As we look at the second city church [Smyrna], it verifies the single important action that is approved by the Lord,
“I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich);” [Rev 2:9 (NKJV)]. This second church report shows again that consistent Kingdom work to reach the world is the primary purpose of the church, and the Lord checks on it in every church in the world! And not only that, it is so important to save people from hell, that every sacrifice the church makes, including imprisonment and open persecution, which this church suffered along with confiscation of all their finances and possessions.
“I can see your pain and poverty—constant pain, dire poverty—but I also see your wealth. And I hear the lie in the claims of those who pretend to be good Jews, who in fact belong to Satan’s crowd. 10 “Fear nothing in the things you’re about to suffer—but stay on guard! Fear nothing! The Devil is about to throw you in jail for a time of testing—ten days. It won’t last forever. Don’t quit, even if it costs you your life. Stay there believing. I have a Life-Crown sized and ready for you.” [Rev 2:9-10 (MSG)]
They suffered under the hands of people who hated them, mainly those who “…say they are Jews, and are not — Jews by national descent, but not spiritually of “the true circumcision.” The Jews blaspheme Christ as “the hanged one.” As elsewhere, so at Smyrna, they bitterly opposed Christianity; and at POLYCARP’S martyrdom they joined the heathens in clamoring for his being cast to the lions; and when there was an obstacle to this, for his being burnt alive; and with their own hands they carried logs for the pile.” [Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary] They oppressed them financially, socially, and physically in an attempt to shut them up from proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. All through the Book of Acts, the stories were the same as in this city.
Our Lord highly honors and rewards churches for such dedication. He praised this church for endurance and in spite of their heavy losses, and He poured out powerful grace upon them, plus mightily saved many through this spiritual battle. In our time, we get obsessed on how much money we have to spend on buildings, programs, and many other expenses. Did you notice that this church could do none of these things and was still able to obey the great commission, with Christ’s blessing? Christ gave this church praise and no correction at all. They greatly pleased THE LORD and were extremely valuable to God!
But when we move to the next church things are very different. “And to the angel [messenger] of the church in Pergamos write,
‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.” [Rev 2:12-13 (NKJV)] There should be no confusion in your mind, the hard work of spreading the Good News and teaching disciples is similar to what a business demands of its workers hired to help make money. But God values people, not money, more than anything. The eternal stakes are immeasurable. He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” [2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)]
Focus saints, no excuses! Look at each other and ask, are we exhausting ourselves in efforts to love our community to Jesus? In the last 90 days, what have you and your church members done to reach your city for Jesus? Do not tell me what your pastor did, but what have you done to help? Are you volunteering and sacrificing your time to help reach the lost? Each and every evaluation we have read so far repeatedly starts with whether the church is doing the work. And what is extraordinary to us is the most valued church to Christ is the church that will not give up its focus on working, no matter the cost or casualties inflicted by Satan and His attacks through the people of the world.
This church was in a city of such cultural and anti-Christian sentiment that it was obviously the seat of Satan. They killed Antipas for his faith in Jesus. But, they would not quit, even when the church was not popular, they worked to win souls.
But, unlike the Ephesian church, the worthless teachings of Nicolas were accepted here. Perhaps they hoped for peace with the hostile culture, but when they did this, the Lord became hostile with the church. They joined the denomination of Nicolas and corrupted the people. They were being defeated from within by compromising with Nicolas instead of hating corruption. The whole church was ordered to “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” [Rev 2:16-17 (NKJV)]
“The meaning here is, that he would come against them in judgment, or to punish them. ‘And will fight against them.’ Against the Nicolaitanes. He would come against the church for tolerating them, but his opposition would be principally directed against the Nicolaitanes themselves. The church would excite his displeasure by retaining them in its bosom, but it was in its power to save them from destruction. If the church would repent, or if it would separate itself from the evil, then the Saviour would not come against them. If this were not done, they would feel the vengeance of his sword.” [Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament]
Take note: Jesus threatened them with severe judgment! No local church then or now is exempt from the Lord’s judgment, beware, my friend, your church will answer to God. You cannot dismiss yourself from this judgment unless you repent. He will not accept your excuses. DO NOT TOLERATE IMMORALITY!
