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June 19, 2022 1:00 am
In our day of affluence and ease, few of us face the persecution inflicted on the believers in ancient Smyrna. What would happen if we did? In this message from Revelation 2, we’ll see what the Lord Himself tells the church at Smyrna about afflictions and poverty. We don’t have to win in this world in order to win in the next.
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In present-day Turkey is a city called Springer now turn the clock back 2000 years and that city is called Smyrna the site of one of the seven churches. Jesus spoke of in the book of Revelation in chapter 2 he tells the church at Smyrna. I know your afflictions and your poverty. Yet you are rich today will see what the Lord himself says about afflictions and poverty words, we must heed in our day of affluence entities stay with us from Chicago.
This is The Moody Church.
Our weekly service of worship and teaching with pastor Erwin Blitzer today will hear the third of eight messages on what Jesus thinks of his church.
Later in our broadcast Erwin Blitzer will speak on when Jesus observes our suffering pastor looks or comes now to open today's service. Would you join me please in prayer our father as we come to you today thinking about our faithfulness, which often times is so inconsistent.
We are here to admire you and to thank you for your faithfulness with your people through generations and we pray your blessing upon all of us today as we worship and less all those who have joined us.
We pray and we ask that this service will be one that will be transforming because we been in your presence in Jesus name we pray. Amen. Our Scripture reading this morning is from Paul's letter to his son in the faith Titus chapter 2 verses 11 through 14. Please join me on the bold print for the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled up right and godly lives in the present age waiting for our blessed hope, the hearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works and if the first mark of the church's love. The second mark of the true church is suffering and today, members of the body of Jesus Christ our brothers and sisters are suffering all over the world. They are particularly suffering in countries such as China were Christian ministers are still being jailed and other Christians are being thrown into jails and forgotten about and even tortured. It's also true in North Korea. Communism is always tried to stamp out the church and then it's true in Islamic countries such as Iran and also in Pakistan and in Saudi Arabia and in the Sudan. Wherever the Muslims have a majority.
The church is always persecuted believers. The attempt is always made to stamp them out. I've seen pictures of the Muslim takeover in Nigeria, the extent of their takeover about 1/3 of the country churches burned pastors killed families imprisoned.
That's what our brothers and sisters are enduring all over the world. But what about us well, we've escaped persecution. I think that those days of persecution are coming. I'm reminded of a judge in the South who told the valedictorian.
If you mentioned Jesus in your valedictory address, then you'll wish that you had not been born was warning her. You can't mention Jesus unamused at that because she could have that she could have quoted Gandhi. She could've quoted the Dalai Lama and that would've shown that she was really you know up to date on what is happening in the world but don't mention reminds me of the early church in the book of acts where they authorities said to the apostles you are doing all these things in the name of Jesus. Stop doing what you are doing in that name, and they said you know whether it is right in your site to hearken unto God are on to you. You have to judge but as for us, we will not cease talking and preaching the name of Jesus. The American church has compromised too long and it's time that we drew a line in the sand. The passage of Scripture today is taken from the book of Revelation. Revelation chapter 2. As you know, and the church that we are going to be talking about is the church in Smyrna. The word Smyrna means murder when the people came in they the wise men brought their gifts to Jesus. They brought Smyrna murder, which is a crushed plant, and that's perhaps very appropriate because Smyrna is a crushed church, except that Jesus walks with them in their persecution. Now if you were at Ephesus and you're on your way to Smyrna Ephesus, the first letter Smyrna the second I think were talking about maybe 35 or 40 miles disabled this. Smyrna still exist today and the answer is yes it is modern day Izmir you want to find it on the map you look for is Mayor what I'd like us to do is to see the persecution that was taking place and then see the promises of God. The first part of my message is going to be very depressing actually going to be very dark very foreboding. It's going to sound pretty helpless but don't you dare listen to the first part of the message without listening to the last part which is going to be optimistic filled with light and sunshine and blessing and all of eternity and what I'd like you to do today. Thank you. By the way, for bringing your Bibles I would like you to underline the five words that describe the church at Smyrna and it suffering. If you're in the habit of underlining your Bibles, and that you underline it in such a way that it doesn't soak through on the other age you can do that now and the text is chapter 2 of the book of Revelation beginning at verse eight. It says these are the words of the first and the last two died and came to life.
This is going to be very critical for what follows Jesus is there at the beginning and he's there at the end as triumphant and he was dead and is alive forevermore.
