Rev 2:10                               A Faithful Bride                                           3/13/2005      ßà   

  • The First and the Last (Rev 2:8-11, Jer 17:9, Rom 11:36)

 

 

#1.       I Know Thy Works (Rev 2:9, Rom 8:32, John 10:28)

 

 

 

  • I Know Thy Tribulation (Rev 2:9, Rom 2:28-29, 22:19, John 7:7, Heb 10:29)

 

 

 

  • Fear None of Those Things (Rev 2:10, John 15:20, 16:2, Psalm 115:3, Ex 20:2-3)

 

 

 

#2.       The Devil Shall Cast Some of You Into Prison (Rev 2:10, Isa 41:10, Rom 8:18)

 

 

 

  • Be Thou Faithful Unto Death (Rev 2:10, Isa 62:5, Rev 21:9, Rom 8:28)

 

 

 

  • And I Will Give Thee a Crown of Life (Rev 2:10, Rom 8:32)

 

 

 

#3.       He That Overcometh Shall Not Be Hurt (Rev 2:11, Rom 3:18)

 

 

 

  • He That Hath an Ear, Let Him Hear (Rev 2:11)

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Prophecy of Rev 2:8 (2X). The Lord Jesus Christ is addressing the second of the seven churches. Although these seven churches first of all represent the church throughout the entire NT dispensation, we can also see a trend of the NT church in history. For example, the first one, the church at Ephesus, was typical of the church in the first century AD, when they had to fight many legalists from the cult of the Judaizers, and many imposter-theologians from the cult of the Gnostics. And when we consider the last one of the seven churches, the church at Laodicea, reflects the dead church of the end time, just before Christ returns. The second of these churches was the church of Smyrna, which is characterized as the persecuted church. In the second half of the first century AD persecution of the Christians began, and this lasted until the beginning of the fourth century. Many thousands of Christians were painfully slaughtered during that time, as the thousands of skulls in the Roman catacombs testify. And during this time the culture of Rome was gradually changed. The citizens of Rome were trained to watch this mass murder in the Coliseum and love it as great amusement. How could they enjoy watching such cruelty? This is just one example of God’s evaluation of the human heart. God said in Jer 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Do not think that the people in those days were exceptionally cruel. Such cruelty has been happening in our days as well. Just think of the six million Jews killed in German concentration camps. Just think of the training of terrorists today, who are trained to murder deliberately and they do it with great rejoicing. But all through these three centuries most of the church was faithful. And that is what we see here in this letter of the Lord Jesus to the church at Smyrna. Here we see the church as a faithful Bride of Christ. And therefore the title of this sermon is, A Faithful Bride (2X). Let us read this passage where the Lord introduced Himself as

  • The First and the Last (Rev 2:8-11, Jer 17:9, Rom 11:36)

Re 2:8  And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

Re 2:9  I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Re 2:10  Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Re 2:11  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

In His self-identification the Lord introduces Himself as “the first and the last”. What is so special about that? This indicates that Christ was before all things and before all history, and He will be the end goal when this dispensation shall have come to its finish. He is the principle of all that is, and His glorification is the end purpose. He stands above all time and controls all history. He is the sovereign Lord God Almighty. Or in the words of Rom 11:36, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen”. This almighty God says to the church at Smyrna:

#1.       I Know Thy Works (Rev 2:9, Rom 8:32, John 10:28)

Re 2:9  I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Would we be comfortable when Jesus says to us, “I know thy works”? It makes us want to run and hide under a rock, or under a mountain, because there is not much good in us. Only God knows how many secret sins we hide from other people in this world. But thankfully, if we belong to the group of people whom God has chosen to save, then the Lord Jesus is also our Redeemer, and on the cross He has paid for the guilt of every single sin in our life. And so, when God looks at us He sees no sin. All our sins have been covered over by the blood of Christ. We appear perfect in the eyes of God, because the righteousness of Christ has covered all our works. What characterizes such a condition of being perfect in the eyes of God? It is the quality of being faithful unto the last day of our life. This is not a quality that we could drum up. To be faithful unto death is a gift of God’s irresistible grace. When God decided to save us God counted us valuable enough to send His Son into the world to suffer on a cruel cross in our place and to die for us the death that we deserved for all our sins. Then at some point in our life God the Holy Spirit made us spiritually alive, He regenerated our soul so that we could believe the Bible, and God revealed to us that Christ died for us. If God then, by His grace, saved us from going to Hell, how shall He not also continue to give us grace to keep us in His care, and to keep us faithful to the end? “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” from Rom 8:32. The Lord Jesus promised to His sheep in John 10:28, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand”. And thus, if anyone is truly saved then God’s grace will keep him or her in the faith until the last day. But God was not addressing a single individual here in this letter. God was addressing the whole church of Smyrna. It does not mean that no one in that church was committing sins any more, because that would be contrary to Scripture. But certainly the church at Smyrna was special in the eyes of God. This was not a church that had left her first love, like the church at Ephesus. This was a church that loved the Lord Jesus Christ dearly. Therefore the church of Smyrna received nothing but the most beautiful and comforting promises and commendation from the Lord. And this was also a persecuted church. The Lord Jesus Christ says to them:

