Revelation 2:8-11
The Church at Smyrna
(Rev 2:8 KJV)
And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

Now John begins the letter to the second church at Smyrna. John again uses the eternal moniker of Christ that he is the first and last, and that He was the same one who came to earth and died and was resurrected never to die again but to reign eternally in heaven. The church at Smyrna was a persecuted church. The city of Smyrna was a city which was tied closely with Rome. It is not known exactly when the church at Smyrna was founded but it may have been when Paul was in Ephesus on his third missionary journey.

(Rev 2:9 KJV)
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Here the Lord is assuring these Christians that He is fully aware of their situation. He knows the works which they have been doing in His name and along with those works comes the tribulation associated with holding up the name of Christ in a pagan society. These Christians were undergoing some grave persecution and that is why so many of them were in poverty because they were probably being fired from their jobs and had lost their means of support. The word “poverty” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “being destitute.” However, the Lord sees them as being rich.
(Prov 13:7 KJV) There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches. The Proverbs verse teaches that there are some who are rich, yet they are the ones in true poverty because worldly possessions are not something to build a life on because they can change in a moment. Then there are those who are poor in this life, yet they are rich, rich in the things of the Lord as the church at Smyrna was.

The Lord was also well aware of those who were blaspheming in the church claiming to be Jews but were really of Satan’s people. These people were not claiming to be the physical Jews but were claiming to be Christians. Now they may have been Jews who were making believe they were saved and joined the church. The Bible gives us a definition of what a true Jew is:

(Rom 2:28-29 KJV) For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: {29} But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

The true Jew is the one who is saved and not one who just joins a synagogue or one that is born of the lineage of the physical Jews. God is speaking of the redeemed as the Israel of God, His true redeemed nation. In Smyrna there was an alliance between the Romans and the Jews to persecute the Christians. In fact, Polycarp was martyred in Smyrna by a consortium of both Jews and Romans. There was major hatred in Smyrna for the Christians by both Jews and Romans. The Jews did not have much trouble in accepting the deity of the Emperor of Rome along side the worship of the true God. Their history will attest to how easily they accepted idolatry and here would be no difference because an alliance with Rome would divert any persecution away from them. They also considered the Christians to be committing blasphemy by worshipping Christ, whom they considered to be just a dead criminal.

(Rev 2:10 KJV)
Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall 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 a crown of life.

Christ assures them that they should not fear those thing which they would suffer as there were probably many who feared these persecutions. Maybe some had thought that God was allowing this to happen because He was angry with them but the Lord comforts them by saying not to fear. He tells them that Satan is definitely behind the persecutions and this will be seen in subsequent chapters of Revelation as he is the archenemy of Christ and Christians. In Rome, when someone was placed in prison, it was a place of detention which was the prelude to some kind of sentence being handed out. Here we see that the Lord is allowing the testing of these Christians and He is telling them to be faithful unto death. The crown of life which those martyred believers will receive is the crown of the king. (
Rev 1:6 KJV) And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. We are told that the believers are kings and kings wear crowns but this is not speaking of a physical crown, it is a crown of life that each believer receives which is eternal life. (Mat 10:22 KJV) And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. One of the key traits of the true Christian is that they will remain faithful unto the end of their life. The false Christian will run away from the Lord sometime during their life and that will give evidence that they were never saved. (John 10:13 KJV) The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

Then in this verse we are told that the Christians at Smyrna will suffer persecution for the purpose of trying their faith.
(James 1:12 KJV) Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. James also speaks of the crown of life being given to those Christians who endure trials in their life. One thing that sticks out in this verse is the time frame of the trials. We are told that they will last ten days. The number ten is basically representative of the fullness of what is in view when the number is being used in that context. Here these Christians were facing persecution for ten days. It could have been a literal ten days denoting that the persecution would be of short duration.

(Dan 1:11-15 KJV) Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, {12} Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. {13} Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. {14} So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. {15} And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat.

Daniel had asked the King’s servant to give them vegetables to eat instead of the King’s diet. Well in the above account we read that that the four men were given vegetables for ten days and the time of testing had ended and Daniel and his friends had looked better than those who ate the King’s menu. Here then the number ten is both literal and figurative because it encompassed the full time of the testing. It may be the same with the testing of the Christians in Smyrna. However, I would lean more toward the figurative since not every Christian who would face persecution would be thrown into prison and tried at the same time. I am sure this persecution had taken time because they had to find out the names of all the Christians and then take time to round them up. The ten days probably represented a short duration of persecution and the fullness of the time of persecution as it was in Daniel’s case.

(Rev 2:11 KJV)
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

Those who have the spiritual ears are those ears that are attuned to spiritual things by reason of salvation will be able to hear and understand what the Spirit is saying unto the churches. Keep in mind that these letters apply to all the churches, not just the one in Smyrna. The word “hear” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “hearing with understanding.” This is something that the unbeliever is unable to do. Those that overcome, and the word is in the present tense, will not be hurt or affected by the second death. The word “overcome” carries with it the meaning of “prevail or be victorious.” We saw that the Lord said those who endure to the end shall be saved. The only ones who can endure and overcome persecution are those who are truly saved. The second death has no effect on the true believer because Christ has saved them from the second death which is Hell. Until the Lord returns, believers will only be subject unto the first death, which is physical.