The next city is Thyatira, and this church is very productive.
The Lord states, “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.” [Rev 2:19 (NKJV)] Notice here we find the Lord’s five point score card. He was excited that this church reaches out to the community, serves each other through true fellowship, and ministers to the needy. And they did not lose their love like Ephesus, but instead grew in greater and greater outreach. This church seemed to be the most blessed and productive church evaluated by Jesus.
But this was not enough in the Lord’s evaluation because this church was attacked by the enemy in a different way. False preachers flooded the church with supposed prophecies and revelations from the Spirit. “Her spiritual counterpart at Thyatira lured God’s ‘servants’ by pretended utterances of inspiration to the same libertinism, fornication, and eating of idol-meats, as the Balaamites and Nicolaitanes (Rev. 2:6, 14, 15). By a false spiritualism these seducers led their victims into the grossest carnality, as though things done in the flesh were outside the true man, and were, therefore, indifferent…The deeper the Church penetrated into heathenism, the more she herself became heathenish; this prepares us for the expressions ‘harlot’ and ‘Babylon,’ applied to her afterwards” [AUBERLEN].[Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary]
The church was deceived by these charismatic teachers and Christ judged them “because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce…” [Rev 2:20 (NKJV)]. Many would falsely say this church was okay because their works were greater after they accepted the charismatic experience of this new denomination, but Christ is adamant the immoral sin that they practiced proved they were rejected and not moved by God’s Spirit.
The appearance of great success in the number of people joining them DID NOT GIVE THEM CHRIST’S approval because this attack would silently destroy His work and they would all end up in hell. This is no new doctrine, Jesus warned early in his discipleship training of the first apostles.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!‘ [Matt 7:15-23 (NKJV)]
Paul gives us further information warning us that the church would eventually be flooded with charismatic preachers to deceive the church, and carefully ruin the gospel with a twisted gospel. “…having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith;” [2 Tim 3:5-8 (NKJV)]
What he is saying is, just like the magicians that copied Moses’ miracles to deceive, “charismatic” preachers would use miracles to deceive the church and create a popular gospel that does not work. This new gospel would not convert sinners, make men new creations, nor change the moral character of their followers, but instead, only excite and fool them to think they were going to heaven. This church was already experiencing Paul’s prophetic warnings, people were living in immoral sin and convinced they were true Christians. They were not Christians, no matter how popular and large their group grew!
This is why The Lord is so strong in His rejection of this apparent megachurch. Sin and immorality are not tolerated by God. He condemns and judges anyone of “‘them that commit adultery with her.’ Those who are seduced by her doctrines into this sin; either they who commit it with her literally, or who are led into the same kind of life.”
“‘Into great tribulation.’ Great suffering; disease of body or tortures of the soul. How often-how almost uniformly is this the case with those who thus live! Sooner or later, sorrow always comes upon the licentious; and God has evinced by some of his severest judgments, in forms of frightful disease, his displeasure at the violation of the laws of purity. There is no sin that produces a more withering and desicating effect upon the soul than that which is here referred to; none which is more certain to befollowed with sorrow.”
“Except they repent of their deeds. It is only by repentance that we can avoid the consequences of sin. The word repent here evidently includes both sorrow for the past, and abandonment of the evil course of life.” [Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament]
The result of this Satanic deception is so damaging that it corrupts the whole church like a candy coated drug given to helpless children. Paul explained this, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” [2 Tim 4:3-4 (NKJV)]
Like a plague, this attack of the enemy is so powerful it would totally ruin the church if left unchecked. The problem is this error has not gone away, the church is still mixed with deceived religious people created by the false gospel stripped of repentance. This church was so broken, that only a minority in town were faithful.
“The rest of you Thyatirans, who have nothing to do with this outrage, who scorn this playing around with the Devil that gets paraded as profundity, be assured I’ll not make life any harder for you than it already is. 25 Hold on to the truth you have until I get there.” [Rev 2:24-25 (MSG)]
If you find yourself in a town like this, DO NOT GIVE UP, you are valuable to Christ!