Daily Archives: July 11, 2020

July 11 Throw Your Shoe

 

Pray without ceasing.
(1 Thessalonians 5:17)

For several nights, a little girl threw her shoe under the bed before getting in. When her mother finally asked her why, she said, “My Sunday school teacher said, if I have to get down by the bed every morning to look for my shoe, I’ll probably remember to say my prayers while I’m there.” What a great idea! If it helps, throw your shoe under the bed! You’ll never get on your feet till you first get on your knees. David knew that prayer was like oxygen to his soul. Listen: “Day and night I cry out before You” (Psalms 88:1, NIV). Nothing, nothing, nothing in your life will change until you start praying, until you bring God into the picture. That’s why Paul writes, “Pray without ceasing.”

Dr. Bill Hybels says in his book, Too Busy Not to Pray, “I knew more about prayer than I ever practiced in my own life. So I decided to study the subject until I finally understood it. I read every book I could get my hands on. I even memorized all the Scriptures that speak about prayer. Then one day I did something absolutely radical: I prayed! As a result, I’ve had a long list of miraculous answers, but the greatest result has been the difference it has made in my relationship with God.”

 

If you want a relationship with God, you’ve got to spend time with Him in prayer. Wouldn’t today be a good day to start?[1]

 

[1] Gass, B. (1998). A Fresh Word For Today : 365 Insights For Daily Living (p. 192). Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

July 11 No Ministry Apart from Service

1 Peter 4:10

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

Ministry” and “service” are from the same Greek word and mean essentially the same thing. There is no ministry apart from service. No one can have an impact in ministry who is not also willing to serve, to be a servant.

There is always a price tag attached to service. It might be health; it might be convenience; it might be aggravation; it might be humility. Whatever the cost, it is what adorns the neck of those who minister.

Ministry in the church is like being a parent. The most successful parents are those who learn to sacrifice for their children. And while we parents think our children never are going to realize what we have sacrificed in service to them, they eventually do. And what we have sacrificed for them comes back to us as the fruit of a close and intimate relationship with them. And it’s the same way in ministry in the church. The more we give of ourselves in ministry to others, the more we will get back in return. I heard the speaker John Maxwell say once, “If you are going to go up, you have to give up.” There is no way to advance in ministry without giving of ourselves.[1]

 

[1] Jeremiah, D. (2002). Sanctuary: finding moments of refuge in the presence of God (p. 202). Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers.

July 11, 2020 Evening Verse Of The Day

The Counsel

Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death. (2:10b–11)

As previously noted, Christ has no reprimand for the faithful church at Smyrna. He closes the letter with some final words of encouraging counsel. Those who prove the genuineness of their faith by remaining faithful to the Lord until death will receive as their reward the crown (stephanos; the victor’s crown) of life (cf. James 1:12). The crown (reward, culmination, outcome) of genuine saving faith is eternal life, and perseverance proves the genuineness of their faith as they endure suffering. The Scriptures teach that true Christians will persevere. That biblical truth was understood by the authors of the Westminster Confession of Faith, who wrote “They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.” That is the unmistakable teaching of Scripture (e.g., Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Mark 4:13–20; John 8:31; Col. 1:21–23; 1 John 2:19).

As noted in chapter 4 of this volume, the phrase He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches closes each of the seven letters. It stresses the vital significance of what God says in Scripture, and emphasizes believers’ responsibility to heed it. The promise to he who overcomes (all Christians; cf. the discussion in chapter 4 of this volume) is that he will not be hurt by the second death. Though persecuted believers may suffer the first (physical) death, they will never experience the second death (which is not annihilation but conscious, eternal damnation in hell; Rev. 20:14; 21:8). Not is the strongest negative the Greek language can express.

The persecuted, suffering, yet faithful church at Smyrna stands for all time as an example of those who “have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15). Because they loyally confessed Him before men, Jesus will confess them before the Father (Matt. 10:32).[1]


10 The speaker’s command immediately follows, since no word of verdict or fault is spoken of. The prospect of further and imminent suffering may have made the believers at Smyrna fearful: “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer” (lit., “Stop being afraid …”). The risen Christ reveals that some of them will be imprisoned by the devil in order to test them, and they will have ten days of persecution. Who will do this—whether Jew or pagan—is not stated. The testing will show where their true loyalty lies. For a faithful and suffering church, Christ offers further trial and suffering, even “to the point of death.” “Ten days” may denote ten actual days or constitute a Semitism for an indeterminate but comparatively short period of time (cf. Ne 4:12; Da 1:12). In the first-century Roman world, prison was usually not punitive but the prelude to trial and execution; hence the words “be faithful, even to the point of death.”

For those who would face martyrdom out of loyalty to Christ, there was to be a “crown of life” given by Christ himself. Those at Smyrna would be familiar with the term “the crown of Smyrna,” which no doubt alluded to the beautiful skyline formed around the city by the “hill Pagos, with the stately public buildings on its rounded sloping sides” (Ramsay, Seven Churches, 256). The “crown” usually referred to a garland of flowers worn chiefly in the worship of pagan gods such as Cybele or Bacchus, who was pictured on coins with a crown of battlements. Faithful servants of the city appeared on coins with laurel wreaths on their heads (Barclay, Seven Churches, 39). As the patriots of Smyrna were faithful to Rome and to their crown city, so Christ’s people are to be faithful unto death to him who will give them the imperishable crown of life (Jas 1:12; 1 Pe 5:4).[2]


10 The church is told not to be afraid of what they are about to suffer. Jesus had counseled his disciples not to fear those who could kill the body but not the soul (Matt 10:28), and Paul had warned that the godly would be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12). Yet as the time approached, believers needed to be admonished lest the threat of martyrdom would cause the fainthearted to relinquish their hold on Christ. They must recognize that while the persecution would be carried out by Roman authorities, it was in reality the devil himself who was responsible for their plight. He is the one who would try their faith through imprisonment and tribulation. Most commentators note that in the ancient world prison was a place where the accused awaited execution. Acts 16:23 and 2 Cor 11:23 would suggest that it also served as a place of temporary confinement and punishment.

Believers at Smyrna (or at least some of them) are to suffer persecution for ten days (or “within ten days”). Opinions vary about the time intended. Most view the ten days as a round number indicating a short period of time, but others hold it to be a prolonged but definitely limited period.19 The latter interpretation is more in keeping with the seriousness of the impending crisis. The church is to continue faithful even though it may lead to death (cf. Rev 12:11; Heb 12:4). The reward for faithfulness is the crown of life, that is, the crown that is life itself. It is not the royal crown (the diadēma) that is promised, but the wreath or garland (the stephanos) that was awarded to the victor at the games. Its value lay not in itself but in what it symbolized. According to Pausanias, Smyrna was famous for its games (6.14.3). With others, Bruce thinks that the imagery is suggested by the circle of colonnaded buildings on the crest of Mt. Pagos called the crown of Smyrna.[3]


2:9–10 / The subsequent consolation, then, to Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life promises faithful disciples a future with the Risen Christ. Their reward, the crown of life, probably refers to the laurel wreath or garland given the athlete who wins at the games. As an eschatological symbol, it refers to the reward of eternal life for those who remain faithful even to death.

The prospect of death appears very real to these believers. Not only have they already experienced afflictions; they are about to suffer; … the devil will put … you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. The agents of the Evil One in this case are Jews who lay claim to God’s Israel but who belong to a synagogue of Satan which actively opposes the church’s witness in Smyrna. Unlike the Nicolaitans, who endanger Christian faith from within, religious Jews, especially strong in Smyrna, were members of a distinct religious community which persecuted Christians as outsiders. We should assume that such persecution was part of the larger struggle between the church and synagogue in earliest Christianity resulting from Christian proclamation that the crucified rabbi, Jesus from Nazareth, is really the promised Christ of God according to Jewish tradition. Because Christians recognized what Easter confirmed, they were convinced that the church is God’s “true” covenant partner. Tensions intensified in Asia with the Gentile mission and Paul’s preaching of a Torah-free and tradition-free gospel (cf. Acts 21:27–28). No doubt this resistance to Christianity led John to say that unbelieving Jews are Jews and are not, when in fact believing Jews (and Gentiles) are (cf. Rom. 2:27–28; 9–11). Of course, his assertion should not be construed as anti-semitic, for John himself was a Jew (as were Jesus and Paul). Rather, his harsh rhetoric conveys in the strongest possible way the very same judgment made earlier of the non-Jewish Nicolaitans: those who do not follow the crucified Jesus as the Risen Christ stand outside of God’s people in whose history God’s promised salvation is now being fulfilled.

