The church in Smyrna was led into the furnace of affliction. We read in
verse 9 about tribulation, poverty, and blasphemy. But her Lord and Savior
is in control. He is, as we read in verse 8, “The first and the last.” He stands
at the beginning and the end of all things. He is King over everything and
everybody. But more than that, He is the high priest who can be touched by
our weaknesses because he was tempted just like us (Hebrews 4:15). Yes,
He is also the Prophet who speaks and comes here before this poor, needy
church with words so full of comfort. He shows His greatness. He points
out that they are rich even though they are poor by worldly standards. And
as the Great Shepherd of His flock, He tells them, “Fear not.” So often, we
are beset by fear. We fear defeat because of indwelling sin in our fierce
spiritual struggle. We fear the day ahead with all its uncertainty. We fear
those around us who so easily hurt us with their words and actions. But here
is the Savior, putting His mighty arm around His poor sheep and
whispering in the ear, “Fear not”. The fear for the people in Smyrna was
the suffering the next day might bring. So, the Lord tells them, “Fear none
of those things which thou shalt suffer.” However, the Lord knows that
tomorrow and the days after will not be easy, and so He adds, “Behold, the
devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall
have tribulation ten days.” Our Lord is so wise and so fair. Yes, there is
forgiveness and righteousness, adoption into sonship, and eternal life, but
on this side of the grave, life as a pilgrim and stranger is not easy. But the
Lord places this suffering in the light of eternity and what is to come in that
eternity for all who are faithful. That is why he adds, “The tribulation is
only ten days.” The days of misery here can be counted; the days in eternity
cannot be counted. More than that, they are only ten days here. What are ten
days? What matters is that we remain faithful during that period. We read,
“Be thou faithful unto death.” The Lord gives his children everything they
need to persevere. He provides them with heavenly, tried, and tested armor.
He gives them the indwelling Holy Spirit. We do not have to overcome our
enemy; Christ has overcome our enemy! For His children, it is a matter of
abiding in Christ. Holding on to Him in all our afflictions and spiritual
struggles. But hear the promise, “and I will give thee a crown of life.” We
read the same thing in James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures
temptation, for when he is tried, he will receive the crown of life, which the
Lord has promised to those who love Him.” Smyrna was known for its
games. The victors received a wreath of victory. Those who refuse to wear
a wreath for the emperor will receive a much more glorious wreath from
Christ. Those who persevere in their fight against indwelling sin and the
temptations around them will receive the crown of life. Salvation is grace
alone; let us abide in Christ and in His word.