“I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan“
I know your works
Jesus finds something for which He can commend the church at Smyrna. He does not censure this church.
Jesus knows the tribulation the Smyrna church faced. “Tribulation” means pressure, distress. Tribulation is anything that oppresses or crushes the soul. He knew everything about the anguish they encountered. He notices all the heartaches Christians go through.
Notably, Jesus does not rebuke these suffering Christians. This stands in striking contrast to five of the other churches whom He censures. Evidently, those who put their faith in God’s promises when they experience tribulation become unadulterated in doctrine and spirituality.
and poverty (but you are rich)
The Greek word for “poverty” carries the idea of destitution. The Smyrna church endured extreme poverty. They were beggarly and destitute. This poverty may have been due to their stand for Christ. They lived in a prosperous city, yet they were in abject poverty because they loved the Lord.
The Smyrna church was poor in temporal things but rich in spiritual things.
and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not
The New Testament does not use “blasphemy” exclusively to describe defaming God. It uses this word many times of defamation of people. It means slander and refers to all abusive speech. Certain Jews attempted to defame or slander the church at Smyrna. These people tried to harm the reputation of this church.
This slander may refer to these Jews reporting the Smyrna church to the Roman authorities. They tried to discredit both Christ and Christians. Jesus not only notices the persecutions Christians face, but He also notices the persecutors.
but are a synagogue of Satan
These persecutors were far from the true children of Abraham, for they belonged to Satan. “Synagogue of Satan” probably refers to what these Jews did to the Smyrna church–report them to the Roman authorities.
We can be rich without wealth.
Those who faithfully walk with the Lord should expect persecution. Jesus knows any plight we might face. There is no tear or blow that may come our way that Jesus does not know. He knows when someone smears your reputation. When people tell lies about you, the Sovereign Son of God deals with it.
Contrary to modern thinking, we can be rich without wealth. There is no price that we could pay for family time. No money is worth the riches we have in Christ. Paul counted his successes as a pile of manure.
“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish [manure], that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…” (Philippians 2:7-10).
God does not want us to depend on a monetary worldview. He wants our worldview to center on our relationship with Christ. When we hold to this perspective, all suffering makes us strong. God designs all suffering for our blessing (1 Peter 1:6-8). It makes us rich in our relationship to God, rich in the Word, rich in the promises of God. Nothing shakes a person like this. This is a different scale of values.