Revelation 2:8–11 (NKJV)
8 “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.” ’
Smyrna was a very wealthy city, full of idolatry and other sinful practices. Christians in this city would have faced considerable persecution because of their faith in Christ. What we see here is encouragement from the Lord, telling us to be faithful until the end, and seek the rewards associated with that faithfulness.
The Lord assures the believers in Smyrna that He see their works. I think this is a powerful reminder because we can sometimes begin to wonder if God is truly watching what we are doing and protecting us through our various trials. Here the Lord is saying “I see everything, I see your work, your tribulation, and your poverty” and then points out the reward at the end.
When I first came to the Lord, it was hard for me to see the positive in tribulation, it did not make sense to me. As I have grown in Christ, the benefit of tribulation has become very evident. My flesh certainly does not like it, but, every time I have faced any amount of tribulation, it has strengthened my faith at the end. God is saying, you will face tribulation, but I will be there with you through it all.
Poverty... this is a difficult topic for most of us. I can do the works, I can suffer through tribulation, I can even bear the weight of persecution, but take away my money, that kind of hurts a little. We count our riches by the monthly bank statement, do we not? This is a simple way to see our “worth,” at least in an earthly sense. God sees our worth from a very different perspective, God sees our worth in the eternal instead of the earthly. God understands the riches that will be poured upon us in Heaven. The world sees these believers as poor, but God sees them in an entirely different light. I think it should be stated here that being poor does not lead to being more righteous, nor does being rich lead to unrighteousness. A person with a lot of money can have a heart for the Lord and His work just as much as a poor person. All that matters is the condition of your heart for Jesus.
What a powerful thought the Lord gives us when He explains that He knows the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not. This is probably referring to those who believe the Jewish line is based upon birth rites. In a broader sense, it could also mean those that call themselves Jewish but have not completely surrendered. It is very easy to look at a verse like this when the term “Jew” is right there. But, what if we replace that with the term “Christian?” stings a little more doesn’t it? When we call ourselves Christian, we must understand what that term actually means. Are we saying we are Christian or are we actually Christian? Are we “little Christs?”
Then the promise… those who overcome shall not be hurt by the second death! What a wonderful promise. God explaining, you are going to face persecution, you may even suffer financially, you may face tribulation, but, if you endure, your reward is eternal.
This church, like many around the world today was facing significant persecution. When we face tribulation and persecution, do we face it with the power and promise of the Lord? Do we allow it to strengthen us? Do we face each day with the assurance of eternal reward?
Matthew 25:21 (NKJV)
21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’