To the Church at Smyrna

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, January 12, 2018 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here, and the next post is here.]

The second letter from Jesus to the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 is to Smyrna. Smyrna had it rough with numerous persecutions, poverty, and slander against them. Jesus’ letter to them was a letter of encouragement. This and the letter to the church in Philadelphia were the only two of these seven without a warning against a particular sin. This is a letter warning that the hardships were about to get worse, but it would be worth enduring them.

Jesus first reminds this church that he is the First and the Last, the one who died but now is risen. It is difficult to be in a worse situation than dead as Jesus was, but he rose from it. He knew the works of Smyrna. He knew the tribulations they were going through. He even knew their poverty and yet declared they were rich. And he knew that there were other Christians and Jews claiming to be as such who were not and were blaspheming both them and the very Christ they claimed to follow.

The first century church was a church that lived the way Christianity was supposed to live. Yes, they had many flaws and many faults, but the Bride of Christ worked as a whole unit, endured fierce persecution, and was willing to leave everything on the field to go after Christ. They were dealing with Nero’s formal persecution but also much of the informal persecution which Paul often saw. They were not wealthy, yet they had riches no one in the world system could see. False believers were speaking openly against them with slander. There is a lot of similarity to this among the true Christians today.

I am not citing a "no true Scotsman" fallacy because I am not specially defining a “Christian” to rule out those I disagree with. I am defining a “Christian” not as a follower of a religion, but as the Bible describes them: as someone who has been born again, bears the new nature of Christ, and lives their lives as though that is true of them. Jesus described the false believers who claim to be Jews as synagogue of Satan.

We in America do not have the formal persecution going on which was endured in the Roman Empire or the 1500s Inquisition. However, we are experiencing the informal persecution and it’s getting worse. Christians have been bullied out of business because of standing for their beliefs. I’m not just talking about a cake-maker whose case is before the Supreme Court, or even Hobby Lobby who balked at being forced to participate in supplying abortion to its employees (they only balked at 4 of the 20-some stipulations). A Christian family was booted from a farmer’s market because of a Facebook comment against gay marriage. And here, Justin Derby goes over an article how a student was booted from his university class for speaking against gay marriage on Facebook and the court, acknowledging no rights were violated and his right to freedom of speech, supported the school’s decision to remove him. This doesn’t include the heavily documented cases about discrimination in the scientific community against anyone who challenges the evolutionary paradigm. The video “Expelled” provides just a sampling of what is going on.

I have witnessed the slander from false Christians quite a bit too. They usually come in the form of Old Earth Creationists who, on the forums talking with me, will speak the language and try to get along, despite questioning the authority and sufficiency of Scripture the whole time. However, I’ve seen the same people in other groups and if I had not previously heard their claim to be a Christian, I would believe they were some of the most vicious militant atheists I’ve seen. They do a very poor job at convincing me to think otherwise when I engage with them.

It is going to get worse. That is what Jesus warned the church of Smyrna and he warns those of us being persecuted for nothing other than actually standing up and saying what the Bible says (not merely talking about Biblical Creationists here), that it is going to get worse. But he encourages us to hang on and endure. Some will be arrested and put into prison. Those of you reading Worldview Warriors today, do not think this is going to be readily accessible forever. Many of us are outspoken about our beliefs in the public square, preach in pulpits, speak at conferences, and as a result, we will be targeted at some point because of that. They will likely try to shut down our ministry, cut us off the internet, or silence us into small churches, but I can see each of us writers having the potential of spending time in jail for no other reason than speaking truth to a world which hates it. Are we ready to make such a stand?

Jesus told us, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). Yes, that means stay true to what you believe, even unto the point of death. Very few of us have ever taken serious thought about what that means. It is easy to say, “I’ll never deny Christ.” We’ll see when the real persecution hits, when it becomes a matter of life or death, when it becomes a matter of the life of a loved one or renouncing Christ. Are we willing to pay that price for our Savior?

Those who endure and will not renounce the name of Christ at the cost of job, popularity, social prestige, finances, family turning on you, or even death, will not be touched by the second death (verse 11). There are many who as a lifestyle live their lives in sin and while Revelation 21-22 are cited as the glorious chapters, Revelation 21:8 gives a list of those who will not make it. Take note of the first one listed: the cowardly. When Peter denied Christ he was a coward. He talked big, but when it came down to it, he found out he was all talk. This same man just 50 days later would speak boldly before thousands, and only a few days after that he told the Sanhedrin who had just imprisoned him he would rather obey God than men. How was this possible? Pentecost, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There is no way to endure this persecution without knowing the God of the Bible in his power in your life. Head knowledge won’t do it. Emotional passion won’t do it. Only the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in his power can do it. The persecution is coming and God will offer all the grace necessary to get through it. In that day, if it hasn’t already been revealed, the true Christian from the faker will be revealed, because the faker will not endure. Do not let that be said of you. Make sure you are in right standing with God and if you want to be sure about where you stand, talk to me or any of the blog writers here with Worldview Warriors.

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