The Lord’s opening declaration of his resurrection reassures a community that lives on the economic margins of the social order. No doubt the opposition from the Jewish community, affluent and politically influential, only intensified the church’s poverty. It would make sense if some believers were tempted to return to the synagogue for economic reasons. Thus, the promise of an economic reversal is more forcefully given: your poverty … you are rich. As a motif of apocalyptic literature, the promise of a reversal in socioeconomic fortunes is an element of God’s coming triumph over the Evil One. Further, the church’s marginal status in this life indicates devotion to God; thus, the true people of God belong to a community of the poor whose liberation from poverty is their experience of God’s shalom (cf. Luke 4:16–21).[4]


Revelation 2:8–11

 

Message to Smyrna

Big Idea Jesus encourages his church to endure suffering faithfully, knowing that he can bring life out of death.

 

Understanding the Text

The Text in Context

The message to the church in Smyrna is the second in the series of seven messages in Revelation 2–3. Among the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2–3, only Smyrna and Philadelphia receive all praise or encouragement without any blame or accusation related to a sin. Interestingly, the message to Smyrna contains fewer Old Testament allusions than any of the other messages.

Historical and Cultural Background

Smyrna (modern Izmir) was a harbor city located about forty miles northwest of Ephesus and the second stop for a messenger traveling the counterclockwise loop to visit the seven churches. Smyrna maintained strong ties to Rome as the first city to build a temple to the goddess Roma (195 BC) and the guardian of the second imperial cult temple in Asia (AD 26). While Smyrna was well known in the ancient world as a city of beauty, especially regarding its architecture, some portray it as a city of suffering by connecting its name with the Greek word for “myrrh,” a costly spice used in burial rituals.2 For Christians, the reality of suffering was strongly tied to the local unbelieving Jewish community that instigated persecution against Christians, perhaps by accusing them before the Roman authorities. Witherington notes that according to one estimation the total population of the Roman Empire in the late first century was sixty million, of which five million were Jews and fifty thousand were Christians. The Jewish condemnation of Christians in Smyrna continued into the second century, when the Jews betrayed Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John and bishop of Smyrna, resulting in his martyrdom.

 

Smyrna, modern Izmir, was one of the Roman Empire’s major cities in Asia Minor. It prospered because of its harbor and proximity to Ephesus along a trade route. Excavations have uncovered the ancient Roman state agora (shown here) where civic and judicial activities took place.

 

Outline

  1. Message to Smyrna (2:8–11)
  2. Command to the angel to write (2:8a)
  3. Description of Jesus (2:8b)

iii.       Commendation (2:9)

  1. Exhortation and encouragement (2:10)
  2. Admonition to listen (2:11a)
  3. Promise to the overcomers (2:11b)

Interpretive Insights

2:8 These are the words of him who is the First and the Last. Once again, Jesus is described with words drawn from the initial vision in 1:13–16. Here we have one of several overlapping terms used of both God and Jesus in Revelation to convey eternal sovereignty: “First and Last” (1:17; 22:13; cf. Isa. 44:6; 48:12), “Alpha and Omega” (1:8; 21:6; 22:13), and “the Beginning and the End” (21:6; 22:13). As the one who was victorious over death, Jesus can sustain the Christians in Smyrna facing persecution. As John Stott puts it, “Before we were born he was Alpha, and he will be Omega after we have died.”

Key Themes of Revelation 2:8–11

▪     Jesus Christ has conquered death.

▪     Those who are materially poor may actually be spiritually rich.

▪     Persecution takes many forms, including economic and physical persecution.

▪     Christians should not fear suffering for Christ.

▪     Jesus promises life to those who follow him with a willing-to-die devotion.

 

2:9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! Christians are experiencing economic persecution (e.g., loss of income and jobs, destruction of property, legal trouble), resulting in poverty. This could be related to exclusion from local trade guilds, which provided work but often promoted pagan religious activities that caused Christians to compromise their faith. Yet in spite of their material poverty, Jesus declares them spiritually rich! This stands in contrast to the church in Laodicea, which is materially rich but spiritually poor (3:17).

I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Jews were exempt from worshiping the Roman emperor because Judaism was tolerated as an ancient monotheistic religion. Throughout most of the first century, Christians and Jews were closely identified, resulting in some protection for Christians. With the persecutions under Nero in the mid-60s, however, the authorities began to view Christianity as an unacceptable new religion. The term “slander” (blasphēmia) probably refers to Jewish “accusers” who would inform the Roman authorities about Christians, thereby opening them up to persecution. There are several important reasons why these Jewish accusers might have been motivated to inform on Christians. Some Christians had converted from Judaism, and this might have sparked a reaction. Christians were viewed as people who distorted the Jewish law. By confessing Jesus as the divine Messiah, they were committing blasphemy. This would have been especially offensive if they had borne witness to Jesus in the synagogue as Paul had done earlier. Jesus says that those Jews hostile to his disciples are not true Jews at all. They are, in reality, a “synagogue of Satan” rather than a congregation of God’s true people.

“Tribulation” in Revelation

In the message to the church at Smyrna, the term “persecution” or “tribulation” (thlipsis) is used in 2:9 (NIV: “afflictions”) and 2:10 (NIV: “persecution”). In this context it clearly refers to Christians suffering physically at the hands of Jewish accusers and Roman persecutors. The persecution includes economic deprivation, imprisonment, and the real possibility of death. The term is only used three other times in the rest of Revelation. In 1:9 John is described as the “companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance” that belong to Christians in Jesus. Those who share in God’s kingdom (i.e., Christians) can expect to suffer tribulation or persecution in this life. In both 2:22 and 7:14, the adjective “great” (megas) is connected to the noun. We are told in 2:22 that God will make the followers of the false prophetess Jezebel “suffer intensely” (thlipsin megalēn), an indication of God’s judgment on the unrepentant. In 7:14 John sees a great multitude that has come out of the “great tribulation” (tēs thlipseōs tēs megalēs) now in heaven praising God. The immediate context of 7:15–17 indicates that these believers have endured this time of suffering and persecution. God’s people can expect to experience “tribulation” (i.e., trouble, affliction, or persecution) as part of faithfully following God in a world that opposes him.

 

2:10–11 the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. The persecution by the Roman authorities is directly connected to the Jewish slander mentioned in verse 9. If the later martyrdom of Polycarp in Smyrna is any indication, the Jews were likely pointing out to the authorities that the Christians were not worshiping the emperor as Lord as they were required to do (cf. similarities with John 19:12). The danger was more than theoretical. The only references in the seven letters to external issues all deal with Christian suffering (2:8–11, 13; 3:8–10). Jesus reassures his people not to fear the testing and persecution (or “tribulation”—thlipsis) that would come from the devil. They will suffer for “ten days,” probably symbolizing a limited time (see Dan. 1:12–15). Although their imprisonment will be limited, the possibility that it could end in martyrdom is a very real and probable outcome (v. 10b).

 

The church in Smyrna is urged to be faithful “even to the point of death” (2:10). Resurrection life will be their victor’s crown. This crown alludes to the wreath given to the winner of an athletic event. Shown here is Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, holding a wreath in one hand and a palm branch in the other, both symbols of victory.

 

I will give you life as your victor’s crown.… The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death. As the one who has conquered death through resurrection (2:8), Jesus promises life to those who overcome. The “victor’s crown” (stephanos) refers to a laurel wreath presented to the athlete who endured to win the contest, rather than to a ruler’s crown (diadēma). The victor’s crown symbolizes resurrection life given by Jesus to the believer. Likewise, the overcomer will never be harmed by the “second death,” which is defined in 21:8 as the “lake of fire” (also used in 20:6, 14) and refers to eternal death.

Theological Insights

Throughout the Bible, God’s people have always been challenged to follow him faithfully, even if it results in suffering or death. We are not supposed to seek persecution for its own sake, but neither are we to compromise in order to avoid it. Jesus calls his followers to expect opposition (e.g., Matt. 5:10–12; 24:9–13; Luke 6:26; John 15:18, 20; 16:33). The apostle Paul suffered much and flatly says that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12; cf. also Acts 14:22; 1 Thess. 3:3–4). Throughout Revelation, God calls his people to faithful endurance (e.g., Rev. 1:9; 2:13; 6:9; 7:14; 12:11; 13:7, 10, 15–17; 17:6; 18:24; 20:4–6). Because of the resurrection of Jesus, however, believers have hope beyond the grave. Hope in a future bodily resurrection based upon Christ’s resurrection is one of the primary theological themes of the New Testament (e.g., John 5:24–25; 6:39–40; 11:25–26; 1 Cor. 15; Phil. 3:20–21; 1 Thess. 4; 1 Pet. 1).

Teaching the Text

When teaching on this text, there are several key themes to consider.

