By Ray Jewell
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 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.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death. – Revelation 2:8-11
The church in Smyrna receives no condemnation. Why is that? Partly because they have suffered much already from the Jewish synagogue (described here as a synagogue of Satan). They have suffered both physical and, so it seems, financial hardships. (I think that is what the use of poverty is referring to here,; they were poor, not by choice but by being blackballed by the Jews who also slandered the believers causing others to take their business elsewhere).
Christ is relating to these faithful followers that things are going to get worse before they get better. Ten days is not to be taken literally here, but it is a phrase that means for a short time, with a definite beginning and ending. These words remind me of Peter’s words of encouragement to a church in exile.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9 NIV)
The encouragement is to endure, to remain faithful to Christ, then the victor’s crown. I think this victor’s crown has two aspects to it. The obvious one is an emphasis on winning the race. Only the winner receives the crown. But here the winner is not an individual per se, but the community that wins together. A second, more implicit meaning, correlates to the idea of being a kingdom of priests. Kings wear crowns, do they not?
The promised reward is not participating in the second death, which I take to mean separation from God for eternity. We’ll get into that more later.
So how does that relate to us today? For Christians around the world , those who are being martyred for their faith, they are in the presence of God for eternity. For those of us who continue to live in this cruel world, we can live victoriously, knowing that no matter what comes our way, God wins and we do to if we remain faithful to Him throughout all kinds of trials.
As I look around me it seems that being a biblical Christian is getting harder to do. Many have been and are being led astray by false teachings (read the Prosperity Gospel here); many are losing business because they profess the name of Jesus and try to live by and do business based on God’s way, not man’s way. It is easy to take the wide road. But that leads to a place I don’t want to go. How about you?
Lord, I am concerned about what is happening in the world today, but I do not lose hope, because you have overcome the world. Help me/us be like the church in Smyrna, making it through the trials we face and, therefore, receiving the victor’s crown. Amen
Until next time,
TO THE GLORY OF GOD!