On the Revelation of Yahshua Christ, Part 4: The Churches at Ephesus and Smyrna

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On the Revelation of Yahshua Christ, Part 4: The Churches at Ephesus and Smyrna

In our last presentation we took a long digression in order to elucidate the mistakes which the early Christian writers had made where they attempted to explain the references which Yahshua Christ had made in Revelation chapter 2 to a certain group, or class, of men whom He had called Nicolaitans. The earliest of those writers, Ignatius of Antioch, had acknowledged the existence of a group called Nicolaitans, but without explanation he referred to them as being “falsely so-called” Nicolaitans, and if they did not deserve the label then even if an actual sect existed which called themselves by that name, it could not have been the same as those to whom Christ had referred here.

Later so-called Church Fathers attributed to the Nicolaitans certain sins for which Christ had explicitly condemned Balaam and a woman whom He called Jezebel in this chapter, but Christ Himself never attributed those sins to the Nicolaitans, so the attribution cannot stand. Several others went so far as to connect these Nicolaitans to the Nicolaus of Antioch mentioned in Acts chapter 6, which is basically a slander of that particular Nicolaus. The events of Acts chapter 6 date to as early as 34 AD, and certainly happened long before 41 AD where the death of Herod Agrippa I is recorded in Acts chapter 12. We may think that if a man who was described by Luke as having been one of the early saints and leaders of the church in Judaea had broken away and began some heretical sect supposedly known to all of those early Christian writers, that Luke, as well as Peter, James and Paul along with him, most of whom must have known Nicolaus personally, would have mentioned his heresy somewhere in their writings, as they all lived and wrote for at least another 28 years. James and Paul each died about 62 AD, in different places and under different circumstances, and that is when Luke ended the records of the Book of Acts. Therefore it is highly unlikely that the Nicolaus of Acts chapter 6 had founded any heresy worthy enough to be mentioned, and even hated, by Christ here in Revelation chapter 2. Yahshua Christ must have been referring to something else.

So in rejecting the false assumptions and unsupported conclusions of the so-called Church Fathers in reference to the Nicolaitans, and examining the history of the early Church from the writings of the apostles who authored our New Testament scriptures, in my opinion a much more accurate interpretation of the references to Nicolaitans mentioned here in Revelation chapter 2 may be attained. The word nicolaitan means prevailing over the people, and seeing the Judaizers with whom the apostles had struggled, who sought to rule over the people in the dispensation of rituals, later called sacraments, we can determine that a Nicolaitan is one of that particular class of priest, whether Judaic or Pagan, who sought to control the people by withholding mysteries and dispensing sacraments, or rituals.

Those are among the things which Christ had despised, and He indicated as much in Matthew chapter 23 where He is recorded as having said “14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte [which the Jews had then immediately baptized and circumcised], and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. 16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! 17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? 18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. 19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? 20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. 21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. 22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon. [So these hypocrites had a greater interest in what was sacrificed, of which they would gain control, than of the God to which it was sacrificed.] 23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. 25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter [in their ritual cleansings], but within they are full of extortion and excess [the way in which they had obtained their provisions, as the Roman Catholic Church has also done]. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous...” In Mark chapter 12 Christ spoke of them again and we read: “38 And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, 39 And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: 40 Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.” The priests and pastors of Christian history are no different, than the scribes and pharisees, having ruled over men with a pretence of majesty and authority, compelling them to submit to their rituals and sacraments while forcing them to give them money in exchange for their grace. Yet it is all vanity because all Christian men, and women, have been granted the gift of life freely through Christ and He alone is their sacrament.

As we had also asserted in our last presentation, Paul of Tarsus had warned of the Nicolaitans, although he did not call them by that name. For example, as he had written in Galatians chapter 2: “3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: 4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:” So through rituals such as circumcision these men would bring Christians into bondage, and we would assert that the same is true of all of the traditional Roman Catholic rituals, from baptism to matrimony to so-called last rites.

With ambiguous language, frequently the Roman Catholic Church suggests that a man needs its priests even to get into heaven. Here I will cite an article on Catholic Last Rites found at the Scripture Catholic website. There we read under the subtitle Who Can Perform the Last Rites?:

A Priest’s primary duty is to take care of the spiritual needs of their congregation. Just as birth and marriage are crucial parts of a Catholic’s life, so too is their inevitable death.

Attending to the spiritual needs of the dying is one of the most important duties of a Priest. Baptism, Confirmation, and Marriage are all Sacraments that an individual Catholic could choose for themselves. None of us can choose when its time for us to enter Heaven, only by God’s will can we be called, and a Priest must prepare for this.

We have many peripheral issues with this, which we shall not discuss here, and many of the Catholic positions on the so-called Last Rites ritual are far more complex. But while this does not state explicitly that one will not get into heaven without the last rites of a priest, it certainly does make that implication, while also implying that only a priest can dispense such a ritual. Many other position papers on so-called Last Rites do insist that the priest has some role in helping the individual get into heaven.

