The Church at Smyrna: (Read Revelation 2:8 – 11.) Jesus identifies Himself as the resurrected Lord. We will see the significance of that at the end of verse 10 and in verse 11. He begins notes their positive accomplishments: They were diligent and faithful in doing the things God set before them; they were faithful regardless of the things that came against them, and they were rich due to their faithful service. Jesus tells them the world may think you’re poor, but spiritually you are rich. He commends them on standing true and exposing the blasphemers and hypocrites among them; those who claim to be serving God but are really serving the devil. There are many of those hypocrites and blasphemers in the church today. They may profess a love for Christ, but their works testify otherwise. Some of them have been given positions of authority in the church and are able to do much damage to God’s Kingdom because of their position. We must be careful to heed the Holy Spirit’s warning about wolves in sheep’s clothing. He is faithful and He will expose the false believers, but when He does expose them, we must be quick to disassociate ourselves from them. Examples of their work in the church today include acceptance of homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle, acceptance of homosexual marriage, protection of law-breakers, and the accusation of true believers. We see many churches standing against these practices, but too many have compromised truth on these points. Although we are to be acceptive of homosexuals we cannot be acceptive of their lifestyle. We are to show them godly love and reach out to them with truth. We are not to condemn them for their actions, but we are to teach them it is sinful and God can set them free from sinful behavior. And we certainly are not to allow them positions of authority in the church if their lifestyle does not line up with Scripture.
In verse 10, Jesus says something the Church at Smyrna that the church today really doesn’t want to hear: “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer.” Jesus warns the church they are going to suffer. The Greek word used means “to experience a sensation or impression, usually painful.” Remember, the Church isn’t just a building used to worship God. The Church consists of all who follow Christ. And Jesus’ message to us is “we are about to suffer.” To get a better understanding of the Greek word ‘pascho,’ which is the word translated ‘suffer’ in this verse, I traced it’s use in the New Testament. There are several other Greek words translated “suffer,” but ‘pascho’ is used 20 times. Nine times it refers to the sufferings of Jesus. Twice it refers to the sufferings of Paul. Once Paul uses it in his analogy of the Body of Christ being one in unity. The remaining 8 times it is used, it is either Jesus, Paul or Peter telling us Christians will suffer. Peter is the only one who really gives any instructions about how to react to the suffering we experience. He warns us to be sure, if we suffer, that we do not suffer for doing evil. (1 Peter 4:15) He tells us when we suffer for righteousness sake, it is commendable before God, (1 Peter 2:20) and we are blessed when we suffer for righteousness sake. (I Peter 3:14) His last bit of advice about suffering is that we commit our souls to God when we know we are suffering for his sake. This implies the truth that God will sustain us during our times of suffering. These are things to remember when persecution comes our way. The kinds of suffering Jesus mentions are imprisonment and “tribulation.” Tribulation is defined as persecution, trouble, or affliction.
Regardless of the form suffering takes, Jesus encourages us not to fear it. I think this is the message to the suffering Church today. In an age when Christianity – and Christians- are becoming more and more subjected to the influence and attacks of the hate filled rejection of the unrighteous, suffering is going to come. But we, as Christians, need to remember that we are to be bold as lions. God has not given us a spirit of fear, so we don’t have to be afraid of whatever happens. We can, and should, take a stand for the things of God regardless of the consequences. Suffering is never pleasant, and it often has undesirable results. But if we remember we belong to God, we don’t have to be fearful.
Then Jesus warns the Church at Smyrna to “Be faithful unto death.” Read that word ‘faithful’ as ‘faith full,’ or ‘faith filled.’ Remember, without faith, it is impossible to please God. But because of our faith in Christ, we can do all things through him, because we know He will strengthen us. But we have to be faithful even to the point of death. Jesus says the same thing in different words in both Matthew 24:13 and Mark 13:13: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” In the parable of the sower (Mark 4:17), Jesus explains the seed that falls on stony ground as being the ones who hear the word, then have it snatched away by Satan. They are not rooted in the word, and they endure only for a time. When the suffering gets strong, they fall away. They are unable to endure to the end. It is imperative that we be so grounded in the Word- and the love- of God that we are able to endure no matter what we face. Only if we endure to the end will we receive the prize God has promised: “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.”
That’s why Jesus revealed Himself to Smyrna as the resurrected Lord. Because He faced, and conquered, death for us, we will be able to endure to the end and receive the crown of life- if we fully and completely trust Him. Faith enables us to trust, and trust enables us to endure until the end, even if that end is death. We see that formula proven throughout history when we read of the hundreds of thousands who have been martyred because of their love for Jesus. All suffering incorporates the possibility of death. Enduring to the end- even unto death if necessary- assures of us receiving the abundant, everlasting newness of life that only the resurrected Savior can give. Remember His words to us: “I have not given you a spirit of fear,” and “My perfect love will cast out all fear,” and He promises “…those who endure unto the end will be saved.”