Session 3 Recap: Kevin DeYoung, "Smyrna"

Editor’s Note: Spencer Brown is the Lead Pastor at Center City Church in Albuquerque, NM. He is a member of the Albuquerque Chapter of The Gospel Coalition. This post is a summary of Kevin DeYoung's message from Saturday morning at Clarus, March 2, “Smyrna,” from Revelation 2.

The letters of Revelation present the reader with a paradox of weakness and strength. The weak, the small, the poor churches in Revelation are commended the most, while the rich, confident, and impressive churches receive the least commendation. We should not judge a church by the world’s standards—budgets, buildings, and bodies, but by God’s standard for churches—faithfulness and steadfastness.

The situation in Smyrna is one of hardship. Jesus blames not the Romans for the persecution in Smyrna, but the Jews. Two things occurred which paved the way for persecution:

  1. For a while Christianity was just a sect of Judaism, but during the late 1st century, Christians began to be seen as a distinct religion.

  2. The Jews compromised with Rome. The Jews received an exception to honor the Roman officials as rulers and not as gods, but over time the distinction began to fade.  

Jesus also acknowledges the work of the devil in the church’s persecution, albeit under God’s control. “The hardship is the Lord’s intentions, but it is the devil’s action.” In the midst of hardship, Jesus gives two commands to the church of Smyrna:

  1. Do Not Fear because…

  • God knows. Like a parent, God knows the hardship and suffering that His people endure.

  • God knows. Jesus is the “first and the last, who died and came to life” (2:8). He rules and reigns over our suffering.

  1. Be Faithful: Faithfulness doesn’t mean that we suppress our feelings. Instead, faithfulness means we pursue boldness in the face of fear. “Boldness is not a personality type, but it is to be clear in the face of fear.”

5 Applications from the Letter to Smyrna

  1. Let us pray for the persecuted church.

  2. Be faithful even in our limited kinds of persecution.

  3. Do not fear hardship.

  4. Do not be afraid for your children.

  5. Remember, death is not THE enemy, it’s only an enemy. “Death comes to us all, but heaven does not.”