Messianic Community in Smyrna
Smyrna was located on the Aegean coast of Anatolia where it could easily defend itself from an enemy attack. It is known today as Izmir in modern-day Turkey. Because it is highly populated, much of ancient Smyrna has been lost except for the agora (public speaking area), theater, and parts of Roman aqueduct. Smyrna is the ancient Greek word for myrrh which was the main export from this city in ancient times. As an essential oil, myrrh has healing qualities for the skin and is used to anoint a body for burial. The believing community at Smyrna was established by Sha’ul (Paul) during his third missionary journey.
“To the angel of the Messianic Community in Smyrna, write: ‘Here is the message from the First and the Last, who died and came alive again: “I know how you are suffering and how poor you are (though in fact you are rich!), and I know the insults of those who call themselves Jews but aren’t — on the contrary, they are a synagogue of the Adversary. Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Adversary is going to have some of you thrown in prison, in order to put you to the test; and you will face an ordeal for ten days. Remain faithful, even to the point of death; and I will give you life as your crown. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities. He who wins the victory will not be hurt at all by the second death”’ (Revelation 2:8-11).
Yeshua sends the second messenger to the community in Smyrna. He reveals himself as “the first and the last, who died and came alive again.” With the ‘first and last’ reference, this congregation would have immediately understood that Yeshua is the ‘alef tav’ –– את –– found between the words in the Hebrew Scriptures.
This is translation change from Aramaic/Hebrew into Greek that not only removes the understanding of the beginning and the end, it removes a unique part of the Hebrew Scriptures that unveil Yeshua in practically every sentence. To change the alef and the tav to letters in the Latin alphabet or the Alpha and Omega in the Greek takes away a significant meaning and purpose for the את – the ‘sign’ of Yeshua.
The two letters that begin and end the Hebrew alphabet are the alef and the tav – את. These two letters create a small word, ‘et’ that is found throughout the Old Testament. Some translators give it a grammatical meaning as a noun modifier, but it has no specific meaning.
Reading a transliteration from the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1: Beresheet bara elohim et hashamayim v’et haeretz, notice the two-letter word ‘et’ or the alef and the tav? This is what Yeshua refers to in Revelation 1:8. He is the alef and the tav that is found in Genesis 1 and between thousands of words throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. By claiming he is the alef and the tav, he directs readers to himself on every page of the Old Testament.
Some that the Hebrew letter picture of Crossed Sticks for tav refers to theh cross; however, there is more to Yeshua than the cross. He is at the beginning and the end –– it is his ‘sign’ found throughout the Scriptures. The alef and the tav are also connected with the ‘God of heaven’s armies’ of which Yeshua is the Commander in Chief and the Warrior that is coming soon to redeem the whole earth (Revelation 1:8).
Hebrew Word Pictures
Et – את
Alef – An Ox means ‘first’ and ‘strong.’
Tav – Crossed Sticks mean ‘sign’ and ‘covenant.’
The Hebrew Word Picture for et: first strong sign of the covenant.
The myrrh of Smyrna is significant to this community because they will be martyred for their faith. Because they will have to face death, Yeshua encourages them in the hope of the resurrection (John 11:25-27). Because he suffered, died, and came back to life, they, too, will be resurrected. The word martyr in Greek means ‘witness’ alluding to their deaths becoming the witness of Yeshua’s faithfulness in their lives.
The condition of the congregation in Smyrna is one of suffering and poverty. They are insulted by those who call themselves Jews, but are not. Yeshua calls these ‘false Jews’ members of the synagogue of the Adversary.
Blood lineage or DNA determines Jewish heritage; however, a Jew is technically a descendant from the Tribe of Judah. The term ‘Jew’ in a religious context has become common anyone who practices any sect of Judaism regardless of tribal affiliation or ethnicity.
Sha’ul refers to Jews as the ‘circumcision group’ and the gentiles as the ‘uncircumcision group’ when discussing Jewish and gentile believers in the Body of Messiah. In his letter to the Romans, Sha’ul defines a ‘true Jew’ which is opposite of a ‘false Jew.’ His definition works for the individual in the ‘circumcision group’ as well as the individual in the ‘uncircumcision group.’ Both receive ‘circumcision of the heart’ and both praise –– the meaning of the name Judah –– the Elohim of Isra’el together as ‘one new man.’
“For the real Jew is not merely Jewish outwardly: true circumcision is not only external and physical. On the contrary, the real Jew is one inwardly; and true circumcision is of the heart, spiritual not literal; so that his praise comes not from other people but from God” (Romans 2:27-29).
Using Sha’ul’s definition for ‘true Jew,’ there must be Jews in Smyrna whose hearts have not been circumcised; they are not true praisers of Elohim. They hold onto their DNA heritage as descendants of Abraham and believe that gentiles must convert to Judaism in order to join the community of Isra’el. There could also be gentile converts to Judaism insulting other gentiles who refuse to convert because they feel ‘cheated’ for converting when realizing that faith alone is not enough to enter the community in Smyrna. Yeshua calls these people liars and compares them to the ‘Synagogue of Satan’ –– a harsh judgment.
Yeshua has no corrections for Smyrna because he knows their faith and their fate. They are going to suffer at the hands of the Adversary and be tested for ‘ten days.’ ‘Ten days’ may be an allusion to the ‘Ten Days of Awe’ following the Feast of Trumpets. These ‘ten days’ will test the faith of the believers in Smyrna. They will be persecuted and face death at the hands of those who are used by satan. Smyrna’s faithfulness to Yeshua will be their witness and will result in an eternal reward –– the Crown of Life promised to those who love Elohim (James 1:10).
“And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for testifying about Yeshua and proclaiming the Word of God, also those who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received the mark on their foreheads and on their hands. They came to life and ruled with the Messiah for a thousand years….” (Revelation 20:4).
“Those [in Smyrna] who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit, Ruach haKodesh [the holy wind] is saying to the Messianic community.”
Yeshua uses these same words in the gospels when he speaks in parables, however, he doesn’t include the words, ‘what the Spirit says to the communities.’ One reason he taught in parables was so that people could ‘look but not see, and listen but not understand’ the message of the Kingdom (Isaiah 6:9-10, Luke 8:10). Because he wanted his disciples to have a deeper understanding of the coming Kingdom, he explained the hidden meaning away from the crowds.
Yeshua spoke all of his parables before the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot when the ‘holy wind’ was poured out and the new covenant was instituted (Acts 2:2). With the arrival of the new covenant, men and women who obey the message of Yeshua are given new hearts and a renewed spirit. The Ruach haKodesh gives them ‘ears to hear what the Spirit is saying’ so they can obey His voice.
Yeshua doesn’t want this community to just ‘hear’ his message, but ‘listen’ to it. His message was to be heard through spiritual ears that were fine-tuned to his voice, the voice of the Shepherd (Psalm 95:7-8, John 10:27-28) His sheep were to ‘listen’ and ‘obey’ the message so they would be overcomers –– Isra’el –– and receive their eternal reward.
But you [Smyrna], how blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear!” (Matthew 13:14-16).
Revelation 2 – Messianic Community of Pergamum
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