Brit Hadashah Reflections 17
Hebraic understanding Hebrews and Revelation
Revelation 2 : 8- 11
This is a part of Scripture which is avoided by many people because of its seeming complexity. It is the only book in our Bible attributed to Yeshua Ha’mashiach Himself. Written by the Apostle John late in his life during a visionary encounter with the Holy Spirit of God. At times John is prompted, even directed, by the Lord to write what he is witnessing. One can only guess at the amazing spectacle of being so directed. What he describes is sometimes very difficult to imagine. There are quite unusual events and situations, such as have never before been encountered by mankind, to be considered, evaluated, and reckoned with. But it all comes with a promise!
“Write to the angel of the “ekklesia” in Smyrna” said “the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life.” to John. There is no indication of the relative timing of these letters, but a reasonable assumption is that they flowed seamlessly from one to the next. Since 1930, the city of Smyrna has been known as Izmir, and it is today a thriving modern city. The original Smyrna dates back to antiquity (about 1100 B.C.E.) but another “Old Smyrna” developed in the 2nd century C.E under Roman rule. Both sites are still being researched and developed as tourist attractions. It was, and is, an important sea port in Western Turkey, about 80 Km north of Ephesus, with a population exceeding 3 million today. (the third largest city in Turkey after Istanbul and Ankara).
So John wrote the letter as ‘dictated’ to him.
“I know your works.” A phrase common to all these “ekklesia”. It applies to every body of people who meet in the Lord’s name. Sincerity, hypocrisy, fervour (contrived or otherwise), indifference, pride, humility. Nothing is hidden from “the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life.” We all are ‘an open book’ to Him. These letters are written in the context of prophetic events about to occur as this age comes to an end, and the awesome judgment of a holy God is faced by all. It is not mere coincidence that in this ‘revelation’ the Messiah takes occasion to provide an honest assessment of the “ekklesia” so that repentance and restoration may be attended to quickly, before it is too late. How gracious is that?
The people of this “ekklesia” were struggling financially, they evidently did not have much by way of possessions, but they had a richness of faith. The reward of that faithfulness was ahead of them and these were words of great encouragement to them. But among them were those who “say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue if Satan.” Commentators have speculated widely about what this actually means. What has been revealed to me does not accord with any of those speculations, and I invite you to cautiously consider mine. One of the commandments of Torah is to care for others, to share your faith and your substance. We have just read of the poverty of these people. Is it possible that in their community there were some who had means to help the poor among them? Jews. But who regardless of their declaration of allegiance to Torah did nothing about it. Hypocrites. Jews outwardly but not in practise. And for that reason are described as belonging to ‘a synagogue of Satan.’ Selfish, uncaring, arrogant in their religiosity, proud. (Refer to James 2 : 14-18) Well that is what the Lord prompted me to think as I read this statement.
The encouragement continued. “Do not fear any of those thing you are about (in the end times) to suffer.” There will be severe testing. There will be tribulation. You will die (for your faith). But then “I will give you the crown of life.” Dear friends, what is being said here is that those who are alive when the end comes will face great challenges. This letter is written, by the Lord Yeshua Himself, to an “ekklesia” of believers. Not only is there no hint of a ‘prosperity gospel’ for them, quite the reverse, but there is the certainty of great travail because of their faith. Yeshua said (Matt 10:20, Matt 24:13 and Mark 13:13) “he that endures to the end shall be saved.” And now it comes with a promise of “the crown of life.”
I also note here in this letter that there is no mention of the ‘rapturous escape’ for this “ekklesia” from these events of the end times. It is often a comfortable teaching of the church that these events are for the wicked to face, the unsaved, the stubbornly rebellious. Well that is not what “the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life.” Is saying, is it?
But there is another promise at the end of this letter. “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” Praise God for that. The writer to the Hebrews told us that “It is appointed unto man, once to die, and after that, the judgement.” Everyone in history (except Enoch and Elijah) has, or will, experience the first death. Everyone. Inescapable. For some, as for my dear wife, it was a welcome relief from suffering. There is much hurt, anguish and sometimes pain associated with this first death. But the second death is different. That also involves intense pain and discomfort because it precedes the prospect of eternity in a ‘lake of fire’. For some. But for “those who overcome”, for those who have their names inscribed in the “Lamb’s Book of Life”, there is No hurt, No pain, No anxiety. There is an eternity in the very presence of Almighty God Himself and His angels and those who we will become aquainted with as we proceed to study this revelation (the unveiling) of the Lord Yeshua to John.