  • I Know Thy Tribulation (Rev 2:9, Rom 2:28-29, 22:19, John 7:7, Heb 10:29)

Re 2:9  I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

The world hated this little church at Smyrna and pressed down upon it from every side, with the goal of her ultimate destruction. The world caused the members of this little church to suffer, because of the Word of God and of the testimony of Jesus. What was going on? There were many Jews living in Smyrna, who belonged to the well to do and influential class of people in the city. But the Christians of Smyrna were poor. They were not rich in earthly possessions. And the Christians in Smyrna were slandered, blasphemed, reproached and reviled. Then the Lord says of these blasphemers, “they say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan”. They say they are children of Abraham, but they are not. They publicly called themselves Jews, and they were children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the flesh, though in the true sense of the Word they were not Jews. God has His own definition of what constitute a Jew. God defines in Rom 2:28-29, For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:         But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God”. And so, the true believers are called Jews in the sight of God. Only true believers have been circumcised in the heart, and that is an act that Christ has done for us and to us. Those who have remained adherence to the Mosaic Law, instead of “the Law of the Spirit in Christ Jesus”, are worshipping a different god than we do. They have violated the principle of Rev 22:19, which says paraphrased, “Thou shalt not take away from the words of the Book of this prophecy”; and this means we may not take away from the words of the Bible. Those who believe only the OT have taken away the words of the NT. Thereby they have changed the Word of God into something of their own liking. Their divine authority is different from our Divine Authority, and thus they are worshipping a different god than we do. That is why the Lord Jesus says of them, “they say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan”. They look down upon Christians, who claim that the Messiah has already come, and who proclaimed Christ as their King, and they call the Christians a dangerous sect and dangerous to the state, since they might easily incite the people of Smyrna to rebellion against Caesar and persuade them to acknowledge no other king than Jesus of Nazareth. At the same time they must have slandered the little church in the very name of their professed King. The Messiah of the Christians was nothing but a crucified criminal, which was horrible to the people of Smyrna, for the cross was foolishness to the Greeks. The Jews slandered the Christians in Smyrna because of the bitter hatred of the Jews toward the Christ who had come. The Lord Jesus said in John 7:7, “The world hateth Me, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil”. Therefore since they hate Christ, they also hate the followers of Christ. They have “trodden under foot the Son of God, and have counted the blood of the Covenant, wherewith He was sanctified, an unholy thing”, as the words in Heb 10:29 testify. Therefore the Lord Jesus characterizes them as a gathering under the leadership of the Devil. Satan is their chief and he inspires all that they do. Satan is the instigator of their slander. Let us apply this to our time. When you are slandered, and when our little church is slandered, think of the example the Lord has given us here. Satan is the instigator of their slander. We are being reviled for Christ’s sake, and this we should consider a great honor.

  • Fear None of Those Things (Rev 2:10, John 15:20, 16:2, Psalm 115:3, Ex 20:2-3)

