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8“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
9“ ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
10Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’ (Revelation 2:8–11, ESV)
Infidelity stories are a dime a dozen these days! Although the majority of the public don’t give a toss to the moral standard of politicians, public servants and public figure; unfaithfulness to their spouses would have cost them their marriage, reputation, or even their career!
What does faithfulness mean to you? Faithfulness is a character trait which matters in all areas of life. Perhaps you haven’t thought about it at all! But faithfulness is very essential to every single individual!
Faithfulness is one of the many attributes of God, and He displays His faithfulness throughout human history. Out of the many examples I could cite is that the Creator and Ruler of the Universe pursue human beings with His faithful love.
Human beings are created in the image of God, and we are inherited the attribute of faithfulness. And because of that, all human beings are called to be faithful in all areas of life. In the area of faith and belief, Christians are called to be faithful unto death, and this is exactly what Jesus Christ demands the Smyrna Christians.
1) Our Lord (Revelation 2:8)
The Lord of History
This is what Jesus Christ revealed to the Church in Smyrna: He is “the first and the last, who died and came to life.” The first and the last is a title which is used only of Jesus Christ in the Book of Revelation (1:17; 2:8; 22:13). It is a name to speak of the sovereignty of Jesus Christ over history. To sum it up, the Lord Jesus Christ is in control not only of the past but of the future, for He is the eternal one.
The Lord Knows Your Childhood
Due to ill health and other unfortunate circumstances, I would not consider my childhood as a happy one. Since I have become a Christian, I recognise God knows and understands my unhappy childhood. Also, the fact that the Lord knows every step of my way brings comfort to me.
The Lord Knows Your Pain
Since the fall of our first parents, all human beings are grappling with pain every day. During the process of childbearing, women have to endure all kinds of inconveniences and pain. When it is time to give birth to their babies, they would have to go through pain. From baby to adulthood, people have to go through all sorts of pain. Certain people might find ways to deal with acute pain, but some poor folks have to endure with chronic pain forever. All in all, all individuals have to live with pain on a daily basis. However, the God who is in Heaven sees and understands our pain. Are you in pain now? God knows your hurt. All you need to do is to ask God to alleviate your pain, and ask Him for the courage to deal with it.
The Lord of Resurrection
In the vision, Jesus Christ reminded the Apostle John that He was the One “who died and came to life”. Needless to say, John knew very well that His Lord and Saviour was the conqueror over sin and death, but Jesus Christ wanted to remind His followers in Smyrna about this vital historical truth.
Many people are the staunch supporters of some beliefs and ideologies, and they greatly respect the late founding fathers of these movements and institutions. Out of respect, they erected monuments and statues for these founders. One thing is that these late pioneers of beliefs and ideologies might be great thinkers and leaders, but they could never conquer death.
Countless people only see Jesus Christ as a human teacher who founded Christianity. But, according to the historical account of the Bible and the experiential experience of Christians, Jesus Christ not only conquers death, but He is the ever-present Lord of the Universe. Since the Smyrna Christians had to face imminent hardship and even death, Jesus Christ wrote to remind them that He died and came to life.
I don’t know what kind of life condition that you are in right now, but let me remind you that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of all humankind for He has conquered death and risen to rule the whole Universe.
2) Our Lord Knows (Revelation 2:9)
Our Lord Knows Our Affliction
As Jesus Christ is all-knowing and all-present, He knows our lives inside out. He writes to the Church in Smyrna, telling them that He knows their tribulation.
Our Lord Knows Our Poverty
The Apostle John chooses a strong Greek word to describe the state of poverty of the Smyrna Christians. Most probably, they have nothing at all. In other words, they are extremely poor. Since most New Testament Jews still refused to accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah, as you would have understood, some of them would do all they could to go against the Christians. In light of Revelation 2:9 to10, many Bible scholars speculated that some of the Jews in the town of Smyrna had brought charges against the Christians, with the result that some had been imprisoned and probably lost their homes and possessions. In such an antagonistic environment, it was almost impossible for the Christians to make a living, and thus many would have become economically destitute. Moreover, these believers may also have been the victims of mob violence and looting (cf. Heb. 10:34). On the other hand, as the Christians did not deify the Roman emperor, some of the hostile Jews would have turned to become the informers to the Roman authority.
Some scholars define a megachurch as a Christian church with 2,000 or more churchgoers in an average service attendance. There are numerous megachurches around the world, and their church members are proud of their congregation because they are resourceful and influential. These church members are rich in a way, but do they have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ?
On the other hand, there are uncountable poor churches around the globe, especially in the developing countries. They might lead a meagre life, but they might have a great relationship with their Lord and Saviour. In other words, these Christians might be poor, but they might be spiritually rich.
Our Lord Knows Our Spiritual Riches
Although the Smyrna Christians were living in physical poverty, the Lord Jesus Christ declared that they were rich spiritually. In other words, Lord Jesus knows the spiritual reality of Christians.
