By Michael Julian
Pastor, Macedonia Baptist Church, Kenton
Focal Passage: Revelation 2:8-11
Upon entering the harbor and gazing upon the city high above and the golden street, it almost looked as if the city had a golden crown. Interestingly, when we study the background of the cities where these seven churches are located, we find parallels in the things spoken to the church in that city. Smyrna is no exception.
Another issue at play in Smyrna was the tension that existed between the Jewish and Christian populations. The Jews wanted to be separate from the Christians. The Gentiles expected people in the city to worship the emperor, however, the Jews were given a pass. But, if the Christians were not connected to the Jews, then they would not be given such freedom. Obviously, the Christians were not going to bow to the emperor.
We quickly learn that the church at Smyrna found themselves in a tight spot. More than that, they were faced with great difficulty. And even greater still, was the assurance given to the church of its spiritual riches in Christ, who is the true First and the Last, and the One who was dead and came to life.
Consider the blessedness of such truth. Just as Jesus experienced death and then victoriously rose to life eternal, so believers in Christ are assured that they will live again. We must let our minds think upon eternal things and not temporal things. Persecution and affliction will arise, but take joy, for Christ has overcome the world.
While there is not a specific weakness in the church mentioned by Christ, He does provide a sober warning. They are about to suffer much tribulation; however, the time will be limited. The exact meaning of the ten days is unclear, but what is clear is the awesome reward promised to the church.
The crown of life. Remember how we talked about the city looking like it had a crown when looking up from the harbor? The city even had coins bearing images of civil servants adorned with crowns, but the Christians would be fitted with an infinitely more valuable crown. It is a gift from the Lord. The Lord clearly desires a faithful church rich in God’s grace.
Once again we see the symmetry between the situation surrounding Smyrna and the Christians within Smyrna. Some may be tested to the point of death. These will receive the crown of life.
Furthermore, they will not succumb to the second death. How wonderful to be protected by the grace-full hands of God! The Greek language uses a double negative to convey the sense that these conquerors will never at any time be harmed by this second death, the lake of fire.
These wonderful words of Jesus help us avoid irrational fear because of our rational faith in the Lord Jesus. It simply makes good sense. The Christian life is not easy, but neither is it impossible. Fear not. Courage flourishes because Christ is alive. What kind of church does God desire? B&R