Smyrna: Fear Not & Stay Faithful
Revelation 2:8-11 says: “And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”
The Purpose and Peril of Persecution
During our Sunday morning service, Evangelist Jason Stidham preached a messaged titled, “Persecution.” It was the greatest message on persecution that I have ever heard. It presented persecution as a gift that would fan the flame of the gospel of Jesus Christ even further into the world. Instead of fearing persecution, the believer should welcome such oppression because it will help to spread the flame of the gospel into all the world. It appears that persecution has always been a catalyst to forward the work of God, from the early church until now. However, persecution can also be the most detrimental thing that can come upon a believer, a church, or even upon history. It was the persecuted church age that led us into the age of the compromising church, which ultimately led to the age of the papal church and then, of course, to the age of the dead church! We must always be prepared for persecution because when it comes—it comes swiftly—and how will we respond to it—in faith, or will we fall away?
The Church of Smyrna
Of the seven churches Jesus speaks of in the book of Revelation, Smyrna is one of two that He doesn’t condemn. This church was located only 40 miles from Ephesus in a city that was exceptionally beautiful, large, and wealthy, and it flourished in medical advancements and the sciences. Noting how close it was to Ephesus strikes me to my core. No doubt these believers could have fled to Ephesus and found refuge there. Yet, Christ in no way advised them to do this. In fact, He instructed, “Do not be afraid when they imprison you, and try you, and be faithful all the way to death.” Christ is telling us that despite the affliction, tribulation, or temptation that we face, we do not have to run away from it. These church members were facing physical death only 40 miles from a thriving church in Ephesus, and Christ says, “Do not be afraid of the things you will suffer.” Wow! My bills are coming due and the money isn’t there—do not be afraid! The other kids at school are mocking me because I am reading my Bible during lunch—do not be afraid! The principal is threatening to suspend me if I keep talking about Jesus to other students—do not be afraid! Keep preaching Jesus and believing Him for the impossible.
We must understand that persecution is inevitable, especially if the believer is making it his mission to further the kingdom of God in his life and in the area around him; he will be severely persecuted! Jesus said it Himself, “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (Jn. 15:20).
In II Timothy 3:12, Paul said to Timothy, “all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Some of you will be imprisoned, many of you will be put to trial for your faith, and some of you will be martyred for this faith. Christ’s message to the child of God in this situation is this: Do not be afraid and remain faithful unto death. During this time period of church history from AD 100 to AD 300, it is believed that more than 5 million Christians were put to death—fed to hungry lions, crucified, covered with animal skins and torn by wild dogs, covered with tar and set on fire to serve as human torches, boiled in oil, and burned at the stake. Christ said to them, “Do not be afraid and stay faithful!”
A Crown of Faithfulness
Christ promises that the one who remains faithful unto death will receive a crown of life. There are brothers and sisters in Christ right now who are facing this decision to renounce their faith or to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a promise for you—an eternal crown of life—if you don’t give up, don’t quit, and remain faithful unto death. To the believer who is facing persecution at work, school, or in various places of business: Remain faithful and stand your ground!
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