Revelation 2:8-11 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. 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.’”
Not Outward Only but Inward
These are the words of Jesus Christ, but not just to this specific group of people of that time, but also to persecuted Christians in our day and time who are being persecuted by others who claim to know God (Christ) and to be of true faith in the one true God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This passage of Scripture is very similar to the one in Revelation 3:7-13 which the Lord had me write about yesterday. So there will be some parallels between the two. For one, they both talk about the synagogue of Satan.
And this brings to mind this passage of Scripture in Romans 2:28-29:
“For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”
Now, from my understanding of this passage of Scripture in Romans 2 and also in Revelation 2:9 (today’s passage), the reference to “Jew” is more in a figurative sense rather than in a literal sense. It has more to do with speaking of those who are God’s beloved, his true followers, and who are genuine followers of Jesus Christ. It is speaking of those who are Abraham’s spiritual seed by true faith in Jesus Christ, who are the children of God under the New Covenant which God has with his people Israel, which is who we are by God-given faith in Jesus Christ.
[Gal 3:16, 26-29; Rom 9:4-8; Gal 4:22-31; Eph 2:14-18; 1 Jn 2:22]
We are not followers of Jesus Christ by performing religious rituals and ceremonies. We are not followers of Jesus by lip service only, too. To be a true Christian, and to be a true follower of Jesus Christ, we must be crucified with Christ in death to sin and be raised with Christ to walk in newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. We must be delivered from our slavery to sin so that we might now be slaves of God and of his righteousness, no longer living under the control of sin.
And then we must walk (in conduct, in practice) no longer according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Although we still live in flesh bodies, and we are still tempted to sin, and we still have a propensity to sin, and we may still sin at times, sin is to no longer be our master. It is to no longer have control over our lives. Jesus died on that cross to deliver us from our slavery (addiction) to sin so we might now be servants of his righteousness and so that we might now walk in obedience to his commands (New Covenant).
He Knows Our Tribulations
Now, again, this is referencing this synagogue of Satan, which is regarding those who make an outward profession of faith in Jesus Christ, but it is outward and performance only, for they have not been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and thus they have not been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life in him. The old is not gone so the new has not come. They are still walking in deliberate and habitual sin against the Lord, and they are doing likewise in sinning against the Lord’s true servants.
If this is where you are, on the receiving end of the slander of those who profess to be Christians but who are living and telling a lie, then this is for your encouragement. God knows all about what is going on and he is still on the throne, and he is fully sovereign over all that he has made. So we are not to fear what we are suffering or what is yet to come in the way of suffering for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of the name of Jesus Christ, and for the sake of righteousness.
And this is not promising us ease and comfort. And again, this is not just to those specific people to whom this was written at the time this was written. All throughout the New Testament we are told that we are destined for persecution and for being abused and taken advantage of and for having people slander us and say all sorts of evil against us. And we are told that they will put some of us in prison and they will murder some of us because of our faith in Christ and our testimonies for him and for his gospel.
[Matt 5:10-16; Matt 10:16-25; Matt 24:9-14; Matt 28:18-20; Lu 6:22-23; Lu 21:12-19; John 15:1-21; Jn 16:33; Acts 1:8; Acts 14:22; Acts 26:18; Rom 5:3-5; Rom 12:1-8; 1 Co 12:1-31; 2 Co 1:3-11; Eph 4:1-16; Eph 5:17-27; Phil 3:7-11; Col 3:16; 1 Thess 3:1-5; Jas 1:2-4; Heb 3:13; Heb 12:3-12; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 1 Pet 2:9; 1 Pet 4:12-17]
But no matter how difficult the trials may be, and even if we are slandered, and if people believe the lies about us and not the truth, and even if everyone turns against us and abandons us and leaves us alone to die alone, we are to remain faithful to our Lord to the end. We are not to let persecutions and lies and mistreatments and abuse control who we are or what we do or how we respond to people. We need to continue to do right even if everyone else does what is evil in God’s sight.
And we are to be faithful unto death, and we will receive the crown of life. And let me say here that yesterday’s passage said something similar to this, only there it had to do with not having our crown taken away from us. And this is going to mess with a lot of people’s theology, but the Scriptures do not teach once saved always saved. They certainly do not teach that we can make outward professions of faith in Jesus Christ and then be guaranteed heaven upon our deaths while we continue to live for the flesh.
What the Scriptures teach regarding our salvation is that we must walk (in conduct, in practice) according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh, for if we walk according to the flesh, in deliberate and habitual sin, we will not inherit eternal life with God. But if we walk according to the Spirit, and if we continue in those walks of faith unto the very end, then we have the hope of eternal life with God and heaven as our eternal destiny. For our salvation is progressive and it will not be complete until Jesus returns and he takes his faithful ones to be with him for eternity.
[Matt 7:21-23; Matt 24:9-14; Lu 9:23-26; Rom 1:18-32; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14,24; Rom 12:1-2; Rom 13:11; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; 1 Co 1:18; 1 Co 15:1-2; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 1:5; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 2:8-10; Eph 4:17-32; Eph 5:3-6; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-17; 1 Pet 2:24; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6,24-25; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Heb 3:6,14-15; Heb 10:23-31; Heb 12:1-2; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]
‘Til The Storm Passes By
By Thomas Mosie Lister
In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face
While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place
‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry
Keep me safe till the storm passes by
Many times Satan whispered
There is no use to try
For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by
But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies
Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me safe till the storm passes by
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