  1. Even if we are materially poor, what matters most is that we are relationally and spiritually rich. In our consumer-oriented, materialistic culture, one of the greatest threats to faithful living is a love for money and material possessions. The faithfulness of the church at Smyrna was costing them … literally. Sometimes ridicule takes an economic form, and Christians today need to be alert to the power and subtlety of this challenge. The key question becomes, How do we measure true wealth (cf. Matt. 6:19–24)?
  2. Those who follow Jesus faithfully can expect opposition/persecution. Often our guiding expectation is to be rescued or delivered from every kind of opposition. Western Christians too often assume (for some strange reason) that we should be exempt from persecution. Yet Christians around the world are facing persecution even as you read these words. Christians are not exempt from persecution. Rather, this passage (as well as the rest of the New Testament) makes it clear that we should expect opposition if we are truly walking in obedience.
  3. Jesus comforts his suffering people. It’s important not to miss the encouragement Christ gives to his church in this message. First, we can take comfort in who he is—the Lord of life (v. 8). Second, we know that he knows and understands our plight (v. 9a). Third, he acknowledges the spiritual state of those who persecute his people (v. 9b). Fourth, he encourages us not to fear, a theme found throughout Scripture (v. 10a). Fifth, although the devil is the prime persecutor, God is still in control (v. 10b and the passive of “test”). Sixth, our time of suffering will be limited (v. 10c). Seventh, Jesus promises rewards for faithfulness that far outweigh our suffering (vv. 10d–11).
  4. The great Christian hope is not removal from trouble but resurrection from the dead. This text stresses that Jesus has conquered death and will one day raise his people from the dead. All too often our hope is tied to an immediate removal from tribulation or persecution when the Lord does not always promise such. Our hope rests firmly on his ability to give us life if our faithfulness leads to our untimely death. Knowing that biblical hope extends beyond the grave can encourage greater faithfulness and bring deeper comfort.

Although this may sound contradictory to what has just been said, it’s important not to encourage people to seek poverty or pursue persecution directly. There is nothing inherently good about either one. Rather, our focus should be on Jesus and on staying loyal to him no matter what. It’s certainly true that our faithfulness may result in suffering (the emphasis above), but it’s important to be clear about what people should seek and pursue.

Another caution is in order, one with two extremes. On the one hand, we should be careful that our explanation of the Jewish betrayal of Christians in the background of the passage does not foster an anti-Jewish attitude. Jesus and many of the early Christians were ethnic Jews, and hatred of Jews has caused great harm throughout human history. In other words, this passage should not be used to encourage anti-Semitism. That said, we should also avoid the opposite extreme of thinking that Judaism and Christianity are really the same. There is an increasingly popular view that Christianity is nothing more than a branch of Judaism. The New Testament clearly does not support such a view. As Christians, we should appreciate our religious heritage in Judaism but maintain our clear confession of Jesus of Nazareth as both Lord and Messiah.

Illustrating the Text

Church history is filled with examples of believers whose hope in eternal life sustained them through terrible trials and even death

History: Letters, by Pliny the Younger. Emperor Trajan appointed Pliny, a distinguished Roman senator, governor of Bithynia from AD 111 to 113. Pliny and Trajan exchanged letters about a whole host of issues, including how to deal with Christians. Relevant portions of these letters can be accessed easily online by searching for “Pliny, Letters 10:96–97.”

Quote: The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This Lutheran pastor suffered at the hands of the Nazis and was hanged by direct order of Himmler on April 9, 1945, only a short time before the Allies liberated the camp. He wrote:

Suffering, then, is the badge of the true discipleship.… The disciple is not above his master.… Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer.

Biography: Martyrdom of Polycarp. Polycarp was a disciple of John and later served as bishop of Smyrna. He was martyred around AD 156. The account of his death, known as the Martyrdom of Polycarp, provides the oldest written account of a Christian martyrdom outside the New Testament:

 

Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, was martyred in the second century AD, burned alive by the Romans. He is included as one of twenty-five martyrs represented in the Procession of the Holy Martyrs mosaic at the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy, crafted around AD 560. In this reproduction of a portion of that mosaic, Demetrius, Polycarp, Vincent, Pancras, and Chrysogonus are depicted (from left to right).

 

But as Polycarp entered the stadium, there came a voice from heaven: “Be strong, Polycarp, and act like a man.” And no one saw the speaker, but those of our people who were present heard the voice. And then, as he was brought forward, there was a great tumult when they heard that Polycarp had been arrested. Therefore, when he was brought before him, the proconsul asked if he were Polycarp. And when he confessed that he was, the proconsul tried to persuade him to recant, saying, “Have respect for your age,” and other such things as they are accustomed to say: “Swear by the Genius of Caesar; repent; say, ‘Away with the atheists!’ ” So Polycarp solemnly looked at the whole crowd of lawless heathen who were in the stadium, motioned toward them with his hand, and then (groaning as he looked up to heaven) said, “Away with the atheists!” But when the magistrate persisted and said, “Swear the oath, and I will release you; revile Christ,” Polycarp replied, “For eighty-six years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”[5]


The Letter To Smyrna

Revelation 2:8–11

And to the angel of the church in Smyrna, write:

These things says the first and the last, who passed through death, and who came to life again.

I know the affliction and the poverty you endure—you are rich in spite of it—and I know the slanders which proceed from those who call themselves Jews and are not, but who are a synagogue of Satan. Have no fear of what you will have to go through. Behold! the devil is going to throw some of you into prison in order to test you, and you will have a time of affliction which will last for ten days. Show yourselves loyal to death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Let him who has an ear hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.

Smyrna: The Crown Of Asia

Revelation 2:8–11 (contd)

If it was inevitable that Ephesus should come first in the list of the seven churches, it was only natural that Smyrna, its great rival, should come second. Of all the cities of Asia, Smyrna was the loveliest. It was known as the ornament of Asia, the crown of Asia and the flower of Asia. The Greek satirist Lucian said that it was ‘the fairest of the cities of Ionia’. Aristides, the Greek Christian writer, who sang the praise of Smyrna with such splendour, spoke of ‘the grace which extends over every part like a rainbow … the brightness which pervades every part, and reaches up to the heavens, like the glitter of the bronze of armour in Homer’. It added to the charm of Smyrna that the west wind, the gentle zephyr, constantly blew through its streets. ‘The wind’, said Aristides, ‘blows through every part of the city, and makes it as fresh as a grove of trees.’ The constant west wind had only one disadvantage. The sewage of the city drained into the gulf on which the city stood, and the west wind tended to blow the smell back upon the city rather than out to sea.

Smyrna was magnificently situated. It stood at the end of the road which crossed Lydia and Phrygia and travelled out to the far east, and it commanded the trade of the rich Hermus valley. Inevitably, it was a great trading city. The city itself stood at the end of a long arm of the sea, which ended in a small land-locked harbour in the heart of the city. It was the safest of all harbours and the most convenient; and it had the added advantage that in time of war it could be easily closed by a chain across its mouth. It was fitting that on the coins of Smyrna there should be the image of a merchant ship ready for sea.

The setting of the city was equally beautiful. It began at the harbour; it crossed the narrow foothills; and then behind the city there rose the Pagos, a hill covered with temples and noble buildings which were spoken of as ‘the Crown of Smyrna’. One traveller has described it as ‘a queenly city crowned with towers’. Aristides likened Smyrna to a great statue with the feet in the sea, the middle parts in the plain and the foothills, and the head, crowned with great buildings, on the Pagos behind. He called it ‘a flower of beauty such as earth and sun had never shown to mankind’.

Smyrna’s history was very much connected to its beauty, for it was one of the very few planned cities in the world. It had been founded as a Greek colony as far back as 1000 bc. Round about 600 bc, disaster had befallen it, for then the Lydians had broken in from the east and destroyed it. For 400 years, Smyrna had been no city but merely a collection of little villages; then the Macedonian general Lysimachus had rebuilt it as a planned whole. It was built with great, straight, broad streets. Strabo, the Greek geographer, speaks of the handsomeness of the streets, the excellence of the paving and the great rectangular blocks in which it was built. Most famous of all the streets was the Street of Gold, which began with the Temple of Zeus and ended with the Temple of Cybele. It ran across the foothills of the Pagos at an angle; and, if the buildings which encircled the Pagos were the crown of Smyrna, the Street of Gold was the necklace round the hill.

Here we have an interesting and a significant thing which shows the care and knowledge with which John set down his letters from the risen Christ. The risen Christ is called ‘the one who died and came to life’. That was an echo of the experience of Smyrna itself.

Smyrna had other claims to greatness. It was a free city, and it knew what loyalty was. Long before Rome was undisputed ruler of the world, Smyrna had thrown in its lot with Rome, never to waver in its faithfulness. The Roman statesman Cicero called Smyrna ‘one of our most faithful and our most ancient allies’. In the campaign against Mithridates in the east, things had gone badly with Rome. And when the soldiers of Rome were suffering from hunger and cold, the people of Smyrna stripped off their own clothes to send to them.

Such was the reverence of Smyrna for Rome that, as far back as 195 bc, it was the first city in the world to build a temple to the goddess Roma. And in ad 26, when the cities of Asia Minor were competing for the privilege of erecting a temple to the godhead of Tiberius, Smyrna was picked out for that honour, overcoming even Ephesus.

