How to Serve Christ Through Affliction
As we open to Revelation 2:8-11 we are opening to the second of Christ's seven personal letters to individual churches of the late 1st Century.
As we read these words, the historical context is that the Church at Smyrna was going through the second wave of persecutions that the early church had to endure.
A Short History of Early Church Persecution
Church History records three notable waves of persecution from the Roman Emperors:
· Wave #1: Emperor Nero (54-68 AD)This persecution was sporadic and limited mainly to Rome, sweeping up Paul and Peter to execution.
· Wave #2: Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD)This persecution was wider than Nero’s, across some of the Roman Empire’s provinces, and hitting both the church at Smyrna and exiling John to Patmos.
· Wave #3: Emperor Diocletian (284-305 AD)This persecution was the greatest of any Roman Emperor against Christ's Church. Diocletian, who was one of the most administrative of all Rome’s rulers, began a systematic purge of Christianity, through an Empire-wide eradication of the Church, and he almost succeeded.
For the final nearly 10 years of Diocletian’s reign he systematically decimated Christ's church. The main reason that there is not one single complete manuscript of the Bible today, and all we have are 20,000+ fragments and partial manuscripts is because of this one very powerful man.
Under Diocletian’s wave of persecution: every church meeting place that could be identified was pulled down; every pastor that could be found was killed; and every copy of God’s Word that could be discovered, was destroyed.
The church came closest to extinction in those years.
Hope in Jesus when life is painful
The message Christ gives is so simple in Revelation 2:10:
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
The entire message to this church is: fear not.
The most important lesson for each of us from this church is: fear not.
No matter what lies ahead in our daily lives, health lives, career, finances, or anything else, the message is simply fear not.
God does not give us a spirit of fear, the world, our flesh, and the Devil do, but God does not.
Fear not, instead in v. 10 Christ says: be faithful, trust Me! Why?
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