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Back To The Future
THE RICH LITTLE
Intro: The city of
characteristics made the city of special in its day. First, it was famous for the production of
myrrh. This substance came from a
shrub-like tree that produced a bitter gum.
When the leaves of this tree were crushed, they exuded a very fragrant
odor. Myrrh was used as a fragrance by
the living and an embalming agent for the dead.
Myrrh was mentioned in association with the life and ministry of the
Lord Jesus Christ, Matt. 2:11;
the other factors that made the city of
this beautiful, wealthy pagan city, there existed a struggling Christian
community. The church in
Prophetically, this church pictures the terrible persecution inflicted upon believers by the Roman emperors between the years of 100 AD and 312 AD. Practically and personally, there is a word here for everyone who has ever or will ever suffer for Jesus’ sake. Let’s look at our Lord’s words to this struggling little congregation to find the encouragement we need to be able to stand when everyone else is against us. I want to take these verses and preach on the thought, The Rich Little Poor Church.
I. v. 9b-10a
A. They Faced Persecution Tribulation The word means pressure. It was used in that day to refer to crushing an object under the weight of very heavy stones. The word “tribulation comes from the Latin word tribulum. It refers to the stone wheels that were used to crush wheat to separate the kernel from the shell. This church was paying the price for their allegiance to Jesus. The pressure was on and they were suffering.
persecution did not come from the pagans in
The Jews and the pagans accused the Christians of cannibalism. Christians kept communion and part of that
observance was eating the bread and drinking from the cup. These represented the broken body and the
shed blood of the Lord Jesus,
2. When the Christians gathered, they would often hold what they called “Agape Feasts. These “love feasts were nothing but times of fellowship, where believers enjoyed one anothers company. The pagans, however, accused the Christians of engaging in orgies.
3. The Christians were hated because their beliefs and practices often split families. This was what Jesus said would happen, Matt. 10:34-36. Thus, Christians were accused of being anti-family.
4. Christians were accused of being atheists because they did not worship the many gods of the pagans and because they used no statues and icons in their own worship. So, any natural disasters other calamities were blamed on the Christians for incurring the wrath of the gods.
Christians were accused of being
political enemies of
B. They Faced Poverty poverty This word speaks of being absolutely destitute. These poor people had nothing of this worlds goods because of their relationship with the Lord Jesus. They were denied jobs and promotions because of their testimony. These people had nothing in a city that possessed everything. Imagine how Satan must have mocked these people. As they passed the ornate temples and walked down that golden street, surely he said, “Serving Jesus has cost you everything! Can you here him whisper to them, “Look at you! You are nothing and you have nothing. Give up on Jesus. You are starving! Deny Him and prosper!
C. They Faced Prison In verse 10, Jesus tells them that there is more trouble ahead! They will face more persecution. The “ten days mentioned here might refer to the ten persecutions the Christians suffered under the Romans. Or, it might simply mean that they their persecution will be sever, but brief. Either way, they are informed that more pain and suffering is coming their way.
Now, prison in that day was nothing like it is today. When people went to prison under the Roman system, they did not receive a college education, learn a skill and spend their days writing books and watching television. When a person went to prison in those days, it was to await execution. The only way you got out was to die. And, death was usually a horrible affair. You might be killed by a sword, burned alive, thrown to wild animals, or any of the dozens of other cruel methods of torture and torment they had devised. This was a suffering congregation!
The old preacher, he was 86 at the time, was given the opportunity to renounce Jesus. The magistrate, who did not want to see the old man die, said, “What harm is there in saying, Lord Caesar?” But, Polycarp refused! When they entered the stadium, where the executions took place, they tried again saying, “Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists. Polycarp fixed his gaze on the crowd, waved his arms at them and said, “Away with the atheists! The magistrate again attempted to get Polycarp to renounce his faith and said, “Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ. To that, the old man cried, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?
After a few more attempts to get the old preacher to renounce Jesus, they led him away to the stake to burn him alive. They were about to nail him to the post and Polycarp said, “Leave me as I am; for He that giveth me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile. So, they left him loosely bound and they lit the fire. As the flames rose around him, he was heard to pray and rejoice in Jesus. He died for his faith and in doing so he left an indelible imprint on the fabric of time.)
(Note: Let me just make a statement here. Everyone who will live a holy, separated,
dedicated for Jesus Christ, in any generation, is going to face persecution,
reason the world hates the believer today is the same reason the world hated
the believers then. They used all the
excuses that I mentioned earlier, but the people of
They hate us because we tell them there is one way to God and that His name is Jesus. They hate us because we tell them that they are headed to Hell unless they repent. They hate us because we will not join them and confirm them in their abominations. They hate us because we are different; we are intolerant and we are not afraid to say so. They hate us today, but things are just going to get worse!
It used to cost something to name the name of Jesus. Now, folks can call themselves a Christian and do what the world around them is doing. I think the day is coming when the fires of persecution will burn around us. I think God will use the hatred of humanity against His Son Jesus to purify the Bride of Christ before she is taken home to glory. I am not a prophet of doom, but I think there are some difficult days ahead for the faithful, fundamental people of God!)
II. v. 9a
(Il. Even tough they were paying a
harsh price for their faithful love and service to the Lord Jesus, these people
did not back up from their profession.
They stayed the course and demonstrated a faithful testimony for the
glory of God. Remember that
They Had A Positive Testimony
Jesus sent seven letters to seven different churches. Five of the seven churches received words of
rebuke and correction. Only this church
and the church at
(Note: If He were to comment on our church, would He have any words of correction for us, or would He come to us with a positive word of encouragement?)
