“Searching the Seven Churches”
The Call to Suffer – (Revelation Chapter 2 Verses 8-11)
The Lord exhorts the church at Smyrna not to fear (v10). The fires of persecution are going to be stoked by evil pseudo-Jews under Imperial Rome’s tyranny. Polycarp, who it is said was the angel, i.e., Pastor of the church in Smyrna, along with fourteen others were martyred at this time. He was a student of the apostle John. The fourteen others were thrown to the beasts first, then Polycarp was asked to recant his faith. He said these eighty-six years I have served the Lord Jesus Christ and he has never done me any harm, no way will I deny him. So they threatened him with fire, to which he said you threaten me with a fire that will burn for just one hour? You nothing he told them of the fire that will burn for all eternity. All this time the Jews had been crying for Polycarp’s death. So they put him to the flames. This is what the Lord Jesus tells the church in Smyrna what lies ahead. This is what the church in the world throughout the last days until the end. There will times when it will be more intense than at others. But, do not fear (v10). Because he, himself has been there, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2) He has overcome death for all who are his. Think of the hatred at the cross, Smyrna would endure exactly the same (Hebrews 11:33-38). Like Moses, these looked to him who us invisible (Hebrews 11:27b). It’s seeing him who is invisible, that is what makes God’s folk strong, and enables them to understand. Some will be thrown into prison (v10). But that’s not the ultimate test, that would just be the prelude to a trial and execution. Hence, the exhortation to be faithful unto death.
But persecution is a proof an evidence that they are indeed God’s people. If they weren’t Christians, faithful Christians, if they weren’t testifying to the Lord Jesus Christ, the devil wouldn’t bother with them. If you don’t preach it, if you don’t live it, they won’t bother you. But if you are faithful to Jesus you will suffer persecution, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2Timothy 3:12). Ten days (v10), is taking from the book of Daniel (Daniel 1:12ff). Daniel and his colleagues are Old Testament role models. They tempted to turn but they would not. Ten is a complete number, a full number, it is a specified time, they, nor we know how long, only God does. But it is a specific time which God will bring, when he is ready, to an end. But there is comfort in this also, for they know it is for a set time and God will it to end when God’s purpose is fulfilled. So their, and our call is to stand, “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Christ has overcome Satan and death, so neither of these can hurt us. Faithfulness in a Christian is one of the most beautiful virtues, graces in a Christian person. When a man is faithful to his wife, or a wife to her husband it is beautiful, faithfulness. Not esteemed by the world of course, but what is esteemed by them is an abomination to God. In a time of prosperity, of ease, it’s quite easy isn’t it? But when storm clouds gather, when persecution comes, to be faithful to Jesus then, that is something else. That is very precious to God. He is never closer to his church when she is suffering. Even in the face of death, be faithful he says, and you will receive the victory crown of life, eternal life. He, Jesus himself personally, will give you the crown of life. Hold on to Jesus and ride out the storm beloved.
(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)