Posts Tagged ‘Church of Smyrna’

Revelation Chapter 2 – Smyrna

Messianic Community of 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 was established by Sha’ul (Paul) during his third missionary journey.

“This went on for two years; so that everyone, both Jews and Greeks, living in the province of Asia heard the message about the Lord” (Acts 19:10).

“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.  Yeshua 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 lines in the Scriptures.

“I am the ‘A’ and the ‘Z,’” says Adonai, God of heaven’s armies, the One who is, who was and who is coming” (Revelation 1:8).

This is another verse that translators change from Aramaic/Hebrew into Greek.  Again, it not only messes with understanding the beginning from the end, it takes away a unique part of the Hebrew Scriptures that unveil Yeshua in practically each sentence.

The two letters that begin and end the Hebrew alphabet are the Alef and the Tav – את.  These two letters create a small world, ‘et’ that is found throughout the Bible.  Some give it a grammatical meaning as a noun modifier, but in general it has no specific meaning.  

Look at Genesis 1:1 in the Hebrew read right to left:

בראשית ברא אלהים את השמימ ואת הארץ

Transliterated: Beresheet bara elohim et hashamayim vet haeretz.

Notice the two-letter word ‘et’ or the aleph and the tav? This is what Yeshua is referring to in Revelation 1:8.  He is  the ‘alef and the tav’ that is found between the first words in Genesis and between 1000s of words in the Hebrew Scriptures.  By saying he is the alef and the tav, he is revealing himself in every page of the Bible.  He is saying he is the beginning and the end of everything from Genesis through Revelation.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Et – את  

Alef is an ‘ox’ and means ‘first and strong’

Tav is a ‘crossed sticks’ and means ‘sign’

The את – The first, strong sign

Many suggest that the first sign is the cross because of the ‘crossed sticks’ in the ancient letter of Tav.  However, I believe there is more to the et than just the cross.  It is the beginning and the end, the creation of the universe to the re-creation of the universe.  It is also connected with the “God of heaven’s armies’ of which Yeshua is the Commander in Chief.  I believe that the words ‘alef and tav’ in this instance is the ‘first strong sign’ of Yeshua’s revealing will include his arrival with his heavenly armies.  

“Yeshua said to her, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life! Whoever puts his trust in me will live, even if he dies; and everyone living and trusting in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world” (John 11:25-27).

The myrrh of Smyrna will become significant to this community as they will be martyred for their faith. Because they will have to face death, Yeshua encourages them in the hope of the resurrection. Because he suffered and died, and came back to life, they too will be resurrected.  The word martyr in Greek means ‘witness’ alluding to their deaths will become their witness of Yeshua’s faithfulness in their lives.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:10).

“Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them received authority to judge. 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…. This is the first resurrection.” (Revelation 20:4)

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.

In this physical world, blood lineage or DNA determines Jewish heritage. Technically, a Jew is a descendant from the Tribe of Judah just as Yeshua descended from Judah through King David. The term ‘Jew’ in a religious context has become the common title for anyone who was circumcised and adhered to the practices of Judaism regardless of tribal affiliation or ethnicity. 

In his letter to the Galatians,  Sha’ul (Paul) refers to Jews as the ‘circumcision group’ and the gentiles or non-Jews as the ‘uncircumcision group’ – when discussing Jewish or non-Jewish believers in the Body of Messiah. In his letter to the Romans, Sha’ul defines a ‘true Jew’ giving a bit of insight into who is a ‘false Jew.’ His definition works for the individual in the ‘circumcision group’ who has faith in Messiah Yeshua as well as the individual in the ‘uncircumcision group.’  Both have circumcision of the heart and both praise, the meaning of the name Judah, the Elohim of Isra’el together.

“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 real Jew, there must be some Jews in Smyrna whose hearts have not been circumcised. In effect they are not true praisers of Elohim. They hold onto their DNA heritage as descendants from Judah and believe that non-Jews must be circumcised and convert to Judaism and obey all of its rules in order to join the community of Isra’el. This is known as Judaizing.

There could also be non-Jewish converts to Judaism insulting other non-Jewish believers who refuse to convert because of their faith in Messiah.  Those who converted believe everyone needs to convert and that faith alone is not enough to enter the community in Smyrna.

Whatever the scenario, Yeshua calls these people liars and compares them to the ‘Synagogue of Satan.’  This is a harsh judgment. If these liars in the synagogue force everyone to  convert to Judaism through ritual circumcision,  then the message of faith without works Yeshua is perverted and lost. This is error that Sha’ul corrected with the Galatians.

“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).

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 a reference 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 persecuted and face death at the hands of those who are used by the Adversary to destroy the message of salvation by faith. Yet, Smyrna’s faithfulness will be their witness and will result in the eternal reward – the Crown of Life promised to those who love Elohim. The second death will not hurt them.

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 that he taught in parables was so the people could “look but not see, and listen but not understand” the message of the Kingdom (Luke 8:10).  Because his disciples were given deeper understanding to the coming Kingdom, he would explain their secret meaning to them away from the crowds.

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 that he taught in parables was so the people could “look but not see, and listen but not understand” the message of the Kingdom (Luke 8:10).  Because his disciples were given deeper understanding to the coming Kingdom, he would explain their ‘secret’ meaning to them away from the crowds.

Another reason may be that the parables all occurred 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 new covenant, men and women who believed the message of Yeshua are given new hearts of flesh and a renewed spirit – neshama.  The Ruach haKodesh within would compel them obey his Torah (Ezekiel 36:24-27). His Ruach would give them “ears to hear what the Spirit was saying” so they could His voice.

Yeshua doesn’t want this community to just ‘hear’ the message, but to ‘listen’ to it.  His message was to be ‘heard’ through spiritual ears that were fine-tuned to his voice, the voice of the Shepherd.  His sheep were to ‘listen’ to the message and ‘obey’ what he instructed in order to be an overcomer – Isra’el – and receive an eternal reward.  

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 that he taught in parables was so the people could “look but not see, and listen but not understand” the message of the Kingdom (Luke 8:10).  Because his disciples were given deeper understanding to the coming Kingdom, he would explain their secret meaning to them away from the crowds.

Another reason may be that the parables all occurred before the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot when the Spirit of Elohim was poured out and the new covenant was instituted.  With the new covenant, men and women who believed the message of Yeshua are given new hearts of flesh and a new spirit.  The Spirit of Elohim within them would compel them obey his Torah (Ezekiel 36:24-27). His Spirit would give them “ears to hear what the Spirit was saying” so they could follow and obey His voice.

Yeshua doesn’t want this community to just ‘hear’ the message, but to ‘listen’ to it.  His message was to be ‘heard’ through spiritual ears that were fine-tuned to his voice, the voice of the Shepherd.  His sheep were to ‘listen’ to the message and ‘obey’ what he instructed in order to be an overcomer – Isra’el – and receive an eternal reward.  

For he is our God, and we are the people in his pasture, the sheep in his care. If only today you would listen to his voice … “(Psalm 95:7-8).

“My sheep listen to my voice, I recognize them, they follow me, and I give them eternal life. They will absolutely never be destroyed, and no one will snatch them from my hands” (John 10:27-28). 

“In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says, ‘You will keep on hearing but never understand, and keep on seeing but never perceive, because the heart of this people has become dull — with their ears they barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, so as not to see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and do t’shuvah [repent and turn from sin], so that I could heal them.’

But you [Smyrna], how blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear!” (Isaiah 6:9-10, Matthew 13:14-16). 

Revelation 2 – Messianic Community of Pergamum

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