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Smyrna: the Tribulation Church

Eric Summers

I believe that there are four instantiations of the Church at Smyrna, described in chapter two of the Book of Revelation.  The first is that it was a church of the first century at the time of the Apostle John, located in what is now western Turkey.  The second is that it it was a church of the second, third and early fourth centuries: from around 100 AD to the early 300's AD; during that time it
received persecution from Rome.  In 313 AD the Edict of Milan was issued which removed persecution from the Christian Church. 

The third is represented by the Christians in the mid east that today are receiving persecution and even death, some by decapitation by radical Muslims. 
The fourth is that unfaithful Christians of today will be left behind after the First Fruits Rapture takes place and Jesus will provide the opportunity for these believers to demonstrate their faith in Him by experiencing persecution during the first half of the Tribulation.  In this article I'm going to discuss what I believe will happen during the Tribulation to Christians that are members of the Smyrna church.

Some Christians of Today

We know that by faith Christians are saved by the grace of God:

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory. (ASV 1901)

There is no work that needs to be accomplished for Jesus to save us.  All we need to do is believe: to place our faith in Jesus Christ.  Note the verse that immediately follows the above verses:

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.

It says that we should be aware of good works that we know God has prepared for us to do and to then go out and accomplish these good works: with this Jesus will be pleased with us and we will be disciples of His.  A problem with some Christians of today is that they only know about the grace verses and do not pick up the Holy Bible and read verses such as Ephesians 2:10.  This verse states that we should walk in these good works.  However, Jesus does not force us to accomplish these good works: He leaves it up to us to demonstrate our faithfulness.  The main message that many Christians have today and that many pastors, teachers, authors and song writers only talk about is the initial grace that Jesus shows us at salvation time but they talk little about discipleship.  Unfortunately, for those Christians that only hear the initial grace message is that their faith proceeds little further and God is very displeased with this attitude that too many have. 

I believe that Jesus expects us to be faithful to Him and to lead a life of discipleship during all of our years upon the earth.  We should remember but just not dwell only on the initial act of believing in Jesus as Savior but also be a disciple of His and obey the Holy Bible which gives detailed instructions regarding being faithful to Him.  I believe that those believers that are not now disciples will be left behind and experience 3 1/2 years of persecution in the Tribulation.  By being faithful to Jesus at that time will demonstrate that they have become disciples of His.  Read Christians Left Behind for details of their testing.

It is my observation that there are some Christians of today that don't look much different from the unsaved and sinful humans of the world.  They hear the message from the TV, books and the internet that they need to exercise to shed excess weight, to eat only healthy foods and to avoid high fat and high sugar foods.  They hear that they need to succeed in business and sports and live in a large house and drive a new automobile. They need to make themselves as attractive as possible so people will be drawn to them.  They need to wear nice suits and dresses and avoid looking unkept.  Perhaps they attend one church service a week and hearing only the initial grace message is enough for many Christians of today, especially those that live in western nations which have a high standard of living and much leisure time.  Because much of their time is spent doing spiritually unimportant activities they spend little time praying and having fellowship with God, studying the Holy Bible, accomplishing good works that glorify God and having fellowship with and encouraging other Christians to be faithful to Jesus.

Some Christians of today are instances of the ruler that asked Jesus how to inherit Eternal Life, but was not willing to obey Jesus and thus receive what he asked for:

Luke 18:18-23 And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?  And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? none is good, save One, even God.  Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and mother.  And he said, All these things have I observed from my youth up. And when Jesus heard it, He said unto him, One thing thou lackest yet: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me.  But when he heard these things, he became exceeding sorrowful; for he was very rich.

The ruler would not give up his riches and be the disciple that Jesus wanted him to be.  He was still saved, but he just would not obey Jesus and use his wealth to help the poor.  Remember that we are saved by grace through faith and not of works: giving your riches to the poor is a good work which qualifies the Christian that obeys Jesus for eternal life.

Note that Jesus did not say that the ruler was wrong about asking how he could inherit eternal life: Jesus told him how--it was to give up the one thing that was holding him back: his riches. He needed to accomplish a good work: to use his wealth to help the poor.  In my opinion eternal life is defined in:

Romans 2:3-7 And reckonest thou this, O man, who judgest them that practise such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?  Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?  But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;  who will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life.

Note that well-doing is praising and having fellowship with God and other believers and accomplishing good works that glorify Him.  This leads to eternal life for Jesus' disciple: which is  glory, honor and incorruption.  This honor for the faithful will be given to them when Jesus returns to the earth at the end of the Tribulation. Read Eternal Life for details about eternal life.

