Christ’s Message to the Suffering Church. Reve 2: 8 – 11
The messages to the seven local assemblies in Asia reveal the care and concern the risen Lord Jesus has for His Church throughout this dispensation. Not only He gave Himself as an atoning sacrifice for the sake of the church, He continues to lovingly ‘nourish and cherish’ His people. Eph 5: 25 – 29.
We are very much conscious of His present glory at the right hand of the Father but seldom consider the fact that the Lord Jesus is carefully watching all that is happening in each local congregation today. Cf. Reve 1:13, 20; 2:1 etc.
Assessing the assembly at Smyrna, the Lord acknowledges their sufferings and encourages them to stay faithful at any cost. He tells this congregation who are already undergoing tribulation that they will continue to face persecution. The Lord exhorts them to face it fearlessly even to death.
Even after two thousand years, the condition of the church of Christ world-wide is the same. According to reports, Christians are the most persecuted religious groups in the whole world. In the recently held meeting on religious freedom at the UN, President Donald Trump said “approximately 80 percent of the world’s population live in countries where religious liberty is threatened, restricted, or even banned”. On the number of Christian martyrs he said, “it is estimated that 11 Christians are killed every day for …… following the teachings of Christ." In such a background the words of our blessed Lord becomes timely and meaningful for His people.
Fear Not….be Faithful
The thrust of His message to this suffering church is that they should not fear. v. 10a. Earlier He said similar words to John the apostle. “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. “ Reve 1:17
Remember, our Lord wants to take all our fears and worries away. He is aware of our feeble heart, our weaknesses. There are certain people who find pleasure in the pain and agony of others, but not our LORD. Throughout the scripture we see that whenever God’s people go through such dreadful situations, He comes along to encourage and strengthen them, saying ‘fear not’. Cf. Gen 15:1; Isaiah 43:1; Act 27:24 etc. These are not just empty words of reassurance, but based on solid facts. Notice some of the reasons why the suffering saints at Smyrna can find comfort and consolation in Christ.
1. He is aware of our real state. V. 9
“‘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.” Reve 2:9
Often others may not understand the magnitude of our troubles. We may not be able to explain the pain and agony we go through. But here Christ assures the saints, He knows exactly what they go through. Notice how He clearly analyses their exact situation.
Tribulations: This word refers to the worst, very painful, serious kinds of oppression, not just simple troubles.
Poverty: Smyrna was a rich and well known city, but the condition of God’s people was that they were poor! What a contradiction. Still that is the condition Christians have in many lands. May be as others rob their property as we see in Heb 10:34 or state sponsored economic oppression, by depriving them of livelihood because of their faith.
Slander: Others spread evil of them to discredit them before others. It has been one of the diabolic methods the enemy used to discourage and disgrace God’s people everywhere. Cf. Reve 12:10. Such false allegations against Christians can happen even today to legitimize hostilities against them.
The Lord says He knows all these things unmistakably, so never fear and be anxious. What a comfort it is to know, that He is aware of all our struggles and even its intensity too. We don’t need to make our troubles known to others, He knows, that is enough!
2. His own experience and victory. V. 8b
His knowledge of our trials is not like having just information, but He has already gone through all what we face. That’s why reminded them in the beginning itself; “These things says the …… who was dead, and came to life”. v. 8. Earlier in chapter one also He used the same truth to comfort and encourage Apostle John. 1:17, 18. Christ has gone through all that we ever suffer and even much more.
Tribulations: He suffered in every aspect from every side so much that He even prayed, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." Luke 22:42
Poverty: He had no house to be born, no money for tax. He was supported by others. Cf. Matt 17: 24, 27; Luke 8:3 etc
Slander: He was accused as a glutton, false teacher and even demon possessed! Cf. Matt.26:65; Luk.7: 34; Jn. 7:34; 8:48.
He suffered and triumphed over all these. That makes the Lord Jesus Christ as the perfect mediator who can sympathize with us in all our tribulations. Cf. Heb 4:15. Not only He suffered, our Lord has also triumphed over all these and today exalted above all. Cf. Phil 2:9; Heb 2:9; John 16:33.
These two realities – trials and triumph of Christ - should comfort and embolden us to face tribulations whatever it may be. He has made it very clear, “Because I live, you will live also.” John 14:19c. The Lord Jesus is our example and inspiration in all our sorrows.