Now we would assert that if a man believes that his eternal destiny depends on the approval and actions of another man, then that other man, or the institution which he represents, will rule over him for his entire life. That is a Nicolaitan. In opposition to the concept, Christ had spoken of these same men once again, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 23: “2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”

The Pharisees and scribes were not upholding the laws of God. Rather, they were maintaining rule over the Judaeans with their own laws. They stand as a type for many of the operations of the later, Judaized churches which followed in that same pattern. In Matthew chapter 15 we read: “1 Then the Pharisees and scribes came forth from Jerusalem to Yahshua, saying: 2 “For what reason do Your students transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash the hands when they eat bread!” 3 And replying He said to them: “For what reason then do you transgress the commandment of Yahweh by your tradition? 4 For Yahweh said ‘Honor the father and the mother’, and ‘He speaking evil of father or mother must die by sentence of death’. 5 But you say ‘Whoever should say to father or mother: ‘Whatever you may benefit from me is a gift’, 6 shall by no means honor his father’, and you have made void the Word of Yahweh by your tradition.” There is a longer version of the account found in Mark chapter 7, as Mark added explanatory notes, which reads in part: “3 for the Pharisees and all the Judaeans if they do not wash the hands to the elbow they do not eat, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and from the marketplace if they do not rinse they do not eat, and there are many other things which they undertook to hold to, washings of cups and pitchers and pots...” But there is nothing in the law which requires any of these things, where washing was only required in certain instances in which men may have come into contact with something dead or diseased. Likewise, the Roman Catholic and other organized churches require masses and sacraments or rituals which Christ Himself had never required.

The seat of Moses was destroyed in 70 AD, and the last priesthood of men that had been ordained by the Word of God, which is the Levitical priesthood, came to its end in Christ, as Paul had thoroughly explained in his epistle to the Hebrews. We would assert that when they lost the seat of Moses, the scribes and Pharisees lost all pretense of their authority. Christians do not require rituals for salvation, as Paul also explained in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 that “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us”, and, referring in Ephesians chapter 2 to the works of the law in rituals, that our salvation is “9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” If Christ was our sacrifice, why do Christian churches even have an altar? While Christ told His disciples to break their bread in His memory, all he required of Christians is explained repeatedly in the Gospel of John: to keep His commandments and to love their neighbors, which Scripture defines as the children of their own people. A man does not need a priest to do that. There is no space in Christianity for Nicolaitans.

Even if one understands the offering of thanks in remembrance of Christ to be a mealtime requirement, as it is found in Luke chapter 22, the Roman Catholic Church has turned it into a ritual which only their priests may perform, and many of the Protestant churches have followed. But they all fail to feed the people taking part in their communion, as they have reduced the bread of the meal to a wafer which weighs only a quarter of a gram. Along with boxes of so-called “communion bread”, pre-filled “communion cups” are marketed by Amazon and other merchants for just over twenty cents apiece. They typically contain about 5 milliliters, or one-sixth of an ounce of grape juice. Additionally, the Roman Catholics eliminated meat from the meal entirely, and we see that their ritual communion never fed anyone. With such vain and empty rituals, Christians under the hands of Nicolaitans seek their righteousness, not being taught that regardless of what they do for themselves, they can only be righteous if Christ has deemed them righteous, according to His Word and not the word of some priest.

Now we shall commence with Revelation chapter 2, and the messages to the seven churches, or more properly, assemblies.

Some commentators, both denominational Protestant and Christian Identity, even Bertrand Comparet and Howard Rand, have set forth the proposition that these seven assemblies represent seven different stages in Christian ecclesiastical history. Yet the things which the seven assemblies were criticized for, as well as the things which they were praised for, have been with all Christians throughout all times. By the time when John received the Revelation on Patmos, there were hundreds of Christian assemblies across the Roman world, and it seems that these seven assemblies must have been distinguished for a particular reason, but it is evidently not of their own merit, as none of them stand out in early Christian history, and most of them are not even mentioned elsewhere in Scripture.

However we would assert that the reasons why they are distinguished here is found in the fact that the names of the places where these assemblies are located also have meanings which, in one way or another, relate to the contents of the messages which they had received. This is readily evident of Philadelphia and Smyrna, as we shall explain. However the names of the other assemblies also have meanings relating to their messages which are more subtle. Each of these messages are tailored for what are now long-lost Christian assemblies, yet it is also clear that they all contain admonitions which are fully applicable to Christians both today and throughout all time. So the seven churches do not represent different periods in church history. Rather, they represent different types of attitudes and sorts of behavior which have always been found among Christians, and they also inform us as to which attitudes and sorts of behavior shall be praised and rewarded, and which shall be condemned and punished.

The first message is for the assembly at Ephesus:

II “1 For the messenger of [A and C have “to”] the assembly in Ephesos, write: Thus says He commanding the seven stars in His right hand, He walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your works and your toil and [א and the MT insert “your”] patience, and [A wants “and”] that you are not able to bear evils, and have tried those calling [literally “declaring”] themselves ambassadors yet they are not, and you have found them liars, 3 and you have patience [א inserts “and all tribulation”] and have endured on account of My Name and have not grown weary. 4 But I hold against you that you have left your first love.

