Revelation 2:8-11 NIV
To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 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, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
The church in Smyrna was notably poor and persecuted. Jesus did not explain (although many of us wish he did) or apologise (it clearly was not a mistake).
BUT he did comfort them – and we can draw comfort from their comfort. He comforted them by:
– saying that he KNEW their afflictions and poverty. The one who walks amongst the lampstands (churches) SEES US! He is in our midst in the tough times; our trials are not a surprise to him.
– pointing them to ETERNITY. Trials can quickly get us to drop our gaze. When our focus is “on the situation on the ground” we can easily lose heart. Jesus lifted their gaze. He was at the beginning and will be at the end. He has died and risen from death. If we trust him, he will take us through our trials, through death, into eternity where the second death – the one to truly fear – cannot harm us.
– pointing them to the SPIRITUAL REALM. They were physically poor – yet spiritually rich! They were hated and persecuted by men – yet loved and favoured by God!
– assuring them that their TRIALS WERE TEMPORARY. They would be persecuted – but the persecution would come to an end. They would face possible martyrdom – but that would release them into a glorious eternity. They would have to fight and overcome – but victory was theirs to take hold of!
Historians tell us that this church persisted. They were poor and persecuted, but they overcame!
Most of us don’t want to endure trials, especially poverty and persecution. But that is what some of us are destined to endure. This does not make us inferior believers or imply fault – this church was not rebuked, only encouraged. When we face trials, we can draw strength from knowing:
– JESUS KNOWS OUR TRIALS
– JESUS IS PRESENT IN OUR TRIALS
– OUR TRIALS ARE NOT ETERNAL – THEY WILL COME TO AN END
– GLORY AWAITS US – EARTHLY POVERTY ENDS; SPIRITUAL RICHES LAST FOREVER!