It has been a while since I wrote anything. The passing of my mom in January has completely thrown me for an emotional loop. She was sick for a long time and I knew it was coming, but just as I had a few seconds to process I was going to hit the car that pulled out in front of me, neither one of these foresights helped to alleviate the pain once the moment of impact occurred.
Our God is a patient God, and I am now ready to continue my worship of Him through my writing.
“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.” (Rev. 2:9-10 NIV)
Jesus is pretty straight forward with the church in Smyrna. He begins with, “These are the words of him who is the First and the Last,” and ends with, “The one who is victorious will not be hurt by the second death” (Rev. 2:8, 2:11).
What is most interesting about this letter is there isn’t any reference to, “I hold this against you,” as we have observed in other letters in Revelation. There is no call to change, repentance, or insight into what the church needs to start or stop doing in order for their church to be the light needed for the Gospel to spread. All it talks about is encouraging them to keep fighting the good fight. They are afflicted, impoverished, imprisoned, and persecuted, but they are rich! It doesn’t sound like a country club that I want to belong to, but Jesus’ main concern is the second death——the life of eternity we choose to live when we don’t accept Jesus’ sacrifice. We should have much more fear of that spiritual second death than our first death of the human body.
This side of Heaven we weren’t promised an easy life. We live our lot because we chose to leave Eden. I scrub toilets, pick out those pesky weeds from my flowerbeds, and watched a snake recently swallow a Robin whole from a nest above my front door because we chose to leave the perfection God planned for us. We chose to live in a sin-packed world, and it stinks! Animals must eat and weeds were given roots too, but I long for Eden. I long for God’s vision of eternal life because this world just leaves me wanting.
There is a lot to take away from Smyrna’s letter. How often do we covet our neighbors luck or things? How many times have we cursed our place in life or been frustrated by closed doors? Smyrna had a lot more to grieve than these small afflictions, and Jesus was giving them encouragement to keep going. Their riches were not counted on this side of Heaven but instead, they are counted in the place where Jesus dwells. A place that has no more death!
Truly, what do we have to fear? Our human bodies wear out and death is inevitable for 100% of the population, but God did give us a promise on this side of Heaven when He sent His Son to pay for our sin punishment. He promised there will be eternal life if we accept Jesus’ gift on the cross. Look around. We will die and we do live in a sin-packed world. Our local news starts with the stabbings and shootings of the day and ends with sports or a funny/touching story. It is hard to wrap our minds around the good and evil that continually dances around us from birth to death, but still Jesus asks us not to fear. He has made a way for us.
Which second death would you like to face? The one where Jesus promises eternal life and we never have to fear death again, or the one we chose when we decide not to accept God’s promises? The church in Smyrna is being persecuted unto death. We get upset when our neighbor pulls into their driveway with a better car than we own, or we get passed over for a promotion. Our acceptance of Jesus in the U.S. so far doesn’t come with the fear of being thrown into prison or killed as in many other places around the world. We are living in a time where Christians are persecuted and killed more often than any other time in our history combined. We are so far removed from that reality that we are quietly lulled into a life of complacency. Our possibility of a second death in the lake of fire doesn’t seem that scary. Our eternity can wait while we enjoy the spoils of this life.
Jesus is encouraging you to stay faithful, to walk the path He has lit for you, and to wear his love, mercy, and grace like a cloak around your body because He loves you that much. His wish is for none of us to perish and everyone lives an eternity with Him. Adam and Eve were given a choice and so are we. Their choice affected all of human existence, but our choice affects our own personal eternal existence. Be encouraged that Christ has you in His hands, believe in Him, and He will walk you into paradise.