Not only was Smyrna great in trade, beauty and political and religious status; it was also a city where culture flourished. Apollonius of Tyana had urged upon Smyrna the truth that only the people can make a city great. He said: ‘Though Smyrna is the most beautiful of all cities under the sun, and makes the sea its own, and holds the fountains of the zephyr, yet it is a greater charm to wear a crown of men than a crown of porticoes and pictures and gold beyond the standard of mankind: for buildings are seen only in their own place, but men are seen everywhere and spoken about everywhere and make their city as vast as the range of countries which they can visit.’ So Smyrna had a stadium in which famous games were held each year, a magnificent public library, an Odeion, which was the home of music, and a theatre which was one of the largest in Asia Minor. In particular, Smyrna was one of the cities which laid claim to being the birthplace of the Greek poet Homer; it had a memorial building called the Homereion, and put Homer’s head on its coinage. This was a disputed claim. Thomas Heywood, the seventeenth-century poet, wrote the famous epigram:

Seven cities warr’d for Homer, being dead,

Who, living, had no roof to shroud his head.

In such a city, we would expect magnificent architecture; and in Smyrna there was a host of temples to Cybele, to Zeus, to Apollo, to Nemesis, to Aphrodite and to Asclepios.

Smyrna had rather more than its share of a characteristic which was common to all Greek cities. The German historian Theodor Mommsen said that Asia Minor was ‘a paradise of municipal vanity’, and Smyrna of all cities was noted for ‘its municipal rivalry and its local pride’. Everyone in it wanted to exalt Smyrna and had a personal desire to climb to the top of the municipal tree. It is not without significance that in the address of the letter the risen Christ is called ‘the first and the last’. In comparison with his glory, all earthly distinctions are worthless.

There remains one feature of Smyrna which stands out in the letter and which had serious consequences for the Christians there. The Jews were especially numerous and influential (verse 9). We find them, for instance, contributing 10,000 denarii to make the city beautiful. It is clear that in Smyrna they were particularly hostile to the Christian Church, no doubt because it was from them and from those interested in Judaism that Christianity drew many of its converts. So, we may well end this study of Smyrna with the story of the most famous Christian martyrdom which happened there.

Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, was martyred on Saturday, 23rd February, ad 155. It was the time of the public games; the city was crowded, and the crowds were excited. Suddenly the shout went up: ‘Away with the atheists; let Polycarp be searched for.’ No doubt Polycarp could have escaped; but already he had had a dream in which he saw the pillow under his head burning with fire; and, when he woke, he told his disciples: ‘I must be burnt alive.’

His whereabouts were betrayed by a slave who collapsed under torture. They came to arrest him. He ordered that they should be given a meal and provided with all they required, while he asked for himself the privilege of one last hour in prayer. Not even the police captain wanted to see Polycarp die. On the brief journey to the city, he pleaded with the old man: ‘What harm is it to say: “Caesar is Lord” and to offer sacrifice and be saved?’ But Polycarp was adamant that for him only Jesus Christ was Lord.

When he entered the arena, there came a voice from heaven saying: ‘Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.’ The proconsul gave him the choice of cursing the name of Christ and making sacrifice to Caesar—or death. ‘Eighty and six years have I served him,’ said Polycarp, ‘and he has done me no wrong. How can I blasphe me my King who saved me?’ The proconsul threatened him with burning, and Polycarp replied: ‘You threaten me with the fire that burns for a time, and is quickly quenched, for you do not know the fire which awaits the wicked in the judgment to come and in everlasting punishment. Why are you waiting? Come, do what you will.’

So the crowds came flocking from the workshops and from the baths with bundles of wood—and the Jews, even though they were breaking the Sabbath law by carrying such burdens, were ahead of everyone in bringing wood for the fire. They were going to bind him to the stake. ‘Leave me as I am,’ he said, ‘for he who gives me power to endure the fire will grant me to remain in the flames unmoved even without the security you will give by the nails.’ So they left him loosely bound in the flames, and Polycarp prayed his great prayer:

O Lord God Almighty, Father of thy beloved and blessed Child, Jesus Christ, through whom we have received full knowledge of thee, God of angels and powers, and of all creation, and of the whole family of the righteous, who live before thee, I bless thee that thou hast granted unto me this day and hour, that I may share, among the number of the martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, for the resurrection to eternal life, both of soul and body in the immortality of the Holy Spirit. And may I today be received among them before thee, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as thou, the God without falsehood and of truth, hast prepared beforehand and shown forth and fulfilled. For this reason I also praise thee for all things. I bless thee, I glorify thee through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, thy beloved Child, through whom be glory to thee with him and the Holy Spirit, both now and for the ages that are to come. Amen.

So much is plain fact; but then the story drifts into legend, for it goes on to tell that the flames made a kind of tent around Polycarp and left him untouched. At length, the executioner stabbed him to death to achieve what the flames could not do. ‘And when he did this there came out a dove, and much blood, so that the fire was quenched, and all the crowd marvelled that there was such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect.’

What is certain is that Polycarp died a martyr for the faith.

It cannot have been easy to be a Christian at Smyrna—and yet the letter to Smyrna is one of the two in which there is undiluted praise.

Smyrna: Under Trial

Revelation 2:8–11 (contd)

The church of Smyrna was in trouble, and a further period of trial was imminent.

There are three things that the letter says about this trial.

(1) It is thlipsis, affliction. Thlipsis originally meant crushing beneath a weight. The pressure of events is on the church at Smyrna.

(2) It is ptōcheia, poverty. In the New Testament, poverty and Christianity are closely connected. ‘Blessed are you who are poor,’ said Jesus (Luke 6:20). Paul described the Christians at Corinth as being poor yet making many rich (2 Corinthians 6:10). James speaks of God choosing the poor in this world to be rich in faith (James 2:5).

In Greek, there are two words for poverty. Penia describes the state of those who are not wealthy and who, as the Greeks defined it, must satisfy their needs with their own hands. Ptōcheia describes complete destitution. It has been put this way: penia describes the state of someone who has nothing superfluous; ptōcheia describes the state of someone who has nothing at all.

The poverty of the Christians was due to two things. It was due to the fact that most of them belonged to the lower classes of society. The gulf between the top and the bottom of the social scale was very wide. We know, for instance, that in Rome the poorer classes literally starved because contrary winds delayed the corn ships from Alexandria, and the entitlement of corn could not be distributed to those in need.

There was another reason for the poverty of the Christians. Sometimes they suffered from the plundering of their possessions (Hebrews 10:34). There were times when a mob would suddenly attack the Christians and wreck their homes. Life was not easy for a Christian in Smyrna or anywhere else in the ancient world.

(3) There is imprisonment. John forecasts an imprisonment of ten days. That is not to be taken literally. Ten days was an expression for a short time which was soon to come to an end. So this prophecy is at the same time both a warning and a promise. Imprisonment is coming; but the time of trouble, although sharp, will be short. Two things are to be noted.

First, this is exactly the way in which persecution came. To be a Christian was against the law; but persecution was not continuous. The Christians might be left in peace for a long time; but at any moment a governor might develop a fit of administrative energy, or the mob might call out for a search to find the Christians—and then the storm broke. The terror of being a Christian was the uncertainty.

Second, imprisonment does not sound so bad to us. We might say: ‘Imprisonment? Well, that is not as bad as death anyway.’ But, in the ancient world, imprisonment was merely the prelude to death. People were only prisoners until they were led out to die.

Smyrna: The Cause Of The Trouble

Revelation 2:8–11 (contd)

The instigators of persecution were the Jews. Again and again in Acts, we see how the Jews stirred up the authorities against the Christian preachers. It happened at Antioch (Acts 13:50), at Iconium (Acts 14:2, 14:5), at Lystra (Acts 14:19) and at Thessalonica (Acts 17:5).

The story of what happened at Antioch shows us how the Jews often succeeded in moving the authorities to take action against the Christians (Acts 13:50). Round the Jewish synagogues gathered many ‘god-fearers’. These were Gentiles who were not prepared to go the whole way and to become full converts but were attracted by the preaching of one God instead of many gods and were attracted especially by the purity of the Jewish ethic as compared with life in Roman society. In particular, women were attracted to Judaism for these reasons. Often these women were from the higher social levels, the wives of magistrates and governors, and it was through them that the Jews gained access to the authorities and persuaded them to persecute.

