Friday, 11 September 2020
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. Revelation 2:10
Jesus just told the church at Smyrna that He was aware of their difficult state. Now, He lets them know that their immediate prospects will seem to be even worse than what they are already facing. But this should not be unexpected.
Jesus let His early followers know that they should expect tribulation (John 16:33). Paul, on several occasions, reminded believers that this was to continue to be expected (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 3:4). The same is true in the other apostolic writings as well (e.g. 1 Peter 4:12 and so on). Now, Jesus directly tells the church that difficulties are just ahead, saying, “Do not fear.”
The words, “Do not fear,” when spoken by the Lord literally permeate Scripture. When the Lord says this, it is to be considered the highest form of surety that despite what lies ahead, He is already aware of it and will be with his people through it. For example, when Jacob was set to leave the land of Canaan for the last time, the Lord was with him –
“So He said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. 4 I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.’” Genesis 46:3, 4
Again and again, the Lord speaks these same words to His people at points in time when fear would be the normal and expected reaction. For those at Smyrna, what was coming would be more than one trial, but a set of them, as He says, “any of those things which you are about to suffer.”
This group, who had already faced struggle, was set to have more tribulations heaped upon them, even to the point of suffering. With this unfortunate news stated, the Lord then expands on the thought, saying, “Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison.” What appears to be the case, because He just mentioned the “synagogue of Satan,” is that the non-believing Jews of the area would be the motivating factor in what was about to occur.
The devil (v.10) and Satan (v.9) are the same being, and therefore it is possible – without being dogmatic – that they would devise some sort of scheme, causing those in the church to be arrested and cast into prison. It is a logical assumption.
The book of Acts carefully records the early establishment of the church. One of the points that is clearly evident is that Christianity was identified as a subsect of Judaism. Under the Roman Empire, Judaism was considered religio licita, or an accepted form of worship. When Christianity sprouted out of that, the Jews – time and again – tried to distance themselves from it. However, again and again, the legal decision came back allowing Christianity under the greater umbrella of the Jewish faith.
Because of this, it was allowed to spread and blossom. It is apparent that at times the Jews would run in and out of favor with the government. As this occurred, it affected believers as well. Here in the letter to Smyrna, it appears that the non-believing Jews will be able to exert enough influence that these believers would be apprehended and imprisoned. Jesus then says the reason for it. It is so “that you may be tested.”
This is something that the Lord has allowed many times in His church. Such testing is not for the Lord’s knowledge. He knows who are His. It is also not a test of individual salvation – something decided when one comes to Christ in faith. Rather, the testing served at least two major purposes. The first was strengthening of personal faith that already existed, and the second is to refine the church as a body.
Peter speaks of these things in his first epistle –
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-9
The author of Hebrews refers to such things in Hebrews 10:32-36. With the knowledge that these things were surely coming upon them, the Lord next says, “and you will have tribulation ten days.” The term “ten days” or “ten times” is not necessarily to be taken literally. It is an idiom found throughout Scripture to indicate a period of testing. In Genesis 31, Numbers 14, Nehemiah 4, and Job 19, the people explain their testing in this way, saying, “ten times.” Other similar uses of the number ten being used this way are also noted. For example, in Daniel 1 (which uses the same terminology as this verse in Revelation) they were tested for “ten days” –
“So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 ‘Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.’ 14 So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days.
15 And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies. 16 Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.”
Jesus now uses this same terminology and applies it in the context of the suffering of those in Smyrna. In this testing of “ten days,” He exhorts them, saying, “Be faithful until death.” The One who Himself was faithful unto death makes a call to His people to act in the same manner. He is not asking them to do anything He had not already experienced. And just as He prevailed over death, so He holds the keys to allow the same for His faithful.
As He says, “and I will give you the crown of life.” It is a note of honor. James mentions the “crown of life” as well –
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12
Other crowns are also noted for believers in the New Testament, such as the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8) and the crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4). Such things are stated to give hope to believers as we anticipate the life that is truly life. What happens here, though maybe terrifying or tragic, is only a temporary trial. The Lord allows these things to strengthen us, refine His church, and to provide encouragement to others who are set to face such things as well.
Life application: As noted, throughout the Bible, the Lord admonishes His people to not fear. In 1 John 4, we are told, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
Believers truly have no need to fear. Christ has prevailed over the greatest enemy of all, death and Hades. Thus, He alone has the power to save from death, and He has the power to cast into hell. As He says in Matthew 19, “… do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
For those in Christ, there is to be no fear of death, and there is to be no fear of hell. Death cannot hold us, and hell has no right to us. Jesus has prevailed over death and He promises the gift of eternal life to His faithful followers. Be encouraged in this. We serve a great and glorious God. He is Jesus.
How great it is, Lord, to know that nothing in the entire universe can separate us from You. You prevailed over death, and through faith in Your mighty accomplishments, we now have the promise of eternal security and eternal life. No fear here… we are servants of the Most High God! Amen.