The Church 12

Revelation 2:8 “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: 9 ‘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. 10 ‘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. 11 ‘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.’

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

We have the words of Christ through Paul regarding a few aspects of the Church in the text from Ephesians, but we also have the words of Christ through John regarding some issues of the church in Smyrna. But again, we can learn or see the essence of the nature of the Church by positive statements and the examples of this faithful church. In the words of Christ to the church in Smyrna we can see that the essence of the church is spiritual rather than physical by His telling them that in their poverty (physical) they are rich (spiritually). Having Christ is true riches for those who have Him. Despite what appears to have been a time of tribulation and poverty, Christ tells them that they are rich. Even when they were being blasphemed by some who made false professions of who they were, the other people were considered a synagogue of Satan.

This (last sentence above and verse 9 above) is also an insightful statement about the true state of the church. The church consists of those who are of Christ as opposed to the national Jews who were not true Jews. The physical Jews who were standing and wanting Judaism restored or at least brought into the church were not true Jews, but they were of the synagogue of Satan. The true church is spiritual and the essence of the true church is that it has Christ and is the body of Christ. The church is not just an extension of Judaism, it is the very body of Christ and there are to be no works to the grace He gives by grace alone.

The true church is that which one can die for and yet still have true life. The true church has Christ in the midst of Her and He is Her life, which means that one can be threatened with death and if that one truly has Christ that is nothing to fear. This crown of life is something one has in eternity. Those with ears to hear are those with spiritual hearts and can hear the words of Christ in a spiritual manner. The church at Smyrna was clearly a faithful church and the essence of it was spiritual rather than physical. They were not concerned with things like fancy buildings and Hollywood guests, they were concerned with standing firm during tribulation and death. These people appeared to have eternity in their sight with no possessions or riches to weight them down.

How fitting the passage of Scripture in Ephesians is in light of the church in Smyrna. Christ is the Head of the church and Christ is Savior of the church. The church, therefore, is to submit wholeheartedly to Him in all things and at all times and places. Even when their lives were in danger, they were to submit to Christ in all things. Even when they were in the midst of hard tribulations, they were to submit to Christ. Even when they were going to assuredly die if they did not deny Christ, they were to stand firm and submit to Christ. They were to be faithful to Christ even unto death.

It seems that submission to Christ is a far different thing in our day (in the USA) than it was in the biblical times. People were ready to kill true believers and true believers were ready to stand firm. They counted the cost and many of them were indeed killed. In our day these things are true there as well as many people are being killed for being Christian. However, if the essence of the church is physical and the people are promised health and wealth, then those people are not faithful and the people at Smyrna were not faithful. Faithfulness comes from truly having Christ as our life and submitting to Him at all times. This only fits with a church that the essence consists of being the body of Christ rather than being some institution following a set of rules and laws.

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