Smyrna – Defeating Fear
8“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
9“‘I know your tribulation and your [material] poverty (but you are rich [in the Spirit]) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
10Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
11He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
“Smyrna is modern Izmir, in Turkey on the Aegean Sea. The city at the time of Paul and John had a well-known stadium, a noted library, and a public theater which was the largest in Asia Minor. Smyrna was also noted for its imperial cult. It was the first city in the ancient world to build a temple in honor of Dea Roma, the goddess of Rome. In 26ad the city built a temple to Tiberius (emperor from 14 to 37), Livia, and the Roman senate. Smyrna’s strong allegiance to Rome, together with its large Jewish population, made life particularly difficult for Christians.”
Brighton, L. A. ©1999. Revelation (p. 70). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House.
The next spiritual step away from God is taken as we examine the example of Smyrna. To the church in Ephesus a warning against leaving your “first love” lays the foundation for a road that leads to destruction. Now Jesus explains the next step in on that path – living in fear of what may (or may not) be coming for the Christian. When I leave my first love I have opened myself up to some serious spiritual vulnerability which naturally leads to fear. I no longer sense the protection that comes from living faithfully in Jesus Christ.
Jesus also promises that there will be suffering. The Christian life is not perfect. We will be harassed, maligned, and even killed. Yesterday, 90 Christians (men, women, and children) were rounded up by ISIS and probably face almost certain death. My imagination tells me that death might be the best thing that could happen to them. I shudder to think what they are going through right now. Ask them what fear looks like. They are living right in the middle of the tribulation because of their faith and all that they can hold onto right now is the certain hope of “the crown of life”. What ISIS or anyone else cannot do is subject them to the “second death” which is eternal separation from the Savior. This earthly life may be stolen from them but God will still prevail.
Which brings us to the admonition “Do not fear what you are about to suffer.” Really easier said than done, right? I am horrified by what I hear on the news but I am also grateful that my faith is not being tested like that. Does that make me weak? Probably so. I’ll embrace that weakness. But those words can apply to my safe life too. I am fearful of what is to come for those who walk in the faith. My fear goes to my grandchildren. What will Christianity in America look like in 30 years when they are the church’s leaders? That scares me. So I hand them over to an almighty God who loves them more than I do. I surrender their faith into His hands and expect Him to care for them and their faith development. I am honest with God about those fears and let them motivate my prayer life as I beg Him to create in their hearts a love for Him that will not die. That is what it looks like to return to my first love and not let fear rule the day.