John calls the Jews the synagogue of Satan. He is taking a favourite expression of the Jews and reversing it. When the people of Israel met together, they loved to call themselves ‘the assembly of the Lord’ (Numbers 16:3, 20:4, 31:16). Synagogue is in Greek sunagōgē, which literally means a coming together, an assembly, a congregation. It is as if John said: ‘You call yourselves the assembly of God when, in fact, you are the assembly of the devil.’ Once, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said of certain people who were presenting a crude picture of God: ‘Your God is my devil.’ It is a terrible thing when religion becomes the means of evil things. It has happened. In the eighteenth century, in the days of the French Revolution, Madame Roland uttered her famous cry: ‘Liberty, what crimes are committed in your name!’ There have been tragic times when the same could be said about religion.

Six slanders were regularly levelled against the Christians.

(1) On the basis of the words of the sacrament—this is my body, and this is my blood—the story went about that the Christians were cannibals.

(2) Because the Christians called their common meal the Agape, the Love Feast, it was said that their gatherings were orgies of lust.

(3) Because Christianity did, in fact, often split families, when some members became Christians and some did not, the Christians were accused of ‘tampering with family relationships’.

(4) Worshippers in the traditional ancient religions accused the Christians of atheism because they could not understand a worship which had no images of the gods such as they themselves had.

(5) The Christians were accused of being politically disloyal because they would not say: ‘Caesar is Lord.’

(6) The Christians were accused of being fire-raisers because they foretold the end of the world in flames.

It was not difficult for maliciously minded people to circulate dangerous slanders about the Christian Church.

Smyrna: Christ’s Claim And christ’S Demand

Revelation 2:8–11 (contd)

We have seen that the church at Smyrna was battling with difficulties and threatened with worse to come. In view of that, the letter to Smyrna opens with two resounding titles of Christ which tell what he can offer to those who may be confronted with a situation such as the one that faced the Christians at Smyrna.

(1) Christ is the first and the last. In the Old Testament, that is a title belonging to God. ‘I am the first,’ Isaiah heard God say, ‘and I am the last’ (Isaiah 44:6, 48:12). This title has two aspects. To Christians, it is a tremendous promise. Come what may, from the first day of life to the last, the risen Christ is with us. Of whom then shall we be afraid?

But, to the general population of Smyrna, it was a warning. They loved their city, calling it the first in Asia, and they were all striving as individuals to be one better than their neighbours. The risen Christ said: ‘I am the first and the last.’ Here is the death of human pride. Beside the glory of Christ, all human titles are of no importance and all human claims become ridiculous. When Julian, the Roman emperor, had failed in his attempt to banish Christianity and bring back the old gods, and when he was meeting his death in the attempt, he said: ‘To shoulder Christ from out the topmost niche was not for me.’ He recognized that he could not remove Christ from his true place above all others.

(2) Christ is the one who was dead and is alive again. The tenses of the verb are of prime importance. The Greek for was is genomenos, which means became. It describes what we might call a passing phase. Christ became dead; it was an episode through which he passed. In Greek, the verb which the Authorized Version translates as is alive is not a present tense but an aorist, which describes one action completed in the past. The right translation is came to life again (as in the Revised Standard Version), and the reference is to the event of the resurrection. The risen Christ is the one who experienced death and came to life again in the triumphant event of the resurrection, and who is alive for evermore. Here again, there are two aspects.

(a) The risen Christ is one who has experienced the worst that life could do to him. He had died in the agony of the cross. No matter what happened to the Christians of Smyrna, Jesus Christ had been through it. Jesus Christ can help because he knows what life is like at its worst and has experienced even the bitterness of death.

(b) The risen Christ has conquered the worst that life can do. He triumphed over pain and over death; and he offers us through himself the way to victorious living.

In this passage there is also a demand, and the demand is for loyalty, loyal even when death is the price to be paid. Loyalty was a quality of which the people of Smyrna knew something, for their city had flung in its lot with Rome when Rome’s greatness was only a far-off possibility, and had never wavered from it in its allegiance, in fair weather and in foul. If all the other noble qualities of life were placed in the balance against it, loyalty would outweigh them all. It was the writer Robert Louis Stevenson’s prayer that ‘in all the chances of fortune, and down to the gates of death’ we should be ‘loyal and loving to one another’.

Smyrna: The Promised Reward

Revelation 2:8–11 (contd)

Jesus Christ will be in no one’s debt, and loyalty to him brings its own reward. In this passage, two rewards are mentioned.

(1) There is the crown of life. Again and again, the crown of the Christian is mentioned in the New Testament. Here and in James 1:12, it is the crown of life. Paul speaks of the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8) and of the crown of boasting (1 Thessalonians 2:19). Paul contrasts the immortal crown of the Christian with the fading crown of laurel which was the prize of the victor in the games (1 Corinthians 9:25), and Peter speaks of the unfading crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4).

Of in each of these phrases means which consists of. To win the crown of righteousness or glory or life is to be crowned with righteousness or glory or with life. But we must understand the idea behind this word crown (stephanos). In Greek, there are two words for crowndiadēma, which means the royal crown, and stephanos, which usually has something to do with joy and victory. It is not the royal crown which is being offered to Christians; it is the crown of joy and victory. Stephanos has many associations, and all of them contribute something to the riches of thought behind it.

(a) The first connection is with the victor’s crown in the games. Smyrna had games which were famous all over Asia. As in the Olympic Games, the reward of the victorious athlete was the laurel crown. Christians can win the crown of victory in the contest of life.

(b) When someone had faithfully performed the work of a magistrate, at the end of the term of office that person was granted a crown. Those who throughout life faithfully serve Christ and their neighbours will receive their crown.

(c) The Roman world was in the habit of wearing crowns, or garlands of flowers, at banquets. In the end, if Christians are loyal, they will have the joy of sitting as guests at the banquet of God.

(d) The worshippers of the Greek and Roman gods were in the habit of wearing crowns when they approached the temples of their gods. In the end, if they have been faithful, Christians will have the joy of entering into the nearer presence of God.

(e) Some scholars have seen in this crown a reference to the halo or the nimbus which is round the head of divine beings in pictures. If that is so, it means that, if they are faithful, Christians will be crowned with the life which belongs to God himself. As John said: ‘We will be like him, for we will see him as he is’ (1 John 3:2).

In this life, it may be that their loyalty will bring Christians a crown of thorns; but in the life to come it will surely bring them the crown of glory.

(2) Cyprian, the third-century Bishop of Carthage, uses two great phrases to describe those who are faithful even to death. He describes them as ‘illustrious with the heraldry of a good name’, and he calls them ‘the white-robed cohort of the soldiers of Christ’. To the faithful, another promise is made: they will not be hurt by the second death. The second death is a mysterious phrase which occurs nowhere in the New Testament outside Revelation (20:6, 20:14, 21:8). The Rabbis talked of ‘the second death whereof the wicked die in the next world’. The phrase may have two origins.

(a) The Sadducees believed that after death there was absolutely nothing; the Epicureans, whose beliefs were based on the importance of pleasure, held the same doctrine. This belief finds its place even in the Old Testament—for that pessimistic book Ecclesiastes is the work of a Sadducee. ‘A living dog is better than a dead lion. The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing’ (Ecclesiastes 9:4–5). For the Sadducees and the Epicureans, death was extinction. To orthodox Jews, this was too easy, for it meant that for the wise and for fools the end was the same (Ecclesiastes 2:15–16, 9:2). They, therefore, came to believe that there were, so to speak, two deaths—physical death, which everyone must undergo, and after that a death which was the judgment of God.

(b) This is very closely connected with the ideas which we touched on when studying the word paradise (2:7). We saw that many of the Jews and the early Christian thinkers believed that there was an intermediate state into which everyone passed until the time of judgment. If that were so, then indeed there would be two deaths—the physical death which no one can escape, and the spiritual death into which the wicked would enter after the final judgment.

Of such things it is not given to anyone to speak with confidence; but, when John spoke of the faithful being unharmed by the second death, he meant precisely the same as Paul when he said that nothing in life or in death, in the present time or in eternity, can separate those who love him from Jesus Christ. They are safe from all that life or death can do to them (Romans 8:38–9).[6]


8–11. Smyrna, the second Church to whom the Lord sent his message, appears to have been not much more than forty miles from Ephesus, and neither of them, far remote from Patmos. The Epistle to this Church comes now to be considered. Here the Lord takes to himself, in opening his message, those distinguishing perfections of character. These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive. Probably the Lord Jesus made choice of these, in a more especial manner, in that he was here arming the Church, against a time of persecution; and therefore, in his own glorious Person, they might be found faithful unto death. By the Jews here spoken of, is to be understood, with a special eye to the subject, Christ’s followers in the regeneration. For, as Christ himself was a Jew after the flesh, those who professed to be his disciples, were in those days generally called Jews. Indeed, we read that the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. Acts 11:26. But it was only in process of time, that the name became universal. Such, however, could only be properly called so, who were regenerated. Let the Reader observe, that Christ calls it blasphemy, to take the name without the grace. It is indeed most awful, to find men who are by works, of the synagogue of Satan, call themselves Christians!

