Christ spoke to the Apostle John and told him to write down what he told him in letter form and send it to seven churches of Asia Minor. To each church, Christ gave an assessment or evaluation.
These letters are recorded in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3. The church of Ephesus was a loveless church. Now the church of Smyrna (modern day Izmir) was the persecuted church. Christ introduced himself by saying he was the first and last, the one who died and came to life again.
Jesus had only words of encouragement and commendation for the church of Smyrna. They had within their church a group who claimed to be Christians, but were referred to as the "synagogue of Satan." In every day and age, there have been counterfeits who infiltrate the church, posing as one thing, while, in reality, they are quite the opposite. The city of Smyrna was a rich city, but the church of Smyrna was poor materially, but rich spiritually.
Jesus told them they would undergo persecution and some of them would be imprisoned for their faith for a limited time. Some would even be killed as martyrs.
Christ told the Christians at Smyrna not to be afraid of what they were about to suffer, and to be faithful, even to the point of death, and they would receive a crown of life.
Around our world today, Christians are suffering and are being persecuted in epidemic proportions for their faith, and it is getting worse. There are more people being persecuted for their faith in Christ today than at any time in history. We need a faith that will not shrink in the face of pressure and persecution.
Jesus told us we would be persecuted, because they persecuted him. But he promised that we would be the ultimate winners and would receive the victor's crown. To those who overcome, they received the promise that they would not be hurt at all by the second death, which is spiritual and eternal separation from God.
Christ then said: "He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Christ was speaking to His church of that day, and he is still speaking to us today. The question is: are we listening to what He has to say?