B. They Had A Powerful Testimony Jesus says to them I know thy works The word works refers to that business which occupies a person’s life. In spite of all the darkness around them, these people continued to be a light for Jesus in the midst of an ever darkening world. They were not intimidated by their enemies; they were not frightened by the hatred of their opponents. They proved they were genuine and that their faith was real by the way they carried themselves in that society. Their testimony was powerful because they stayed the course and stuck to the task for the glory of God! They were a consistent church!
(Note: What do our works say about us as a church? What do your works say about you as an individual? In a world like ours, where darkness, wickedness and opposition to our way of life abounds; there is a tendency to back of the message, to tone things down. The church has withdrawn from the public square, from the public schools and from the public arena. We have moved within the walls of our building where we are safe from the critics and the enemies of truth. What we fail to see is that we cannot impact the world if we never confront the world. If our message is maintained within the walls of our churches and never shared with a lost and dying world, we can never make a difference for the glory of the Lord.
We need to step out of our comfort zone and reenter the world with the message of salvation. We need to publicly proclaim, without fear, the saving Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to take our stand for the Lord Jesus one more time and be willing to suffer or to die, if need be, for the glory of God. That was Paul’s desire, Phil. 3:8-10. It should be ours as well!
If we would be a powerful witness for the Lord Jesus, then we must live out our profession, regardless of the personal or public cost. Those men who walked with Jesus paid a terrible price for their faith. Every one of the disciples, with the exception John, died a horrible death for their testimony. Down through the years some 70 million believers have died for their faith in Jesus. Every year some 300,000 believers are martyred for their faith. One day, it may be our turn to take a stand for Jesus. If that day comes, are you ready to stand? Are you ready to die if necessary? Are you prepared to live out a powerful testimony?)
(Note: Regardless of what comes our way, we should ask the Lord to help us be consistent and faithful to Him. When we think of all that He has done for us, He deserves at least that much from us!)
II. Smyrna Was A Consistent Church
v. 9a They Had The Interest Of Heaven Jesus says I
know thy works The Lord of Glory has taken a personal interest in
the church in
(Note: I don’t know
about you, but that encourages me! I am
glad that our Lord is with us every step of the way, Heb. 13:5. When we are
attacked, He knows all about it because it touches Him too, Heb. 4:15. Thank God, He can help us weather the storms
and endure the pain. He is always there
to help His suffering saints, Heb. 2:18;
B. v. 8 They Had The Involvement Of Heaven When Jesus comes to this church, He comes as the first and the last. He comes as He “which was dead, and is alive.
If you will remember from chapter
one, the title “first and last identifies Jesus as
AM. It labels Him as the One
Who is in control of all things. The
people in the church in
The statement “which was dead, and is alive
identifies Jesus as the One Who has been there.
He is telling these saints that He knows what they are facing because He
has already faced it. The people hated
Him. They persecuted Him. They crucified Him. They poured out all their wrath, hatred and
anger upon Him; and He prevailed! Since
He is the One Who has been through the trials and conquered them all, He is
able to help His people when they face the fires of persecution and hatred, Heb. 2:18;
(Note: None of us know what we will be called on the face
before we leave this world behind. But,
we have the blessed assurance that no matter what comes our way, our Lord has
already been there. He has already
secured the victory for us and He will meet us there when we arrive at that
place. We are “more than conquerors through Him
that loved us, Rom. 8:37. Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth
us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us
in every place,
When you and I are voyaging on the seas of life, and when you come to the spots where you've never been before; when you come to those unknown places in life, across the map of your life you can write, "Here Is Jesus." Wherever you go Jesus Christ has been there and He is there. So to this church of Smyrna the Lord says, I want to encourage you with My Person, I am the first and the last, I was dead, I am alive for evermore.)
v. 9b They Had Their Investment In Heaven Jesus says, I
know…thy poverty. They were
poor beyond belief, but then He adds this statement, but thou art rich. They may have lacked this world’s goods, but
their faith and the faithful display of their testimony had purchased them
treasures in Heaven. They were poor
here, but they were rich over there! The world may have taken everything they
had down here, but they had treasures on the other side that were safe from the
hands of any enemy,
(Note: The day may come when this world will take us and our property. They day may come when they threaten us with death. The day may come when our testimony becomes a death sentence in this world. If that day ever comes, take comfort that all you are giving up is what you would have lost at some point anyway. Even if every thing you have is taken away, including your life, the treasures you have laid up in Heaven are safe and your soul will merely be liberated to fly home to glory. Therefore, do as Jesus said in verse 10, “Be thou faithful unto death.
all we really have is what we give away for Jesus.
D. v. 10b-11 They Had Their Inheritance In Heaven Their faith had purchased for them more than just a testimony here. Their faith had purchased eternal life for them in Heaven. Jesus is telling them that while they may lose it all down here, they might even lose their lives, but they will live forever over there. They may endure Hell on earth for a while, but there will be no Hell for them in eternity. He is telling them that they can’t die but once!
He promises them “a crown of life. That word for crown refers to the stephanos or the laurel crown that was given to victors in the ancient Greek games. You see, this church looked like a bunch of losers to the world around them. In reality, they were mighty victors, waging spiritual warfare in the name of Jesus Christ! The day would come when they and their faith would be vindicated!
The lost man will die twice. He will live without God in this world and he
will die. After death, he will go to
Hell. Then he will stand before the Lord
at the Great White Throne judgment and he will be sentenced to the
Conc: Church, it might get bad down here before we leave this world. There may be trials and there may be tribulations. There may be pain and there may be persecutions. But, I want you to know that, at the end of the road, we’re going home to be with Jesus. So, press on my brother! Press on my sister! It won’t be very long and we will leave this world far behind and we will enter that precious land of song!