Luke 18:24-27 And Jesus seeing him said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of God!  For it is easier for a camel to enter in through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.  And they that heard it said, Then who can be saved?  But He said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

What is the Kingdom of God?  Briefly, a Christian who obeys the holy scripture will be counted as a faithful disciple of Jesus and receive rewards in Heaven and during the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  Read The Kingdom of God for more details.  Can a rich Christian enter the Kingdom of God?  No, if the Christians only wants more and more riches and the delicacies and things that can be bought because of having riches.  Yes, if the Christian uses his riches to glorify God through ministry work.  This could giving to mission work, helping the poor, contributing tithes and offerings to their church, helping mankind such as contributing money towards homeless shelters and helping other Christians be more faithful.  The wealth that many Christians in western nations have is an extreme test that God has placed in our path in these end days of the Church Age. Will we use our wealth to glorify God or will we use it only for our own personal pleasure?

Luke 18:28-30 And Peter said, Lo, we have left our own, and followed thee.  And He said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is  no man that hath left house, or wife, or brethren, or parents, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this time, and in the world to come eternal life.

Note what Jesus said to Peter regarding Eternal Life: He said that those believers that give up everything to serve God will receive Eternal Life.  Hence, Eternal Life is not going to Heaven and living forever since there are some Christians that only have a little faith will go to Heaven and live forever anyway.  Eternal Life is earned by accomplishing good works as stated in the above verses and includes God praising us while we are in His presence in Heaven and in the Millennial Kingdom.

The Tribulation Church

Revelation 2:8-11 And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These things saith the first and the last, who was dead, and lived again:  I know thy tribulation, and thy poverty (but thou art rich), and the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, and they art not, but are a synagogue of Satan.  Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer: behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. (ASV 1901)

The Ten Days of Tribulation.  I don't know what the ten days of Tribulation meant to the First Century or 2nd, 3rd  and 4th centuries or the mid-east Christians of today, but I believe that the Ten Days speaks specifically to the Christian Church of the Tribulation.  I believe that there will be ten literal days during the Tribulation that Mystery Babylon will murder as many Christians as it can; many of the members of this church will become paupers and many will receive death by decapitation; this will the blood mentioned by these believers to Jesus in Revelation 6:9-11.  The left behind Christian Church members will receive persecution during the 3 1/2 years they are in the Tribulation and just before mid-Tribulation, Mystery Babylon will put to death all Christians that admit that they are disciples of Jesus Christ:

Daniel 7:25-27 And he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; and he shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time.  But the judgment shall be set, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.  And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High: His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.

The Antichrist will say things that insult God the Father such as using His name as a swear word, saying that the stories in the Holy Bible are fables and that there is hate material in it's verses and he will continue pushing the fable of the Big-Bang and Evolution as "the truth" and that Christians that believe in God as creator are just stupid people; they deserve to be eliminated by him.  The Antichrist will round up Christians and make use of the various abilities of these to accomplish work that will further enrich this ruler of the world.  They will be worked to exhaustion and Antichrist will then have no further use for them and then eliminate them.

These verses tell us the length of time the Antichrist will persecute Tribulation Christians will be 3 1/2 years.  They also promise that the Antichrist will be defeated and Jesus' saints will be rulers over the nations of the world and all people that are allowed to live in the Millennial Kingdom will serve Him.

Revelation 12:11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death.

They Tribulation Christians will have a testimony about faith in Jesus Christ.  They will tell the Gentiles during the Tribulation about believing in Jesus Christ as Savior and many of these will place their faith in Jesus.  The only reason that God can forgive us is because of the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross and forgiving the sins of all who place their faith in Him.  This forgiveness allows believers to overcome the world and the Antichrist because we have the Holy Spirit to strengthen us.  The Holy Spirit will give the faithful Christians the strength to endure any persecution and even death.  He will be holding the hands of those Christians that are about to be murdered by Antichrist.  They will not flinch when Antichrist takes their lives.

The faithful Tribulation Christians will know that many of them will be put to death.  However, they will also know that they will be greatly rewarded by Jesus.  Of course, they loved themselves, but they loved Jesus even more because they will be willing to lay down their lives for Him.  Their vision was not just for the day they live in but for eternity.

Martyred Smyrna Christians ask for Justice

Revelation 6:9-11 And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:  and they cried with a great voice, saying, How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And there was given them to each one a white robe; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little time, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, who should be killed even as they were, should have fulfilled their course.

Jesus will open the Fifth seal of the Seven-sealed Scroll just before mid-Tribulation.  All Christians that admit that they are disciples of Jesus Christ will be rounded up and put to death: most likely by decapitation.  Their blood will then be shed as mentioned in the above verses.  These are the Five and Two Talent Christians described in The Five, Two and One Talent Christians.
The One Talent Christians mentioned in this article will not admit to being Christians and will not face persecution or death.  The One Talent Christians are not members of the Church at Smyrna: they are unfaithful members of the Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea churches.  Jesus will deal with this unfaithful type of Christian at judgment time.  Those Christians that remain faithful even under severe testing will be praised by Jesus and receive rewards for their service to Him during the Tribulation.