The name Ἔφεσος (Ephesus) seems to have been derived from the Greek noun ἔφεσις (ephesis). According to Liddell & Scott, the noun is formed from either one of two related verbs. The first is ἐφίημι, in which case it can mean a throwing or hurling, a shooting, or in another sense permission or license. As a legal term, it is an appeal to another court. The second is the verb ἐφίεμαι, aiming at something, in which case it can figuratively mean appetite or desire. Since ἔφεσις may mean appetite or desire, in that manner ἔφεσος may mean desirable. This last sense may be the one which is most applicable here, since the Ephesian assembly is criticized for having left its first love. In another aspect, since Christ is our judge, if the Ephesian Christians turned to another gospel or to any sort of idolatry then in essence the legal definition of ἔφεσις is also fitting here. Furthermore it may describe these Christians as aiming for an objective, and the message is describing what is required to reach that objective, as it now warns them that they have already failed, and are in danger of punishment:

5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen and repent and do these first works. But if not, I shall come to you [the MT inserts “quickly”] and I shall remove your lampstand from its place, if you should not repent.

Here it is evident that leaving their first love was not just an abandonment of some minor teaching or some peripheral belief, but rather, it was something significant which caused them to commit some sin from which they are being commanded to repent. Since it is explained in the Book of Acts in chapters 18 and 19 that it was Paul of Tarsus who founded the assembly at Ephesus, we have asserted that leaving their first love, the Ephesians must have left the form of Christianity in the gospel which had been taught to them by Paul, who had established the Christian assembly at Ephesus when he spent 3 years there from approximately 53 to 56 AD. So the Christianity which Paul brought to Ephesus must have been what Yahshua was chastising them for having left! Paul had even warned the elders of Ephesus, at Acts 20:29, which records events that transpired around 58 AD, that “I know that after my departure oppressive wolves shall come in to you, not being sparing of the sheep! 30 And from among you men shall arise speaking distortions for which to draw away the students after themselves.” This message to the assembly at Ephesus is therefore also a recognition of the legitimacy of Paul's ministry by Yahshua Christ Himself. Here we stand by that assertion, that Paul’s teaching was their first love and it is that teaching from which they must have departed.

Writing his epistle to the Ephesians around 61 AD, Paul did warn them not to return to their former licentiousness, in Ephesians chapter 4. However that by itself is not an indication of what Christ is warning them to repent of here. Paul also warned them about fornication and other sins, yet he was exhorting and edifying them, and not chastising them for any particular transgression. Therefore their departure must have come later, and there is a space of at least thirty-four years between Paul’s epistle and John’s writing of the Revelation. While John was in Ephesus for some of that time, he was also in exile on Patmos for some time. Now where this message continues, we see the first mention of the Nicolaitans:

6 This other thing you have: that you hate the works of the people-conquerors, which [A wants “which”] I also hate. 7 He having an ear must hear what the Spirit says to the [A and C insert “seven”] assemblies! To he who prevails I shall give to him [א wants “to him”] to eat from the tree of life which is in [the MT inserts “the midst of”] the paradise of Yahweh.

There was a famous festival held in Ephesos in honor of the idol Artemis from the earliest times, and the town may have grown up around that festival, since if the name does refer to throwing and hurling, or to appetite or desire, it seems that it must have been named after the games. This town was long famous for its large but roofless temple of Artemis, whom the Romans had called Diana. The silversmiths who profited greatly from the manufacture of idols in that name had greatly troubled Paul and his companions, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 19.

However why the Greeks had named city Ephesus is immaterial, as the meaning of the name itself is what we should consider in relation to the words of Christ in this message. This may also be reflected in the fact that their sin was not described, although they were commanded to repent. The Ephesians, like all Christians, should have been aiming for the prize of a reward in the Kingdom of God, but here they are warned that having sinned they were falling short of that prize. Then Yahshua commended them for having hated evil works, and for rejecting false apostles. Yet they were still criticized for having left their first love, and it is apparent that whatever the sin was for which they were commanded to repent, that alone must have been a clear indication of their having left their first love. They did not necessarily have to change their professed beliefs, they only had to accept some sin which was contrary to the teachings of the Gospel which they had been originally taught.

[We may make light of the situation and imagine that perhaps they had started making those little silver statues of Diana in the image of Mary instead, as that is precisely what the later Roman Catholic Church had done. But here in 96 AD it is certainly far too early for that development.]

So even though the Ephesians rejected false apostles and would not tolerate evil, they were chastised for somehow departing from the Gospel, although we are not told exactly what that departure entailed, and we cannot tell what it may have been from earlier Scripture such as the epistles of Paul. The Ephesians are then commended for hating “the works of the Nicolaitans”, or people-conquerors, who are evidently the Judaizers, and much later and in a similar manner the professional priesthood which would strive to rule over the people through the heresies of sacramentalism, seeking to control them for the purpose of filling their own lusts, their own bellies, and their own aspirations to authority. So in subsequent centuries, Judaizers persisted but their titles were changed to priest, as Christian priests as we know them were not described by any of the early so-called Church Fathers until the 4th century. Up to that time, the earlier writers had mentioned only pagan or Levitical priests.

The more ancient children of Israel, who were the ancestors of these very Ephesians, had left Yahweh their God, who was their collective Husband and their first love, when they went off into sin. So we read in Jeremiah chapter 31, which anticipates the promise of a New Covenant later in the chapter: “3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Early Christians, among whom are these Ephesians, having been the descendants of the Israelites and for that reason who were reconciled to Christ in the Gospel, would have been just as desirable to Him as their ancestors had been in Jeremiah’s time.

