September 14, 2006
As the study of the message to first of seven churches concludes, namely the Church of Ephesus, we begin the study of the message to the church of Smyrna, the church of suffering, one of only two churches not to receive a rebuke or correction from Christ. Blessed is the man who finds himself in the spiritual condition of Smyrna, although in the eyes of the world he may be forsaken, impoverished, and destitute, in the eyes of God, he is as a precious jewel, one for whom a crown of life is reserved if he remains faithful until the end.
Revelation 2:8, "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, these things says the First and the Last, who was dead and came to life:"
As discussed previously the book of Revelation is filled with symbolism, and the name Smyrna is no exception. When one studies the origins of this name, and the spiritual repercussions thereof, one realizes there is nothing accidental when it comes to the word of God.
The word Smyrna is the Greek word for myrrh, a spice brought from the Orient to this port city on the Aegean Sea. So great was the demand for myrrh in those days that they even named the port city after this spice. The interesting thing about myrrh as such, is that it was used as a sweet smelling perfume, or incense, but also when crushed, as an analgesic, and antispasmodic, a medicine bitter to the taste. This is why Jesus was offered wine mingled with myrrh, when crucified, to lessen, and dull the pain He would feel, an offer He refused, for He had to carry the burden of the sin of the world on the cross.
The name Smyrna was specifically chosen for the condition of suffering in which the church found itself, and some still find themselves to this present day in many corners of the world. Suffering for the cause of Christ, without murmur or complaint, being unjustly persecuted for the sake of the cross, is bitter to the flesh, but is as sweet smelling incense to God. Herein, the opposing definitions of Smyrna, both bitter and sweet are reconciled, and we see the beauty of what Christ was trying to convey, by the mere name of this blessed church. Although today you may suffer, although today you may endure, although existence itself may be a bitter thing to you, be unwavering in your faithfulness, for the sweet smell of your sacrifice, will not go unnoticed before an all knowing God.
I realize full well that the very idea of suffering may be a foreign concept to many in this present age, I realize that it may even be a taboo subject upon which many would rather we not dwell, but the praise from the lips of Christ for this church, cannot go unnoticed, and if it must be now that we wake from our slumber and realize the path to heaven is not paved with rose petals and palatial homes, that we must carry our cross, and yes, even suffer on behalf of Christ, then so be it.
If you can reconcile the suffering and tribulations of Christians all over the world, with the opulence, avarice, selfishness, and lukewarm condition of many believers in this nation, then brother you are a better man than I, and I urge you to skip the entire study on the church of Smyrna. If however, the two cannot be reconciled, for they are in opposition to each other, than I pray we lay aside the heretical teaching we've so readily allowed into our hearts, and receive the truth of God's word. There is only one truth, just as there is one way, and one life, and that is Christ Jesus, and Him crucified, and if we hope to be with Him in glory, then we must do likewise on earth, crucify the old man, mortify the flesh, and seek the things of God.
The children of God, have always been and will always be a foreign concept to the world, a thorn in its side, one they have readily tried to do away with since the beginning of the faith. That the world loves us, accepts us, and embraces us as equals, should be as a thousand alarms blaring in synchronicity, as a warning of the highest magnitude, for if we have garnered, the world's acceptance and praise it can only mean one thing: Somewhere along the way, we have abandoned the Christ, and have buried our cross, we have returned to the darkness from which we had escaped, and it is the darkness in us that the world sees, and can relate to, that the world perceives and can accept.
So rejoice my brother, rejoice my sister, if you find yourself in the spiritual condition of Smyrna, if you are looked upon as odd, and foreign, if you are persecuted, rejected and mocked, for you, and I, and all those who stand for truth, and in truth, are in the warm embrace of the One, who is the First and the Last, who was dead and came to life.
If we abide with Him, He will abide in us, and no one can snatch us from his hand, for He is our Lord, the unchanging God, who marches on victorious unhindered by the trials and the snares, always keeping in view our ultimate goal, perfect rest in eternal unity with God.
John 10:27-28, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand."
Hebrews 4:9, "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God."
