Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. – Rev. 2:10 KJV
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The disciple John whilst in prison on the island of Patmos was in spirit on the Lord’s day when he heard a voice that introduced himself as the Alpha and Omega, which means the Beginning and the End with the same voice instructing him to write down all he will subsequently hear and see in a book. It was going to be a report on the seven churches in Asia at that time, namely Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea – Rev. 1:10-11. Having confirmed the authenticity of what he was hearing, he proceeded to implement the instructions as revealed to him which seemed more like a report of an assessment of the performances of all these churches with the intention of the one who introduced Himself as the First and the Last, to make them correct their errors and improve on their positives, all in a bid to make them the perfect Church that he desires.
Today’s devotional is founded on the report card of the church in Smyrna. In His message to them (Rev. 2:9), he made them aware that
- He knows their works. This is positive as it means that their works are acknowledged. Not everyone can boast that his/her work has the recognition of the Almighty God.
- He knows their tribulations. This again is consoling and gives hope as it means that the Lord is aware of the pain that they are experiencing due to their relationship with Him.
- He knows their prosperity status. He accepts that they may be materially poor but assures them that they are rich towards their eternity.
- He is aware of the slanderous activities of people who claim to be Jews but who in His opinion are synagogues of Satan. These are people that ordinarily should be a source of consolation to them in their trials but instead have worsened their situation with their comments.
Despite all the above experiences, he makes them realise that they need to prepare for worse things because;
- The devil will still cast some of them into prison for trial. This may not be physical imprisonment but very much spiritual that will make them live a life of someone who is incarcerated.
- That they should prepare for more tribulations that will last a little longer than what they may be expecting. Simply put, there is no respite in sight.
Not minding all these experiences, he further advises them not to entertain any fear but should rather remain faithful till the end not ruling out the fact that the end may actually be the termination of their existence in this realm. Should they successfully go through this experience, then they have an assurance of receiving the crown of life and will avoid the hurt that comes with the second death – Rev. 2:10-11.
The Church in Smyrna was definitely going through very trying times and would have been looking forward to the Lord for some form of intervention hoping that the Almighty God who they are faithfully serving will demonstrate His greatness by interceding on their behalf. His intervention became more expedient when they consider the slanderous reaction of people that they expect to be in their support, that is the Jews in their midst, after all they are supposed to be worshipping the same God. The intervention did come but it was not what they expected. If anything, they were told to brace up for a longer period under such adverse situation by the same god, the worship of whom seems to be the reason for their trials. That was the only way they could get rewarded for their decision to worship Him. Even then, the assured reward was the crown of life and the avoidance of the pain of the second death as any other reprieve will just be an extra.
Hmmm. This is a stark reality for the Christian that is worshiping the Almighty God for other reasons including material rewards. There is simply no guarantee of any of such from Him.
Christians need to be very clear about this when taking the decision to worship the Almighty God. They need to understand that their interest should not be on the worldly things that will end in this world, at least Jesus Christ did not hide that fact – Matt. 6:19-21. In several of his teachings, he made it clear that concentrating on acquisition of earthly treasures should not be the priority for the one who has chosen to worship the Lord. Even though he did not rule out the possibility of having earthly treasures, that will be more likely if the one who desires such has made the seeking of the kingdom of God and its righteousness, his/her priority – Matt. 6:33.
No one likes or enjoys persecution but if it results from your decision to worship the Almighty God and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (1Pet. 4:12-16), then the Christian had better resolve to go through it asking the same God for spiritual ability to withstand the trial period and like the three Hebrews who had to face persecution from King Nebuchadnezzar, approach the situation from the determination to stick with the Lord, with or without the persecution being removed – Dan. 3:17-18. This is a world where the Devil reigns and it may be difficult to convince oneself if events similar to persecution is not experienced by the Christian – Rev. 12:12. Of course, it will seem like it is the people that can be seen that are creating the problem but the Christian should be able to understand that these human beings are just tools as the real enemy that is placing them under such adverse conditions, as revealed in today’s scripture, is the devil – 1Pet. 5:8. The Christian should therefore prepare for these persecution if they have not come as they will surely arrive (Jn. 16:33) and for the one who is already experiencing the persecution of the devil, the advise remains that which Christ gave which is for such to endure till the end as that remains the only way to be rewarded for being His devotee (Matt. 24:13) and thus receive the reward which is the crown of life. May God grant us the spiritual ability to remain standing till the end in Jesus name. Amen.