The Tree of Life mentioned here is Christ Himself and His race, which are the children of Adam, the Wheat which He planted in the Garden of Eden (i.e. Matthew 13:36 ff., Matthew 15:13). As Christ had told His apostles, “I am the true vine” and “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:1, 5). This phrase “tree of life” first appears in Genesis chapters 2 and 3, and especially at 3:22 which is properly interpreted as being the earliest Messianic Prophecy. There in Genesis the Tree of Life stands in opposition to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which can only represent those angels which sinned and had left their first estate (Jude 6). That shall be discussed here at length in Revelation chapter 12, where Christ Himself had revealed it to men. The Tree of Life appears again later in the Revelation in chapter 22, where we no longer see a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, because by then the devil and his angels, and all of the goat nations with them, are cast into the Lake of Fire (i.e. Matthew 25:41, Revelation 20:10). Where the Tree of Life is described in that final chapter of the Revelation, it grows within the City of God which has the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel on its gates, and it bears twelve types of fruit, which apparently also represent those same twelve tribes.

Before continuing, it may be proper to digress and discuss the Lydians of Anatolia, as many of these cities were orginally Lydian cities. This tribe may be connected with certainty to the Lud of Genesis chapter 10, who was a descendant of Shem, and the nation which sprung from him is also mentioned in Isaiah 66:19. By the Greek historians, the Lydians are said to have been the origin of the Etruscans of Italy, who started out as a Lydian colony. These cities have a long and often tumultuous history, but we shall attempt to describe them here briefly.

Ephesus was originally an Ionian city, founded before the 8th century BC when the Japhethite Ionians began to encroach upon the Phoenicians of southwest Anatolia, including the Carians and Leleges. Then it was apparently razed before the end of the 7th century BC, when the Kimmerians crossed Anatolia after the fall of Assyria and pillaged the Phrygian, Lydian and Greek cities of western Anatolia before crossing into Europe. Later, by about 550 BC, Croesus, the last Lydian king before the region was conquered by Persia, had taken Ephesus and incorporated it into his own smaller empire. After the Persians conquered Lydia, the city was subjected to them, and for a brief time later by Ionians once again, until it fell under the rule of the Macedonians. Eventually it came under the control of the Attalid kings of Pergamos, the last of which had bequeathed the city to Rome along with the rest of his kingdom in 133 BC. After 27 BC, when Octavian was emperor, he named Ephesus the capital city of Roman Asia, whereby it must have gained a significant Roman population. It was destroyed again by the Goths in 263 AD, which seems to have fulfilled the warnings of Christ in this message, that “I shall remove your lampstand from its place, if you should not repent.”

The old Lydian city of Smyrna was razed to the ground by the Lydians themselves when in the time of king Gyges, an ancestor of Croesus, they had conquered it from the Ionians who had come to occupy it some centuries earlier, when they colonized the western coast of Anatolia. Smyrna was rebuilt much later under Macedonian Greek rule in the time of Antigonus and Lysimachus. While Lydians evidently still dwelt there, so did Greeks, and the Lydians there and everywhere were by this time thoroughly Hellenized. The geographer Strabo of Cappadocia, writing before 25 AD, tells us that “there is not even a trace of the language of the Lydians in Lydia”, while explaining that some people still spoke it in Pisidia in his time. Strabo also wrote of the rebuilt Smyrna that “their city is now the most beautiful of all” (Strabo, Geography, 13.4.17, 14.1.37).

The next message is for the assembly at Smyrna.

8 And to the messenger of [A has “to”] the assembly in Smurna, write: Thus says the First [A has “Firstborn”, which is out of context] and the Last, He who was dead and lives, 9 I know your works and [A and C want “works and”; the text follows א and the MT] tribulation and poverty (but you are wealthy), and the blasphemy from those saying for themselves to be Judaeans and they are not, but are a congregation of the Adversary.

Here in Revelation 2:9 I have recently decided to include the phrase “works and” following the Codex Sinaiticus (א) and the Majority Text, rather than the Codices Alexandrinus and Ephraemi Syri which want the words. Furthermore, the word congregation is from the Greek word συναγωγή (Strong’s # 4864). According to Liddell & Scott, a συναγωγή is, in part, “a bringing together, uniting... a place of assembly, synagogue... a gathering in of... a drawing together, contracting...” It is usually merely transliterated as synagogue in most Bible versions. Here it is translated as congregation, since the word is used in a deeper sense than the description of a mere building yet I sought to distinguish it from the word ἐκκλησία which I usually translate as assembly. In our translations of the Gospels and Book of Acts, I generally translated συναγωγή as assembly hall, since in a total of forty verses the word has no negative connotation, so for that reason I also sought to distinguish it as congregation here.