If in the church of Ephesus we saw the downfall of a people, who although labored for God, had lost their first love, their fellowship and intimacy with Christ, in the church of Smyrna we see how persecution and poverty worked to bring them to an even closer, more sanctified relationship with Christ, allowing them an even deeper understanding of His death and resurrection.
If we understand not only Christ's death, but also His resurrection, the victory he obtained over death, and Hades itself, then our lives are filled with hope, strength and light, that we may be over comers, victorious through the bitterness of suffering, and even death just as our Savior was. We have the blessed promise that if we died with Christ, we shall also live with Him, and this above all else should give us the boldness and vigor to press ever onward.
Revelation 2:9, "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."
It is always the greatest of comforts to know that God knows. He knows our works, our tribulation, and even poverty, for He is an all knowing, all seeing God. Knowing that He knows, all that we must do is trust in Him, obey Him implicitly, and rest in His eternal love.
If God knowing our suffering does not relieve us of it, it means that although at the moment we do not see its benefits, they exist nonetheless, for God's purpose, contrary to popular sentiment, is not the ease and comfort of this present life, but the growth unto maturity and sanctification of the spiritual man. There is nothing that compels man to seek the face of God more than suffering, that draws him ever closer into intimacy and fellowship.
Our tribulations in this present life, our sufferings on behalf of Christ and the cross, impede the work of the enemy, the snares that he has placed before us, and bring to the surface the true spirit of faithfulness in every believer. The enemy loves to employ diversion and deception when it comes to the faithful of Christ, hoping to distract them from their true mission, their true calling, but when trials and tribulations are ever present in a life, when a soul has learned to be dependent on God, his focus is singular and his purpose well established.
To all believers who find themselves in the spiritual condition of Smyrna, Christ reveals Himself as the first and the last, thereby comforting those who suffer, by showing them that He too has walked the road of suffering that they are currently on, and that He is able to carry their burdens, that in Him they are more than victorious.
There is a certain passage in this verse, which is more compelling today, given the current spiritual climate, than ever before. It is a passage I am certain, many a lover of money, sheerer of the sheep, and wolf in sheep's clothing, would rather not have to contend with, for it nullifies their entire doctrine. The passage of which I speak is:"I know your poverty, (but you are rich)".
If the same passage would have been spoken today, by one of our less than distinguished lamb slaughterers, the last part of the passage would be conveniently forgotten, and in its place would be all the reasons why you are impoverished.
"I know your poverty" they would begin, "and its all your fault, because you didn't pick up the phone and dial the number on your screen when we informed you we needed a newer private jet, because you didn't take advantage of the thousand fold blessing when we offered it on this very television network, for those who would pledge a thousand dollars or more. Poverty is a sin, and the only way to escape poverty is to go to your phone right now, and make a vow."
I know it sounds absurd, I know some are shaking their heads, while others are smiling with mirth, but it is tragically accurate, and the hearts of those whom God is sanctifying, and purifying by not providing material wants, and selfish desires, but rather keeping them humble, and dependent on Him, feel less than and begin to wonder if the man looking into the television camera with his accusatory stare may be right after all. They begin to wonder if perhaps they missed the mark, if they too should give their heart over to greed, and begin building kingdoms, and amassing fortunes. The hearts of the righteous are made sad, whom God has not made sad, for what the world perceives as forsaken, hopeless, and penniless, God sees as rich in Him.
Ezekiel 13:19, "And will you profane Me among My people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, killing people who should not die, and keeping people alive who should not live, by your lying to My people who listen to lies?"
Ezekiel 13:22-23, "Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and you have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life. Therefore you shall no longer envision futility not practice divination; for I will deliver My people out of your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord."
What a truly heart wrenching indictment, against those who would abuse the word of God, and for their own personal gain, for nothing more than handfuls of barley and pieces of bread, the material inconsequential things of this life, profane God among His own people, who would shamelessly lie to those of God's own house, thereby making the hearts of the righteous sad, and killing people who should not die.
As I read and reread this passage in Ezekiel, I wept for not only have the words of the Prophet come to pass before our every eyes, but the multitudes of those who listen to lies, those of God's own house continues to grow exponentially. Yes, their time is coming to an end, for God will deliver His people out of their hands, but how many lambs will have been slaughtered, how many would have suffered mortal blows from which there is little chance of recovery?