Amen. Now come the words that the church of Smyrna endured and we begin in verse nine I know your tribulation. That's the first word to underline why were they in tribulation well. Smyrna happened to be one of the cities were Emperor worship was instituted.
They had a temple and they were supposed to burn some incense, at least take a pinch of it and throw it into the fire and then simply say three words Caesar is Lord. That's all that was required of those three words. The Christian said no we can't say that because Caesar isn't Lord. The Roman said go ahead and worship Jesus but just say Caesar is Lord, because you need to worship Caesar. Along with Jesus and the believers in Smyrna said we can't do that. So they were in deep tribulation because of it and they were thought to be terrible citizens. They could not be trusted in their country to uphold the laws of the land because they refused to worship the emperor so the first word is tribulation second word to underline his poverty and the Greek text means abject poverty if he were not just talking about people who are marginalized because of their faith were speaking about those who had their homes plundered. Of those who indeed didn't have jobs they were isolated when other believers would help them and bring them food then those believers were also considered to be under an interdict. They also were being criticized and marginalized because they help to those who were being persecuted and so were talking about people, something like the description in the 11th chapter the book of Hebrews wandered about in sheepskins and in goat skins in dens and caves of the earth. These people were absolutely destitute and remember why it was because of their faith, your poverty but you notice that little parenthesis but you are rich. Isn't that remarkable snare in the text because it is possible to be absolutely poor to have your house taken away to be given situations that are gone description so far as we're concerned, and to be rich in faith and after all, as we shall see eternity is coming. So the next word to underline his slander and you know the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan.
While there were Jewish people there who didn't have the responsibility they apparently were exempt from acknowledging Caesar to be is Lord and they persecuted the Christians they slandered them, and that these were not true Jews in the sense that they may have been Jews so far as their racial origin is concerned, but spiritually speaking, they were not true Jews. They certainly weren't in Paul's sense were a true Jew is one who acknowledges God and trust God and then trust Jesus as the Messiah, regardless of who they were. The text says that they were of the synagogue of Satan contemplate that for a moment what that is telling us is this, that if you want to look for the devil you don't find them among the alcoholics, the demons can do that work. You don't find them among the pornographers the demons can do that work. You look for the devil in the midst of religious institutions. That is the most important place for him to be. You see, we could say the synagogue of Satan.
We also find them in the church of Satan and by that I'm not talking about an actual church that is named the church of Satan.
Apparently there is such a cold worship places I'm talking about a very dignified church. A very upscale church where everyone goes and where the Bible is even opened to give a little sermon at to a group of Christian nets delivered by some Christian and I guess that's that's what I'm talking about.
Where there is no cross, no sin, nothing. It's just role such wonderful people and we could even do better and the better we do will go to heaven we could say a synagogue of Satan, the church of Satan, the mosque of Satan when you want to find that the devil go to places like that because remember his most important agenda is to keep people from faith in Christ and if they can have a false religion and a false sense of security. He has what he wants.
I hope that you return for the next message in the series because I'm going to tell you about the next church in the next message where it says you are worse Satan's seat is and I'll even tell you now, I believe that I have walked on Satan's seat in the city of Pergamum and I didn't do it in Pergamum you have to come back to understand that so what God says is seven you've endured this slander from those who claim to be religious but to who use their religiosity to persecute the church. And then he says that the next word is prison. Behold, the devil will throw you into prison, you can underline that word and when you think about prisons in the early times. They were terrible places, but it is there that oftentimes they were sanctified by the presence of believers, and then the word death. Be faithful unto death is a five words to underline the most famous martyr there in Smyrna was a man by the name of Polycarp, who had been friends with John the apostle and Polycarp in the year 156 was brought before the authorities was asked whether or not he would recant. And he said no and then he said these words that are famous in church history 80 and six years I have served him, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme the king that undoubtedly was a slap in the face of Caesar, how can I blaspheme the king who saved me. So they gave him a choice as to how he wanted to die and he said that the fire would be fine. They hurriedly made a fire, and these are his final words. Oh God, I thank thee that thou hast taught me worthy to share the cup of Christ among a number of witnesses and with that Polycarp died, but he was not the only one who was martyred in Smyrna. Indeed, the devil shall throw some of you into prison. Be faithful unto death. You say let's the historical context of this church does this in some sense apply to America today and the answer, unfortunately, is yes I have in my library a book entitled the criminalization of Christianity.
