August 24, 2021
Scripture: 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. Revelation 2:10-11 ESV
Observation: Smyrna (modern Izmir) lays about forty miles north of Ephesus. Beautifully nestled along a hillside and adorned with paved streets and elaborate temples to five Greek gods, including Zeus, the city enjoyed the Roman privilege of self-governing status due to its long-established loyalty to the emperor. Under Domitian, emperor worship had become compulsory with the threat of death, but the Christian community refused to burn incense to the godhead of Caesar. As John pronounces Jesus’ exhortation to this church under fire, he warns them of imminent imprisonment and the likelihood of death. Still, the underlying source of their persecution is the devil (see Ephesian 6:12). Understanding this, if they remain faithful to Christ, they will receive the crown of (eternal) life and escape the second death at the final judgment when Christ returns.
Takeaway: About sixty years later, the governing body of Smyrna burned alive Polycarp for refusing to pay homage to the godhead of Caesar. His words echo the centuries: “Eighty-six years have I served Christ, and he has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” (Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 4.15.25).
Prayer: Father God, in your mercy, grant us the courage and focus to remember the origin of our persecutions and the source of our salvation, that we might press on through conflict and obtain the crown of eternal life. Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling