“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the One who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive”
Revelation 2:8 NLT
Having finished relaying Jesus’ message to the Ephesian church, the Apostle John now writes to the church located at another town, Smyrna, which was a port on the coast of what is now Western Turkey. It was a city, just across the sea from the Island of Patmos, where John was exiled. Today, the ruins are being researched – the ancient Smyrna is no more. Again, we don’t know what happened to the church there, but at the time John wrote his Revelation we can assume that it was a thriving fellowship of early Christians.
Again, John is addressing the “angel of the church”. Presumably a leader, or the leadership at the church. Perhaps even the very culture, or soul, of this fellowship of believers. And John once again emphasises that the message is coming from Jesus Himself, “the First and the Last”. Just to emphasise the credentials of our Lord, he finishes with “who was dead but is now alive”.
These last 7 words are earth-shattering in their portent. Not only did the Creator of the universe, our Father God, send His Son, Jesus, to this sad and sorry planet, but He did it to fulfil a plan that would involve His painful death on a Roman cross. A plan that would in some inexplicable way enable mankind at long last to approach their Heavenly Father without all the carry-on of animal sacrifices and priestly rituals. A plan that would enable mankind to receive forgiveness for their sins directly, and to receive the righteousness that God Himself had. No wonder that there was darkness in the land while Jesus was dying. No wonder the temple curtain was torn in two. And we read that when Jesus died, significant physical events, earthquakes, rocks splitting and tombs opening up, all took place. I’m sure the whole of Heaven was looking on, wondering and sad. And the devil was having a party, sincerely believing that he had engineered the destruction of God’s Son.
But the last word in this verse changed everything. On the third day after His death, the One who was dead, laid cold and still, in a tomb, suddenly came alive. In Matthew we read that there was another earthquake, and an angel appeared, rolling away the stone. The battle-hardened Roman guards shook with fear and fainted. And the angel uttered those words that have echoed and reverberated through the years and centuries ever since, “He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead” (Matthew 28:6). How can we ever imagine the impact that that had throughout the Heavens. The party is still going on in Heaven, because the One “who was dead … is now alive”. The devil defeated. And a way planned out for us pilgrims to join our elder brother Jesus when we cross the Great Divide. What else can we do, like John, than fall to our knees with grateful praise and worship.
Dear Lord. We are deeply grateful for all You have done. Words cannot express how we feel. One day we will have the opportunity to praise and worship You forever. Amen.