A Tough Place to be a Christian
Smyrna was a rich and beautiful city in John’s time. However, the life of a Christian in Smyrna was quite difficult. Once a year every Roman citizen had to burn incense on the altar to Caesar. Emperor worship was a wide-spread practice. Well, not a practice…. a mandate. As in, if you refuse, you die!
If that wasn’t bad enough, there were some Jews in Smyrna who were also very mean to Christians, accusing them of not believing in God and not being loyal to the government. Jesus describes these so-called Jews as belonging to the “synagogue of Satan”. God does not mess around. He calls things what they are. Now remember that many of the early Christians, including John, still identified themselves as Jews too. There was nothing wrong with being a Christian Jew. It was just that some Jews in Smyrna were not worshipping the true God, even though they claimed to. Jesus calls this “blasphemy” (Rev. 2:9).
The church in Smyrna had experienced persecution and poverty (Rev. 2:9). Jesus gently told them they would face more persecution. Some would even be put in prison or killed for their faith (Rev. 2:10). What a rough and tough place to be a Christian!
Nothing to Fear – Really?!
Smyrna sounds like a scary place to be a Christian. So why does Jesus tells these brave Christians not to be afraid of what they would suffer? For one thing, He knew what it was like to suffer and have people hate you. Secondly, death is only temporary if you follow Jesus. He reminds them that if they are faithful even unto death, he will give them a crown of life (Rev. 2:10). He can raise them from the dead!
Jesus Has Power Over Death
Jesus doesn’t want us to be afraid of death. We have no reason to fear death if we follow Jesus. He has all power over death and the grave (Rev. 1:18).
Jesus promises the faithful church in Smyrna that if they remain faithful the second death could not hurt them (Rev. 2:11).
- The first death is when we die from old age, an accident , a disease or from something bad happening. If we have given our hearts and lives to Jesus, He will raise us back to life at the resurrection when he comes again (1 Thess. 4:16, Rev. 20:4-5). Hallelujah! That’s good news!
- The second death is forever. There is no coming back to life from this death. The second death occurs at the last great judgment when Satan is cast into the lake of fire. It happens after the 1,000 years (more on that later). All those who names are not in Jesus’ book of life will die the second death – which is forever (Rev. 2:11, 20:6,14-15).
Fear God, Not Man
Jesus said these very important words.
“Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
Satan can only kill us in the first death. He cannot kill anyone forever. Only God can judge a person’s heart. Eventually God will do away with evil once and for all. He gives life, and he takes life away. God is the only one that has the power to kill the body and the soul. That’s the second death. Poof! Gone forever!
Before you worry if God sounds mean, check out these words Jesus said right after this warning about fearing God. “
“Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value that many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:30-31 ESV)
Jesus loves you so much. You are more valuable to him that this tiny bird. He will do everything He can to win your heart. To fear God, really means to respect him greatly, trust him and listen to what he says.
When we fear God and trust him – we have nothing else to fear!
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