"The Day of the Lord"
The Second Epistle was addressed to the angel of the Assembly in Smyrna. It is marked by a definite period of trial being mentioned, viz., "ten days," and answers to the second stage of Israel's history, which was marked by a definite period of trial"forty years." The first Epistle (Ephesus) began with a reference to the day of Israel's Espousals, and reminds those people of their "first love." The second (Smyrna), in its definite days of trial, reminds us of the definite period of forty years in the wilderness.
Its structure is as simple and clear as it is beautiful.
8. And unto the angel of the Assembly in Smyrna write; These things saith the First and the Last] This, as we have already seen, is one of the Titles used in the Introduction (1:17); as it is used in the Old Testament, of Deity. (Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12.).
who was (lit., became) dead, and returned to life] (1:17, 18) The verb (...) (ezesen) means more than merely to live or to be alive. (See Rom. 14:9. Rev. 13:14 (where it is used of and throws light upon the Beast being raised); 20:4, 5). It means to live again in resurrection life. See John 4:50. Mark 16:11.
9. I know* thy tribulation, and thy poverty] This is the outcome of 13:16, 17, for when they will not be allowed by the Beast to buy or sell, great poverty must necessarily ensue.
nevertheless thou art rich] Poor in one sense, yet rich in another sense.
and I know the blasphemy coming from those who say that they themselves are Jews, and they are not, but are Satan's synagogue] When have people ever professed to be Jews in order to join a Christian church? Such an anomaly was never heard of. These words alone are sufficient to prove the true Jewish character of these assemblies. Words have no meaning if this verse does not speak concerning those who, for some reason or other (perhaps in order to betray, hardly for gain or advantage), hypocritically affirmed that they were Jews when they were not.
10. Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer: lo, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days] What trial and tribulation is this, if not exactly that foretold by the Lord in Matt. 10:22? "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake; but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." Compare Matt. 24:9, 10, and John 16:1-4. In these passages the very trials are mentioned; and in Rev. 13:5-7 we see the very circumstances described, in which those who are thus addressed will be placed. In this special case the tribulation is limited to "ten days." And why not? Why should we seek to make these words mean other than what they say? In Est. 3:13 a decree went forth that the whole nation was to be destroyed "in one day." Why should not such a decree go forth again for "ten days"? Even in our own times we read of Jews in Russia, Roumania, and elsewhere, being given over for days together to the violence of a persecuting mob. Why should not these "ten days" refer to a certain definite and limited time of trouble? Why introduce endless difficulties into this Book by always maintaining that God means something quite different from what He says? Moses Stuart is an example. He writes: "Let the reader mark well the symbolic use of number in this case; for the exact literal one will be insisted on, I trust, by no one."
His trust is vain, for we do insist on believing that God means what He says. If we are wrong in this, then we prefer to be found wrong, hereafter, in this simplicity of faith, rather than to be reproved by God for having, in preference, believed man. When God says (Gen. 7:4): "For yet seven days and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights," God meant days, not years. See verse 10: "And it came to pass after seven days"; and see verse 12. When Joseph said, by the prophetic spirit, "The three branches are three days. Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head," he meant "days," not years; for we read: "And it came to pass the third day," etc.; see Gen. 40:12, 13, 20. So with the wandering in the wilderness, Num. 14:33; "forty days" means forty days, and "forty years" means forty years. So with Jonah; and the Lord, Matt. 12:40. So with Ezekiel, 4:1-8.
be (lit., become) thou faithful unto death] Probably violent death is meant.
and I will give to thee the crown of life] Here we have not the standing of the church "in Christ." That standing does not depend on our faithfulness but on the faithfulness of Him who has already given us life in Himself eternal life. This life rests on no conditions but upon the unalterable gift of God in Christ. Compare the Epistle addressed "to the twelve Tribes," Jas. 1:1. The faithfulness mentioned here refers to that which is the subject of 20:4.
11. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the Assemblies. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death] This is mentioned again in 20:6, 14, and 21:8, as the fulfilment of this promise in those who have passed through the great Tribulation and have not worshipped the Beast nor received his mark. Those who are faithful unto death, and die of a violent death, then, for Christ's sake, are promised that they "shall not be hurt of the second death," which shall finally destroy their enemies.
Note how the titles of Christ in verse 8 ("I am He that was dead and returned to
life") agree with the exhortation of verse 10 ("be thou faithful unto death, and
I will give thee the crown of life"), and the promise of verse 11 ("shall not be
hurt of the second death").