We have arrived at the last verse of the letter to the church in Smyrna. We
read in Revelation 2:11, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit
saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second
death.” As in the other letters, we find at the end a combination of a
promise and a challenge. “He that overcometh”, in other words, “Be
faithful.” The encouragement is not to fear and to be faithful amid
tribulation. It is to cling to Jesus and abide in Him. But there is also a rich
incentive or promise for those who remain faithful in tribulation. They will
not be corrupted in the second death. The first death is physical death. The
second death is the final condemnation and separation between God and
man that awaits the unbelievers on the day of the final judgment (see
Revelation 21:8). The famous Polycarp was bishop in Smyrna and died a
martyr's death in 155 A.D. There is a miraculous legend about the
martyrdom of Polycarp: “The Passio of Polycarp.” In it is narrated that the
bishop, on the advice of friends, hid himself just outside Smyrna and stayed
there to strengthen his brothers and sisters. After some time, however, he
was captured and taken to the arena. There, Polycarp refused to swear to the
happiness of the emperor; that is, he would not acknowledge the Roman
gods and refused to renounce his faith. He then spoke, "Eighty-six years I
have served the Lord, and He has never wronged me in any way; how then
can I blaspheme Him, my King and Savior?" He was sentenced to death,
and it was initially planned to unleash lions on him. However, when these
were not available because the animal fights had already taken place, they
decided to burn him alive. Polycarp then said, "You threaten me with fire,
which burns for an hour, and a moment later is extinguished, but you are
ignorant of the future judgment and the eternal punishment that is kept for
the wicked.” However, the fire did not consume Polycarp, upon which he
was beheaded. His bones were later collected by Christians and carefully
preserved as relics. We have in this story an example of one who remained
faithful and held on to His Lord and Savior. He died knowing the promise
that the second death would not hurt him. This letter is a reminder not to
fear suffering. There are several truths to ponder. First, suffering is
inevitable for every Christian. The Bible is very clear about that. Second,
our suffering is only for a short while. For all who persevere is a crown
waiting and an eternity with Christ, the Savior and King. Thirdly what is
our suffering compared to Christ’s suffering? And fourth, suffering in the
life of a Christian is fruitful.