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Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Revelation 2 : 1-11

“….Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” -Revelation 2:10

In the book of Revelation chapters 2 and 3 we find Jesus walking among the churches, observing and evaluating each of them. At the church at Ephesus, Jesus found a hardworking and doctrinally pure church. Their problem was that they lost their first love experience with Jesus.

The church in Smyrna, second of the seven Churches, was in desperate poverty – though they lived in a rich city. These conditions exist even today for some Christians standing for Christ. Take comfort in what Jesus says, “I know about your affliction and poverty – yet you are rich!”. They were slandered for their faith and they experienced great affliction. But Jesus says: “I know all about it; I know your affliction; I know your poverty; I know the slander spoken against you.” (paraphrased)

History tells us that Smyrna was the central place of Caesar worship. Because true Christians refused to bow to Caesar; they were afflicted, imprisoned and even put to death. Jews would spread vicious lies about Christians and join in with the pagans to see Christians were put to death. Life was always insecure for a follower of Christ in a city of emperor worship. Jesus exhorts the church at Smyrna to be faithful even in those difficult conditions. The title for Jesus in this message to the church at Smyrna is the title found in Revelation 1:17 of the exalted Jesus, the first and the last; who died and came to life.

The Pastor at the church at Smyrna was Polycarp. His life story mentioned in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, by John Fox, stands out as one of the most prominent.  He was seized as an old man. They allowed him one hour to pray, before facing death. His accusers felt sorry for him and pleaded with him to say ‘Lord Caesar’ and save himself. He was silent, but when pressed he responded: “I will not do as you advise me.”

Even the governor of the province urged: “Just say this and I will release you.” Polycarp said, “for eighty-six years I have served Jesus and He never once wronged me. How shall I blaspheme my King who saved me?When he threatened to tame Polycarp with fire, his response was: “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour and is soon extinguished. But the fire of eternal judgment reserved for the ungodly, you are ignorant of, …..” The people shouted unanimously that he should be burned alive. Polycarp’s words were, “Oh Father I bless you that you counted me worthy, to receive my portion among the number of martyrs.” When he said Amen the fire was lit.

Jesus said to the angel at Smyrna, “…be faithful to the point of death and I will give you the crown of life.” It is ironic that the death of Christians such as Polycarp could not stop the growth of Christianity, rather the firm stand of martyrs like him to be faithful unto death, and their bold response to persecution, powered the spread of the Gospel!

Jesus endured the affliction of the cross with great joy in obedience to the Father. He suffered affliction and slander because of his desire to make a way of salvation for me and you. How do we respond?


The challenge:  

To be faithful even when the cost is high- 

and high will be the return when we take high risk for Jesus. 

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