With hands drenched in the blood of the innocent, these men continue to corrupt and deceive those who would fall into their snare, and when the promise of a thousand fold return does not materialize, the innocent begin to doubt the very God in whom they believe. I often wonder how such men will stand before the eternal God.
Oh that we would heed the message to Smyrna, that we would see the beauty of Christ's words, though you are poor in the material, you are rich in God. For God will not judge you on the basis of how much money you were able to squirrel away during your lifetime, but rather on how you used your life to bring glory to His name, to live in righteousness and purity of heart, to show forth the image of Christ in all that you said and all that you did. Were you redeemed, sanctified and born again, did you daily crucify your flesh, these are the questions God will ask on that great and terrible day.
Our Lord knows our poverty concerning the material He knows it for He has allowed it. Earthly riches, excess and opulence in the life of a believer, is like a bird whose wings have been plated with gold. Though it may seem pretty, the bird quickly discovers, that the gold plating is impeding its flight. When our hearts are tethered to the material, they cannot ascend to the spiritual.
The spiritual condition of Smyrna is the fundamental opposite of Laodicea's spiritual condition. What a difference point of view makes. To the church of Smyrna, it is Christ, who says 'you are rich', for He knows what true treasure really is, while in the church of Laodicea, it is man who says, 'I am rich!' their wealth amounting to nothing more than spiritual poverty and wretchedness.
Although we are speaking of the spiritual condition of two different churches, the same spiritual conditions can be found in the hearts of individual believers. What we think of ourselves, what we consider ourselves to be is irrelevant. It is what God considers us to be; it is what He sees in us that we must be concerned with.
There is no better example of contrast than the Pharisee's opinion of himself, going up to the temple and beginning to boast of his good works, thanking God that he was not like other men, highlighting the fact that he fasted twice a week, and gave tithes of all he possessed, and that of Job, who being blameless and upright, fearing the Lord and shunning evil did not boast of himself, but allowed God to boast on his behalf. It was not Job, who stood before the temple and exalted his virtues, but rather God who said, "Have you seen My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and shuns evil?"
How refreshing it would be in today's day and age, to no longer hear men give themselves titles, and positions, to no longer hear them rehash at length their virtues, works and accomplishments, but rather have them be silent, and have God praise them, and speak of them as He did of Job.
Since we have happened upon the subject of Job, let us terry awhile and see the true definition of unshakable faith. Realizing that none other than God said of Job that he was unlike any man on earth, that he was a blameless and upright man, we can readily dismiss the idea that Job was somehow being judged or punished for some sin. Job was being tried of God, that his faithfulness might be proved before all of creation, the seen and unseen realm alike.
Consider foremost, that Job was the greatest of all the people of the East, having as his possessions, seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household. Although blessed in the material, his heart was for God in its entirety, and as shown by his character and conduct in the trials that were soon to descend upon him, Job did not consider his possessions as his own, but rather the things of God over which he was simply a steward.
When this the greatest of trials began for Job, all that he possessed, including his seven sons and three daughters, were taken in quick succession. He had been left with nothing of this earthly realm, yet in all this, Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.
When the enemy saw that he had made no headway, that Job remained faithful upon losing all his material possessions, upon having to mourn over the bodies of all ten of his children, he proceeded to get permission to attack Job's bone and flesh, and God so granted, with the stipulation that Job's life be spared.
One need only consider the enemy's hatred of God's children, to understand all that Job had to endure at his hand. Suffice it to say that Job was struck with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head, his suffering being as such that he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself, while he sat in the midst of the ashes, for as Job himself describes, his flesh was caked with worms and dust, and his skin cracked, and breaking out afresh. Even the most vivid of imaginations cannot do justice to what Job suffered, being brought to the point of cursing the day he was born, and wishing that he had died at birth. Even so, Job did not sin, he did not break faith, and he did not curse God, or charge God with wrong.