Re 2:10  Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

What did these words of the Lord Jesus mean to the little church of Smyrna? It meant that more tribulation and persecution were yet to come. The deepest stage of their persecution had not yet been reached. The synagogue of Satan could not be satisfied with only slander and words of reproach. Their hatred against Christ and His church would not cease until they had actually persecuted these Christians. The Lord Jesus has warned His disciples, and He has warned the church at Smyrna, and He has warned us in John 15:20, “Remember the word that I said unto you: The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” And in John 16:2 the Lord Jesus said, “yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service”. And so, more tribulation and persecution were in store for this little church at Smyrna. But WHO is ultimately in control of all this trouble and all this pain? Did this happen out of God’s control? Could God have stopped or prevented all this trouble and all this pain? Of course God could have done that, but He did not. This little church was entirely in God’s hand, and every one of His saints is entirely in His hand. Did He not say, “they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand”? Did He not say, “I am the first and the Last”? so that He is in control from beginning to the ending. Did He not say, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things”? so that every event in this life is ordained through Him. Did He not say, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being”? (Acts 17:28), which means that all the details in the believer’s life were ordained in Christ and through Christ, ultimately to His glory? And we say “Yes, Yes” to all these things. But then, why do we read here in this verse, “behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried”? Is God sovereign, but He relinquished His sovereignty for a while and God “allowed” the Devil to do whatever he pleases, at least for a short period of time? Is this a true picture of who God is? And the answer is: Absolutely Not! What is a true picture of how God operates? God says in Psalm 115:3, “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased”. It means that God never allows Satan to do whatever he pleases. Satan only does what God wants him to do, and Satan does it with great pleasure. Satan is God’s busiest servant. Must he afflict the saints? Satan does that with great delight and with pleasure. These are jobs which perfectly fit his character. And thus, though Satan is the prime executor of the afflictions to the church at Smyrna, Satan is not the author of this plan. God is the Author of this plan, because there is no one else in this universe who determines what must be done. God says in Ex 20:2-3I am Jehovah thy God, …… Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”, and the Hebrew text actually says, “Thou shalt have no other gods in My presence”. It means we may not believe in other powers beside the power that our God of the Bible has. Satan is not another power independent of God. Only our God has everything in control, whatever happens in history, including the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. And thus it was in God’s plan that the little church of Smyrna should be persecuted more and more. And what is God’s purpose in all this pain and suffering? First of all, it is a glorious test for the church, and the church shall be victorious over it all. Christ comforts the church in saying, “Fear none of those things”, for ye shall be victorious over it all. Moreover, it is a glorious comfort to know that the Devil is persecuting us, for to be an enemy of the Devil is the best proof that we are in the army of Christ. Just believe that tribulation can never harm the church. It is true, because the Lord Jesus Christ promised it. Secondly, Christ informed the church at Smyrna that:

#2.       The Devil Shall Cast Some of You Into Prison (Rev 2:10, Isa 41:10, Rom 8:18)

They will be cast into prison in order to be tried. Do you see that here in verse 10? Did you know that this was not the Devil’s purpose? No! His second highest goal was that they should be killed, so that this little church would be without a pastor, or without an elder, or a deacon. But the highest goal of the Devil was their apostasy from the truth. However, above the Devil stands Almighty God. And Christ, the powerful Priest–King, walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. His purpose will be done after all. This is how the Lord encourages His church. They have the assurance that in their suffering they are not unconditionally delivered to the power of the Devil, but they are safe and secure in the hands of the Lord. God says in Isa 41:10, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness”. God employs even the Devil to reach His own divine purposes. By God’s grace they will be kept safe and will persevere until the end. God will try His people, in order that the strength of His grace may become manifest to the world and to the Devil, and that thus His own name will be glorified. It is an honor to be used by God in this way, so that He may be glorified. And thirdly, the Lord informed the little congregation of Smyrna that they “shall have tribulation ten days”. Were these a literal ten days? Most likely they were not. As a general rule for this Prophecy of Revelation we should take the indications of time and space in the symbolical sense of the word. Almost none of the numbers in this part of the Bible should be taken literally. What is the meaning of these ten days? It means that it will be only a short period of time; not for the use of the number “ten”, but by the use of the word “days”. Their time of tribulation is not measured by years or by months, but by days. Likewise God comforts us in Rom 8:18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”. When viewed in the light of eternity our time of tribulation is always insignificantly short. Now, let us apply this to our situation here. If in the future your Pastor would be put in jail for something he said on the air, in the hearing of the entire Los Angeles area, would this little church still continue and not be overcome with fear? What I preach is straight from the Word of God. But most people do not like what God says in the Bible, and so it is quite possible that certain people would be offended by what I said. They will not check what I said with the Bible anyway; it is very well possible that they will retaliate by dragging me to court. The question is: Would this congregation still continue faithfully until Christ comes again, or will this group of people be overcome by the wiles of the Devil and be scattered? This is something that you all should prepare for. This will be a test for you and for me. Let us return to Rev 2:10,

