In this sermon, Pastor Babij preaches on Jesus’ message to the church at Smyrna in the book of Revelation. This church is one of two churches that receives no condemnation from Jesus, only commendation. Smyrna is commended for being spiritually rich and for standing publicly for the Lord despite intense and bitter suffering. Christ challenges the church at Smyrna not to fear persecution but to remain faithful unto death. Pastor Babij applies the text by asking listeners what they are doing to prepare for coming judgment and by reminding them of the promises that will be fulfilled for those who endure.
We are still looking at Revelation, going back to Revelation chapter 2. And the reason for that is because we’re looking at two churches that are different than the five churches we just reviewed. We’ll look at one of those this morning – the church of Smyrna, chapter 2:8-11 of Revelation.
Jesus, remember, is walking amongst His church. He’s walking amongst His lampstands. Of course the lampstands are the church. He has seven stars in His right hand, and those are the leaders, the elders, the pastors of those churches. The whole goal and mission of the church is to uphold the light, to share the gospel light. If a church doesn’t or stop sharing the gospel light, for whatever reason, The Lord says in chapter 2 verse 5:
or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place – unless you repent.
In the last many weeks, we have been focusing our attention on five warnings the Lord gave to His churches. All these warnings apply to all churches at all times during church history, right up up to this day, to examine us based on these things. The first warning was to the Ephesianchurch, and that warning was a church of declining love. Second warning was the Pergamum. They allowed truth to slip. The third to Thyatira that was compromising with sin within the church. The fourth was the church was warned about their complacency. That means they were just self-satisfied without being aware of the possible dangers of that. A fifth warning we looked at last week, and that was the church of Laodicea – that was spiritual indifference. Indifference is really a lack of interest. You lost interest. You lost concern. You lost care for the things of god. That kind of attitude to God is nauseating. It’s lukewarm. All that results in is vomiting them right out, unless they repent.
This Lord’s day, I would like to look at one of the two churches identified in Revelation that have no warnings, no condemnation. And it should be of great interest to us as to what is actually going on around and in that church that brings no condemnation from the Lord. Again, Jesus Christ, the sovereign head of His churches, walking amongst his people, and that means He is personally present. He is in their midst in order to examine their spiritual condition, to see how they are doing. Smyrna, this city was located about 35 miles north of Ephesus in the area of Asia Minor. It was a city of great wealth, great beauty, possessing a stadium, possessing a library, a public theater. It also had pagan temples of Sybil and Aphrodite – Greek gods and Greek goddesses. And then it also had caesar or emperor worship. That was prominent. In fact, it was so prominent that those who were part of that will required to burn incense to the emperor. If they didn’t, consequences would come down.
There was a large Jewish population that live there. It seemed to be that they had a very considerable influence upon the city, not so much religiously or spiritually, but in civil and political affairs they have the influence. The group acted as a watchdog and constantly informed the Roman authorities about Christian activities that were going on. So this heightened persecution of believers, the Jewish leadership among along with some gentiles form the mob and called for the death of a local bishop Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John. Polycarp was martyred in AD 160, more than 80 years after his conversion. He was a leading elder in Smyrna. This word Smyrna actually means myrrh or bitter. So it became a very dangerous place for Christians to live in a place like Smyrna.
And so we look at the same thing as we looked at the other churches in Revelation chapter 2. Notice verse 8 – the character of Jesus. And before I look at that, let’s pray. Lord this morning, I do thank You Lord for the opportunity once again to have the freedom to meet together, to be able to open up our Bibles, to be able to preach the Word of God, to be able to sit here relatively in peace. I pray Lord we never take advantage of that. And I pray Lord that we’d always consider it a great privilege to listen to the King of Kings speak to us. Always prepares for that, Lord. And as we look at this particular church, teach us the characteristics that You dispel about Yourself and about the church that would help us today and in the future. And I pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
So here’s the character of Jesus in Revelation 2:8:
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:
Now the Lord’s character in this verse is put before the church. Of course the evaluation and Christ’s attributes have something to do with the evaluation of this church. The first thing it says that He is the first and the last, that Jesus Christ our Redeemer is the first and the last. He is the first, for by Him all things were made. And He was before all things with God and was God Himself. He is the last, for all things are made for Him. And He will be the judge of all. He is the beginning of the story and He is the end of the story. That means He has the final word on everything and everyone. He is the first for by whom the foundation of the church was laid in. He is the last, for by Him the top stone will be brought forth and laid at the end of time. He is the first and the last.
