We are quick to say that God is good … right? Although this is correct, when we say this do we always know what we are talking about? My householder and Vehicle Insurance Policy paid out my No Claim Bonus yesterday. You’ll recall I needed to have someone remove a beehive on the same day. When I say God is good, this is what I mean. God provided … but there is more … when we consider what our Lord did for us at Calvary bringing forgiveness of our sin and guilt and restoring a right relationship with God, being elected into God’s forever family and enjoying all the blessings God has for us as His blood washed children in the present and forever … this is really the time to say “God is good”.
Rev 2:9 yet you are rich!
2) This pastor and his congregation were under much pressure. They were harassed and excluded from much of society to the point where Jews wanted them chased out of the city. It was one thing being economically poor, but when you add the behavior of their persecutors, some who were likely family, previous friends, colleagues or previous colleagues and neighbors … all they had was their pastor and each other. The pastor likely only had his flock. Naturally … they also have their Lord. The danger of the Jews was almost on par with the danger of the Roman Empire.
Rev 2:9 I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not.
Look at those encouraging words from the Lord Jesus … I know. Handling hardships is possible because God knows and if He knows, He helps His people coupe. Remember when you as a believer suffer, especially because you are a Christian, deliberately seeking to live a holy life for Jesus … Jesus knows. That is your encouragement. 2) Who or what is the synagogue of satan?
Rev 2:9 but are a synagogue of satan.
You need to get this … the Lord Jesus is talking about Jews. They were the people of God and are now the synagogue of satan. This is harsh language. Although these Jews did not put Jesus to death themselves, they participate in the same philosophy of rejecting that Jesus is the Messiah King, God incarnate, God in the flesh … God who saves. They rejected the Gospel. They rejected God’s Rescue Plan. They refused salvation. Because of this they tried everything possible to eradicate the Christians from Smyrna. They were indeed satan’s agents. We might not be harassed by Jews but the opposition and onslaught directed by the enemy might cause the same challenges for us as it did for this pastor and his flock.
3) The devil’s activities will escalate terribly. Jesus says they will suffer! He says the evil one will be the agency of some in the Church being imprisoned.
Rev 2:10 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.
History informs us that many Christians were not only imprisoned, some suffered badly and others were put to death. Verse 10 says … even to the point of death. Although at present in the general Western World, Christianity is safe from much of the persecution of the First century and in many Third World and Eastern Countries … but don’t take this for granted! Within changing democratic countries there is a huge push to silence the Church of the Lord Jesus. Some see the reign of Apartheid with its many atrocities, executed under the umbrella of a Christian Church, Christianity needs to be silenced where it comes to input in education, the legal system and politics. Secularism has also become an enemy of the Church … so has materialism. Liberalism that supports abortion, same-sex marriages, etc. rejects any Christian contribution because they see us as dogmatic and unwilling to change our position as evangelicals. Many movements are continually working to silence Christianity. They want a shut Bible. It is not unlikely that Christians will land up being imprisoned because they love Jesus and want to expose what He says in His Word about the way morality and ethics are becoming more and more secular. Years back God was chased out of the schools with the agreement of many. Now, because we have Freedom of Speech, the opponents of Christianity want Hate Speech to include key Gospel principles. Some of us might be imprisoned for our faith in God, His Gospel and His Word.
4) The satanic onslaught will not last forever … and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Christianity will suffer persecution. The time period will be sufficiently long for many to face persecution to death. Even in our day this will happen … but the period is ten days. Ten days is an indefinite period but a short period of time. There will be hard times and some Christians will sacrifice their lives for the Cause of Jesus … and although the period’s length is unknown, it will be a short period. In using the term Ten Days, John signifies that times of persecution and hardship don’t last forever!
5) The Lord Jesus gives this pastor and his Church two instructions and one promise.
(1) Instruction One. Do not be afraid (verse 10). He who is the Alpha and Omega, the Creator God died and rose again for the Church. If He can enter through death to live forever, so can the believer. He wants you to trust Him totally, depend upon Him even as you go through the most difficult times just as the Psalmist says in Psalm 23 … even though I go through the valley of the shadow of death I’ll fear not evil! Will you do that even though you can’t see beyond the persecution?
(2) Instruction Two. Be faithful. God does not call you to be a great evangelist, preacher, missionary or apologist. He calls you to be faithful. He is not looking for martyrs … although some will be … he is looking for faithfulness. God places a high premium on faithfulness to the extent that He says … even to the point of death. For us death might come when we’re not ready or unprepared but when we are not afraid and are faithful, death is not a concern because …
(3) A prize awaits the faithful … and I will give you the crown of life. The concept of crown of life seems to imply the victor’s prize at the athletic games but John uses this concept in the context of our reward in heaven. Because we are not afraid of the enemy and because we are faithful because we fear our Lord, whether we face death or die naturally … our reward is to be with Jesus forever! To those who are not afraid and are faithful Jesus says
Rev 2:11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Although He had no warnings for this Pastor and his Church, Jesus wants them and us to be careful and listen attentively to His instructions to keep us faithful and true. Don’t ignore our Lord’s Word. That will be suicidal!
Dear Lord, you might call us to go through the most severe storms, in this Help us to be true. Amen.