True New Testament Revival: No Rebuke, but Trouble Will Come, Part 1 (Revive the Family, Revive the Church, Awaken the Nation, O Lord #293)
A homily is “a short talk on a religious or moral topic; a usually short sermon; a lecture or discourse on or of a biblical theme.”
In our series of homilies from the book of Ephesians, we focused on reviving Christian families. Now, I am sharing a verse-by-verse series of short messages from the book of Revelation, specifically targeted at reviving the church. If our country is to be awakened, the family and the church must be revived first.
TEXT: Revelation 2:8-11:
8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
Charles Finney said, “If Christians were not such cowards, and absolutely disobedient to this plain command of God — ‘Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him’ — one thing would certainly come of it: either they would be murdered in the streets as martyrs because men could not bear the intolerable presence of truth, or sinners would be speedily converted to God.”
Leonard Ravenhill said, “If Bible knowledge could change the world, we would’ve changed it long ago.”
In their book, The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever, Elmer Towns and Douglas Porter share with us: “During Robert Haldane’s day, the Reformed churches of Switzerland were in decline. In 1810, several young men had united under the banner ‘La Societe desAmis’ (‘The Society of Friends’) as an evangelical response to the apparent spiritual apostasy in their church. Opposition by the clergy, most of whom adhered to Arian heresy, had been so strong that the group had disbanded in 1814. Some of the more committed members had left the Reformed Church and joined the Moravians.”
Jesus opens His letter to the church at Smyrna with these words: “These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive.” He reminds them of who He is. The words “first and last” emphasize Jesus’ eternality and Jesus’ authority. In contrast to this is another affirmation that Jesus “was dead” — literally “chose to become dead” — and is now “alive.”
This reminder of who Jesus is is important for the church at Smyrna. Smyrna was a prominent Roman city and a center of the imperial religion. The pagan citizens of Smyrna regarded Caesar as supreme ruler, almost as a god. They declared, “Caesar is Lord,” something which the Christians of Smyrna would never do. The Christians were seen as traitors to the Empire. The Bible Exposition Commentary says, “Anyone refusing to acknowledge Caesar as Lord would certainly be excluded from the guilds. This would mean unemployment and poverty. The word used for poverty means ‘abject poverty, possessing absolutely nothing.'”
Not only were the Christians marginalized by the pagan Roman citizens, but they were marginalized by the Jews as well. Judaism was a sanctioned religion under Rome, but that did not prevent the minority Jewish community from hating the Christians. So, the believers at Smyrna were buffeted on both sides.
By reminding them of who He is, that He is the One who was dead, but is now alive, Jesus helps the church at Smyrna to understand that they are not alone. Jesus Himself experienced such persecution. He was betrayed and slandered by the Jews and beaten and crucified by the Romans. He identifies with His church in its suffering. This is an encouragement for the church at Smyrna and persecuted believers today because it reminds us that we are taking part in the suffering of Christ. When the church is assaulted Christ is assaulted.
This passage matters to us today because the church is still under assault. According to the Center for Studies on New Religions, nearly 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016. That works out to one death every 6 minutes. The annual study also indicated that between 500 and 600 million Christians experienced other forms of persecution that prevented them from freely practicing their faith.
Christ accepted His suffering. He chose to die. But now He is alive and He is the beginning and the end of all things. The Christians at Smyrna knew that, ultimately, they lived in Christ and would one day live with Christ. Just as Jesus overcame, they would overcome if they remained faithful. For them and for us, the persecution of the present does not diminish the victory of the future.
Timothy Dwight wrote:
I love thy church, O God.
Her walls before thee stand,
dear as the apple of thine eye,
and graven on thy hand.
For her my tears shall fall;
for her my prayers ascend;
to her my cares and toils be given,
till toils and cares shall end.
Sure as thy truth shall last,
to Zion shall be given
the brightest glories earth can yield,
and brighter bliss of heaven.
Now, if you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, please keep in mind that the Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” First, understand, that you are a sinner and that the wages of sin is death and Hell. But God sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for your sins. He was buried, and He rose from the dead by the power of God so that you can be saved from death and Hell. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. You have done the most important thing in life. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.