In the last post we looked at the different ways that the church in Smyrna suffered for their faith in Jesus Christ. (Revelation 2:8-11) In this post we will look at the comforts they received from Christ in regards to their suffering for His sake.
In verse 10 we read Jesus words to the Smyrna church to, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer,” and “Be faithful unto death.” Fear and faith are opposites and cannot live together in the life of a Christian believer, because faith always banishes fear. The Psalmist wrote, “When I am afraid I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3.
The question is, how can we put our trust in Jesus so that, rain or shine in our lives, we still will rely upon Him and keep our confidence in Him? In the few texts allotted to the church of Smyrna in Revelation we learn seven truths regarding Jesus that strengthen us when we face discouragement and suffering.
In Revelation 2:8 we learn that He is eternal, He is, “the first and the last,” This is a repeat of Revelation 1:17 where Jesus tells John, “fear not, I am the first and the last.” We are to fear not because God never changes, He is from everlasting to everlasting. Hebrews 7:3, He “has neither beginning of days nor end of life” and again in Hebrews 13:8 He is “the same yesterday and today and for ever.” We are able to take courage when facing persecution and discouragement because God is always with us and never abandons us.
In verse 8 John writes, that Jesus is not only the “the first and the last” but also that He “died and came to life.” We live and die but Jesus died and lived; what hope there is in those five short words. Jesus told the people of Smyrna to be “faithful unto death” because death held no power over them. (See Revelation 1:18) Just as death held no sway over Him so death has no sway over those who are, “in Christ.”
In verse 9 Jesus reminds the church that, “I know your tribulations.” Every time I read this verse I think of Ruth’s song, Love and Care because it so nicely sums up that special relationship we have with Jesus. No matter what the problem He is always there. I know, sometimes it feels like we are alone, but we aren’t. Jesus always knows what we are going through and He always ministers to us through his, love and care.
Jesus also tells the church of Smyrna, “I know your poverty, but you are rich,” (Rev. 2:9). As John Stott notes, “He has the right sense of proportion and a true perspective,” regarding life. His sense of value is different than ours. It is not material wealth that matters but our spiritual wealth that truly is important. Remember, it profits us nothing to gain the whole world if we don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus based on faith alone. (See Luke 12:21; James 2:5; 1 Timothy 6:18; Matthew 6:19, 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 6:10)
We as Christians are rich in blessings, hope, assurance and faith, because Jesus is Lord of our lives. It is not a virtue to live in poverty, but it is worse to live in luxury if we do not know Jesus. I was teaching yesterday and my presentation revolved around the question, “Does your life really matter?” Of course all our lives matter to God, but at the end of the day we need to ask ourselves the question, “have I really made any difference for the people I love or the community around me?” It doesn’t matter how rich or how poor we are, if we allow Jesus to work in our hearts we truly are rich in the eyes of God, because it is His riches that envelop us.
Verse 10 is interesting, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” We may suffer, as did the church at Smyrna, but there is a limit to that suffering.
Notice, only some of the Christians would be thrown into prison and it would be for a specified time. God is sovereign and always in control of all that happens. I think the hardest thing for Christians to get their heads around is the idea that there is a purpose in suffering. God doesn’t give us sufferings to teach us lessons, but through sufferings we learn lessons of trust and faith. None of us wants to suffer, but when problems happen to us, and they do to us all, we have assurance that God is with us and our suffering is but a short time in the realm of eternity.
Also in verse 10 notice that some of the church was put in prison so Satan could test them. It is not God who puts them in jail to test their faith, but Satan who brings affliction and misery to see if he can break the faith of a Christian. Through tribulations Satan would destroy us, but God uses that tribulation to strengthen us and encourage us in His love.
If we look again at verse 10 we see that those who suffer even to the point of death will receive, “the victor’s crown.” Also in verse 11 we read, “He one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.” To those people who stand firm for their faith, they will wear “the victor’s crown” and death has no power over them.
Yes, the church of Smyrna was a suffering church, but in their suffering they were close to the heart of Jesus and He was there with them every step of the way and never abandoned them or forgot them in their suffering. The rewards of the victor’s crown and victory over death are not rewards for suffering, there is no merit in our pain, but they are simply the gifts offered freely to all who put their trust in Jesus.
Love and Care Times Like This/Ruth Dunfield
* Please remember to pray for the Christians that are suffering under persecution (as did the church Smyrna) for their faith in Christ in many countries around the world. Some of their stories can be found at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/