Secondly He was dead. It says in verse 8 He was dead. That means literally He died, affirming of course the humanity of Jesus Christ. He lived again afterwards. Jesus was actually a man who died and died for our sins by dying to purchase salvation for us. But He is alive. He is God also. He rose again for our justification and by His life He applies salvation to those who come and believe in Him as their Lord and Savior. He makes intercession for us even now. So death really never phased Christ. He just went right on living. And of course that is affirmed in other places in Scripture. Revelation 1:7 says:
Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him…”I am the Alpha and Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Meaning that He is in 1:18 “the living One”:
and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
Jesus has the keys that unlocks death and unlocks Hades. We look at the historical books in Acts and we see when the apostles were preaching, what did they preach? In Acts 2:27 it says:
Because you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
Very stressed in the book all through the preaching that Jesus would never be abandoned to death and suffer decay like everyone else who dies. In other words, for this group of people, if Jesus died and rose, then resurrection has a lot to do with how important it is to live at a time that this church lived. We are reminded from this description of our Lord that we do not worship a dead man, because Christ is alive and He is able to work on behalf of His children in any age. Again the Lord is about to evaluate their spiritual condition. And in His evaluation, we find that there is no condemnations. That means that Jesus the evaluator doesn’t condemn this church for anything. His skillful eyefinds not even the smallest grain of a bad word. When I consider that, when you considered that, that the Lord has nothing to warn this church, it should bring to our mind immediately – I want to know why. Why the other five churches had warnings and this church has no warning?
Well, we do find the Lord begins to show us why in revelation 2:9. Here’s the commendation to the church. The Lord knows everything about us and everything that we are going through. Here, the Lord reveals how their life and their experiences are as believers living in Smyrna. He really gives three things they are experiencing. And it really has to do with persecution. And the first thing in verse 9 they are experiencing – look at what the Lord knows. It says this:
I know your tribulation…
“Thlipsis” – trouble, distress, your hard circumstances. The word really meant to be crushed under the weight of something. The actual word Smyrna is related to myrrh. When crushed, myrrh produced a bitter fragrance. So in a similar way, when the church suffers, when she is doing what is right and pleasing her Lord and persecution comes down on her for that very reason because they are living for the Lord, because they are living for what is right, it may seem bitter. But the smell is sweet to the Lord. Bitter suffering, but sweet to the Lord.
We can even ask ourself the question – how do we smell? Do we smell fragrant to the Lord because we have been pleasing to Him and doing what is right and standing up for Him in our different spheres of life? Or have we been basically silent? Nobody even knows we’re a believer. Nobody knows where we stand on things. So really, this has to do with a restricting pressure that burdens the spirit within. That’s what’s going on in this church.
It’s like what Paul was saying to the Corinthian church, where he said in 2 Corinthians chapter 2:14:
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifest through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.
Of course he was speaking about we’re not like the other preachers who just peddle the word. We are actually preaching the Word in sincerity and we are speaking in the sight of Christ and in the sight of God. So the first thing he says is – I know you’re suffering. I know what you’re going through for My sake.
Then secondly in verse nine, He says the second thing – I know your poverty. The spiritual riches of this church are in contrast to the spiritual poverty in Laodicea. In this case, suffering made this body of believers. They were poverty-stricken. Really it was kind of a lack of everything, not just the essentials, because of their identity of being Christians. The term really means extreme poverty, or complete destitution. You may be poor as far as the material wealth of the world, yet not be spiritually destitute.
