'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.Revelation 2:10(NASB)
Smyrna is one of the 7 Churches mentioned in Revelation. This small body of spirit-filled believers faced serious poverty, and yet they were commended by the Lord Jesus because they were spiritually rich. They were also severely persecuted by Rome and slandered by the Jews for the sake of Christ.
Unlike other churches, they were not admonished or rebuked by the Lord Jesus, but they did receive some special words of encouragement. He reminded them of His own, heavenly status, and that He is the eternal One. He reminded the saints in Smyrna that He is their living Lord, in Whom are the words of eternal life. "I am the First and the Last", He told them. "I am the One Who was dead and came to life."
What encouragement and joy must have flooded their hearts when this little group of suffering saints heard those words for the first time. Jesus is the eternal One, Who not only goes before them and was with them in every difficulty they faced, but He also comes after them and will never leave them nor forsake them, and in Him are the words of life eternal.
He is from everlasting to everlasting, He is the Author and Finisher of our faith, He is the Alpha and Omega, the First and Last. And when the Christians in Smyrna received confirmation that Jesus was with them in every eventuality of life, including their poverty and pain, it must have rejoiced their soul. He was dead, but He rose from the dead and lives forevermore, and His death secured life for all who believe on His name, and nothing can take away that eternal privilege.
YES! He is the Lord of life and the One who triumphed over death. The saints in Smyrna received a most glorious assurance, when they received their letter from the Lord and knew that their life was safe in His hands, even when they came face to face with death. It is because He lives that we too shall live.
This little group loved their Lord, but were to face even greater persecution in the days ahead. "Do not fear what you are about to suffer", Christ wrote to His little flock, "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."
Living faithfully for the Lord, does not exempt us from persecution. Paul tells us, "all who live godly lives will suffer persecution." But Jesus knows exactly what we will face and for how long. He has promised to be with us, just as He promised to be with these saints in Smyrna. "Do not fear what you are about to suffer", are His reassuring words. Fear not and stand firm in the faith!
Faith in the truth of God's Word should be the watchword of every suffering saint, for faith in God's promised Word puts fear to flight. As we trust God's Word, so our faith in Him is strengthened and secured. While persecution may come from the hands of human enemies, it is that twisted serpent, called the devil and Satan that is the real enemy we face in difficult times. BUT greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.
We are never to forget that our times are in God's hands, and until our work on earth is done, He will keep us, no matter what difficulties and dangers prevail. We will be tested and tried, just as those saints in Smyrna were tested and tried, but those that remain faithful to the point of death have been promised a crown of life - and when HE is with us and surrounding us, who can fail!
Bringing God's people to the point of death, may be one of the terrible threats the enemy uses against the saints, but our death is simply the wide-open doorway into the presence of our lovely Lord and Saviour. 'Oh death', we can shout, 'where is your sting?'
God is faithful and has promised that NO temptation has overtaken any of us, except those that are common to every man. BUT God is faithful, and will not allow us to be tested above that which we are able, but will, with the temptation we face, make a way to escape so we are enabled to bear it.
When Christ prayed for His disciples on that night that He was betrayed, He prayed, "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one." The devil may do his worst, but we can stand on the promises of God through the tough times we will inevitably face. God's Word promises that He will keep us, as we go through the difficulties and dangers because His grace is sufficient, His strength is perfected in our weaknesses.
The Lord in His grace, kept every one of those saints in Smyrna in the suffering and persecution - even to the point of death, and beyond. They may have been tried and severely tested, mocked and slandered, and the devil may have cast some of these faithful servants into prison for ten days. But what Christ said next must have brought tremendous comfort and joy to their heart, (and to ours),"Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life".
The persecution, pain, imprisonment, mocking, and satanic sifting, may bring some saints of God to the point of death, but the crown of life awaits these suffering servants. The devil may come as a tempting angel of light to lure us into sin or we may encounter him as a roaring lion, but whichever guise he chooses to wear, let us never forget that as we submit to God, we can resist the evil one, and he will flee far from us.
Despite the terrible trials the believers in Smyrna faced, we recognise God's mercy, for the temptations and trials we face are for a limited time. However long we may suffer, however many days or years we may be incarcerated behind prison bars or how often we are used as the target of ridicule or slander, we know that Christ is with us, and we are sharing in His suffering, just as we will one day share in His glory.
May each of us be faithful to the point of death knowing that in the end, we have been promised the crown of life.
Thank You, Father, for the wonderful encouragement we receive from the saints in Smyrna. I pray that I may be faithful to the point of death and receive that promised, crown of life. Thank You, that no matter how weak we may be and how intense the fight we face, none of Your children need fear the attacks of the enemy, for You are with us in every eventuality of life. Thank You, that I know Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and have an assurance of the resurrection of the dead. I pray that I may be faithful in the trials that lay ahead and be worthy to fellowship in His suffering, for His praise and glory. Thank You, that Christ died for me and rose again, so that I may live with Him eternally. In His name I pray, AMEN.