Smyrna was the church known for persecution. These were violent times with unbearable forms of death. One that has been stuck in my minds for years, were the Christians who were covered in tar and then set on fire to serve as torchers throughout the city. This would be considered persecution.
I love the way that Jesus uses one of his characteristics spoken of earlier, when John shared what he saw when he turned around to see who was speaking to him – “This is the message from the one who is First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive.” So appropriate for the church of Smyrna in their sufferings.
In persecution, one discovers that the more that Satan persecutes – the more the church the church will grow. It is indeed true during suffering and poverty, people tend to turn to God for comfort. More importantly, the supernatural nature appears during persecution. Could that be why Satan fights against the spiritual things of the Lord?
One point that stands out in this message, is that Jesus had no condemnation against them.
Let’s read that message now:
The Message to the Church in Smyrna
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the one who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive:
“I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan. Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death.” (NLT)
We are going through difficult times around the world right now with a pandemic – a virus – that has put people into fear mode. And in no way, would this be considered persecution – suffering – poverty that is spoken of in this message. This message speaks to those today in Countries who are truly being persecuted for their faith in Christ Jesus: North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya Pakistan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran, Nigeria, and India – to just mention a few.
Jesus is speaking to these Countries and reminding them that he knows of their suffering and of their poverty. And yet, they are rich in him. He encourages them to remain faithful even in the face of death. What a challenge. And yet what a victory it will be for them when they receive the crown of life.
I cannot leave behind the words: “because their synagogue belongs to Satan.”
These words spoke loudly to me. The question that comes to mind: What of our churches today? Do we have churches that belong to Satan? Have we allowed man to make up rules to live by and ignore the words of our Father? Definitely a question that needs to be considered today.
And last but not least: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”
Now is not the time to silent the voice of the Holy Spirit! If you have ears, then you must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches today.
I encourage you today, to pray for those Countries who are being persecuted for their faith. Also, pray for those Countries who are at the beginning of persecution surrounding them, that they would come together and stand against these lies and corruption.
Heavenly Father, Thank you for your words this morning. Father, I lift up those who are your children living in places of true persecution. I pray that they seek you and stand strong in their faith. I pray against those who are persecuting them too. Father, open their eyes and reveal to them their hatred and disgrace. Father, I pray for my country too! A land of freedom and yet we are seeing warning signs of the ends of time. Draw me closer to your heart and your ways; continue to teach me how to be bold and brave and not allow anyone to silence me. I love you, Lord. I ask this in Christ Jesus’ name, Amen.