So we can ask the question – how does your spiritual bank account look to God? Is He able to say to you – I know your poverty? Because if you notice what else He says there – I not only know your poverty, and then notice in parentheses it says “but you are rich”. That’s an amazing statement here. Now all the indicators point that there is some kind of financial hardship. Smyrna also had guilds like our unions which regulated the craftsmen in those particular cities. And because of the extreme hatred of Christians, when a Christian took a stand for Christ, often businesses and jobs were on the line. And perhaps the Jews and pagans had come against the Christians there and even pillage their property, as recorded in Hebrews 10:34, where it’s recorded this:
For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.
So brethren, if you just consider that, that the strength of one’s faith to accept joyfully the seizure of your property – how in the world could anyone do that? It seems like there has to be an exemplary attitude and understanding of theology and relationship with Christ for that to take place. In the Hebrews passage of Scripture, it actually tells us how they’re able to do it. It says knowing that you have for yourself a better possession, a lasting one. See they knew that there would be a city whose builder and maker was God, and that’s where they were heading. But just consider that for a moment, that if you’re a Christian and you’re involved with work and you take a Christian stand and all sudden, your job is on the line because you were a Christian.
Recently this past week, Chick-fil-A had to give up something. They had to say they weren’t going to hold a certain position anymore. So obviously the pressure was on them to make that change, to not take a stand like they took before. Of course the founder of that particular business had died I think about a couple years ago. Now of course, other people come into leadership and they don’t hold that stand. Now there’s probably a lot of reasons why they made that decision, but you can see how a business who is trying to uphold a standard for truth and for what is right and for honoring God, how it just comes under such pressure to keep that stand, that if they don’t keep it, they will lose that business. And that’s probably something like what took place. But we all know that when you compromise in one area, it’s just a matter of time before you compromise in another, before you compromise in another and another and another until there is no stands. There’s no more conviction.
So in this case, if poverty equal God not being near for blessing, then this church was in severe trouble. But if you look at verse 9, you see that what Christ says you are rich. Listen, you may not be physically rich, but you are spiritually rich. Many who are rich in the earthly realm are often poor in the spiritual realm. Some who are poor outwardly are rich inwardly. That means that physical poverty has nothing to do with spiritual wealth. The church was rich in the things money could not buy. They were rich in the relationship with God.
Let’s look at a few passages. Turn back to Luke 12:16-21. You see here in this parable, the Lord is telling a story and He’s concluding in a certain way. And what He is concluding is that a person could be rich toward God and yet have a complete wrong view of wealth, physical wealth. If you look at Luke 12:16 it says:
And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.'” But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
See, to be rich toward God is more important than to have earthly riches. They were rich in faith because they understood the great salvation that God had brought to them. Another passage I’d like you to turn to is found in 1 Timothy 6:17-19. This is someone who has wealth. But the admonition is for them to be rich in good deeds if they do have wealth. In 1 Timothy chapter 6:17, the apostle Paul instructs Timothy, being the young pastor of the church at Ephesus. He says:
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
So there’s the admonition to someone who God does blessed with riches and wealth, that they make sure that they are rich toward God and rich in good works. There’s riches in the privileges that God gives his children. We are not merely children of a president or prime minister or king, but we are children of the King of Kings, the Lord of lords, which is a tremendous privilege. And of course, we are also privileged to be rich in hope and rich in joy and rich in peace and rich in happiness and rich in contentment and rich in eternal accomplishments. When God’s people are lacking in temporal wealth for the sake of Christ and a good conscience, the Lord makes it up to them in spiritual riches which are much more satisfying and enduring.
