Rev 2:8-11 "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write,
'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: 9 "I know your works,
tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are
Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear any of those things which you are
about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be
tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the
crown of life.
11 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall
not be hurt by the second death."'
This church at Smyrna in Rev 2 doesn't get the glowing words of praise that the Ephesian
Church received. He just says, "I know your works." There are no pats on the back here. But it is
also one of two churches that contains no recorded words and deeds that call for repentance. He
says nothing of having anything against this church. That's a good thing to know as it is about to
face its prophetic pathway. "I know what you have gone through," Jesus says. "Do not fear the
future suffering that is about to come upon you."
Oh, those are words that we don't want to hear. We can't get past the, "suffering you are
about to endure." But when it comes, how comforting to know that heaven knows what's going
on, and nothing that you are encountering is because you have failed, have sinned, and are being
punished. You are not reaping what you have sown. What the devil is allowed to do by heaven's
permission is in effect your battle ground to gain victory for the glory of God. "You are going to
be thrown into prison by the devil. The purpose is that you may be tested. The best are tested
right along with the worst. They're often in the same pot, but they are not the same people!
These are the words that became my alarm clock this morning. They are what woke me
up. "You are about to have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful unto death and I will give
you a crown of life."
The immediate feeling that I had was not one of fearing the devil's worst. The
tone of it was that there is a great victory coming. Be faithful until death. Anything less is not
faithfulness, is it? But faithfulness unto death is the requirement for a crown of life. What's the
point of winning, winning, persevering, staying strong, staying faithful, and then quitting, giving
up in defeat? The whole race becomes meaningless and irrelevant if it is not finished with the
same tenacity as it began with. Or else those about may say, "It doesn't really work. There's not
enough strength to finish. God didn't come through for him. What's the use. Let's give up too.
There's no evidence that this is really real."
But the real fruit is not in the testing that may kill the body. The things of loss that we
suffer in the devil's prison cell do not equate to eternal failure. They have nothing to do with
having the right stuff, the real thing, or not. It is the second death that one must get past
successfully. Overcoming in the time of testing is the battle ground. The victory is won there.
Such ones will come to the second death and absolutely, stone cold triumph over it!
This is something quite removed from the, "simply ask Jesus into your heart, and you will
go to heaven," gospel that we hear today. Ask Jesus into your heart and you CAN go to heaven.
But you won't necessarily go! You just won't if you don't. If you do, then finish what you started.
Overcome through all adversity until the end. Be faithful unto death, because that is how severe
the tests of life will be. Everybody who is born again can go to heaven, but everyone who is born
again today will not go to heaven. You must finish the race that you start. The message to all of
the Churches of Asia Minor is this - "I am calling you to be overcomers, not merely to be
Christians." If being Christian means being an overcomer, then we can safely use the word,
Christian. But if it means what it means to American Christianity, then God has a critical
message for us.
"Be faithful unto or until death," to me means the call to be faithful not only until death,
but be faithful even to the point of facing death as the final test of your faith.
"The devil throwing some of you into prison" for this church would've meant exactly
what it said to them. Prison for one's faith was not uncommon in their time.
"Do not fear the coming suffering." Freedom from fear for the Christian is never freedom
from the suffering. Fear that we will suffer is not a godly posture to hope for. That will cripple
anyone's faith. But we have the right not to mingle our suffering with fear of any kind, for that
would work to cripple and diminish our very reason for being.
"The devil," is the slanderer or accuser. The disciples often faced false accusations. Such
influence against them often resulted in prison, beatings and/or death. One of our sources of fear
is believing the devil's lies against us through the mouths of others. "Maybe I am bad. Maybe I
am wrong. Maybe I am a failure and a fool." But it never works to overcome Satan's slander by
attempting to justify ourselves based upon the accusations of our performance or our identity. We
are justified by faith through Jesus. That is why this is a test of our faith, not a test of our flesh.
