““And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 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. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” ’”
Revelation 2:8-11 NKJV
Faithful unto death
From the beginning of my walk with Christ, I have had a deepening concern for the persecuted church. In my personal experiences, I came to understand that this thing that was happening in me was revolutionary and frightening. Many of the people I had called friends had all but turned their backs on me, as the internal changes began to be reflected outwardly in my behavior. Most of the people that I knew were secular, and really had little concern for the things of God. There were some, however, who were openly hostile to God, and made sure I knew it.
As I began to investigate this new life I had, I began to read of people in far off lands being persecuted until death for their faith. Even the mere mention of the name of Jesus, or even the possession of a scrap of Scripture was enough for imprisonment, torture, or even death. I considered all this in the light of the world that I was living in, with the freedom I had.
This world outside my own stood in contrast to my world, where I could freely own a bible, attend local church, freely and openly. I could go out into the public square and share my faith with no fear. There were no late night knocks at my door, no banning of my words on social media. Physical threats were few or none at all.
As time has moved forward, those of us in the household of faith, here in North America are beginning to feel the growing heat of persecution, as the values of Christians run headlong into those of the prevailing world. We are seeing the erosion of tolerance for the presentation of the Gospel in the open square.
Reading again in Revelation chapter two, I read of the church at Smyrna. This historic, local church is the model for the modern church in persecution. Smyrna was a prosperous city, with a huge Jewish population. When Christianity entered the city, it was met with much derision and persecution. Polycarp, the bishop was martyred, having been burned at the stake. When the flames would not consume his body, he was stabbed to death.
The letter to Smyrna stands as a warning for modern day followers of Jesus, as there is persecution rising and spreading around the globe. There have been many Polycarps, giving their lives for the message of the Gospel. There is coming a future time, very soon, when we here in North America will join our brethren in the struggle.
In the letter to the church at Smyrna, Jesus exhorts those followers to continue on and not to fear the things that they are about to suffer. This is great instruction for the church in America today. I suspect that we are going to experience the same struggle that those who have gone before us have had to endure.
We are already seeing the warning signs, as those who believe are being marginalized and blamed for more and more things. All it will take is one major event, such as another raid on the capital, or something so shocking as the overturning of Roe v Wade, to bring about all out war on the people of God.
I can imagine suicide bombers, attending mega churches and setting themselves off in the name of choice.
““Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.”
Matthew 24:9-10 NKJV
It will be considered morally right to kill Christians, and the world will celebrate. The Harlot will use anything to finally rid herself of the people of the book. The Harlot will seek to destroy those who name the name of Jesus, and for ten days she will have free rein to do as she wishes. Anything to please the beast on whom she joyfully rides.
“The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.”
Revelation 17:4-6 NKJV
In the face of such an adversary, we will have to press on, sharing the Gospel with every final breath, doing all that we can to spread the Good News. It would be easy to seek to lay aside the great salvation that has delivered us from hell, but doing so will not bring escape.
We who will endure during that time will have the confidence in our savior to carry us through. We have the word of God, the testimony of the saints, and a host of witnesses who have proceeded in faith before us. May we look to them.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV
Jesus has gone before us, enduring the cross for our sins, bringing us salvation. Because He has endured, we know that we can. Because of His sacrifice, we have access to the Father and His power by way of the Holy Spirit in us.
Let us pray for those who are enduring persecution now, and hope hat they, in turn, are praying for us. I sense that when the bottom falls out, we will experience the onslaught like never before.
Let us remember the faithfulness of Jesus.
“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 NKJV
““And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.””
Revelation 22:12-13 NKJV
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