At the time of Seal Five in the Tribulation the martyred Christians have not received their resurrection bodies so Jesus has placed their souls underneath the altar in Heaven.  They ask Jesus to avenge their persecution and death upon those that have murdered them.  Jesus tells them that when the Ten Days of Tribulation is complete and all those believers have given up their lives for Him, He will avenge their deaths. The fellow servants are the remaining faithful Christians that will shortly be murdered and the brethren are those Gentiles that Jesus saves during the first half of the Tribulation and also give up their lives for Him.  

These faithful Christians under the altar in Heaven will be resurrected at mid-Tribulation at the Main Harvest Rapture and receive their eternal bodies and they will then wear the white robes that Jesus gives them while their souls reside under the altar.  White robes are indicators that they have been very faithful and have many good works that glorify God.

The Main Harvest Rapture

Revelation 19:1-4 After these things I heard as it were a great voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, Hallelujah; Salvation, and glory, and power, belong to our God: for true and righteous are his judgments; for He hath judged the great harlot, her that corrupted the earth with her fornication, and He hath avenged the blood of His servants at her hand.  And a second time they say, Hallelujah. And her smoke goeth up for ever and ever.  And the four and twenty elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped God that sitteth on the throne, saying, Amen; Hallelujah.

The following verses describe the Main Harvest Rapture at Mid-Tribulation.  Those Christians that have died during the Tribulation will receive their resurrection bodies at mid-Tribulation.  Those few Christians that are still alive at that time will be taken to Heaven and then receive their resurrection bodies.  Both groups of believers will then be perfect in body, soul and spirit.  At that time Jesus' saints give Him glory for saving them and then avenging their suffering and deaths at the hand of Mystery Babylon and the Antichrist.  Here are verses that describe in detail the Main Harvest Rapture:

Revelation 7:9-17 After these things I saw, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could number, out of every nation and of all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, arrayed in white robes, and palms in their hands; and they cry with a great voice, saying, Salvation unto our God who sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels were standing round about the throne, and about the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,  saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.  And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, These that are arrayed in white robes, who are they, and whence came they?  And I say unto him, My lord, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they that come of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God; and they serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them.   They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun strike upon them, nor any heat:  for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.

This group of believers has been shown to be very faithful to Jesus Christ and they give Him great glory that He so deserves.  They fall on their faces and give Him thanks and blessing and worship Him.  They give Him the highest worship: blessing which lifts up His name, glory which are songs of praise of His marvelous deeds that He has accomplished, wisdom which is Him accomplishing His marvelous plan for the ages, thanksgiving which is their everlasting appreciation of Him taking them to Heaven to be in His presence forever, honor which will be their recognition that He is forever the Creator of the Universe, power and might is recognizing that His infinite power and infinite wisdom will last forever.

Washing their robes in the Blood of The Lamb means that their sins have been forgiven by Jesus' righteous work of dying and shedding His blood for us.  It also means that they continue in appreciation for Jesus' righteous work and live their lives as followers of His.  They confess their sins daily and this cleans their robes so that they are white.  Their robes are outward symbols of their righteousness.

Mystery Babylon is Destroyed

Revelation 16:5-7 And I heard the angel of the waters saying, Righteous art thou, who art and who wast, thou Holy One, because thou didst thus judge: for they poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets, and blood hast thou given them to drink: they are worthy.  And I heard the altar saying, Yea, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.

The Antichrist and his followers will be judged when Jesus returns to rule the world as the King of the World.  The followers of Antichrist will be judged and destroyed because they murdered Jesus' followers during the Tribulation.  Jesus will judge them and their punishment will be most severe.

Revelation 17:3-6 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness: and I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.  And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stone and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations, even the unclean things of her fornication, and upon her forehead a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.  And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I wondered with a great wonder.

These verses repeat that the followers of Jesus will be murdered by Antichrist and his followers.  Their blood has been shed: they are martyrs for Christ Jesus.  Mystery Babylon (MB) being drunk is the ever increasing delight in seeing the suffering that Tribulation saints will experience.  The culmination of this drunkenness will be the execution of most of Jesus' disciples.

Revelation 18:21 And a strong angel took up a stone as it were a great millstone and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with a mighty fall shall Babylon, the great city, be cast down, and shall be found no more at all.  And the voice of harpers and minstrels and flute players and trumpeters shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft, shall be found any more at all in thee; and the voice of a mill shall be heard no more at all in thee;  and the light of a lamp shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the princes of the earth; for with thy sorcery were all the nations deceived.  And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that have been slain upon the earth.

Mystery Babylon will not get away with the persecution and murder of most Christians and faithful Gentiles during the Tribulation.  The "city" mentioned in these verses is the capital city of Mystery Babylon and the city and the country of MB will be completely destroyed by Jesus at mid-Tribulation.  The indulgences that MB takes part of will be no more.  This rich country will hear no music, have no weddings and have no industry after Jesus destroys it.  MB is a great industrial country and the owners of it's companies make much money by selling their goods and services across the world. Shortly after MB murders many of Christ's Christians He will avenge their persecution and deaths.  Mystery Babylon will experience the wrath of God and be completely destroyed in Seal Six--Babylon is destroyed.