Within the phrase congregation of the Adversary, συναγωγὴ τοῦ σατανᾶ, and where it appears in chapter 3 verse 9 as τῆς συναγωγῆς τοῦ σατανα, the use of the definite articles means to describe something more definite than some casual or random opponent of Christ. The phrases designate a particular opponent, a definite and known adversary or enemy, for which reason we have capitalized the word Adversary here. While the original use of the Greek definite articles by early writers were as demonstrative pronouns, as Liddell & Scott explain at length, it was more common in Koine Greek that they were used as definite articles. So Liddell & Scott define this use, in part, from their Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, to mean: “... The use of as the Article sprung from its use as [a] demonstrative Pronoun... the true Article is first fully established in attic [Attic Greek]: it is omitted with proper names and with appellatives which require no specification... but it is added to Proper Names, when there has been previous mention of the person...” So using the definite article here, the words refer to a specific Satan. Here we would assert that one must refer to the Gospel in order to find the previous mentions, and especially the Gospel of John where Christ identifies both the nature and the common origin of His adversaries, Yahweh God not being their Father.

Evidently the Christians at Smyrna were in poverty, and Christ had said “I know”, so their poverty in this world was real. Therefore where He had further said “but you are wealthy”, He is speaking of their true reward in the Kingdom of God. The assembly at Smurna is poor, but Christ informs them that they are wealthy. This means that while they have no earthly riches, they have stored up riches in heaven through their behavior here in this world, the “treasure in heaven” to which He had referred in the Gospel. Surely this was accomplished through keeping those last instructions of Yahshua, the admonitions that Christians keep His commandments and love one another which are found in John chapters 13 and 15 and which are exemplified in parables elsewhere. Many Christians may not realize it, but most of the entire second half of John’s Gospel, from chapters 13 through 19, are a description of the events of the evening immediately preceding the arrest, and the day of the resulting trials and crucifixion of Christ. All of the things which He had spoken to His disciples as they are recorded in those chapters, were spoken during and after His last Passover meal with them. Therefore we consider everything which Christ said in those chapters to be among his “last instructions”. Before commenting further we shall read the remainder of the message to the assembly at Smyrna:

10 Do not fear the things [א and the MT have “Fear not one of the things”; the text follows A and C] which you are going to suffer. Behold, the False Accuser is [the MT inserts “surely”] going to cast some from among you into prison, that you may be tried, and you shall have [A has “would have”; C “have”] tribulation for ten days. You must be faithful until death, and I shall give to you the prize of life. 11 He having an ear must hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies! He who prevails shall not be harmed by the second death.

The name Smyrna is from the Greek word σμύρνα which is ointment, and particularly myrrh, a precious ointment which was used for anointing even in the Gospel accounts. The older Aeolic Greek form of the word was μύρρα, which corresponds more precisely to the Hebrew original and it is evident that the initial letter ‘s’ must have been added later, which the Greeks had also done with certain other words.

Yahshua Christ is God, and as Messiah, from a word which also means anointed in Hebrew, He is the Anointed One, and the word χριστός means anointed in Greek. However the children of Israel themselves were also anointed by Yahweh God, albeit for another purpose. So we read in the 28th Psalm: “8 The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed. 9 Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever.” Then in the 105th Psalm, addressing the children of Israel as “6 O ye seed of Abraham his servant, ye children of Jacob his chosen”, we read a little further on: “12 When they were but a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers in it [the aliens in the land of Canaan]. 13 When they went from one nation to another [from Canaan to Egypt and back], from one kingdom to another people; 14 He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; 15 Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” Finally, from the Old Testament, we have an issue with the translation of Habakkuk 3:13 in the King James Version, so we shall read it from the New American Standard Bible, which agrees with the Greek Septuagint: “13 Thou didst go forth for the salvation of Thy people, For the salvation of Thine anointed. Thou didst strike the head of the house of the evil To lay him open from thigh to neck.”

Those are a few examples, but children of Israel, collectively speaking, are referred to as the anointed in many other passages, and in the New Testament as well. So here we shall cite as a witness the words of Paul in Hebrews chapter 11: “24 By faith Moses, becoming full-grown, refused to be called a son of the daughter of Pharaoh, 25 rather preferring to be mistreated with the people of Yahweh than to have the temporary rewards of error, 26 having esteemed the reproach of the Anointed greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, since he had regard for the reward.” Surely it was not Yahshua Christ Himself who had suffered reproach as a slave in Egypt, but rather it was the anointed people: the children of Israel, whose reproach Moses had chosen to share in, although he could have had an easier life in the house of Pharaoh instead.

Furthermore, the verb χρίω means to anoint and it frequently appears in the New Testament in reference to Christ. But this verb is used in the same manner of Christians in 2 Corinthians chapter 1 where Paul wrote “21 Now He who is establishing us with you in the Anointed, and anoints us, is Yahweh: 22 who is also confirming us, and is providing the deposits of the Spirit in our hearts.” Indeed the Corinthians were also descendants of ancient Israelites from whence came the Dorian Greeks, who settled in the Peloponnese over a thousand years before the birth of Christ. Paul himself explains that fact to them in 1 Corinthians chapter 10. Earlier, in 1 Corinthians chapter 1, Paul had chastised the assembly for choosing favorites among the apostles, including Christ Himself, and wrote: “12 Now I say this: that each of you say, ‘so I am of Paul’, ‘but I am of Apollos’, ‘but I am of Kephas’, ‘and I of Christ’. 13 Have the Anointed been divided? Has Paul been crucified on your behalf? Or have you been immersed in the name of Paul? ” Paul was not asking whether Christ was divided, as the King James Version translated the word χριστός in that passage. Rather, he was asking if the anointed, the body of Christians, were divided whereby they could all claim to follow either Christ or a different apostle. So the admonishment is for unity among Christians, rather than favoritism.