So this church, the three things they are experiencing. They’re experiencing suffering. They’re experiencing poverty, and that is a physical poverty. They’re also experiencing a religious poverty in the sense they were being slandered. Verse nine, notice:
I know…the blasphemy by those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
So religious slander that came against them. Everywhere they went, they were being slandered. And they most likely were being slandered by the false teachers who had claimed to be Jews, but were really not. All through the book of Acts, the jews respond to the preaching of the apostles. And how did they respond to that preaching? Here’s one passage in chapter 13 that says:
But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming.
They were blaspheming what he was saying. And of course what he was saying is the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was preaching about the resurrection and the judgment to come and turning the gentiles to the Lord. They were jealous and began to religiously slandered them. In other words, in this passage these are not actual Jews who were circumcised in their heart, but these are Jews but not converted in verse nine. Blasphemy by those who say that they are Jews and but are of the synagogue of Satan. These Jews were very religious, but of course Jesus reveals who they really worshipped and followed. It says that they were not of the synagogue of God, but they were of the synagogue of Satan. That does reveal something to us. What it reveals to us is that behind suffering is often the manipulation of Satan against God’s people. So this was in an assembly, but it was an assembly of the devil.
Jesus told the Jews who claim they were the children of Abraham and thought they were heading to the kingdom of God. He told them that they were not heading to the kingdom of God at all. In fact, that is specifically taught in the gospel of John chapter 8. If you notice the conversation that Jesus has with the Jews there, you’ll find that He indicates and identifies where they’re really at, and they didn’t think they were there. That’s usually the case: when somebody thinks they are right with God. They think that they’re in the in-crowd. They think they are actually good enough, that God would look at them and say: hey come on in; you’ve been a good guy. They find out when God evaluates them, that’s not the case at all.
If you take your Bible to look at John 8:39, you’ll see that there Jesus is saying to Jews who think they are the children of Abraham and that they’re actually hearing the words of God are not hearing the words of God at all and not receiving with God’s giving them. If you notice in John 8:39, it says:
They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham.
What were the deeds of Abraham? In this one case, it could be that Abraham received God’s word and Abraham received God’s messengers and servants. And he acted appropriately towards them because he believed God. John 8:40 says:
“But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. You are doing the deeds of your father.” They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; We have one Father: God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desire of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is the liar and the father of lies. But because I speak truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convinced Me of sin? If I speak the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.
Now that was a pretty severe blow to the Jews. These jews think they are in the in-crowd. They’re going to the kingdom of God. And Jesus tell them: no, you’re on the outside crowd. You’re not going to the kingdom of God because you don’t receive the words of God. You don’t receive the servant of God. You don’t receive the message of God.
So Jews in Smyrna bitterly opposed Christianity and were motivated by Satan to instigate attacks against the church there. Don’t misunderstand at this point: any church or gathering or assembly that preaches a gospel other than the true gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as found in the Scriptures – they are also a synagogue of Satan. Synagogue really is a word that just means a coming together, assembly of people that meet together. And don’t forget this – the true gospel of Jesus Christ has always been and will always be troublesome to the religious community. There could be several reasons for that. The first could be that the gate to heaven is narrow, and the church can’t stand behind multiple points of view as being legitimate. Second thing could be that if the Christian gospel is true (and it is), everything else is a lie. Every other religion is a lie. Every other way that a person proposes to be right with God is a lie. If Christ alone saves, those who do not believe in Him are doomed.
Another thing could be that the church can’t lead sinners to salvation if it presents one road as being as good as any other road. A lot of times, the truth is is usually postured in this way – hey listen, there’s one mountain and we’re all heading to the top of the mountain. You’re coming your way and he’s coming his way and she’s coming her way, but we’re all heading up to the same place. Well that’s the farthest thing from the truth. That is not the truth. The bottom line is the gospel is exclusive, and that doesn’t go over well today. The gateway is narrow, that Jesus is the only way. Living in a pluralistic society and culture in which everybody’s opinion is supposed to be valid and every way we think that we can be right with God is supposed to be legitimate. See, there’s always going to be trouble. Don’t be taken by surprise if you give the gospel and it’s not received with joy. Because you realize that when you give the gospel, it convicts. It shows people where they’re wrong in their thinking.