How quickly the men of today, men who claim to have been enlightened, who claim to walk with God shake their fist at their Creator, for trials nowhere near the magnitude and scope of what Job went through, but for things that amount to nothing more than minor inconveniences. Because we have surrendered our hearts to the things of this earth rather than to God, the cry of 'why hast thou forsaken me?' quickly escapes our lips when reality falls short of our expectations of what God should be doing for us, and we react as petulant children who don't get their way. Never does the thought cross our mind that God may be sparing us much hurt and pain, or that what we are in reality entitled to is very different than what some men would lead us to believe. We stomp our feet, and hold our breath until we turn blue, we demand, and give God ultimatums, until He has enough of our disobedience, enough of our greed, and gives us over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.
True believers are rich by their relations, having God as their Father, and Christ as their older brother; they are rich in the gifts they have received from the throne room of God; they are rich in the promise they have received, that the Lord will give them every good thing; they are rich in faith, the faith that they will inherit the kingdom of God; they are rich in hope, the hope in which they await a new City, which has foundations, an everlasting one whose maker and builder is God.
It is Christ, and Christ alone that is our eternal treasure, and in Him, we have all things in the fullness thereof. The question of the hour, is whether or not we are aware, and believing that we are rich by faith, that no matter what tomorrow brings, He will be there, faithful as always. In light of this knowledge, even the lowliest of servants, even the poorest among God's children in the material sense, can live a life of peace, and joy, rich in God, for they know the faithfulness of their Creator.
As the verse continues to progress, we see that Christ knows not only the works, tribulations, and poverty of the church of Smyrna, but also the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not. Volumes can be written concerning this singular subject, those who say they are, but are not, and every time I reread this verse, and meditate on it, something new and fresh, sovereign and sublime, leaps from the page, and I am once again in awe at the limitless depth of God's word.
The undeniable truth is that those who only say they are, will always mock and persecute those who truly are. It is not what a man says he is, that makes him what he is, but his life, his conduct, and his works prove and show what he truly is. I can say I am a doctor, but if I don't know the first thing about medicine, those around me will soon discover that I am not what I said, or claimed to be.
The question that kept surfacing each time I read this verse, is are we truly what we say we are, or are we as those who said were Jews, but were not? If one only claims to be a child of God, but his life proves otherwise, then he only serves to bring shame to God's house, something for which there is severe consequence.
It is easy to say: 'I am saved, Christ died for me, and redeemed me of sin', but if my life shows that I am still a slave to sin, and sin continues to rule my heart, my words become void.
It is easy to say: 'I am a soldier of Christ, I fight the good fight', but if my actions show that Christ is not the objective, and purpose of my life, that it is not His battle that drives me, but some human idea, or hidden agenda, then the words I have spoken and boasted of so, are untrue, and a lie.
The examples are endless, and I can fill many a page, with the inconsistencies of what some say they are, and what they truly are. The truth of the matter, is that we are all what we live, and our daily lives testify to that affect. Only when our words are supported and proved by our actions, are we what we say we are.
The word 'Jew' is derived from the word 'Judah' meaning those who claim to praise the Lord, but rather than praising the Lord, their lives praised sin, the world, and men. What of the one who carries the name of Christ, yet lives like the world? This is a very serious question indeed, for Christ called those who would call themselves Jews but were not, a synagogue of Satan.
What could be worse than a man attempting to live a lie? What could be worse than one who continually pretends to be one thing, but is the opposite? If we say we are children of God, then let us truly be His children. This should be the chief concern in the life of every believer that his life, and the will of God are in harmony with each other, that he mirrors the life of Christ, and is obedient to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Only in this way, are we what we say we are.
Belonging to the right denomination, going to the popular church, joining a suitable and acceptable program, dressing the right way, saying the right things, are pointless and useless, of no consequence if our inner being, our heart, is not wholly surrendered to Christ. It is the inward things that God beholds; it is the inner workings of the heart that God weighs, and that God judges. Though the right appearance may be held in high esteem by men, though men judge us on the exterior, those things which the eye can see, God is not so impressed with the appearance of a person, or what a person thinks himself to be, but rather what the person really is.
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."
I have often noticed that the mature in Christ need allot less spiritual hand holding than the babes in Christ. The message to Smyrna, a church of suffering and one under constant persecution is relatively short compared to some of the other churches. The reason for this, I believe, is that they had a well-established foundation of righteousness, of faith, of uncompromising virtue, and the letter to this church was one of encouragement, that Christ knew their suffering, He knew their opposition, and their faithfulness would be rewarded.
