The First and The Last
Revelation 2:8 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.’”
These are the words of Jesus Christ, who is the first and the last, the beginning and the end, who died and came to life. For, Jesus, who is God the Son, left his throne in heaven, humbled himself, and took on human form, and when he was around age 33 he was put to death on a cross.
He who knew no sin became sin for us on that cross that we might become the righteousness of God. For, Jesus died on that cross that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. He died to set us free from our slavery to sin that we might become slaves of righteousness.
But he didn’t stay dead. On the third day God resurrected him from the dead, just as Jesus had said he would. And when he rose from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan, and death on our behalf so that we could be delivered from the control of sin and Satan, and so that we could now have eternal life with God.
He Knows our Tribulation
Revelation 2:9 ESV
“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.”
Jesus knows everything about us because he is God, and because he created us. So, he absolutely knows what we are going through, every bit of it. Nothing escapes his knowledge or his notice. But it isn’t just that he knows, but that he is fully sovereign over every aspect of our lives.
He causes or he allows (permits) us to go through times of tribulation and testing, for they are for our ultimate good. For these times draw us closer to him, they mature us in our walks of faith, we learn perseverance, and we grow in steadfastness of faith and in determination to obey his commands.
He also knows who is genuine or not. He knows those who are hypocrites, who pretend to be one thing while they are another. And these hypocrites evidently are those who pretend to be of God, but they are not, but they are a synagogue of Satan. And this reminds me of Jesus’ words to the Jews who claimed God as their God and Abraham as their father. Jesus told them plainly that they were not of God, but that the devil was their father.
And this can apply to those who are making a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, too, who are pretending to be Christians, but who do not truly believe in Jesus because they will not submit to him as Lord, they will not leave their lives of sin behind them, and they will not follow Jesus in obedience.
Many of them are slandering those of true faith in Jesus who have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and who have been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life in him according to the Spirit, and in righteousness, in the power and strength of God’s Spirit, and for the glory of God.
They are accusing us falsely of teaching “works-based salvation,” and this is because they are teaching many of the Scriptures out of context, and they are twisting them to say what they don’t say, while they are largely ignoring the ones that teach what they don’t want to hear.
But Jesus said if we would come after him that we must deny self, take up our cross daily (daily die to sin and to self) and follow (obey) him. And Paul taught that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who WALK not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit of God.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 3:4-10]
Do Not Fear
Revelation 2:10 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.”
But we are not to fear their false accusations or their rejection of us or what they will say about us or do to us. We are not to fear any persecution no matter what form it will come in, for it can be fairly mild all the way to extremely severe.
Some of us have never known being thrown into a literal prison for our faith in Jesus Christ, for our testimonies for him, and for our sharing the truth of his gospel. But we have been kicked out of or asked to leave institutional churches, or we have been ostracized and abandoned and rejected by family or friends or by church people for standing on the truth of God’s word.
So, “prison” can come in different forms, for when we are rejected and ostracized and pushed away we end up being alone a lot, often isolated from other humans and from interaction with them in person. And even if we do get together with other humans, oftentimes relationships are strained or they are surface level only or faked, but we aren’t really accepted for who we are. There is always an invisible wall which separates us from others.
The One Who Conquers
Revelation 2:10-11 ESV
“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.”
No matter what we go through in this life, God is still God. He is still in control. He is still completely sovereign over our lives. So, he has allowed us to go through what we go through because our suffering serves a purpose, for it is to mature us in our walks of faith and to teach us perseverance.
Sometimes, too, God allows us to be rejected by others so that our time is freed up to spend doing more of what he wants us to do. Sometimes he removes people from our lives to make way for us to spend more time with him in going where he sends us and in obeying his calling on our lives.
So, it is not good ever to try to force doors back open which the Lord may have closed for our good. This does not mean we give up and throw in the towel every time we face any kind of opposition and assume that means a closed door for us, though. So, we need to pray for discernment here.
No matter what we go through in this life, we are to trust our Lord to work it out for our good, and we are to remain steadfast in faith and in the work of the Lord even to the point of death. For, our Lord is faithful. We can depend on him. We can trust that he will not forsake us and that we can be strong in him and in his mighty strength. If we follow him, he will stand by us.
Stand by Me
By Ben E. King
The former work, a spiritual, “Stand by Me, Father,” off of which this song is partially based, was partially based off Psalms 46:2-3
When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No, I won’t be afraid
Oh, I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand
Stand by me
If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
Or the mountain should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry
No, I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand
Stand by me
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