In fact, the political slander that came against this church at Smyrna, they were saying the Christians were cannibals. Look at the Lord’s table – eat my body, drink my blood. They’re saying these people are cannibals. And they were also accusing them of gathering for orgies because they would call their gatherings love feasts and misinterpreting what that meant. They also were saying that the Christians were tampering with families because people would come to Christ and their families would be broken up because they would have to leave their families. Maybe it’s a Jewish family and they would be ostracized and kicked out and destroy the family unit because they came to Christ. They were considered to be atheist too, because Christians had no images to bow down and worship. How can you worship a God who’s unknown? How can you worship a God you cannot see? And they were considered the atheist. Also, they were considered politically disloyal. They could not say that caesar or the emperor was lord or burn incense to him. They also were accusing Christians as being incendiaries. Why? Because they taught the world would end by fire. And of course is the world going to end by fire? Yes, because it tells us in Scripture. It’s not going to be flooded next time. It’s going to be burnt next time. The Lord gives us a clear indication of that.
So if you’re a Bible toter, if you are intolerant to other positions, then you are going to be considered a racist. You’re going to be considered narrow-minded. You’re going to be considered a bigot. You’re going to be considered all kinds of names that are being thrown out there today, because all the things that we see going on in our government are really focused and are going to be narrowly focused on just a few groups. One of the groups is going to be Christians. Christians, we read Scripture like this and we must begin to prepare ourselves that persecution is coming our way. And with the internet and how fast information gets around the world, when it comes it will come quickly. It’s already happening, but we can’t sit on our laurels to think it’s not. We really can’t. And that’s why I think that our prayer time should be more fervent than ever because of the days in which we live.
So you can see that this little church was under some heavy satanic assault. There was plenty of ammo both politically and religiously to shoot at them. Also, you can see that only real disciples of Jesus Christ could possibly stay in a church like this. In other words, persecution thins out the ranks. No would-be disciple, no fence-straddler would understand such a place and reason in their minds to stay there. They would have to get out. And that’s what persecution does. And could you see now why there’s no condemnation against the church? Why is no condemnation? Because of persecution. Because persecution weeds out people who are not serious, who are not really converted, who not genuine believers in the body of Christ. It weeds them right out. What you’re left with is a true church. That’s what you’re left with.
Now with all that going on and with all the trouble that came against them, it doesn’t seem here that they had prayer meetings for the Lord to deliver them from these things. Look at the council the Lord gives. He gives two commands to them in verse 10 of chapter 2. Look at the commands He gives:
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
The two commands are don’t be afraid, and secondly be faithful unto death. I don’t know about you, but those are pretty heavy commands. I have to really believe. I really have to have a relationship with Christ. I really have to understand theologically what’s going on for me to stick, for you to stick. That’s exactly what we’re called to do. Do not fear. Be faithful unto death. See, the risen Christ conquered the worst that the persecution can do to you – to take your life. The Lord is not promising here health, wealth, or prosperity. He does not dangle before them the promise that they shall find things easy and pleasant. Neither does He dangle before them that you’re going to get it out of your trouble or get out of your suffering or get out of the political slander that you’re under. He doesn’t say that to them. He says don’t fear.
Now that has to bring us back to the original character of Jesus that was presented to us in the beginning of this verse. Jesus says: I am the first and the last. I have the last word. That I was dead and I’m alive. I’m the One who defeated Satan and death. So if you’re going to trust anything, trust in who I am. And that’s exactly what they were doing. Scripture comes to mind – that one passage in Matthew 10:28. You remember what it says? It says this:
Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.
