Message to Smyrna
8 “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: 9 ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich ), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’
Verse 9 begins with “I know…” Jesus sees our suffering. He sees those who are struggling to make ends meet. He sees those who do not have enough to provide for their basic needs. He sees those who may feel less than because they are poor on this earth.
But He reminds them that while they may be poor on this earth; while they might not have enough here, they are rich inside. They are rich in faith, in the love of Christ. They are rich in blessing elsewhere.
He hears those who blaspheme His name. He knows the pain that this causes believers. Those who claim to be Jews and are not Jews, the ones who are Christs own people, the wife of God. Those who blaspheme His name have become vessels of Satan. They are filled, not with the love of God, but the worship and hate of Satan.
Jesus knows suffering. He reminds them not to fear what they are about to suffer. The people may not know what is to come but Jesus does know. Do not be afraid! You will be tested for 10 days, notice He puts a time limit on the test. Whether that is literal or symbolic doesn’t matter. What matters is that it…will…end.
Satan/devil will persecute, accuse, tempt, and take away your freedom and may even kill you. But Jesus says, “Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.” What a promise!
Jesus reminds them (and us) that this life is unimportant, or rather, this first death we experience of the physical body. It’s the death to come after at Judgment that matters. That death is eternal.
So this letter, while short, tells us many things. The church at Smyrna was going to be persecuted and tested and tempted. The believers there might be imprisoned and many would lose their lives. And Jesus’ message is clear, “Be faithful until death.”
I look at our world today. I read the news. I see what ISIS is doing around the world. I see the persecution our brothers and sisters in Christ are going through in various places around the world. North Korea, middle east, ISIS, Africa…the list goes on and on. Some of the stories are enough to make me nauseous. This is 2015 and people are still being imprisoned, tortured, hacked to pieces for their faith in Jesus Christ. It’s sickening. Martyr after martyr for His names sake. Bless them and Amen.
When we come to Christ, we do not get a guarantee of anything in this life. When we come to Christ, we are submitting to God’s will and not our own. When we come to Christ, our eyes must stay focused on our real home, and that home is not where or what we make of life here on earth. We are not home until we are called home by the Father. When we come to Christ, we live for Christ. May our lives (and our deaths) be used for good, according to His will and purpose and not our own.
Be faithful until death…do not fear…tribulations will visit you but they will come to an end…they will not last forever…you will be tested…be faithful until death and Jesus Himself, will give you the crown of life.
For the brethren who once were in Smyrna, Jesus gave them guidance that holds true even today. No matter what tribulation and test you are going through or are about to go through…Be Faithful Until Death.
If these letters to the churches do describe believers…are you a believer that needs this guidance from Jesus today? Can you identify with the brethren in Smyrna?