What does Revelation 2:8 mean?
ESV: “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
NIV: To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.
NASB: And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:
CSB: "Write to the angel of the church in Smyrna: Thus says the First and the Last, the one who was dead and came to life:
NLT: 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:
KJV: And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
Verse Commentary:
In this verse Jesus addresses the angel—or "messenger," possibly the pastor—of the church at Smyrna. Jesus identifies Himself as the first and the last. This name reflects His eternal existence. He created all things (John 1:3) and He will exist forever (Revelation 1:8). He also identifies Himself as having died and returned to life. This description points to His death by crucifixion and resurrection.

The church at Smyrna could relate to Jesus' identification, because the city of Smyrna ceased to exist from the seventh to the third century BC, when it experienced a kind of "resurrection" and became an ally of Rome. The designation of Jesus as eternal and the crucified and risen Lord would provide much encouragement to the believers at Smyrna in the face of their intense persecution. Even martyrdom could not end their lives; they belonged to the one who had conquered death and would escort them through death to their home in heaven.
Verse Context:
Revelation 2:8–11 contains Jesus' message, through John, to the church at Smyrna. Christians in Smyrna were undergoing intense persecution at the time these words were written. Jesus predicted even further persecution, but told the believers not to fear. He promised a crown of life to them if they remained loyal to Him to the point of martyrdom. The church at Smyrna prefigures the history of the Church from the mid-third century to AD 316, when Emperor Constantine declared Christianity an official state religion. Out of seven churches mentioned in Revelation, Smyrna is one of only two not rebuked for any specific flaw.
Chapter Summary:
The contents of Revelation 2 are miniature letters to four churches, dictated by Jesus to John. Ephesus and Smyrna were coastal cities, whereas Pergamum and Thyatira were inland cities. Three more such letters are in Revelation 3. Each of these messages contains a unique description of Jesus, a command, a promise. All but one—the church in Laodicea—receive some commendation. All but two of the seven letters—those to the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia—also contain a critical rebuke. Like churches today, most of the congregations addressed by Jesus had both good characteristics and at least one point which needed correction.
Chapter Context:
In chapter 1, John introduced his order from Jesus Christ: to write out a message to seven churches in Asia (Revelation 1:9–11). Here in this chapter, John writes to the church in Ephesus, the church in Smyrna, the church in Pergamum, and the church in Thyatira. Chapter 3 will continue with messages to the other three churches. The rest of Revelation will explain future events connected to the ''end times.''
Book Summary:
The word ''revelation'' means ''an unveiling or disclosure.'' This writing unveils future events such as the rapture, three series of judgments that will fall on the earth during the tribulation, the emergence of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel and her amazing revival, as well as Jesus' second coming with His saints to the earth, the judgment of Satan and his followers, and finally, the eternal state. This content, combined with the original Greek term apokalypsis, is why we now refer to an end-of-the-world scenario as ''an apocalypse.''
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