Let the Reader observe, and observe with thankfulness, how graciously the Lord Jesus limits the power of Satan. Fear none of these things, which thou shalt suffer! The devil would have cast them all into hell, if he could. But no! It shall be only some of them, that he shall exercise by captivity, and that not into hell, but only into a prison. And he would have cast them in for ever. But no! It shall only be for ten days, that they shall have tribulation. And this, not for his triumph, but for the trial of their graces. And Jesus, in bidding them be faithful, wills them into it. It is, as if the Lord had said ye shall be faithful. For the crown he promised, was not of doubtful issue. Oh! how sure is it, that the overcomers in Christ, having part in the first resurrection in grace, shall not be hurt by the second death. Rev. 20:6. Lord! give grace and the hearing ear, to hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches![7]


Ver. 10.—Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer. We must bring out the difference between “to be about to” (μέλλειν). in the first two clauses, and the simple future (ἕξετε) in the third; compare “I will show him how many things he must suffer for my Name’s, sake” (Acts 9:16). The devil, who inspires the “synagogue of Satan,” is to be allowed to afflict them, as he afflicted Job (For “behold,” see note on ver. 22.) The expression, “some of you” (ἐξ ὑμῶν), is interesting link of style between this to be and the Fourth Gospel and the Second Epistle; we have a similar construction in John 1:24; 7:40; 16:17; 2 John 4. (For a warning of like import, but to the persecutors, not the persecuted, comp. Matt. 23:34.) That ye may be tried. The common meaning of πειράζειν, as distinct from δοκιμάζειν, is here conspicuous; it is “to try” with the sinister intent of causing to fall. But what is temptation on the devil’s side is probation on God’s side (comp. 1 Pet. 4:12–14). Ten days. It is unwise to make anything either mystical or rigidly literal out of the number ten, which here is probably a round number. The question is whether the round number denotes a small Gen. 24:55; Numb. 11:19) or a large number (Numb. 14:22; 1 Sam. 1:8; Job 19:3). The former seems probable. It is not impossible that some analogy between their case and that of the “four children” (Dan. 1:12, 15) is suggested by the ten days’ probation. Be thou faithful unto death; literally, become thou faithful; show thyself to be such (γίνου πιστός). Note how completely the angel of the Church is identified with the Church. In this one verse we have complete mixture of the two modes of address: “Thou art about to suffer … some of you … ye shall have … I will give thee.” “Unto death” does not merely mean “to thy life’s end,” but “even if fidelity involves death;” compare “becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). The crown of life. The Authorized Version, by ignoring the article (“a crown of life”), sadly detracts from the meaning. It is the well-known crown, the crown which is truly such, in contrast to earthly crowns, and perhaps with a special reference to the crowns given at Smyrna to the priests of Dionysus at the expiration of their year of office. The word στεφανηφὺρος has been found in inscriptions at Smyrna in this connexion (comp. Jas. 1:12, where the same phrase occurs; also 1 Cor. 9:25; 1 Pet. 5:4). Excepting ch. 12:3; 13:1; 19:12 (where we have διάδημα), στέφανος is the regular word for “crown” in the New Testament. “Of life” is the genitive of apposition; the life is the crown, just as in “the Word of life” (1 John 1:1) the life is the Word. It is impossible to determine whether St. John has in his mind the crown of a king, of a victorious athlete, or of a triumphant warrior. The XII. Tables provided that he who lead won a crown might have it placed on his head when his dead body was carried in the funeral procession. St. John, both at Rome and in the East, would have seen this ceremony, possibly in the case of a crowned priest at Smyrna. “The crown of life” would be the exact opposite of that. The narrative of the martyrdom of St. Polycarp draws to a close with these words: “Having by his patience, vanquished the unjust ruler, and having thus received the crown of immortality,” etc. The writer seems to have had ch. 2:10 in his mind.[8]


10. The Smyrneans are not to be afraid, though suffering is certain. Some will be imprisoned, and this is ascribed to the devil. But God is supreme. Even through the devil and evil men he works out his purposes. The imprisonment will be to test you. The clear implication is that God will see them through the test. This is so even if, as a number of commentators think, prison was simply a place of confinement while awaiting execution (against this view are passages like Acts 16:23; 2 Cor. 11:23).

Ten days (the time of Daniel’s testing, Dan. 1:12–15) may well point to the completion of their suffering: ‘It is only for a limited time that you will have to endure, even though endurance will be tested to the limit’ (Niles). It certainly points to something more than three and a half days, which is John’s usual expression for a trial of limited duration. Yet even ten has its limit. Not Satan but God has the last word. In a memorable expression the church is exhorted, Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life (cf. Jas 1:12). Death, which people fear so much, is set in sharp antithesis to life, which alone matters. There is an article with life (though not with death). It is ‘the’ life, eternal life, that is in mind. Crown (stephanos) means a wreath or chaplet, and is to be distinguished from the royal crown (diadēma). The stephanos was the trophy awarded to the victor at the games, and the same word was used of the festive garland worn at banquets by all the guests. Here it is plainly the victory wreath, which would be specially appropriate in Smyrna, a city famous for its Games. The believer who remains faithful even when it means death will receive the trophy of victory. His crown is life.[9]


Message to the assembly in Smyrna (2:8–11)

Context

Smyrna lay about 50 miles (80 km) north of Ephesus and, being at the head of a deep gulf, also had an excellent harbour, but (in contrast to Ephesus) one which continues in use today as part of modern Izmir. The most important commodity traded was myrrh (Greek smyrna), from which Smyrna probably took its name. The ancient city was destroyed by the Lydians in around 600 bc, and it was refounded by the successors of Alexander the Great in 290 bc. As one of the principal cities of the Roman province of Asia, it vied with Ephesus and Pergamum for the title of ‘First City’, and because of its beauty called itself ‘the crown of Asia’ and included crowns on its coinage. It was famously loyal to Rome, even before becoming part of the empire, and was granted the title of ‘Temple Guardian’ when an imperial temple was built in ad 26.

Smyrna was the home of Polycarp, who became bishop there in the second century, and to whom Ignatius wrote a letter from Troas around ad 100. Polycarp was probably martyred in around 156, and the account of his death includes his comment that he has served Christ for eighty-six years. That would make him a young man in his twenties at the time of the writing of Revelation.

This message is the shortest of the seven, less than half the length of the longest (to Thyatira), and along with the message to Philadelphia it includes no rebuke from the risen Christ. It most clearly fits a context of pressure or persecution, the situation that most people associate with Revelation, but it is striking that this is not the case for many of the other messages, which focus more on offering a challenge to Christians who have compromised with their surrounding culture. It offers quite a stark message, rather than the kind of encouragement we might expect, setting out the serious challenges that those loyal to Jesus can expect to face.

Comment

  1. 8. Jesus’ self-designation as the First and the Last is taken from the opening vision of Jesus and his words to John in 1:17. It parallels the epistolary title of God in 1:8, and both derive from the claim of God in Isaiah 44:6 to be not only the one God whom Israel worships, but the one to whom there is simply no equal—offering a sharp challenge to the city’s devotion to the emperor and the empire. Jesus died and came to life, a reworking of the next words to John in 1:18, emphasizes the events of his death and resurrection (the verb ‘came to life’ is a past rather than present tense). This would have particular resonance with people living in a city which had itself ‘died’ in its destruction and ‘come to life’ in its refounding, but also with those (like the young Polycarp) who would one day face martyrdom because of their loyalty to the One who has conquered death.
  2. 9. With divine insight, Jesus know[s] the three challenges (rather than their ‘works’) facing the Christians in Smyrna—but he also knows their true status. First, in suffering afflictions or ‘tribulation’ (thlipsis), they are experiencing what John describes as part of our lot in this world as followers of Jesus (1:9; see also 7:14) which was the experience of the disciples at the time of Stephen’s martyrdom (Acts 11:19). Smyrna was generous in granting citizenship to its inhabitants, so there is a good chance that some of the Christians would have been citizens, alongside those who were slaves, tenant farmers or labourers living at subsistence levels. Yet this new faith had particular appeal to those who, second, knew poverty, following a messiah who, as a ‘Son of Man’, had ‘nowhere to lay his head’ (Matt. 8:20) and who describes his followers as ‘my brother[s] and sister[s]’ who are often ‘hungry’, ‘thirsty’, ‘naked’, ‘strangers’, ‘ill’ and ‘in prison’ (Matt. 12:50; 25:36–40). Despite their outward appearance, they are in fact rich in faith (cf. Jas 2:5; Luke 6:20) because they have the treasure of the kingdom which is theirs in Jesus, in line with the inversion of human values in God’s economy (1 Cor. 1:27) and in contrast to their wealthier fellow city dwellers (Rev. 3:17).

