Emails to Churches- Smyrna
“Don't be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The Devil will throw some of you into prison and put you to the test. You will be persecuted for 'ten days.' Remain faithful even when facing death, and I will give you the crown of life. "Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Whoever is victorious will not be hurt by the second death.”
For those of us who live in the Western World, the idea of suffering for our faith is a foreign concept. For Christians in many other parts of the world, however, genuine suffering and persecution is a very real thing. American-Iranian pastor Saeed Abedini remains jailed in Iran, reportedly undergoing routine beatings. Many others are suffering in Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea, and other countries that do not allow for the freedom of religion.
For Christians in many parts of the world, genuine suffering and persecution is a very real thing.
The church in the ancient city of Smyrna was evidently going through a difficult time. The Roman Emperor Domitian ruled late in the first century and persecuted the Christians vigourously. This was the exact time frame that The Revelation was written. Becoming a Christian was a dangerous decision to make. It was not one that people made lightly. Becoming a follower of Christ often meant that you were opening yourself up to ridicule, persecution, and worse from your family, neighbors, and government. Many Christians paid the ultimate price, dying as martyrs for their faith under Roman persecution.
As Jesus dictated this letter to John, He let His followers know that He understood what they were going through. “Don’t be afraid…” He tells them upfront that things were about to get unpleasant for them. Their reward for remaining faithful was the “crown of life” and the promise that they would “not be hurt by the second death.”
"Don't be afraid," says Jesus.
These are powerful words, especially considering that they are coming from the One who did suffer a very violent and painful death. His victory over death, though, assures us that, we too, will ultimately overcome death as well. He was faithful to fulfill His Father’s plan. He was faithful to the death. Jesus was asking the Christians at Smyrna to remain faithful to Him, even to the point of death.
That is pretty intense. I don’t know what God might be speaking to you about this week but I am guessing it is not as intense as what these first century Christians were going through. For all of us, however, Jesus wants us to remain faithful to Him, no matter what the enemy, the world, or life throws our way.
What does faithfulness to Jesus look like for you?
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