Jesus identified who the slander would come through - Jews who are in reality were a
synagogue of Satan. (He doesn't mean all Jews.) The point is that the slander will come through
human beings, but with the knowledge in us that we are not wrestling against flesh, but devils.
Don't get too consumed with the carnal human sources. That is for God to deal with. Realize that
it is the devil who is up against you. The personalities that he uses are of absolutely no
consequence. It's not about them. Don't make it such! But know this. Slander will usually be the
source of your sufferings. That is why Satan is called a devil.
"That you may be tested." Satan's plan is destruction. God's plan is to separate the chaff
from the wheat. Satan hopes it's all chaff. God wants you to understand that when you are refined
- heated up like gold - that the impurities will come to the top. They will be seen! Others will feel
justified in their accusations. It's like getting stabbed in the back, and you cry out. When you cry
out, your assailant criticizes you for how you are crying out. But the reality is that the impurities
are coming out so that they may be poured off in order that a more pure gold may exist. When
you come through you will be even more of a threat to the devil and to sin. In this way God will
be glorified because you hung on to your faith, not your flesh. The Object of your faith remains,
and He is seen in you!
Now what everyone has been asking - what does "10 days" mean? It's not 'a day is as a
1,000 years.' It probably is not a reflection of 10 being the number of the powers of this age, such
as the number of kingdoms at the end of the age. 10 days does speak to the heart that your time of
testing has a specified end point. God is not going to let it go on forever. Don't allow yourself to
get post traumatic stress disorder by fearing every man and every accusation that may arise for
the rest of your life. Don't start distrusting every person, every word, and thereby become
paranoid. It's going to end! It is not going to be a long time either, only briefly. Compared to the
glory that will come of it, this testing will be short lived. Yes, you will always have challenges.
But not like this! You may say it could go on forever. But God says, 10 days. He is in control of
it! He is in charge. That is why the good news is that the Kingdom rule of God is here! That is
the Gospel. That is the very heart and core of your faith. That is your message, and it is how you
interpret every single thing that happens in your life. Heaven reigns, no matter what is swirling
about you, and you are an emissary of that Kingdom. You are a messenger of that declaration.
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Prophecy is not
mere foretelling. It is not merely predictions about what will come. Prophecy is intended to call
out to the deep places of our hearts and compel us to fearlessly obey God. It is the inspiration of
heaven that strikes the heart with the reality of God's ability to watch over you, to keep you, and
to resource you with all that you will need to live as His witness. Prophecy will take hold of you
with the knowledge beyond doubt that it is God who is speaking to you and compelling you to
live a life that can not be explained by anything other than that Jesus is alive.
There's too much so called prophecy today that leaves one wondering if that was God or
not. It's all about what God supposedly will do, but it does not call the heart to repent, to get
stirred up in faith and do the works of God. Too many people wind up waiting and waiting for
God to do the supposed miraculous works that are promised, and the years go by with nothing
left but questions. But the people have not changed, because the prophecy was just PMS - a
prophetic mood swing, an emotional attention getting misuse of prophecy. "He who has ears to
hear," will hear the Spirit stirring them up right where they live and making divine sense of
earthly challenges. It will summon them to work because of the finished work of Christ. It will
call them to give their lives as evidence that Jesus is Lord, is alive, and that He is real. It will
appeal to the honest heart to confess sin and remove the obstacle that keeps them from their
divine purpose in daily life.
Without a word from the Spirit of God to the churches we will not be able to find our way
through the maze of these coming days. We will not understand why we have trials, and we will
wind up wasting our trials. It is by the Spirit that we will overcome. His true prophetic word will
lead us to be overcomers. They are the ones who have eternal life and live to pass it on to the
Testing makes us stronger. Most of us have been encouraged by that truth many times. Polycarp,
the Bishop or pastor of this city's church was martyred after refusing to recant his faith in Jesus.
What's of interest here is that, of the seven churches of Asia Minor spoken of here, the city of
Smyrna is the only one that is still flourishing to this day!