I Know Your Tribulation
Revelation 2:8-9 ESV
“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
“‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.’”
In the letters to the seven churches recorded in the book of Revelation, in chapters 2-3, there are five churches which Jesus scolded for something they were doing wrong, and where he called them to repent or to face some kind of judgment. One of those he had nothing good to say about it. But for the other four he had some positive comments, as well as negative ones.
There were only two of the seven, Smyrna and Philadelphia, which he had nothing negative to say about them. So, approximately 30% of the overall church were represented by these two. Thus, they were in the minority. And, in both cases, they were being persecuted by these who said they were Jews but were not but were of the synagogue of Satan.
In America, which is the only country I really know, the majority of the church here would fit with the description of those five churches called to repent or to face judgment, and the minority would fit with the description of those two who were being persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
They Say They are Jews
Now, regarding those who say they are Jews but are not but are of the synagogue of Satan, the Lord Jesus reminded me of this passage of Scripture:
“Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.’” John 8:42-45 ESV
Whether Jew or Gentile by birth, this is speaking of those who make a profession of faith in the One True God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
But it is not enough just to profess faith in God or in Jesus Christ, who is God. It is not enough just to make a public confession of Christ as Lord or to claim to believe in Jesus. If our faith is not accompanied by action which proves our faith to be genuine faith, then it is surface only.
To these same Jews Jesus said that they would die in their sin unless they believed in him. He told them that if they abide in his word, that they are then truly his disciples, and the truth would set them free. Then he went on to tell them that everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. He is not free.
He continued by telling them that they sought to kill him because his word had no place in their lives. They claimed Abraham as their father, to which Jesus responded, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did,” and, “You are doing the works your father did,” and, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”
So, we can claim we are followers of God, and/or that we believe in Jesus Christ, but unless we live (remain, stay) in the word of God, and it becomes who we are, and unless we love (obey) Jesus, and we no longer live as slaves of sin, then we are not of God.
We all have works that we do. They are our deeds. Either we work for the Lord or we work for the devil. We are either slaves of sin, which leads to death, or we are slaves of obedience, which leads to righteousness. Either we walk (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit or according to the flesh (Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Jn 1:5-9; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8).
We are what we do, not what we say we are. What we do is evidence of what we really believe. We are not saved by our works, but our salvation is not absent of works, and our works done in the Spirit give evidence that we are truly children of God (Eph 2:10; Tit 2:14; Phil 2:12-13; Jas 2:17).
The Slander of Those
So, those who are proclaiming to be followers of Jesus but whose lifestyles speak the opposite, are not truly followers of Jesus. And, some (or many) of them are not content just with making a false confession of Christ as Lord, while living in sin, but they are outwardly opposing the truth and those who are proclaiming the truth of the gospel of our salvation.
So, those who are in the minority, who are still holding to the tenets of the Christian faith, who are following (obeying) Jesus with their lives, and who are proclaiming the truth, and who are exposing the lies, are being persecuted by these who claim to be of God but are not.
They are coming against both the truth of the gospel and those who are proclaiming it saying that Jesus requires no repentance, no obedience, and no submission to him as Lord. They call these “works-based salvation,” and those who teach these as teachers of “works-based salvation.”
Some take it further by calling us bigoted, prejudicial, hateful, spiteful, liars, intolerant, crazy, legalistic, and the like. But Jesus was accused of being crazy, even by his own family, and he was even accused of being of the devil. And, he had people consistently coming after him to try to trip him up.
Do Not Be Afraid
Revelation 2:10-11 ESV
“’Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto 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. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’”
But we are not to fear their false accusations or their attempts to make us look bad in front of others. We are not to fear what they might say to us or about us or what they might do to us. We are to put our lives into the hands of the Lord and to keep following him each step of the way.
We are to remain faithful to our Lord, no matter what comes our way, and we are to keep speaking the truth of the gospel to all who will listen.
On Zion’s Glorious Summit
By John Kent
On Zion’s glorious summit stood
A numerous host redeemed by blood!
They hymned their king in strains divine;
I heard the song and strove to join,
I heard the song and strove to join.
Here all who suffered sword or flame
For truth, or Jesus’ lovely name,
Shout victory now and hail the Lamb,
And bow before the great I AM,
And bow before the great I AM.
While everlasting ages roll,
Eternal love shall feast their soul,
And scenes of bliss, forever new,
Rise in succession to their view,
Rise in succession to their view.
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of hosts, on high adored!
Who like me Thy praise should sing,
O Almighty King!
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of hosts, on high adored!
Holy, holy, holy.
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