The third challenge is the slander or ‘blasphemy’ they are experiencing from the Jews. Revelation follows Paul’s experience (Acts 9:4) and his theology (1 Cor. 12:27) in closely identifying God with God’s people, so that an attack on the latter is an attack on the former. There seems to have been a significant Jewish community in Smyrna; some appear to have supported the martyrdom of Polycarp and also denounced Christians during the later persecution under Diocletian. At the date of Revelation, the two communities are still closely related; John is a Jew, as are many of his readers, and so tensions are less between two religious groups as between two related branches of the same group. To claim that the accusers are not true Jews is not about displacing them, but about following the tradition of the Old Testament and of Paul (Rom. 2:28–29; Gal. 6:16) that being part of the people of God is at heart about faith and obedience, not simply about ethnicity. To accuse the people of God as they faithfully follow Jesus is to take the side of the great Accuser (the root meaning of Satan) who has been defeated by the death and resurrection of Jesus (Rev. 12:10).

10–11. In the face of these challenges, Jesus offers the same encouragement that he gave John: Do not be afraid! The form here is either more emphatic or more specific: do not be afraid of these things you are about to suffer. If the accusations of others lead to them being put … in prison by the Roman authorities, then this too is the work of the devil. As we shall see from Revelation 13 onwards, this primeval opponent of God and his people does have real power, but ‘his time is short’ (Rev. 12:12) and his power strictly limited, which is the probable meaning of the ten days of their tribulation. The call to be faithful, even to the point of death is both a battle cry of a spiritual army, about which we will hear more in Revelation 7, and the imitation of the pattern of Jesus’ own faithfulness (Phil. 2:8; cf. Rev. 12:11). This is a call to universal faithfulness, but not to universal martyrdom, since only some will suffer this.

The challenges facing the Smyrnans elicit a double promise from Jesus, both parts of which are related to his opening self-designation. The crown designates a wreath rather than a diadem, and although it has some military associations, its primary meaning is as the trophy given to the victor in the games. Those who stay faithful even in the face of threats from ‘those who [can] kill the body’ (Matt. 10:28) are crowned with the gift of life, won by Jesus’ own resurrection and signified in the New Jerusalem by the tree on either side of the river in the midst of the city (Rev. 22:1–2). The second promise parallels this with a kind of double negative: those who conquer (AT), that is, who share in the victory of Jesus and who have already begun to walk in newness of resurrection life, will not be harmed by the second death (AT; Rev. 20:14; 21:8), that separation from God the source of life which follows physical death. The tense of the verb here (aorist rather than future) emphasizes the certainty of the promise.

Theology

The message to those in Smyrna is positive, in the sense that there is no rebuke as there is in all the other messages. But it is also somewhat austere, in that it does not promise the Smyrnan Christians any respite from the pressures that they will be experiencing in the near future. There is no sense here of ‘Jesus has a wonderful plan for your life.’

The assurance is given to them that Jesus knows and understands their situation, not least because he has walked the same path that they now walk—the path of accusation, opposition and faithfulness to the point of death. They are not forgotten and they are not alone. The double hope that they are to hold to is set out in the (unique among the messages) correspondence between the characteristic of Jesus which opens the message and the future promise which closes it, both of which centre on the questions of life and death.

Their hope looks back to Jesus himself, whom death could not hold and whose resurrection signalled the final defeat of death itself, so the ending of the power of those who threaten and accuse. And their hope looks forward to the fruits of that victory being revealed—the ultimate gift of life, the only prize really worth winning, in the New Jerusalem in the presence of the King himself. Their hope is not in vain, since it is not a hope ‘only for this life’ (1 Cor. 15:19) but is focused on the promise of life to come. It is a promise that has sustained generations of Christians who have faced the same challenge to pay the ultimate price for their faith.[10]


       The Second Letter: To Smyrna (2:8–11)

One does not need background knowledge of Smyrna to understand the message to the church there, but still it is illuminating to learn that the beauty of this city, which rivalled Ephesus, was the beauty of a resurrection. Seven hundred years before, old Smyrna had been destroyed, and had lain in ruins for three centuries. The city of John’s time was one which had risen from the dead. In sharp contrast to the fields which once were Ephesus, Smyrna thrives even today as Izmir, second largest city in Asiatic Turkey. And resurrection was to be the experience of its church also.

The immediate prospect was one of suffering and even death. This was a certainty—a fact which has lessons for those of us who live in comparative ease. Would we be taken aback to find persecution knocking at our door tomorrow? Many a church has had to learn to live with that prospect, and so ought we. For the great tribulation that John sees bringing this age to an end he also sees in miniature, recurring constantly in the experience of God’s people. And it is a test. It is the devil’s action, but God’s intention.

The persecution at Smyrna was made especially poignant by the fact that the great enemy was the local community of Jews. These were God’s people racially, but not really (Rom. 2:28), and were in fact blaspheming God as they persecuted his church under the guise of doing him service (Jn. 16:2). Perhaps it was economic pressure from these Jews that brought the church to poverty, and slanderous accusations by them (for ‘Satan’ means ‘slanderer’) that led to imprisonment and death.

But let the Christians take heart. For the Christ who unveils this dismaying prospect is one who has himself been through a Smyrna-experience. Like their city, their Lord also ‘died and came to life’, and guarantees a resurrection for them too. The enemy is strong. Behind these Jews stands Satan; it is he, not Abraham, who is their spiritual father (Jn. 8:33, 44). But behind Satan stands God, and God is in final control. If one great lesson is that suffering is certain, the other is that it is limited. For the Smyrnaeans, it would be for ‘ten days’ some time in their near future: there would in the goodness of God come an eleventh day, and all would be over. God’s control does not mean that Satan is prevented from inflicting pain and hurt. Nowhere does the New Testament promise freedom from suffering in this life; indeed, without the cross there will be no crown. But what God does guarantee is that though the church may suffer even the death of the body, she will not suffer the death of the soul. So Paul, having himself learnt these two lessons, demonstrates a true Christian sense of proportion in the face of tribulation: ‘I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us’ (Rom. 8:18).

The message therefore is that Smyrna must be not fearful, but faithful—to look not at the suffering, but beyond it to the all-controlling God.[11]


Vers. 8–11. Smyrna.—

Smyrna—the poor Church that was rich:—The story of Smyrna, both spiritual and material, the delineation of its circumstances and of its experience, is simple. Nothing is said of the achievements of the Church; the significant clause, “I know thy works,” which meets us elsewhere, is wanting here. No complex ethical state is set before us. The history of Smyrna is compressed into a single word, “tribulation”; it had one solitary call, to fidelity. Of Smyrna this much is recorded—the Church was persecuted by the Jews. The life of the Church had been one of tribulation, and in its tribulation it was poor. Of the social influence which conciliates authorities and tempers persecutions, of the comforts which lighten trouble and solace the afflicted, it had none. And the conflict was to wax sorer. Reproach will be followed by imprisonment. Out of the very soreness of the trouble there come suggestions that carry consolation with them. The sufferings of this insignificant Church have a dignity all their own; and not only a dignity, they have an importance too. As it had been with Christ, so should it be with His followers in Smyrna. Unrelenting hostility was to be followed by eternal victory. “Fear not the things which thou art going to suffer.… Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.” There is something very suggestive in this picture of the Church at Smyrna, in the fact that it lay aside from the various movements—the false doctrines and the worldly confusions—which elsewhere had already begun to perplex the Christian life. To us, also, there have come manifold complexions of social and religious interest; the Christian life of to-day is very full. Yes, life is for us Christians to-day very full of meaning, and piety is very rich. The effort to win all for Christ will be very arduous, we know; but the hope is inspiring, the victory will be worth the winning.

  1. The Church at Smyrna was rich because it had Christ. Observe the sublimity and the tenderness of the titles under which the Lord reveals Himself—“the first and the last,” “He who died and lived again.” The former of these titles is taken from the most majestic, the most exultant, of Old Testament prophecies, the prophecy of Israel’s restoration. One of the most touching, most searching things Henry Ward Beecher wrote was his description in “Norwood” of the poor woman, wife of a lazy, drunken husband, rearing seven children in hunger and weariness, who used to turn to these chapters, and make the mystic promises her own. “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, … thy Maker is thy husband; the Lord of Hosts is His name.” She called her daughter “Agate,” because she read, “I will make thy windows of agates.” She did not know what an agate was, but she was sure it must be something beautiful, and God’s windows were to be of agates. “She seized the happy thought—‘I will call her Agate. Perhaps the Lord will make her like a window to my darkness.’ Thus she was named.” There is an equal wealth of suggestion in the second of the two titles. “The First and the Last” was persecuted as Smyrna was. It is He who had gone on to death, and was not holden of death, who says—“Be thou faithful.… I will give thee the crown of life.” They who are in such a fellowship cannot be poor.
  2. Their very poverty makes them rich, for it gave firmness to their grasp and reality to their possession of Christ. We have many various tokens of the sufficiency of the Divine grace; but there are some among us who never knew what the power of God was until, absolutely emptied of self-trust, they cast themselves on Him; who, having had their self-complacency shattered, ventured to believe that the true riches was not in anything they had attained or were, but in the living God. The riches of Smyrna may be seen from another aspect. In Christ and their own dependence on Him was enough for their needs. They were not overtaxed; they were called to be faithful, and they were faithful. Their very detachment from the interests in which other Churches were engrossed made them the more able to abide in that fidelity which was their peculiar vocation.