As forewarning of things to come, for in His goodness God forewarns His own of what is about to unfold, Christ encourages the church of Smyrna, to continued faithfulness during the days of tribulation that are about to commence.
In his journey on this earth, the true Christian must at some point contend with the 'Smyrna' condition, namely that of suffering, and poverty in the material, for he is a stranger here, a traveler, one whose home and habitation are not of this realm. The warning goes out to all who would hear, that times of tribulation are soon to come, but faithfulness will incur the crown of life as just recompense. Suffering is linked to this present life, as smoke is to fire. Though the earthly vessel in which God placed some of his roses might be broken, though this present life may end in persecution and suffering, the fragrance lingers long after we are gone, a sweet, and well received sacrifice.
There is only one way to walk with Christ in this present life, and that is the way of the cross, and there can be no substitutions or deviations. That which we must inevitably suffer for the cause of Christ, is a grace, a gift, and a badge of honor that all who are integrated into His body must suffer at the hands of the world. If the head, namely Christ, suffered on this earth, what makes His body immune from suffering?
Luke 24:26, "Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?"
I realize full well that some will read these lines and think to themselves, 'what does this man hope to imply with his ramblings of suffering and such? Surely it is not suffering that I signed up for, this suffering doctrine was not presented to me when I joined my community church. I was told that only good times lay ahead, and once I signed on the dotted line, received my denominational lapel pin, and paid my tithes, I would float light as a feather through this present life, stopping now and then to appreciate the fragrance of the roses that lined my pathway to heaven. Suffering? Surely he is mistaken, these are no longer the dark ages, everyone goes along to get along, there no longer remains any hidden hatred or animosity against Christians, and this devil of whom he speaks is just a bedtime story, a mere representation of evil, but not and entity as such, our ecumenical life betterment guide said so himself.'
The reality that all who desire to live Godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution is something that we readily attempt to conceal from those considered 'seekers' in God's house. We try to present a watered down, spiritless gospel, to make it as accessible to as many people as humanly possible, blurring the lines between light and darkness, between truth and deception, between the world and the Church in the process. Anyone who promises you that a life in Christ is perpetual merriment and glee, bliss for your flesh and spirit in one easy to carry container, void of hardships, trials persecutions, and suffering is either ignorant of God's Holy Word, or is willfully omitting the truth, keeping it from your ears, in short lying to you.
2 Timothy 3:12, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."
How can anyone love the servant, while he hates the servant's master? If the world hated Christ, which we know it did, then surely it will harbor animosity toward us. Christ Himself spoke these words countless times, yet we seem to have put them out of our mind, to have forgotten and dismissed them as though they were never uttered, instead reveling in our newfound acceptance in the eyes of the world, embracing it as some long lost family member, who has alas returned to the bosom of his kinfolk bearing gifts. Oh! How this family member was missed, yes often out of sight but never out of mind, and what a warm and welcoming homecoming he received, how tear filled the reunion, for so many had long thought they would never be reunited. Never mind that this particular family member is contagious, never mind that death soon follows wherever he is allowed to return, never mind that for long we have tried to escape and free ourselves, to unburden our hearts of this person, never mind that once we had escaped, we vowed never to let him back in, but to bar the doors and windows of our hearts, and be as far away from him as possible. Never mind all that, he has returned, and he accepts us, an we in turn accept him, he no longer looks his nose down at us, no longer thinks of us as fools, eccentrics, zealots, fundamentalists, or even God fearing Christians, we have finally done it, we have changed, evolved, we have thrown off the shackles of legalism, the cumbersome weight of Biblical boundaries, and we have stopped the controversy once and for all by omitting the name Jesus from our church services and programs. Indeed, we have finally done it, we have become the world, and the world loves us for it.
However, there are still those who recognize and remember the destructive nature of this long absent relative, how readily he would gain power and control over them, how empty and hopeless they were whenever in his presence. They remember all too well, and so choose never to commune with him again, never to embrace him warmly and heartily, but live separate from him.
