Revelation 2:9 Index
"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."
Research Material

"I know thy..." (Revelation 2:2)

works..."

  • CONDITION: The condition of the church locally and in the church age. "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." (KC 38)
  • Works is how we live day by day. It should be the natural fruit of living a Christian life. Works should be such a part of our lives that we're not conscious of the good we do. "Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." (KC 40-41)
  • But good works have always produced tribulation. Jesus said, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you." Tribulation is necessary for Christian growth. It develops sympathy, patience, longsuffering, and trust -- all of which make us more like our Lord in Character. "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death" (Philippians 3:10).... Perhaps the greatest affliction in life is to never have been afflicted, making one unable to understand the suffering of others and to feel some of their pain. "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;  knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (James 1:2-4).... Poverty was the fate of the church members in Smyrna. Great persecution had stripped them of everything except the bare necessities of life. The fact that the world hated Christ meant that His followers would suffer the same treatment. Jesus had even told them to plan on it. "And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:38).... However, there is a little secret in this question of poverty. The world does not understand that through poverty you become rich. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" (II Corinthians 8:9). No, not rich in the things of this world. "There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches" (Proverbs 13:7).... Paul spoke of these riches in Ephesians 3:8: "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." Here are riches no one can ever take away from you. Rich in grace, rich in faith and patience, rich in meekness and humility, rich in courage and Christian fortitude. (KC 41)

"...and tribulation..."

  • Or, "distress, " "trouble," "affliction." Intermittent persecution at the hands of various Roman emperors characterized the experience of the church during this period. Under Trajan (98-117 A.D.), Hadrian (117-138 A.D.), and Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.), persecution was sporadic and localized. The first general, systematic persecution of Christians was conducted by Decius (249-251 A.D.) and Valerian (253-259 A.D.). Political oppression reached a bloody climax under Diocletian (284-305 A.D.) and his immediate successors (305-313 A.D.). Historically, the period represented by the Smyrna church may well be called the Age of Martyrdom. The centuries since have been fragrant (Revelation 2:8) with the love and devotion of the thousands of unnamed martyrs of this period who were "faithful unto death" (Revelation 2:10). (7BC 746)

"...and poverty..."

  • Better, "abject poverty" (Mark 12:42).Doubtless the church at Smyrna was not so large or so prosperous as the neighboring congregation at Ephesus. The Christians at Ephesus had left their "first love" (Revelation 2:4), but no such rebuke is sent to those at Smyrna. Instead, Christ reminds them that spiritually they are "rich" (James 2:5). (7 BC 746)

"...and I know the blasphemy..."

  • Or, "evil speaking," whether of God or man. In the present context the translation "slander" may be preferable. (7BC 746)

"...of them which say they are Jews..."

  • Probably "Jews" in a figurative, not a literal, sense (in the sense that Christians now are sometimes described as Israel : Romans 2:28, 29; 9:6, 7; Galatians 3:28, 29; I Peter 2:9). As here used, the term no refers to those who claimed to serve God, but actually served Satan. The figure has its basis in history. The book of Acts reveals that many of the troubles of the early church grew out of slanderous accusations hurled at them by Jews (Acts 13:45; 14:2, 19; 17:5, 13; 18:5, 6, 12; 21:27). Apparently this situation was true at Smyrna. In the 2nd century Jews are said to have brought about the martyrdom of Polycarp, a bishop of Smyrna. During this time Tertullian speaks of the synagogues as "fountains of persecution" (Scorpiace 10; ANF, vol. 3, p. 643). (7BC 746)

"...and are not..."

  • They were hypocrites. (7BC 746)

"...but are the synagogue of Satan."

  • Compare the opprobrious epithet, "generation [brood] of vipers" (Matthew 3:7). As a center of Jewish communal life the synagogue was doubtless the place where many evil plot was formed against Christians. The name Satan means "accuser," or "adversary" (Zechariah 3:1; Revelation 12:10). These Jewish centers became, literally, "synagogues of the accuser." (7BC 746)