  • Be Thou Faithful Unto Death (Rev 2:10, Isa 62:5, Rev 21:9, Rom 8:28)

Re 2:10  Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Be thou faithful unto death, like “A Faithful Bride”. As you know the church, the body of believers consisting of both the OT saints and the NT saints together, is called the Bride of Christ. Let me read to you two passages. The first is in Isa 62:5, “As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee”. God speaks here about Jerusalem as a Bride, and from the NT we know that this is not the physical Jerusalem that is, there East of the Mediterranean, but it is the Jerusalem that is above. The second passage is like it, and it is found in Rev 21:9, “And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife”. And there he showed the Apostle John the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a Bride adorned for her Husband the Lord Jesus Christ, who is called the Lamb here in Rev 21:9, because He was and is the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for us, in our place. And so, the faithful church of Smyrna may be compared to “A Faithful Bride”. She remained faithful in tribulation. Why is it that the church in tribulation is generally strong and spiritually rich? There are at least three reasons for this. First, the church does not exist for its own glory, but for the glory of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. And therefore the church does not exist for the purpose of showing forth her own strength, but for manifesting the grace and power of the Lord her God. This she can do absolutely more clearly in times of tribulation, when it is abundantly clear that she possesses no resources, no strength, no hope, no faith, outside of Christ; and that it is all in Him and from Him that she receives strength to stand and to remain faithful. That is why God ordains tribulation, to manifest His grace and power in our life, and in the life of the church. Secondly, the root of the church’s life is faith. For by faith she is connected with Him who walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks. The stronger this faith is, the more the church will grow in grace and increase in all spiritual riches in Christ Jesus. But a period of outward poverty and tribulation is an ideal environment for the exercise and strengthening of our faith. Thus when the storm of persecution sweeps through the church, then the church strikes her roots of faith more deeply into Christ, and draws from Him more consciously the strength of her life, and increases her faith. That is why God ordains tribulation in our life, so that our faith may increase. Thirdly, when the church is honored rather than despised in the world, there is a grave danger that many who are not part of spiritual Israel become members of this church. They join the church for carnal motives and selfish reasons. Or it becomes a matter of honor, or even of common decency, to be a church member. And so, many unsaved people join the church, and if they are experienced business managers they end up in leadership positions such as deacons and elders and pastors. Then they impose their carnal views on church-growth, and they end up bringing the world into the church. They are of the world, and they see nothing wrong in making the church a part of the world. And so the church grows in number by leaps and bounds, but spiritually the church is going to Hell. Now contrast this with a church that is despised by the world and that is suffering persecution. When the faithful must suffer persecution and reproach for Christ’s sake, we see that the church is cleansed from these hypocrites. If they stand to lose their life or even their reputation by being a member of this persecuted church, then they rather stay away from this church. That is why God brings on tribulation and persecution of a church, to cleanse that church from its hypocrites, and the church ends up spiritually blessed. And so we see that all the sufferings for Christ’s sake actually “work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). They who are the called according to His purpose are faithful, and remain faithful, because of God’s irresistible grace poured upon them from on high. But then we read of their reward for being faithful. The Lord says:

  • And I Will Give Thee a Crown of Life (Rev 2:10, Rom 8:32)

Re 2:10  Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

What is this? Is Christ introducing special rewards for those who had to suffer greatly for His sake on this earth? I have addressed this area of special rewards before. Let me now approach this problem from a different side. Let us suppose that the delights and the glory in the life hereafter in the NH&NE are worth 100 trillion times more than being paid for having burned at the stake. The number 100 trillion is just for illustration, because when we arrive in the NH&NE we will be married to Christ, and Christ is God. We will inherit God, and that is in value way more than 100 trillion times any work we can do on this earth. But let us suppose that 100 trillion times is a reasonable number. We can see then that someone who has been burned at the stake for Christ’s sake receives a reward that is almost infinitely more than he deserves. And so, when you compare this man with his friend who has been saved only for one week and then dies in an accident, this friend has done very little work for Christ’s sake. Then they both meet each other in heaven. The friend then says, “Look at what I received; it is 100 trillion times of what you deserved for being burned at the stake”. Then the first man says, “Look at what I received; it is 100 trillion plus one times of what I deserved”. Can you hear how ridiculous that sounds? And this is just a human illustration. But who is faithful unto death? Every true believer is faithful unto death, because the grace of God makes us persevere in the faith, and thus we will be faithful unto death, because God ordained it this way. Furthermore, when we ask God, He would say the words of Rom 8:32, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” And when God has given us all things that He has, there is not anything left to give for additional rewards. Besides, when we have inherited God, we have so much more than we expected, that we would not ask for any extra rewards. Our life hereafter does not consist in having more things, or in having more glory than someone else. Our life hereafter consists in loving Christ more and more, because He has made us His Bride, and we want to be “A Faithful Bride”, also faithful in equally sharing our glory with other saints in heaven, and not aiming at having a little more glory than others. But what then must we make of the words of Christ in Rev 2:10? Notice carefully what Christ said, “I will give thee a crown of life”. He will give it to us. He will give it freely. It is a gift of grace, not a gift of reward. Watch out for theologians who are peddling a theology of extra rewards. There is lurking a little viper in between the pages of their books. And then we read in the last verse:

