Time or Eternity? ™

The church in Symrna

In Revelation, the church in symrna on March 7, 2011 at 8:00 am

The second epistle is that to Smyrna, a rich, prosperous, and dissolute city, and largely inhabited by Jews bitterly opposed to Christ and Christianity.  Here therefore persecution of those leading the pure and holy life of the Gospel might be peculiarly expected, as indeed it also peculiarly appeared. The church at Smyrna thus becomes the type of a suffering church, the representative of that condition of things foretold in the words of Christ, and constantly fulfilled in the history of His people, “A servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” It will be observed that at Smyrna the church is stili faithful, and that against her no word of reproach is uttered. Hence the aspect under which the Redeemer presents Himself to that church is purely animating and consolatory, the same as that which, in the introductory vision in chap.1., followed the action of the Lord when He laid His right hand upon the Apostle, who had fallen to the ground as dead, and when He said to him, “Fear not.” So now: These things saith the first and the last, which became dead, and lived again. Death and resurrection are the two great divisions of the work of Christ on our behalf, and the Gospel is summed up in them. Just as St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians when he would remind them of the substance of his preaching in their midst, “For I declared unto you first of all that which also I received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He hath been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” in like manner here the same two facts include all the truth which Smyrna held fast, and with which come the life that conquers sin and the joy that triumphs over sorrow. The state of the church is then described : I know thy tribulation, and thy poverty (but thou art rich), and the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Tribulation, persecution, the blasphemy of men calling themselves the only people of God and denying to Christians any portion in His covenant, are alone alluded to, though the church is at the same time cheered with the remark that if she had no share in worldly wealth and splendour, she was rich. “God had chosen them that were poor as to the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to them that love Him.” The church then was in the midst of suffering. Was not that enough; and shall she not be told that her sufferings were drawing to an end, that the night of weeping was gone by, and that the morning of joy was about to dawn? So we might think; but God’s thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor His ways as our ways.  The consolation afforded to him is, not that there shall be a short campaign, but only that, whether long or short, he shall be more than conqueror through Him that loved him. Thus our Lord does not now say to His church at Smyrna, Fear none of those things that thou art suffering, but Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer: behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. It is hardly necessary to say to any intelligent reader of the Apocalypse that the ” ten days” here spoken of are neither ten literal days, nor ten years, nor ten successive persecutions of indefinite length. In conformity with the symbolical use of numbers in this book, “ten days ” expresses no more than a time which, though troubled, shall be definite and short, a time which may be otherwise denoted by the language of St. Peter when he says of believers that ” now for a little while they have been put to grief in manifold temptations.”1 Encompassed by affliction, therefore, those who are thus tried have only to be faithful unto death, or to the last extremity of martyrdom. He who died and lived again will bestow upon them the crown of life, the crown of the kingdom, incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

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