Yesterday we looked at the church in Ephesus and Christ had a lot to commend the believers there for. However, He gave them a warning that they had drifted away from their first love: Him. That’s an important message to all of us. Whatever we do in this life, no matter how “church-y” we may believe it to be, if it’s done with our first love in mind, it’s done with the wrong intentions. A parallel to that is no matter what it is we must go through, as long as we keep our eyes on our first love, we’ll be all right. Maybe not in an earthly sense, but certainly where it counts, and that’s in an eternal and spiritual one. After all, didn’t Paul write:
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:20-21, NIV
And that brings us to the message for those believers in Smyrna. It’s not a message a lot of churches or churchgoers would look forward to in today’s age:
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days Be faithful until 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 He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’ – Revelation 2:8-11, NASB
The believers in Smyrna certainly had their share of problems. It is apparent that they lacked monetary resources and basic things. Hence the reason Christ refers to their poverty. But notice that He also says they are rich. It brings us back to that question of what is our first love? If it’s Christ, if that’s our true answer, we’re rich despite what the world may say. And this was true of the church in Smyrna. Also, they were suffering through some of those problems. Some of those tribulations were the cause of those who called themselves Jews. And they might have been from a cultural/physical perspective, but they were not acting as God would expect of His people. But the worst, so far as the world was concerned, was yet to come.
Christ warned the believers that some will be thrown into prison for their faith. And some would meet physical death because of their love for their Savior. Christ called on them to remain faithful, even if it meant death. That’s a serious pursuit of first love. But the reward would be sweet. For theirs was a crown, the crown of eternal life, given by Christ Himself. Just stop for a moment and picture receiving that reward from the Son of God for remaining faithful. That’s what He promised those believers.
As believers, we must remember that the closer we draw to Christ, the more we make ourselves out to be a target for Satan. He despises God and us along with Him. Christ reminded His followers time and time again that the world would hate them if they embraced Jesus’ teachings. They would see persecution for their faith. That is something we must be prepared for. But if our first love is Jesus, then what this world may bring will be worth it, whatever it is. Because we should find our joy, our completeness, our everything in our Savior.