Focal passage: Revelation 2:8-11
As young children, my sister and I were fortunate to travel to major theme parks in Florida, but we realized quickly that we were afraid of the costumed characters. Our parents reminded us repeatedly that these characters were just pretending and posed no threat to us.
“I have to toughen up,” I thought to myself.
The next day, while visiting a theme park full of marine life, I became the fearless big brother and exclaimed to my sister that there was nothing to be afraid of here either, because those sharks were just costumed characters in a giant fish tank. My parents had a good laugh explaining to us that there are some things that we do need to be afraid of.
We will learn in this passage that when we experience real fearful situations, we are rich in God’s grace. In this second message to the churches, Jesus speaks to the church at Smyrna, addressing the fearful place they found themselves. Smyrna is a church that is different from the other churches that we meet in this passage, because it is a church that is poor, afflicted and suffering. And they are dealing with difficult and hard times through persecution.
The believers in Smyrna were living in a city of wealth that found itself located on a harbor, leading many to consider it the greatest city in Asia. Believers in Smyrna were persecuted by the Romans for failing to bow to the emperor. In His message, the Lord introduces Himself as the First and the Last, who died and came to life again, indicating His power over all history – past, present and future. This served as great comfort to those who face fear in the face of persecution and even death. Jesus knew their afflictions, poverty and slander, but in His great sovereignty He knew that it would not last forever.
Jesus gave the church at Smyrna and believers of all time the promise of knowing that if we have put our faith and trust in Him, we will be with Him for all eternity, and need not be afraid.