Church of Smyrna: “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”

June 8, 2016

Decoding the terms and symbols in Revelation is key to understanding the problems of the seven churches. In Smyrna, the reward for overcoming is that he “shall not be hurt of the second death,” which is a term found only in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. (Rev. 2:11)  Mrs. Eddy references “second death” several times in her writings, including this explanation next to the marginal heading “second death”:

Death will occur on the next plane of existence as on this, until the spiritual understanding of Life is reached. Then, and not until then, will it be demonstrated that “the second death hath no power.” (SH 77:9)

In the Bible readings, there is an interesting contrast between the “fountain of the water of life” (Rev. 21:6) and the “lake of fire and brimstone which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). This reminds me of the familiar story comparing the Sea of Galilee, which receives and gives water, and the Dead Sea, which receives water but has no outlet. Or as Paul quoted Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Another symbol with the Church of Smyrna is “Gog and Magog.” (Rev. 20:8)  Edyth Armstrong Hoyt provides this explanation:

Gog and Magog first appear in connection with the wilderness wanderings of the Children of Israel. There the prince Gog of Magog appears with an army surrounding the camp of the Israelites. But they are driven back. Ezekiel makes use of this symbolism in his 38th chapter. In the Revelation vision before us, Gog and Magog appear as the perversions of the Truth (Ezekiel’s application). Like an army they surround the camp of the saints. The last attempt of the resistant beliefs is to seem to rally numberless perversions of the Truth, “as the sand of the sea,” to attack the children of spiritual victory. But “fire came down from God, out of heaven,” symbolizing the spiritual purification of thought which completely destroys all suggestions and attacks of the perversions of Truth, as Gog and Magog were destroyed when the children of Israel were aroused to resist the aggressor suggestions. Studies in the Apocalypse of John of Patmos, p. 89

The “synagogue of Satan” refers to the animosity between the Gentiles and converted Jews. Since Abraham, the Jews had defined their worship a certain way, and now the same rules didn’t apply to the Gentile converts to Christianity. And we think our churches are having an identity crisis due to the changes in our 21st century ways of worship!

To churches that are spiritually rich but materially poor, there was this comment in The Christian Science Journal:

To the Christians at Smyrna, John expressed his sympathetic understanding for the poverty they had endured but, he also assures them, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” If a Christian Science church is today struggling with poverty, let the members recall and obey this command; then the reward it promises will be theirs. Their individual faithfulness to the teachings of Science will be manifested in abundant supply for right activities, among them more generous contributions to the finances of their church. (“What the Spirit Saith unto the Churches,” by Warren G. Luedemann from the June 1961 issue of The Christian Science Journal)

On the readings page, there is also a link to the podcast, “MBE Mentioned Polycarp,” who was a disciple of the Apostle John, became Bishop of the Church in Smyrna, and was later martyred there.

This week’s subject matter seemed really dense theologically to me, but I also hope it has increased my storehouse of understanding about eternal Life.  As Mrs. Eddy wrote, “We look before our feet, and if we are wise, we look beyond a single step in the line of spiritual advancement.” (SH429:8)