Likewise, a related noun, χρῖσμα (chrisma, 5545), was used by John in reference to Christians. The King James Version translated this word as unction in 1 John chapter 2, and as anointing twice in that same chapter. So we read from verse 20, where he is speaking directly to his intended readers: “20 Yet you have an anointing from the Holy One and you all know.” Then further on, in verse 27: “27 And the anointing which you have received from Him, it abides in you and you have no need that one should teach you, but as His anointing teaches us concerning all things and is true and is not a lie, then just as He has taught you, you abide in Him.”

We have a fuller explanation of this phenomenon in a paper at Christogenea titled Yahweh's Anointed, the Children of Israel. Since Christ came only for “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, and since His new covenant was exclusively promised to those same people, only they are His anointed in both Old Testament and New. Paul of Tarsus cited Jeremiah chapter 31 where he repeated that promise in Hebrews chapter 8 and wrote “8 Censuring them He says: ‘Behold, days are coming, says Yahweh, and I will consummate for the house of Israel and for the house of Judah a new covenant.’”

So in His message here, this assembly at Smyrna was not criticized by Yahshua Christ. And in fact, only two of these seven assemblies were not criticized at all, those of Smyrna and Philadelphia. Since Smyrna describes the ointment used for anointing, and only the people of Israel, along with Christ Himself, had been explicitly anointed by Yahweh God, and since Philadelphia means brotherly love, it is fully apparent that those Christians who recognize the scope of the covenants and then put to practice that recognition by loving their fellow Israelite brethren, will not be criticized or condemned by Yahshua Christ at the time of the judgement! He that overcomes is he that remains faithful to Christ unto death, in spite of any trials or tribulations which he may face.

Where Christ was challenged by a lawyer to name the greatest commandment in the law, in Matthew chapter 22, where His answer is recorded we read: “37 And He said to him: ‘Love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 The second is thusly: You shall love him near to you as yourself. 40 By these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’” But to love God one must keep His commandments, as Christ had said in John chapter 14: “15 If ye love me, keep my commandments”, and He made the same admonishment in different ways on several other occasions.

Then in John chapter 13 we read: “33 Children, shortly still I am with you. You shall seek Me, and just as I said to the Judaeans, that where I go you are not able to come, to you also I speak now. 34 I give to you a new commandment: that you should love one another; just as I have loved you that you also should love one another. 35 By this they shall all know that you are My students, if you would have love for one another.” Then in the first epistle of John, in chapter 2 we read: “27 And the anointing which you have received from Him, it abides in you and you have no need that one should teach you, but as His anointing teaches us concerning all things and is true and is not a lie, then just as He has taught you, you abide in Him.”

So to remain faithful is to continue to keep the commandments of Christ and to love ones brethren. Remaining as Christians, properly the Israelites who were anointed by God, they would not face the second death, which is described as the Lake of Fire in the later chapters of the Revelation. However man cannot be an overcomer by his own power. Man can only prevail over his enemies or the elements of the world by the grace of God, which he may attain if he is willing to surrender to the will and the commandments of God as Christ insists in the Gospel.

Aside from being the only assemblies which Yahshua Christ did not criticize, it also happens, that the assemblies at Smyrna and Philadelphia are also the only two assemblies to which Yahshua mentions the congregation of the Adversary, the synagogue of Satan, who are also explicitly described as claiming to be Judah, or Judaeans, and they are not. These must be the tribes of those who were descended from the Kenites, Canaanites and Edomites who had infiltrated Judaea in the centuries before the time of Christ, and who had been either forcibly converted to Judaism by the Hasmonean priests of the late 2nd century BC, or who had ultimately adopted Judaism on their own, and who became circumcised. These are the people whom Christ had professed were not His sheep, those whom He had never known, and they were left to become known as Jews in the Christian era. These people have actually and literally descended from the tribes of the enemies of Yahweh our God, as they were described throughout the Old Testament. The prophet Ezekiel explains how the Edomites came to occupy the lands of Israel and Judah after the Assyrian and Babylonian deportations in chapters 35 and 36 of his prophecy. Paul also explains this, in part, in Romans chapter 9, where he contrasts Jacob and Esau for several chapters of that epistle, explaining that both parties were in the Judaea of his time. But Yahshua Christ Himself had also explained it throughout His gospel, for example in Luke chapter 11 and in John chapters 8 and 10. He shall explain it again in another manner in Revelation chapter 12.

