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Our Hidden Treasure

• Greg Boyd

This sermon expounds upon the letter to the church at Smyrna, where Jesus offers encouragement to the church which will be facing suffering and persecution. In their struggles, they are told that they are actually rich, contrary to all of the evidence. If they endure, they will receive the crown of life.

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In Rome, everyone was required to honor traditional Roman gods and the emperor. Non-compliance meant the loss of standing in the community. If someone alerted authorities, then anyone acting in non-compliance would be arrested and put to death if they did not recant. Christians were viewed as heretics, and some Jews began turning Christians in to Roman authorities. When this passage speaks of the “synagogue of Satan,” it is referring to Satan using some people in the local Jewish synagogue to hinder the spread of the Gospel.

Jesus says, “I know your affliction and your poverty.” Smyrna was a remarkably wealthy city, located at a strategic point on the Aegean coast of Anatolia with good inland connections. While most of the Christians came from the lower class, it is likely they were poor because of their faith. Employment was not easy to find for those who were not good Roman citizens.

The statement, “the devil is about to throw some of you in prison,” is a reference to Satan working through members of the synagogue of Satan and through Roman administrators to have these Christians thrown into prison. Prisons were meant to not only inflict discomfort on people, but also to dehumanize through the degrading conditions. Jesus’ words foretell of the coming testing through this affliction, and encourage them to prepare for it. Jesus then reminds them be faithful unto death, which will lead them to a crown of glory, receiving full honor when God’s kingdom comes at the end of the age.

Jesus names the poverty, affliction, and possibility of death that the members of the church will face, while telling them to eschew fear because they are rich. He says this as one who has endured these very things, even dying on the cross, before he came out the other side as a victor. Therefore, the Smyrna church could feel rich because of what he has done. This requires a spiritual perception, something which Paul wrote about in the letter to the Ephesians:

“I pray … that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may perceive what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.” (Ephesians 1:17-19)

Paul prays the Ephesians would be given a spirit of wisdom and revelation as they come to know Christ, so that the eyes of their heart could be enlightened to be able to perceive the glorious hope that they have in Christ. The perception of the full hope we have in Christ is apparently something that is easy to forget, which means that it requires the ongoing supernatural work of the Spirit to see.

Someone might believe in Jesus, but their mind isn’t set on things above where their life is hidden with Christ. A Christian might believe in Jesus, but they nevertheless can’t see past the dread. This is not primarily an act of logical thinking. It’s a matter of using the eyes of our spirit to see a truth that cannot be fully explained. We might not experience material riches in this life, but we can see that God has brought his eternal riches to us in the midst of poverty and struggle.

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Topics: Faithfulness, Fear, Pain & Suffering

Sermon Series: Dear Church

Downloads & Resources

Audio File
Study guide
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The MuseCast: January 30

Focus Scripture:

  • Revelation 2:8-17

    And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the First and the Last, who was dead and came to life: “I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death.

For Further Reading:

A Legacy of Hatred: Why Christians Must Not Forget the Holocaust by David Rausch

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