the crown of Smyrna
Over 30 years ago as I stood in the beautiful sweep of Izmir’s harbour I looked upwards to the hill behind the city. In Bible times the city was known as Smyrna and the hill was known as “The Crown of Smyrna” because of the way that buildings ‘crowned’ the hill’s summit. It inevitably brought to mind the promise of Jesus to the congregation in Smyrna that the overcomers would receive ‘the crown of life’;
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. Rev 2:10.
There are some mind-stretching concepts here. This congregation was about to undergo the devil’s wrath against the people of God. God could have stopped it easily but he had chosen not to. Why? Any answer would be just human speculation. Their imprisonment, although the consequence of the devil’s activity, had a divine purpose; in order `(Greek hina) that you may be tested. Trials are an inevitable part of Christian experience; they ‘go with the territory’. As Peter tells us it is not ‘strange’ or ‘foreign’…Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 1Pet 4:12. My old Bible college principal used to say that ‘Satan was God’s chief inspector of boilers’! God is confident in his workmanship in the lives of his saints and is not afraid that they will fail the testings.
The sufferings of the congregation in Smyrna were not a mere possibility; they were scheduled. These are things that they are ‘about to suffer’ are definitely on the way, but their duration is fixed from before their beginning.
You will have tribulation for 10 days.
There is a snippet of a hymn on the edges of my mind but I can’t recall it all. It contains the lines ‘if God hath set their number ten, you ne’er shall have eleven’. This is the promise for all the saints. It will not go on for ever… a lifetime at most. 😉 No trial permitted by God is open ended but carefully circumscribed, thus far and no further. It is said of one the riders in the book of Revelation that
‘power was given unto him to make war with the saints…’ Rev 13:7
‘it was given unto him’ , he did not usurp it and beyond his limits he cannot go.
There is a similar promise which is much better known generally to the saints.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1Cor 13:10
This is the ESV version. The assurance that there is a fixed ‘exit’ from this temptation is the hope that enables the saint to ‘endure’ under the weight of it. That sure ‘exit’ strengthens us as we ‘endure it’.
a fearless future
Perhaps the most amazing part of our original verse is the command
‘not to fear any of those things which you are about to suffer’.
They are coming but you are not to fear them. You are not to fear ‘any of those things’; we are not allowed a single exception. The saints’ trials will result in crowns to cast at his feet for those who obeyed him and refused to fear the future. And why should we not ‘fear the future’? Simply because of the central theme of the book of the Revelation… God is still on the throne.
(originally posted to our old Blog in January 2010)
This is part of the secret of the ministry of Paul to the churches. Certainly he had a ‘royal commission’ but he had something else too; the love of God had been poured out in his heart by the Holy Spirit. Rom 5:8.
The heading is taken from Paul’s letter to ‘the saints’, the people of God, in Philippi.
…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. Phil 1:6–7 NKJV.
There is a line from an old Graham Kendrick song that comes to mind.
“where are the love tears that earned the right to speak?”
This is not the first time I have quoted these words on these blogs.
the common bond of genuine love
There is an interesting feature in the original of Philippians 1:6,7. Apparently, just as accurately, it could be translated ‘because you have me in your heart.’ This mutual affection is the uniting bond that linked these early saints together. Paul spoke to the saints at Philippi with a deep conviction that was authenticated by the fact that he had them ‘in his heart.’ It was a New Testament pattern;
But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus. 2 Cor 8:16 NKJV.
He was not driven by duty or necessity but it was the ‘love of Christ’ that constrained him.
the right to speak?
Do we long to speak words of authentic comfort to the saints? We shall, if we have them in our hearts. We have no right to speak into the lives of those who we do not ‘have in our hearts’. At best such preaching will have reform at its heart rather than a love for the individual. It will have targets and milestones and the critical eye of the man who knows how other men ‘ought to behave’. But we usually recognise the man or woman who ‘has us in their hearts’ and to heed their counsel or receive their encouragement is not difficult.
Who has God put in our hearts? We have God’s authority to speak to them. It is said of our great Shepherd;
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3 NKJV.
His commandments are not burdensome. Or as one version has it “his commandments do not weigh us down.”
It’s because he has us in his heart.
(first posted on our old Blog in March 2013)