Revelation 2:8-11 (NKJV)
8 “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.” ’
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was dead but now lives, warns the faithful that they are about to suffer for the Faith. They have already suffered tribulation and poverty (although they are rich in spiritual blessings). Now the devil will whip up the Jews of Smyrna to persecute them so that some are imprisoned. The devil does this easily because the Jews are of his synagogue. They think they are God’s people—Abraham’s seed—but do not believe God’s promise as Abraham did or do his works. Instead they do the work of their father, the devil.
Even if these Christians’ imprisonment ends with their executions, the saints are to be faithful until death. The one who is faithful until death will not be hurt by the second death—the eternal suffering and condemnation of Hell.
Christ strengthens them for their imprisonment and the possibility of death by reminding them of who He is. “These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life.” Their Lord Jesus Christ was faithful until death. He did not succumb to the devil’s temptations. He did not give up in the face of persecution from the synagogue of Satan. He was faithful in the midst of temptation, suffering, and death to pay for the sins of the world. He gives the crown of life to all who remain faithful to His promises, endure persecution, temptation, and tribulation, by the strength the Holy Spirit gives.
The Lord uses the devil’s temptations and the world’s persecutions to test all Christians. Though the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh mean to destroy our faith, God works all things for the good of those who love Him. Temptations and tribulations try our faith, patience, and perseverance and show the genuineness of our faith. This encourages us in our weakness. It strengthens others to steadfastness. It glorifies God whose strength is made perfect in our weakness.
Let us pray: O Lord, mercifully hear our prayer and stretch forth the right hand of Your majesty to defend us from those that rise up against us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, forever and ever. Amen.