Who are they to fear? They’re to fear their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That’s who they’re to fear. They don’t have to fear the Jews that are against them. They don’t have to fear the suffering. They don’t have to fear the slander. They just have to trust Him.
And He gives them also four heads-up. In verse 10 He says four things to them. Number one – don’t fear what you are about to suffer. In other words, you will suffer in some way. I already know that. I’ve taken care of that. Secondly, a heads-up in verse 10 – behold the devil is about to cast some of you in prison. The devil is behind the persecution of believers. The devil here, meaning the accuser, he’s the one who accuses the brethren. He acted through these Jewish accusers against Christ and his followers and these are the false charges that are brought against Christians from the Jews. There’s nobody to defend them in the earthly realm. The politics aren’t going to defend them. The religious systems aren’t going to defend them. People aren’t going to defend them. The believers have absolutely on the human level no defense except Christ Himself and what He said.
A third heads-up in verse 10 is that the purpose of satanic opposition is to test us, so that you will be tested. Why do believers need to be tested, even for a short period of time? To see whether they’re in the faith, whether they’re genuine. Any metal that you bring to a jeweler, just a lump you going to dump on the table, he’s going to have to test that metal to see how genuine that metal is, how pure it is. So testing always comes by persecution to believers. A short time of persecution is for the faithful. The time of trial, He’s saying to them, will be short. In other word, you’re not going to suffer for a long time, but the duration of your joy is going to be forever.
Then the Lord gives them the challenge and the promise. I want you to notice the promise that He gives them, the challenge. One concluding challenge He says – be faithful unto death, which I already mentioned that this is yes it is faithful unto physical but it means something way more. That being faithful unto death is really a forward-looking faith. A faith that calls for a full evaluation of one’s present lifestyle, one’s present goals, one’s present pursuits in light of the one approaching. That one defining moment in history when we will see Jesus coming on the clouds of power or in His presence after physical death. That we are being faithful while we’re living in the realm in which God called us, the time in which God call us. We’re being faithful to the things the Scriptures tell us to be faithful to. We’re not being pushed to the left or to the right. We’re walking on the narrow path and we’re going to do it. And we are purpose to do it until we die, until death.
So we could ask ourselves some questions concerning this passage. So what are you doing to be ready for the day when your hope is revealed? What are you doing? If Jesus was revealed today, what have you been doing that prepares you for that day? How does your daily routine connect with the day of Christ’s coming? How is what you are doing today an expression of your faithfulness to Christ? Can the person to the left or the right of you say to you – that person is faithful to Christ? See, He is telling them – listen, to be faithful unto death, that they know they are faithful. To know you are faithful is important, especially if you are going to realize – I can lose my life for being a Christian. I can lose my life for being a Christian.
So that’s why the Lord says this in Revelation 2:10-11. He gives them to crowning promises. Notice what He says:
I will give you the crown of life.
To receive a crown of life is really to receive the reward of eternal life that symbolizes victory, an overcomer. It has always been a consistent message in the Word of God – present trouble, future award. Even in the gospel of Mark when He was talking about persecution, He says to His followers: you will have persecution. So Jesus, right up front, never offered an easy road to any believer, and that’s always the cost of discipleship. He puts before those who repent of their sin and believe in Jesus that there will be a cost. Some loss, some suffering, some uncomfortable uneasiness, some humbling of self, some killing of our passions and desires and personal goals, some adjusting of what we think or thought life should have been or where we should be at a particular point in our walk with the Lord. And if suffering really comes into this world, we are going to have to go back to Scripture and say to ourselves – the Lord really told us a long time ago that these things may take place. Because the future reward is eternal life, that there is an age to come. An eternal life is not a reward for forsaking outward relations or inward affections or enduring other difficulties for Christ’s sake. Eternal life always and only is by the mercy and the pure grace of God to those who would believe. So the reward is certain, and it will be paid out in full in the life to come.
So the first crowning promise is that I will give you a crown of life. But then he says this secondly, if you notice in verse 11 of chapter 2:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.
