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)