Spiritually Rich in Christ
A father knelt beside his daughter’s bed as his little girl was praying. The pious youngster was giving thanks for one thing after another. In her prayer, she says, “Thank you for letting me live in a rich family.…” The father felt embarrassed and almost reached out his hand to stop his daughter, because. he did not consider his family rich. He simply could not afford to buy the things his children wanted. But then the little girl finished her sentence: “because we know Jesus as Saviour.” With a thankful heart, the little Christian knew that she was rich in Jesus Christ.
Our Spiritual Reality
The Lord Jesus says to the Smyrna Christians, 9“ ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.(Revelation 2:9) The Lord recognises the spiritual reality of these believers, and He also understands our spiritual reality, but do we know our own spiritual condition?
Our Lord Knows Our Slanderers
The City of Smyrna
Like Ephesus, Smyrna was an important heart of the imperial cult in Asia Minor. In the New Testament era, only Jews were exempted from worshiping the emperor, because Rome knew that Jews were monotheistic and were an ancient religion. Based on these grounds, the Jews merited tolerance. Initially, Christianity was seen as a part of Judaism, but many synagogue leaders eventually distinguished themselves sharply from Christians or even to make the Jewish Christians unwelcome in the synagogues.
Shockingly, Lord Jesus labels the Jews who slandered the Smyrna Christians a synagogue of Satan. As I said earlier, it is very likely that some members of the local Jewish community were collaborating with local officials to repress the Christian minority. In God’s eyes, these hostile Jews did not only collaborate with the pagan Roman authority, but with Satan as well.
No matter how peace-loving you are, but there would always be someone who dislikes you. And not only that, for some known and unknown reasons, they would have eventually ended up as your enemies. My caution to you is: watch out for the slanders of your enemies. If you are a believer in Christ, you would be comforted to know that Jesus Christ sees through these slanderers. Don’t worry, you are being looked after!
3) Our Lord’s Encouragement (Revelation 2:10)
Losing Freedom for a Short Period of Time
The Lord Jesus says, 10Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Although there would be suffering, Lord Jesus encouraged the Smyrna Christians not to be afraid. Interestingly, the persecution would be ten days in total. Most probably, this kind of wording means a brief period of time.
Ever since I was a kid, I understand the preciousness of freedom. I can imagine life without freedom is really excruciating.
All around the world, many innocent citizens are being wrongly convicted. And because of that, they are being incarcerated for the crimes they have not committed. Similarly, some of the Smyrna Christians were wrongly convicted, and they would lose their freedom for being Christians.
Limited Period of Suffering
Bible scholars have diverse opinions on the wording of “for 10 days”, but the most possible meaning is that the Smyrna Christians would only suffer for a limited period of time.
Several years ago, I had a cracked tooth. It caused me so much pain that I could hardly sleep. The pain was almost unbearable to me, but thankfully, my dentists fixed it! The pain was intense but I only suffered for a limited period of time.
I sympathise those people who are suffering from chronic pain. These poor folks have to live with persistent pain on a daily basis. If you are one of them, let me encourage you to go to the God of comfort for strength and solace. Also, please remember all pain and suffering on earth will end one day. This is the wonderful news that the Apostle John received from God: 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3–4, ESV) One good thing is that all pain and suffering will finally go away. In short, all kinds of pain will only last for a limited period of time.
4) Our Lord’s Reminder (Revelation 2:10–11)
In the letter to the Smyrna Christians, the Lord Jesus reminds His followers with the following words: Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’ (Revelation 2:10–11, ESV)
The Crown of Life
The crown mentioned here is not a diadem, but a wreath bestowed in civic games, for civic worth, for military valour, for nuptial joy, and for festal gladness. It is a victor’s crown. As for all those Smyrna Christians who could be faithful unto faith, they would be awarded the victor’s crown. The crown of life is a symbol of the full realisation of eternal life. In short, the crown is equivalent to the glorious life in heaven. Since Jesus Christ is the ultimate Victor, people who put their faith in Him would consequently become victors, and eternal life would be granted to them forever.
A Word to the Non-believers
If you are a non-believer, my word to you is that everything on this temporal world will not last forever. Eternal life awaits those who believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. May I encourage you to consider to become a Christian.
A Word to the Believers
Dear believers in Christ, as we understand very well that we have the assurance of eternal life, let us find the opportunity to share the Good News with our non-believing friends and relatives.
According to the definition of Revelation 21:8, the second death is eternal damnation in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. It is true that persecution might lead to pain and even death, but the Lord Jesus ensures the victors would have no part in the second death. The second death is horrifying, if you are a non-believer, you are given the choice to escape from it; all you have to do is to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. As for Christians, we should warn people about the second death, and present the Gospel to them.
Jesus Christ wants to see the Smyrna Christians faithful unto death, and He is calling all believers around the world to do likewise. Being faithful is a personal choice, but everyone has to bear their own consequences.