Be Ready to Die
I [Paul] am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.
—2 Timothy 4:6, emphasis added
Hope in Jesus when life is painful.The message Christ gave in Revelation 2:10 is simple: “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. . . . Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
It is interesting the way this is written: “Either be faithful when you are killed for your faith, or remain faithful all the way until death comes. But don’t fear; be faithful and I will crown you!”
Every word of Christ’s brief letter to the church at Smyrna was so vital to those saints, but because of the urgency of the times there was an economy of words. It was the shortest of the seven letters to the churches, having only four verses and 127 words compared to the twelve verses written to Thyatira.
Because all the letters to the churches tie together with this description of Christ, look at what Jesus said to John earlier: “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:17-18).
Now look at Revelation 2:8: “These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life.” Do you see how Jesus identifies himself as the author? He says that He identifies with them as they go through this persecution unto death!
Jesus thus reveals himself to them as the One who is best suited to comfort them in their sorrow and to encourage them in their sufferings: “[I] was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.” He consoled them by reminding them that He also had passed through suffering and death, and triumphed over it.
Do you see why Jesus is the author of eternal life? He is the One who was dead, who died in our place that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14). Throughout human history the power of death has gripped people with fear. Jesus destroyed the devil to release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Hebrews 2:15). Jesus gave us hope!
After Jesus wrote to Smyrna, He identified Himself as the Lord of Life who conquered death. Now He gave them an approval: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9).
The martyred Christians were able to die faithfully because they lived faithfully for Christ. They were triumphant in death because they were triumphant in life. And He says to us likewise: “Be faithful unto death, and I will approve of you!”
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