The Judaean historian, Flavius Josephus, had explained the events by which this mass conversion of Edomites and others to Judaism had happened from a purely historical perspective in Book 13 of his Antiquities of the Judaeans. There he recounted how the Hasmoneans, the family of high priests at Jerusalem, had achieved independence from their Greek rulers and then, beginning with the high priest John Hyrcanus, they began forcibly converting Edomites and other inhabitants of the land to Judaism, whereafter they became circumcised and, as Josephus stated, “were hereafter considered to be Jews” (13:258). Saying that he was speaking specifically of the Edomites of Dora and Marissa, which were two significant ancient cities in Israel. But perhaps about thirty years later, in the time of the high priest Alexander Janneus, Josephus described the similar conversion of several dozen large towns and other areas of ancient Judah and Israel. By this time it is evident that the Pharisees had actively sought the conversion of people of other races to Judaism, for which Christ had chastized them, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 23 where He said “15... for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” Then by Roman times, Judaea was made a kingdom subject to Rome and the Edomite Herod was appointed its king. Herod then killed off the last of the Hasmoneans and the noble class at Jerusalem, and installed many of his own countrymen into all of the positions of power and authority. For that same reason, Christ had said to His adversaries, as it is recorded in John chapter 10, “26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.” In John chapter 8, He denied that Yahweh God was even their father, and explained to them that their true father was the devil, and that they were the descendants of Cain. A fuller treatment of the evidence is found at Christogenea in an essay titled A Concise Explanation of the Creation of the Jewish People. This is the substance of the “synagogue of Satan”, who claim to be Judah, and are not.

Upon understanding the true nature of the congregation of the Adversary, or synagogue of Satan, which is the community of the Jews that continues to exist in the world today, it may become evident why this synagogue of Satan is only mentioned in reference to these two assemblies. Evidently, the enemies of Christ would persecute these two assemblies above all others, because they would observe the racial aspects of the Covenants of God, which are the anointing and the admonition to brotherly love. That is also why these two assemblies are without criticism from Christ. That is also why this assembly at Smyrna was told here that it would be persecuted by the False Accuser. Christians overcome the devil by keeping the commandments of Christ, which include the admonition to brotherly love, and therefore the observation of the anointing is required in order to keep the commandments. Paul of Tarsus taught against fornication, used examples of fornication which define it as race-mixing, which we shall discuss in relation to the message to the assembly at Thyatira, and here Christ forewarned of the consequences of keeping such commandments, that the Jews would hate and attack Christians for that alone. They continue to do that to this very day.

It may be protested, that here it is the False Accuser, or Devil, but not the synagogue of Satan, who would persecute this assembly. However the two terms describe one and the same entity. The term False Accuser is from a literal translation of the Greek word διάβολος which is usually translated as devil. As it is recorded in John chapter 8, Christ had told His adversaries that they were of “their father the devil”, whom He also called “a murderer from the beginning”, revealing that they had descended from Cain as only Cain was a murderer from the beginning. Christ had made that same revelation elsewhere in the gospel in other ways. The descendants of Cain, the Kenites, can indeed be found in Scripture with the ancient Rephaim, or giants, and the Canaanites, whom had all mingled themselves together. Esau, having taken wives of the Canaanites and having gone to live among the Horites [the Canaanite Hivites of Genesis chapter 10], the Edomites were also mixed with these, and primarily they are the Jews of today.

Where we read “the False Accuser is going to cast some from among you into prison”, the word for “is going to” is the Greek verb μέλλω (Strong’s # 3195). The same verb appears here as “you are going to” in the phrase “which you are going to suffer”, earlier in this same verse. The King James Version rendered it merely as shall and thou shalt. The word describes something which is about to happen, even something which is on the verge of happening. But it also describes something which someone intends, has in mind or is thinking of doing. So while sometimes it has an immediate sense, that is not always how the word is used. It appears thirteen times in the Revelation, two of them here in verse 10.

In chapter 2 of the first epistle of John there are warnings that those who deny that Yahshua is the Christ, that they, collectively, are the antichrist, and that many of them had already been born into the world. But there John had also said that “19 They came out from us but they were not from of us”, thereby indicating once again that while they had been in Judaea, they were not actually of Judah. Then later, in the second epistle of John, we read: “9 Each who going forth and not abiding in the teaching of Christ has not Yahweh. He abiding in the teaching, he also has the Father and the Son. 10 If one comes to you and does not bear this teaching, do not receive him into the house and do not speak to welcome him! 11 For he speaking to welcome him takes a share in his evil works.” Christians are frequently admonished to love one another, and warned to reject those antichrist Jews of the synagogue of Satan, who hate both Christ and Yahweh the Father. Rejecting the Jews, early Christians such as those of the assemblies at Smyrna and Philadelphia would suffer persecution from those same devils, but if they remain faithful even until death then for that Christ would reward them with the prize of life.

In Revelation chapter 12, a rebellion in heaven is described whereby Satan, who is “that old serpent” of the Genesis account, is expelled from heaven along with the angels who had joined him. These are the ancestors, in part, of the Kenites, Canaanites, and the Edomite Jews. They are the Nephilim, or fallen ones of Genesis 6 and later scriptures, although the word is usually translated only as giants. There in Revelation chapter 12 we read: “ 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” So we see that the Devil and Satan are the same entity, and collectively, the terms describe all of the fallen angels, and all of their descendants. It was not angels from heaven, but fallen angels, who had corrupted the Adamic race in the events which led up to the flood of Noah, and later they are found engaging in that same corruption throughout the historical portions of the Old Testament. They persecute all who seek to keep the commandments of God, and remain undefiled, just as the Jews do throughout the White nations of Christendom today.