#3.       He That Overcometh Shall Not Be Hurt (Rev 2:11, Rom 3:18)

Re 2:11  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

Who is he that overcometh? It is he that remains faithful unto the first death. All believers will be faithful unto the first death. The first death is the separation of body and soul. When a believer dies his soul leaves the body and immediately goes to live and reign with Christ in heaven. When Christ comes again, He will bring with Him all the souls that are in heaven, and will resurrect their bodies as glorified bodies, and then He will reunite these souls with their bodies. All the unsaved will also be resurrected at that same hour, body and soul, and will receive bodies that are fit for Hell. Then after they have been judged all the unsaved will be cast into the Lake of Fire. That is the second death. The Lord Jesus says here, “He that overcometh”, or paraphrased “He that remaineth faithful unto the first death shall not be hurt by the second death, because the second death is for all the unsaved”. Are we willing to remain faithful unto death? Initially it may mean that we endure scorn and contempt. Torture is outlawed in this country, but imprisonment is quite a possibility. I am saying this because the great majority of people in this country refuses to face up to the words of the Bible, and refuse to acknowledge that the Bible is the written record of the spoken Word of God. They do not want to hear what God says, because “there is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom 3:18). And so, when certain special interest groups will flex their muscles, their scorn can become more than just words. That is what we are facing in the near future. Satan will do anything to silence this church. He has already been successful in silencing the true Gospel in many other churches in this country. He will not stop now. At the time the Lord dictated His letter to the church at Smyrna, the pastor was a man named Polycarp. History tells us how Polycarp died. He was brought into the sports arena in Smyrna, where he was commanded to denounce the Lord Jesus Christ. And Polycarp answered, “Eighty six years have I known and confessed my Master, and He has never done me any harm. Shall I then now deny Him? Never!” And as a result he was burned at the stake. Many thousands upon thousands have followed old Polycarp in his path of martyrdom. In fact the Greek word for “a witness” is “martus”, or “martur”, from which we derive the word “martyr”. Are we willing to be a faithful witness of what God has done for us? Are we willing to declare to whoever wants to listen, that God sent His only begotten Son to the cross for us, because we needed a sacrifice to atone for our sins, and only the Son of God was good enough to be that sacrifice. And when you tell the story of what God has done for you, please do not leave out Hell and damnation. It is an integral part of the Gospel.

  • He That Hath an Ear, Let Him Hear (Rev 2:11)

Re 2:11  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;

Who is he that hath an ear? They are all those whom God has given spiritual ears, which means all those whom God has chosen before the foundation of the world, and for whom Christ has suffered and died, and who have been crucified and have died with Christ, and who have been buried with Christ, and who have been raised with Christ from the grave, and who have ascended with Christ into the heavenlies, and who are seated with Christ in heaven, all those have an ear to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. What about all the other people on the earth? They have been left in their natural state of rebellion against God. They have no ear for spiritual things, and neither do they want to listen to the Word of God. What a love and compassion of God to sacrifice His Son in our place that we, by His mercy, may be washed from our sins. What an honor we have been given by Christ that we, by His grace, have been elevated to be His Bride. What a privilege that God has given us a desire to hear His Word, and that we could hear that we have been made the Bride of Christ. Yes, we want to be “A Faithful Bride”, faithful unto death. And if the struggle should become hard, and the battle almost impossible to endure, then look upon Him who walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks, who is your guard and your protector at all times. He is the first and the last, He who was dead and is alive forevermore, and He holds the keys of death and of Hell forevermore. Trust Him.                                               AMEN.

Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.