It's a book that details the desire of some, and particularly our courts to try to criminalize all public expressions of Christianity in what is called the public square. More than that.
As I stand here today one of our senators is added to a bill to fund the war has added an amendment regarding heat and this hate speech law basically says that if you are found saying something that could be deemed hateful against any identifiable group.
You can be imprisoned and you can be you can be tried as a criminal because now speech can be criminalize. That ought to be scary. That is today as I speak. Now some of you may be hearing this message at a later time. And maybe things will have changed because it is not yet passed but that's what one of our senators has done. He's added that to a anorak funding bill hate speech or what's that all about. I thought I would look at them. The prototype of this in Canada this is that the Canadian law it's under advocating genocide is an interesting place to put hate speech and it says everyone who by communicating statements, other than in private conversation willfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of an indictable offense and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or an offense punishable on summary conviction of this of course is written because what is been outlawed in Canada is any criticism or disagreement with homosexuality and I ask a Canadian pastor is always doing that again this summer to a different Canadian pastor, can you still read Romans chapter 1 in a church in Canada and he says it depends who is present. If no one is present. If no one reports you.
It may be okay in Germany.
By the way where I was last week. The church basically has simply acquiesced and says we refused to comment on homosexuality because of the laws that would imprison pastors if they did.
Now you think for example of California in the public school system. There is what is known as the school safety and violence prevention act, what everybody wants to prevent violence right and that the intent of this lawn."
And here the intent of this law states that school personnel are to be trained to detect children who may have the potential of someday displaying discriminatory or prejudicial attitudes and to instruct teachers to refer these children for reeducation or appropriate counseling. Now it also says however that sexual orientation shall not include pedophilia. In other words, you can disagree with pedophilia. But you can't disagree with a homosexual agenda or else you'll receive appropriate counseling. I I just marvel at all this because the folks who make these kinds of laws are absolutely insistent that freedom of speech should no longer be allowable even in churches. For example, that law in Washington that I told you about.
There was another senator who argued that it should include an exemption for churches, but the senator who introduced the legislation absolutely insisted and manipulated so that that would not polluted out. Where does this all lead us.
It will be interesting to find out because when secularism has its way. It gives broad expansive First Amendment rights to pornographers to people who have obscenity they will invite even the president of a country such as erratic to their universities, but they will exclude anyone who doesn't fall into line with gender issues.
Well, that's America.
And I say that without any fear and without any sense of discouragement at all except to warn you where this nation is going now. I told you that the first part of this message was going to be dark and it was going to be discouraging. Now the sun is going to begin to shine in the glory of God is going to captivate us. Aren't you ready for that about now is not wonderful. Notice what Jesus says to the church.
That's Smyrna just notice what he says. First of all, he says, number one.
Do not fear this is verse 10 is first promise is a promise of peace. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world gives, give I unto you, but not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid God says I'm willing I'm willing to give you my peace in the midst of suffering in the midst of the slander in the midst of being marginalized in the midst of people saying you must close your mouths regarding certain things God says I give you peace and notice who gives it the first and the last, the one who is dead and is alive forever more on man second promise is a promise of purpose. There is a reason for all this, the devil is going to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested. Verse 10 oh so this doesn't happen simply willy-nilly. I mean, you know the devil.
The devil is going to throw you into prison, but God has a purpose in this, that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes though it be tried with fire might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
So you have something to give Jesus when he return the faith that he birthed in your heart you allowed to grow and it is a faith that is more precious than gold. Try by five this is a separate discussion, but I'm amazed and not amazed but I should observe that Jesus did not castigate the church. It doesn't say now if you had prayed more. You wouldn't have this kind of persecution because you have a government that would be more favorable in God would remove all persecution and you'd be able to worship freely and Christians would be would be honored and they would become a part of the society without any persecution. It is your fault know Jesus said you are being led to this for my purpose to test you to find out what is in your heart. What do you deem to be infinitely valuable. Your own life, your vocation or me.
So the second promise is one of purpose. The third promise is one of control. You'll notice I'm still in verse 10.
Be faithful unto death, the devil will throw you into prison for 10 days. Does that refer to that may refer to a very limited time of persecution. That's possible.
On the other hand, that the expression 10 is sometimes used symbolically in Scripture.