3. His absolute sovereignty. V. 8 cf. 10
His total authority is another reason why they don’t need to fear the severe persecution they are going to face. By introducing Himself as ‘the first and the last’, He refers to His eternality as well as the complete hold on everything. In chapter one we see the Lord Jesus comforting Apostle John with the same words when he fell at His feet as dead. Cf. 1:17
He is the eternal one, before Him nothing existed and after Him nothing is there. Everything is in Him and nothing is outside of His control. In fact the coming tribulation and imprisonment of ten days in Smyrna is very much controlled and permitted by the LORD. Cf. Job 1:12; Luke 22:31.
Purity and reward
There are few more wonderful truths included in the Lord’s message to the sufferings Christians at Smyrna. Let us ponder over these realities as the enemy is earnestly looking for ways to unleash untold difficulties to the church of Christ everywhere.
God has never promised a trouble free life for us, but He has definitely promised to be with us and help us overcome. Through various hardships the enemy may aim our loss and defeat but the Lord causes it to be a blessing. It not only purifies us, but also leads us to enjoy spiritual riches. Cf. 2:9. Finally, even as the enemy takes away our life through fiery trials, the Lord is preparing a crown of life for us to be rewarded at the right time. V.10c.
With these soothing thoughts Let us continue to endure sufferings of every kind as faithful and true Christians. At the same time never stop praying for those who are hostile to Christ and His purposes. Ultimately victory belongs to us just as our Lord has overcome. John 16:33
“Do not fear…..be faithful until death” Reve 2:10
God’s Trial Ground
Moses in the wilderness Exo 3:1
Elijah in the wilderness 1King 19:4
David in the wilderness 1Sam 26:3
John the Baptist in the wilderness Matt 3:1
Paul in Arabia Gal 3:17
The Apostle John in Patmos Rev 1:9
Jesus in the wilderness Luke 4:1
Effect of hardship
Once a man visited an orange plantation during a dry season. Some of the orange plants were beginning to die for lack of water. When he enquired about the reason, the tour guide explained about the pump that was broken down.
Then the guide took the visitor to his own orchard where irrigation was used sparingly.
"These trees could go without rain for another 2 weeks," he said. "You see, when they were young, I frequently kept water from them. This hardship caused them to send their roots deeper into the soil in search of moisture.
Now mine are the deepest-rooted trees in the area. While others are being scorched by the sun, these are finding moisture at a greater depth."
— Our Daily Bread.
IMPORTANCE OF LORD’S SUPPER: Five meaningful “E”s.
By Joel Bruno, Mumbai
From I Corinthians 11:23-33, the below note summarizes five meaningful ‘E’s on the Lord’s Supper. In verse 23, it is mentioned as “Do this” which means Jesus expects all born again believers to take part in Lord’s Supper. It’s a direct command from Jesus to observe. As a believer we have to obey His command and that too meaningfully we have to take part in the supper
1. The Lord’s Supper is an EXPRESSION:
In verse 24, we read “And when he had given thanks, he break it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.”
From these words we understand that we are expressing our love for the Lord Jesus. It’s the only way we can say Him that “We love you”. Also we remember what he has done for us.
By taking part, we remember the high cost of our salvation. The Lord said, “This is my body, which is broken for you”. We remember that His body was broken in many ways.
His back was broken by whip
They broke his bow with crown of thorns
They broke his cheeks when they ripped his beard from his face
They broke his hands when they drove the nails through them
They broke his sides when they rushed the spear into it
Hence we must never forget that body of Jesus Christ was broken for us.
2. The Lord’s Supper is an EXPLANATION:
In verse 26, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till he come”.
In this the word ‘proclaim’ means to explain. Thus every time we gather at the Lord’s Table we explain His death on the cross.
3. The Lord’s Supper is an EXPECTATION:
In verse 26, we read “you proclaim the Lord’s death till he come”. The phrase “till he come” testifies that one day we will be with the Lord and it portrays our expectation on his second coming
4. The Lord’s Supper is an EXAMINATION:
In verse 28, we read “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the cup.” These verses warn us to remember and examine ourselves before we take part in this Lord’s Supper. We should make sure we are worthy and escape from the judgment which we receive due to unworthy participation.
In verse 30, it warns us that we will be weak, sick and many will sleep if we take part in unworthy manner. Hence we should examine ourselves before taking part in it.
5. The Lord’s Supper is an ENCOURAGEMENT:
In verse 33, we read “Therefore brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.”
Here Paul says “come together”. It means, Lord’s Table insists oneness, thereby encouraging fellow believers to take part.
These five thoughts on importance of Lord’s table encourages one to take part in it with whole understanding, self-examination and expectation on our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ’s second coming. Glory be to God.
Joel Bruno, Mumbai
"You will not be free of suffering, but a peaceful suffering is twice as easy to bear as suffering in turmoil.”
_________ Francois Fenelon