When such a one makes the conscious decision to live separate from the world, then it is a certainty that he will incur the anger, wrath and maliciousness of the world. True faith in Jesus Christ, attracts immediate and direct persecution from the world. Suffering and persecution make the spiritual man stronger grounding him and rooting him ever deeper in God, like a strong tree which withstanding the constant winds, becomes stronger by the force exerted against it. As children of God, we cannot shy away from the persecution of the world, or compromise truth in order to spare ourselves certain suffering.
As Christ so comforted Smyrna with the words, 'do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer' He so comforts all who have picked up their cross, all who follow the narrow path. Do not fear! Whatever the circumstance, whatever the trial, however great the opposition, God stands with you, do not fear. Fear, is the mother of defeat, while courage and boldness, remove and eliminate it from our way of thinking. Our victory in God is assured, and the faithful will overcome the devil himself.
It is easy to perceive, that this letter addressed to the church of Smyrna was not directed toward one individual, it was not one of many that was told to not be afraid, but rather the entire body of Christ. 'For some of them', Christ said, 'would be thrown into prison that they may be tested'.
Throughout the history of the church, some have been tested, some have had to endure affliction, suffering and even death at the hands of the enemies of God, but all have had to endure persecution at the hands of the world.
That we may not harbor resentment of even hatred in our hearts, Christ reminds the church of Smyrna that it is the devil, and not men, who will throw some of them into prison. I have heard of countless occurrences, wherein those persecuted for their faith continued to show the love of God toward the men who were being used of the devil to persecute them, and thereby won them to God. My own grandfather upon his return to his native land after a six-year exile, baptized into the faith, a man who had tortured him mercilessly for years during the Communist dictatorship. We cannot hate those that persecute us, for even Christ admonished us to love our enemies. Perhaps it is seeing our unconditional love that will eventually draw them to the light of God's truth. Nothing is accidental when it comes to God's work in our lives, every step, every word, every breath is ordained by our heavenly Father, and all things are allowed with a resolute and immutable purpose.
Although Christ did not offer the church of Smyrna a way of escape from their suffering, although He didn't promise them that they would somehow be protected from the persecution that was about to come upon them, He did offer them one comfort, that of telling them that the season of their tribulation was limited to only ten days. Yes, trials are an inevitable part of every believer's life, that we may be purified, and that we may be a living testimony, but the duration of these trials are established by God, and no one can change ten days into eleven, or one year into two. Every believer in the midst of tribulation can find comfort in this truth, that God knows the measure, severity, and length of our trial, and if faithful until the end He will place the crown of life upon our brow.
Those of the church of Smyrna are so encouraged, to endure and be faithful unto death, and not only them, but also all who endeavor to follow Christ are given the same solemn counsel. He, who no longer fears death, has overcome the devil, and this earth no longer holds any power over him. The worst the enemy can do, if allowed of God, is to kill this flesh, to release us from our earthly prison that we may be one with our Father in heaven. It is the promise of everlasting life, the eternal fellowship with God, the love that they felt in their hearts that kept so many in their darkest hour, that allowed them to remain faithful and true even in the face of the ultimate sacrifice.
The fear of death subjects man to bondage, but Christ came that He might destroy him who had the power of death, thereby freeing us from this fear, Paul so eloquently describes in the book of Hebrews, and knowing that He has already freed us, if once more fear finds a home in our hearts, it is we who have allowed it. If we are dead to the world, if we have crucified this present flesh, then threats from without will hold no weight, we will be unconcerned by men's hostilities, intimidations and coercions. Only then will we be able to proclaim as Paul did, that for us to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
A believer who knows, accepts, and relies on the weapons of his warfare, his armor, will most assuredly be victorious over the fear of death in any circumstance. It is only those who along the way lay down their sword, their shield, their breastplate, and their helmet, no longer having their waist girded with truth, or their feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, that will inevitably be overcome by fear.
It is not an easy thing for someone to be faithful until death, but it is neither difficult once we adhere to some simple guidelines in our daily walk.
The most important necessity we must adhere to when it comes to being faithful unto death is perpetual trust in Christ Jesus. It is a tragic miscalculation for anyone to think that they can abandon Christ, after they have surrendered their hearts to Him, and still continue to be victorious and faithful. Trusting in our own strength, understanding, or virtue renders us as impotent and weak as we were before having known Him. Thus the essential reason for a constant relationship with Him not merely a passing encounter, a chance meeting once upon a time at the altar of a long forgotten church.