It may even refer to 10 periods of persecution because believe it or not these seven churches seem to represent seven periods of church history. There are remarkable parallels Izzy as Smyrna would represent about from the death of the apostles all the way to about 313 when the persecution ended and there were 10 waves of persecution that the church endured until the coming of Constantine. I believe it ended with a persecution of Diocletian who moved against the Christians in a vicious, vicious, cruel manner, and so it says be faithful unto death, because you're gonna be thrown into prison for 10 days. Again, whether it's a literal 10 days, or whether or not it is 10 periods. Here's the point. The length of time of the persecution is determined by Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ, says that the persecution is going to be 10 days. There is no combination of demons on earth that can make it 11 because he has said it is going to be 10 yeah you can clap if you agree with that. Jesus said don't you understand that when I throw you into the furnace. I always keep my hand on the thermostat and the heat and the temperature is determined by knee, determined by me. So the purpose is to test you. The purpose is to see whether or not you're going to be intimidated. The purpose is to see whether or not to you're willing to sacrifice your job or principles that honor me, there is a method in the madness, persecution has its purpose, and then notice one other promise and that is simply this, that that the promise of victory to the person who overcomes, and here it's presented as if all believers are expected to be over comers to the person who overcomes it says be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life same crown. I believe promise to those who love Jesus Christ appearing and I hope that you do love Jesus Christ appearing by the way, if you don't, you probably are not a true believer to all those who love his appearing and you'll notice it says I will give you the crown of life and then comment in a moment about the one who conquers this is the end of the section will not be hurt by the second death will give you the crown of life.
Now think of who it is who said this, that's why it's significant that the letter opens.
These are the words of the first and the last to die, and came to life. Jesus said you're being persecuted onto death. Well, just know that I also was killed by religion of false religion, and these false religionists put me to death and be encouraged because I was dead and am alive and because he lives we show live also. Don't you see that there is victory in all of this because eternity is coming. If I were ever asked to speak in Iraq if I were ever asked to speak in the sedan were Indonesia to small groups of Christians huddling together under persecution. This is the passage that I would preach and hopefully I would preach it even if I would be imprisoned at that would be a badge of honor to suffer for his name. Now, as we conclude today I have three bottom lines that I need to give you. You know that and when I preach. I was give you the bottom line and that sometimes there are two bottom lines. Sometimes there are three disabled. Technically, there should only be one really bottom line right let's all right when you come to the church you get a few of them number one. Keep in mind even when we are in the hands of Satan.
We are in the hands of God, even when we are in the hands of Satan. We are in the hands of God. You say where is that in the text well.
Your Bible is open before you notice what it says that devil that devil is about to throw some of you into prison, they look at the retaliation they look at the hatred in the faces of those who want to destroy them and they're looking at the devil. Yes, the devil may do it but does that mean we're in the hands of the devil does not mean they wring our hands and we say oh you know, this attack has come to me from Satan know. Perhaps it is come to us from Satan, but even when we're in the hands of the devil. Ultimately, we are in God's hands because you heard me say it many times, words attributed to Martin Luther, even the devil is God's devil. And when God says the persecution is 10 days.
It'll be 10 days because God is in shock. Jesus is stronger than Satan.
In fact, in the presence of the sovereign God. Satan is but a puff of wind whom God could crush if he chose to do so, but he doesn't do it because believe it or not, the devil serves dogs purposes and once we have that understanding. We pray in faith. When we pray warfare prayers we pray with great praise because we know the triumph of Jesus because even when we are in the devil's hands. We are really in the hands of God.
Second, nothing that can be done to us is worse than what happened to Jesus.
Jesus was crucified and he was dead and is alive now look at the text. The very last phrase that I referred to a moment ago, the one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. What is the second death, second death is mentioned in Revelation chapter 20 there in Revelation chapter 20 it says that death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death is not wonderful if they take your life.
Guess what, you can only die once, not twice. The wicked will die twice first time the separation of the soul and body. The second time the separation from the soul.
God and they will be in all of eternity in a place of torment and separation that is the second death. And if you look at that passage of Scripture in Revelation, you find that all of these people have to show up at the great white throne judgment, and in that judgment. There are rich and there are poor and there are old and there are young and there are kings and there are poppers it says people come from all over the thing that unites them is they lack righteousness. They lack enough righteousness to make it into heaven. That's what unites and if you're here today and you've never trusted Christ you've never transferred your trust to him to receive his gift of eternal life, and his righteousness, you will stand with those souls you will experience the second death for those who conquer but for those who trust Christ and those who suffer well because they love him, and suffer with joy and optimism for those it will not experience the second death first death yes not the second. So third we don't have to win in this world. This is really refreshing.