A note on the ten days: The ten days of verse 10 are often interpreted as pointing to the ten persecutions of Christians under the empire. These are commonly said to have occurred with the following emperors and years: Nero (64 A.D.), Domitian (c.90-96), Trajan (98-117), Hadrian (117-138), Marcus Aurelius (161-181), Septimus Severus (202-211), Maximus the Thracian (235-251), Decius (249-251), Valerian (257-260), Diocletian (303-305). But there were also persecutions under Galerius (305-311), and it is clear from the record in the Book of Acts and from Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians that there were also earlier persecutions of Christians under Claudius, for which cause Paul advised against marriage in chapter 7 of that epistle: “26 Really then I suppose that to be such [to be unmarried] is good, because of the present violence, that it is well for a man to be so.” Yet without the persecutions of the time of Nero and Claudius, which were already in the past, but counting that of the time of Galerius, from the time when the Revelation was written there would be ten periods of persecution since John had received it while he was in exile in the time of Domitian, who did not become emperor until 81 AD, after the time of Claudius and Nero. So there are ten recognized periods of persecution future to John's writing, or in the case of that of Domitian, having been ongoing at the time he received the vision, and that may be a valid interpretation of the “ten days” of which Christ had spoken here. Even if Smyrna was destroyed by the Goths in 263 AD, members of the assembly which was there nevertheless may have suffered the persecutions of Christians as they continued. Now we shall briefly examine who was responsible for those persecutions.

The early Christian writer and bishop of Carthage, Tertullian, who experienced several periods of the persecution of Christians in his lifetime, had written in chapter 21 of his Apology, speaking of Christ, that “His disciples, also, were scattered throughout the world, in obedience to the precept of God their teacher; they suffered much from Jewish persecution -- but gladly enough because of their faith in the truth” (21:25). A near contemporary, Marcus Minucius Felix, who died about 250 AD, was also a Christian apologist. In his Octavius, chapter 28, he described the false accusations which Jews had made to the Romans, claiming that Christians had “worshipped monsters, devoured infants, and joined in incestuous feasts”, then he said of Christians that “we did not understand that the demons were for ever setting fables afloat without either investigation or proof” (28:2). Perhaps this why Tacitus, writing much earlier in Book 14 of his Annals of Rome, had referred to the “notoriously depraved Christians” in relation to the time of Nero. In reference to the events of 64 AD, Tacitus could only have gotten his information about Christians from Jews in Rome, who were quite numerous. The Jews certainly were devils, or false accusers, just as much then as they are today, where in their modern media they accuse entire nations of a holocaust which had never happened, while they purposely ignore the holocausts of Christians which they themselves have perpetrated. Like the experience of Minucius Felix, where he wrote “we did not understand ... the demons”, neither do today’s Christians understand the extent of continuing Jewish treachery.

Further on in that same chapter Felix wrote “Whereas, if the decision rested with reason, and not the instigation of a demon, they should rather be pressed not to disavow their Christianity, but to confess to incest and fornication, to unholy rites, and to child-sacrifice. For these are the kind of tales with which these demons [the Jews] have stuffed the ears of the ignorant [the Romans] to excite horror and desecration against us” (28:5). Later, in chapter 31 of his book, he wrote: “The tall story of incestuous banqueting is a lying concoction of demons leagued against us [the synagogue of Satan], to throw the mud of infamous aspersions upon our boasted purity, that before looking into the truth popular opinion might be turned against us by shocking and horrible imputations” (31.1). [Just as they had continually accused National Socialist Germany for many years before finally persuading the so-called Allies to force Germany into war.] Tertullian also expounded at length on many of these same false accusations by the Jews in his Apology, for example in chapter 9. In this manner did Jews continually convince the Romans to persecute early Christians throughout those first three centuries of the Gospel Age, just as Jews of Thessalonica had enlisted “certain wicked men from the markets” to assault Paul of Tarsus, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 17.

But where Christ had told the assembly at Smyrna to “not fear the things which you are going to suffer.... You must be faithful until death, and I shall give to you the prize of life”, we see a reflection of another warning which He made in the Gospel where He said, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 10: “26 Therefore you should not fear them. For nothing is hidden which shall not be revealed and secret which shall not be made known. 27 That which I say to you in the darkness you speak in the light, and that which you hear in the ear proclaim upon the houses! 28 And do not fear from those killing the body, but are not able to kill the soul. But rather fear He who is able also to slay soul and body in Gehenna!” Where He used the term ψυχή or soul, which we interpret to refer to the life as opposed to the πνεῦμα or spirit, He indicated that the true life lies beyond this earthly existence. Christ is not warning that He would destroy the spirit. The word for life in the phrase “prize of life” in the promise here is from another Greek word, ζωή, which more literally means life. The word which we have translated as prize, στέφανος, is literally a crown but also used to describe the prize of victory in the games or in other senses. Where He said Gehenna, He did not refer to Hades but to the fiery trials of this world. For the Christian, the true crown of life is in a place where Christ had told the congreation of the Adversary that “Whither I go, ye cannot come”, in John chapter 8. The true life of the Christian is beyond the reach of any Jew, and therefore the Christian should never have fear of Jews.

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