If we are passing through tribulation, HE KNOWS IT, and He allows it for His own purposes. He also knew they were in deep poverty because of the tribulation they suffered, but the Lord could say “but you are rich.” Though they possessed little of this earth’s treasures, they were, according to Ephesians 1:3, “…blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” He also knew that there were Jews who spoke against them and history records how those Jews did everything they could to aid the Romans in beating, imprisoning and killing the saints at Smyrna. These men may have claimed to be “God’s chosen people,” but in reality they were “a synagogue of Satan.”

The Lord comforts them again in verse 10 by informing them that their trial of faith would be limited to “ten days,” which could refer literally to ten days, or to ten distinct persecutions under ten Roman Emperors. He also encouraged them to be “faithful unto death,” for if they were willing to “seal their testimony with their blood” He would reward them in glory with “the crown of life.” This is NOT speaking of “eternal life,” for eternal life is a gift and cannot be earned. The “crown of life” is a certain reward held out to those who are martyred for their faith.

In verse 11 the Lord Jesus promises the saints in Smyrna that though they may be called upon to experience physical death, they “will not be hurt by the second death.” In Revelation 20:14 we learn that “…the lake of fireis the second death.” All Christ-rejecters will suffer this fate, but all believers are truly “overcomers” and as such they will never be separated from God by being in hell.  (181.4)  (DO)