The second aspect of our spiritual lives, which will aid in our faithfulness, is to be ever watchful of our steps, knowing that the enemy is unrelenting in his quest to steer us away from the path of righteousness. That which is incumbent upon us to do, we must do, and God will do the rest. If He tells us to be watchful, to guard our hearts, then it is something that we must actively strive to accomplish. Too few realize that they are at war, too few allow this knowledge to be ever at the forefront of their minds. I heard an old Romanian preacher once, while admonishing his congregation to perpetual vigilance say, 'the devil doesn't go on vacation, he does not take sick days, he has no holidays or time off for emergencies. If our enemy never tires of this spiritual battle in which we are engaged, then there should never be a day, an hour or even a minute where we find ourselves having laid down our guard, having ceased to be watchful.'
Thirdly, as true children of God, we must actively pursue the things of God, those things, which build up and strengthen the spiritual man, such as prayer, fasting, the study of Scripture, and fellowship with the brethren. The closer we draw to God, the further we will find ourselves from the world, and the more the love of God dwells in us, the love of self will diminish. The constant battle that rages in the heart of every man, must be fought valiantly, and when the spiritual man is strengthened, when his faithfulness is steadfast and unshakable, that which is still corruptible flesh will have no choice but to surrender, submit, and be nailed to the cross. Only in this way can we be faithful unto death.
Revelation 2:11, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death."
Barring some rare birth defect, all men have ears, all are born with the auditory sense, and so when Jesus says, 'he who has an ear', He does not speak of those who have ears of flesh, but rather spiritual ears, with which they can perceive spiritual things. The spirit is speaking, but who is listening? This is the most tragic of all questions in this present hour, for we have so far removed ourselves from the grace, peace, love, and voice of God, that our spiritual ears are shut up and we do not hear the loving voice of a sovereign Creator calling us to holiness and righteousness unto Him.
There are many voices speaking to the church today, as well as to individual believers, but what is important is that we hear what the Spirit says to us, the Spirit of truth, undefiled by human opinion or additions, the Spirit that can only be heard by those who are born again into a new life in Christ.
When Christ speaks of he who overcomes, He does not speak of a future victory, but a present one, overcoming every day, overcoming every temptation, and overcoming every deception. It is the continual victory in which the children of God must endeavor to walk, that they may be found faithful, and thus not be hurt by the second death.
A true follower of Christ, one who daily gives himself to death, keeping the flesh nailed to the cross, one who overcomes the natural by means of the spiritual, is kept from the second death. He has surrendered his life into the hand of eternity, and rests in Life itself.
Some Bible commentators have said that being 'hurt by the second death' and 'the second death', are two separate events, just as receiving 'life' and the 'crown of life' seem to be two separate occurrences. As far as this is concerned, I choose to refrain, for if something is not made clear within the pages of the sacred Book, then we must label it as an unknown and move on.
Concerning the first and second death however, we know that all men must pass through, and experience the first death. It is as certain as the rising of the sun every morning. Knowing that death comes for us all should not be a reason for fear or trepidation, but rather of expectation, knowing the glory that awaits us beyond the fragile veil of this present life. What we should fear, what should cause many a sleepless night for those who have not surrendered their all to Christ, for those who have not been born again, is the second death, the separation of man from God. This is the true death that destroys any semblance of peace, joy or hope. If God is no longer there, if He is no longer felt, then all has vanished, hope has died, and it is something far worse than the cessation of this present life.
We have the promise of a sovereign God, a promise that should embolden us and give us hope, that if we remain faithful unto death, we will receive the crown of life, and the cold fingers of the second death will not come near us. As a wise man from times past once said, 'this is the struggle, this is the battle, to lay hold of eternal life, to claim the crown of life, to be welcomed into eternity by God Himself.'
Lord Strengthen our faith in you, and in the power of Your might, that we may be over comers, that we may be victorious and faithful in all our hardships, sufferings, and trials, that the world may see in us the greatness of Your glory.
With love in Christ
Michael Boldea Jr.