Let this be the bottom bottom line, we don't have to win in this world in order to win in the next. You don't have to win businessman you are tempted to cut corners and to do what is wrong in order to advance yourself.
Stop doing that because you do not have to win in this world in order to win in the second. Do what is right no matter the cost. Don't be like that man who sold me some camera equipment in Hong Kong said I'm a Christian but he said I can't run an honest business because he said if I did the person next to me is selling the same cameras this person is selling across the street and he says I have to play by their rules. I said to him you know what, you don't have to.
Well, I need to live know my brother, you don't need to live. Millions of people have died. Did you know that. Did you know nobody needs to live the whole history of the church is filled with martyrs who said I don't have to live because I have some more important reason than life where this idea come from. You have to live now he's going to die someday to prove you don't have to live nurse, you who are tempted to accept a job where you're going to be part of the abortions that are taking place in your hospital stand up for principle and say no you say will I get fired I need a job, no you don't. They're all kinds of people in America jobs where this idea come from that. You need a job. I know I'm being a little bit facetious today.
Maybe I'm feeling some wild oats appear. I don't know, but my point is simply this young person stand up for Christ in school and if you get ridiculed, and so forth. Know that that's been the whole history of the church has been ridiculed. Why do we think we are exempt Jesus if they persecuted me, they're going to persecute you take it as a badge of honor. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake, for great is your reward in heaven eternity is coming. Eternity is coming and it's a long time so long time really long remember that story that comes to us from the Boxer Rebellion in China and it was called the Boxer Rebellion because these people actually did calisthenics and they were trying to read to China in the early 1900s of Western influence and they came to a missionary school and they laid across at the door of the school. They said to the students. If you walk out and you step on the cross. You'll live because that means that you're willing to desecrate it. But if you admire the cross and you have to walk around it and you walk around it. Then that means that you honor the cross. You'll be shot. The first eight students stepped on the cross and they lived. The ninth was a girl who bowed in prayer and ask God to give her the grace to do what she knew she should do. She walked around the cross in honor and she was shocked and all the other students followed her example did you win in this life, my main nine-year-old girl dead. What a waste unless unless Jesus is Lord and eternity is coming that it wasn't a waste. You see in the Bible. Eternity isn't only presented to us is a lot longer than time. We know that in fact it's a lot longer than time. I suppose a mathematician might say it is an infinite number of times longer than time is also presented as a whole different quality of life in the presence of Jesus. Hearing him say well done, thou good and faithful servant and living with God forever and there were ever in fulfillment and joy and with other believers. Folks don't ever turn down an opportunity to represent Jesus. No matter what it costs. Be faithful unto death. All give you the crown of life. He who overcomes will not be touched by the second death.
Bottom line I guess this is the bottom bottom bottom line we are on the winning side. We are on the winning side. Let us be clear in our witness, the city of Chicago represent Jesus wherever we find ourselves, our father we ask in Jesus name that you will make us a transforming community.
We pray that along with the believers in Smyrna. You will give us endurance give us the love and joy. Let us not be discouraged.
We ask that as marginalization or persecution, or slander comes to us because we are believers.
Help us Lord to rejoice in that. What a privilege to suffer for your name all father and we do pray for this country only because we desire that the gospel will go to as many people as we can possibly reach make us a church that has a passion to share Christ around the world and right here in Jesus name Amen amen. Let's sing the first and the last stanza's today of 588, 588 all for Jesus, all for Jesus. All my beings ran some power.
Why should we hold anything back for the king who saved us to quote the words of Polycarp 588 yes, let's stand. Let's sing the first and the last stanzas of 580 on today's Moody Church. Our estimates are spoke on when Jesus observes our suffering taken from Revelation chapter 2 the third of eight messages on what Jesus thinks of his church next week will learn about our message to the church at Pergamum as we hear Dr. Luther preach on when Jesus observes our teaching what Jesus thinks of his church can be yours on CD for a gift of any amount to The Moody Church. Our call 1-800-215-5001.
Let us know you'd like to support Moody Churches ministry our thank you to you is a CD album with eight powerful messages. You can hear and then pass on to others.
Call 1-800-215-5001 or you can write to us at Moody Church media 1635 N. LaSalle Boulevard Chicago, IL 60614 online go to moody offeror.com that's moody offeror.com. Join us next time for another Moody Church. Our with pastor Erwin lutes are in the congregation of historic Moody Church in the Chicago. This broadcast is a ministry of The Moody Church