See, it’ not the physical death one needs to be concerned about. The great leveler is not physical death. The great leveler is the second death. That is the final judgment that separates an unbeliever from God’s mercy and lovingkindness forever. If you just go forward to Revelation chapter 20, you’ll notice in verse 6 it says:
Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
So those who are the servants of the Lord is coming back with Him to this earth during the millennial reign of Christ are given this promise that this second death will not hurt you. They can kill the body, but they cannot kill your soul because your soul is mine. It’s my possession. I died for it. I secure your eternal salvation forever. I washed away the sin that could keep you out of My presence, and you are clean. You have the righteousness of Christ. So this death cannot hurt you. Some people say – Christians only die once; everybody else dies twice. Physically, and then they died the second death.
And then if you look also at Revelation 20:14-15, it says:
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Now the Bible gives us more information that the second death is the lake of fire, not Hades. Hades is actually a temporary place that is really unloaded into the lake of fire after the great white throne judgment where God’s books are going to be opened and He is going to judge everybody’s life fairly based on how they lived their life. Of course their life will be separated from God but nonetheless God is a fair judge. Anybody was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire, which is the second death, which is eternal death, which is a conscious existence in a resurrected body in an eternal place, a person paying for their sin forever. The Lord says that will not hurt you if you are in Christ. So you see how they can be faithful. You can see how they don’t have to fear death because of this.
Then Revelation 21:8 He says this:
But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
See, that’s what a person needs to be rescued from. The only one to rescue somebody from the second death is Jesus Christ. The second death is eternal torment. Death and Hades join the false trinity in the eternal torment and complete the stages by which God eradicates evil from all eternity. Their names are not written in the book of life because they have rejected God’s call to repentance. So both the saved and unsaved have responded to the call of God and the sacrifice of the Lamb. That has determined their destinies. The saved escape the second death and head into bliss, while the unsaved, on the basis of their choices and the judgment of a sovereign God, head to eternal torment. That’s it. There’s no middle ground. There’s no such thing as purgatory. There’s no such thing as a middle ground. This is all the more urgency that’s placed upon us to come to Christ if you haven’t yet. So don’t put it off anymore.
So how is it that this church has no declining love? No bad doctrine? No one tolerating sinful practice? No spiritual complacency or deadness? No indifference or hypocrisy? How is it that they don’t have that there? There’s only one answer – persecution. Persecution does something that nothing else can to purify the church and make it ready for the presence of the Lord Jesus christ.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank You this morning again for the Word of God. We see that in the Word of God we are given clear instruction for those who are going to live in a time that persecution comes upon the church in a very specific way. And Lord, if we are heading that way sooner than we think, Lord make us ready for that now. Let us not be so lulled to sleep by materialism in the easiness of life that we do not acknowledge that those things are very possible in our day. And I pray Lord that You would allow us not to fear if they do come. And that we would stand on the truth of who Christ is and what Christ has done, knowing that even though we may lose our life, we may lose our jobs, we may lose our land, we may lose the ability to take care of ourselves financially, that You have not forsaken us. But You promised to us things that this world cannot offer and no one can take away. Lord, let us have that kind of mindset. As we do Lord, I pray that you would protect us, remind us of what the truth is so we can live faithfully every single day of our life and organize our life in a way that we know that we are living for You.
And so Lord, we want to cast our care upon You tonight, because we know Lord these things do cause anxiety. We know Lord that they could be upsetting to us. But I just pray Lord that we learn to rest in You, trust You, for you have been faithful. You will always be faithful. You are the first and the last. You have the first word and the last word in all these things, because Lord You are the judge of all men. And Lord, for those in Christ, that judgment has already been taken place. You have taken that judgment, satisfied the justice of the Father, and You have granted us eternal life in Christ Jesus. So we praise You for that. And thank You for all that You have and will do. In Christ I pray. Amen.