Tuesday, April 26
Reader: “Don’t be afraid . . .”
Response: “of what you are about to suffer.”
Scripture: Revelation 2:8-11
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the one who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive:
“I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan. Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death.
The above are the words of Jesus via John addressing the church in Smyrna, one of the seven churches in what is modern day Turkey. Smyrna is the modern day city of Izmir. Jesus is identified as the First and Last, the Alpha and the Omega.
Smyrna was a city with strong Roman ties and a large Jewish population. There was heavy persecution of the Christians from Rome, but especially from the Jewish element, many of whom were cultural Jews strongly allied with the Romans. There were also religious Jews who adamantly rejected the Messiah as blasphemous. In Jesus’ reference to “the synagogue of Satan,” he is condemning those Jews who reject the gospel. In the words of Paul, “A true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. True circumcision . . . is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit.” (Romans 2:29)
The Christians of the Smyrna church were suffering economic hardship as a result of persecution for their profession of faith in Jesus. While there is earthly suffering and poverty throughout the ages, there is at the same time the accumulation of heavenly riches. In his words of encouragement, Jesus tells these believers in Smyrna not to fear what lies ahead. The ten day reference is most likely symbolic of a measured period of time, rather than a literal ten days. Remaining faithful is important for the reward is great, the crown of life.
The “crown” referred to here is the wreath that goes to the winner of the race rather than a diadem. It emphasizes more the festive joy of winning the race than a position of royal authority as in a king or queen’s crown. The underlying thought in Jesus’ words is to remain faithful through the end. The suffering and persecution won’t last forever. There is a glorious celebration coming, that of eternal life. The reference to not being harmed by the second death refers to the final judgment where those who have rejected Christ and are thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14-15)
This message from Jesus speaks to believers everywhere in the world today. There are those who are suffering greatly for their profession of faith in Christ. Nine in ten Christians killed for their faith are in Africa. Nigeria leads the world with 3,530 martyrs, one of which was one of my students at IWS. The country with the most attacks on churches is China (3,088). It is no mistake, wherever you live, hostility toward Christianity and Judeo-Christian values are under attack. Pray to be faithful to our Lord, to speak his name and to listen to what the Spirit is saying. Remember, we are rich far beyond this time on earth.
Music: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” arr. Dan Forrest Glorious setting!!!!
Prayer:O Lord God, thou art my protecting arm, fortress, refuge, shield, buckler. Fight for me and my foes must flee; uphold me and I cannot fall; strengthen me and I stand unmoved, unmoveable; equip me and I shall receive no wound; stand by me and Satan will depart; anoint my lips with a song of salvation and I shall shout thy victory; give me abhorrence of all evil, as a vile monster that defies thy law, casts off thy yoke, defiles my nature, spreads misery. Teach me to look to Jesus on his cross and so to know sin’s loathsomeness in thy sight. There is no pardon but through thy Son’s death, no cleansing but in his precious blood, no atonement but his to expiate evil. Show me the shame, the agony, the bruises of incarnate God, that I may read boundless guilt in the boundless price; may I discern the deadly viper in its real malignity, tear it with holy indignation from my breast, resolutely turn from its every snare, refuse to hold polluting dalliance with it. Blessed Lord Jesus, at thy cross may I be taught the awful miseries from which I am saved, ponder what the word ‘lost’ implies, see the fires of eternal destruction; then may I cling more closely to thy broken self, adhere to thee with firmer faith, be devoted to thee with total being, detest sin as strongly as thy love to me is strong, and may holiness be the atmosphere in which I live. Amen. ―from The Valley of Vision, p. 100