“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: 9 “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. 10 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.
11 “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.” ’
Jesus clarifies who it is that is speaking; “The First and the Last, who was dead and came to life.” This speaks of His deity and authority.
From eternity past, before creation was formed, there was God. On through eternity future, far beyond the fading away of the things of this world, God remains. Jesus is the “Word” Who was with God in the beginning (John 1:1-5) and who stands forever (Isaiah 40:8). Death is longer the final authority on the earth; Jesus, as Righteous Judge, has the final say on the existence of humanity. What does this mean? Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Jesus is speaking directly to a church that is facing poverty and persecution for their faith. Many, in pledging their allegiance to God, became “enemies of the state;” losing their jobs, restricted from many functions within the society, imprisoned, and put to death. The religious were aggressively moving against them in the name of God.
From the world’s perspective, their faith isn’t working. Yet God’s perspective is with an eternal destiny. In laying down their lives for His namesake, they have a promise of life. Our perspective is limited; we are content with a dinner roll while there is a grand feast set before us. There is purpose in suffering. There is reward in obedience. This church sets an example to us of what it looks like to sell all we have to purchase the field that we may possess the treasure (Matthew 13:44-46.)
In looking to Jesus we find grace to persevere with hope and joy. In our weakness His strength and authority is expressed. Let us lay aside all that is passing away in this world and behold Him who is eternal, Him who has conquered death and promised us life.