III. In their narrow sphere the Christians of Smyrna had enough discipline for the eternal future. We think sometimes of the vast, immeasurable future and its stupendous possibilities. And we think that the burden is laid on us, in a few short years, to prepare ourselves for it all. No wonder that thus thinking we are appalled, and that we forbode new disasters in our probation, ending, perhaps, in a second death. But we are wrong. It is not what we take with us, in attainments or even experience, which will determine our fitness for that future, but the men we are. And the man may be as truly fitted to start upon “his adventure brave and new” by mastering one lesson, as by acquainting himself with many; by being faithful unto death, and so laying eternal hold on Christ, as by laying up in a wide and varied experience a good foundation for eternal life. Fidelity, in much or in little, has all the promise of fidelity; its reward is to be unmoved. There is one other note of tenderness to be referred to in this message—the Church is to have “ten days of tribulation.” Some of the commentators tell us this means a short time, and others that the time is to be long. All depends on our point of view. To Smyrna, in its death agony, any protraction of the trouble would seem long; in the light of eternity, when wearing “the crown of life,” the victors would think it short. It was a fixed time, definitely limited by “the First and Last”; and any fixed time will one day seem brief; they who have come out of their travail think of the anguish no more. (A. Mackennal, D.D.)

Letter to Smyrna:—

  1. Christ reveals Himself to His people according to their moral condition. In support of this assertion it is only necessary to read the superscriptions of the letters “unto the seven Churches which are in Asia.” By the title or representation which the Son of Man assumes, we may anticipate the revelation in which He is about to appear. In this, I am persuaded, we have an explanation of the varying experience of the Christian, and of the diversified and changeful mission of the Church. To one man, or to one Church, Christ presents Himself bearing “the sharp sword with two edges”; to another, with eyes blazing with penetrating light; to another, as holding the key of opportunity; and to another, as grasping infinitude, and girt with the memorials of death and the pledges of ascension. It is possible to have all these, and many more, visions of the selfsame Saviour. Our apprehensions of His identity are regulated by our moral conditions. 1. As our Saviour is the First and the Last, all things must be under His dominion. “The First.” Who can reveal the mystery of these words, or number the ages we must re-traverse ere we can behold the first gleam of that horizon which encircles God as an aureole of unwaning light! “The Last.” Another mystery! This expression bears us onward until the surging sea of life is for ever hushed, until the Divine government has answered all the purpose of Infinite Wisdom. Over what cemeteries we must pass, I know not; we must advance until the Creator exclaim from His throne, as the Redeemer cried from the Cross, “It is finished!” 2. As our Saviour was dead and is alive again, so we, who are now enduring the fellowship of His sufferings, shall know the power of His resurrection. “I was dead.” The counsels of eternity are epitomised in this declaration. The problem over which the ages bent in perplexity is, in reality, solved by this fact. “Alive again.” Let me inquire around what centre the Church assembles. Do you hasten to reply, the Cross? I answer, not there only. The Cross first, but afterwards the grave! In the centre of the Church is an empty tomb, and to a doubting world the Church can ever answer, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” And, “seeing” it, what then? Why, from the sacred rock a living stream breaks, and as the countless multitudes drink, they exclaim, “These are the waters of immortality.”
  2. Christ assures His people that He is intimately acquainted with every feature of their history. “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty.” The “I know” of love is the smile of God. Jesus sees our sufferings, is present in the cloud of our sorrow, needs not to be told what the soul has undergone, but breaks in upon the gathering darkness with words which bring with them the brightness and hope of morning, “I know, I know.” The fact that Jesus knows all that we suffer for Him should serve three purposes. (1) It should embolden us to seek His help. He is within whisper-reach of all His saints. All the desires of the heart may be expressed in one entreating sigh—one appealing glance. (2) It should inspire us with invincible courage. As the presence of a valorous leader stimulates an army, so should the assured guardianship of the Son of God inspire every soldier of the Cross, (3) It should clothe us with profoundest humility. That we can do anything for Jesus is a fact which should extinguish all fleshly pride. He might have deprived the Church of this luxury of suffering in His stead; but it hath pleased Him, in the infinite fulness of His love, to permit us to be wounded for the sake of His name. Are you a sufferer? To thee Jesus says, “I know.” Is not that enough? The tear, indeed, falls downwards, but the sound of its falling flieth upward to the ear of God.

III. Christ reveals to His suffering saints the fact of their imperishable wealth. Turn your attention to the ninth verse, and determine which is its brightest gem. Look at the parenthesis, and you have it! How like the effusion of the Infinite mind! A volume in a sentence—heaven in a parenthesis! It flashes upon one so unexpectedly. It is a garden in a wilderness, a song of hope mingling with the night-winds of despair. Slowly we pass over the dismal words, “Thy works, and tribulation, and poverty,” and with startling suddenness we overpass the separating parenthesis, and then—then! Outside of it we have cold, shivering, desolate “poverty”; and inside “an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away”! Think of it! The very typography is suggestive; only parenthesis between “poverty” and “rich”! And is it not so even in reality? What is there between thee, O suffering saint, and joys immortal? What between thee and thy soul’s Saviour? Only a parenthesis—the poor, frail, perishing parenthesis of the dying body. No more. There is but a step between poverty and wealth. The history of transition is condensed into one sentence, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” Let the parenthesis fall, and you will see Him as He is. When, therefore, we estimate the wealth of a good man, we must remember that there is a moral as well as a material, an invisible as well as a visible, property. The good man is an heir, and his heirship relates to possessions which no human power of calculation can compute. If you as a Church ask me how you may ascertain whether you are “rich,” I should answer—(1) Is your faith strong? (2) Are your labours abundant? (3) Are your spiritual children numerous?

  1. Christ comforts His suffering ones by disarming their fears. I cannot arbitrate between contending critics as to the precise signification of the expression “ten days.” It is enough for me to secure a firm foot on the general principle which underlies the prediction. That general principle is, that there is a limit to the suffering of the Church. Persecution is an affair of “ten days.” Diocletian is the tyrant of a vanishing hour. To-day he raves in madness, to-morrow his last yell has for ever expired. “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment.” The apostle triumphantly contrasts the brevity of suffering with the duration of glory. In prospect of suffering, Christ says to His people, “Fear not.” But why this counsel? Does it not stiffen the heart as a word of chilling mockery? O Son of God, why tell the people not “to fear”? It is because He knows the full interpretation of suffering. Suffering is education. Grief is discipline. Let me further remind you that those sufferings have been overcome. Suffering is a vanquished power. “I have overcome the world.” We have fellowship in our suffering, a fellowship that is mastery.
  2. Christ soothes and nerves His suffering saints by the promise of infinite compensation. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Jesus Christ will not only deliver His saints from the sphere of suffering; He will introduce them into the sphere of eternal rest and joy. (J. Parker, D.D.)

The letter to the Church at Smyrna:—

  1. Its temporal condition. The letter indicates that it was a condition of great trial. It refers to “tribulation,” “poverty,” “prison.” 1. Its present trial. There was “tribulation.” This is a term which represents trials of all kinds. But the special trial mentioned is “poverty.” “I know thy poverty.” Christ notices the secular condition of Churches. (1) Though their city was rich, they were poor. (2) Though they were distinguished by great spiritual excellence—for Christ Himself said, “Thou art rich,” that is, spiritually rich—they were secularly poor. In this world man’s secular condition is not always determined by his moral character. Character, and not condition, is everything to man. As compared to this, poverty is nothing. It is the man that gives worth to the condition, not the condition to the man. The gospel is for man as man, and the less man is artificialised the more open is he to its influence. 2. Its prospective trial. The letter indicates that great persecution awaited them. Several things are referred to as to the coming persecution. (1) Its instruments. Jews by birth but not by character, not circumcised in the heart. The old religion has ever hated the new. How can it be otherwise? for the new examines the character, history, and pretensions of the old, and refuses submission to its authority and influence. (2) Its instigator. “The devil.” He worketh in the children of disobedience—inspires them, raises their antagonism to the cause of purity, freedom, and happiness. (3) Its form. “Cast into prison.” Incarceration in some respects is worse than martyrdom. Better die than to live without light, freedom, fellowship. (4) Its duration. “Ye shall have tribulation ten days.”
  2. Its spiritual obligation. The letter inculcates two duties. 1. Courage. “Fear none of these things.” Why fear? “Thou art rich” in faith and hope; in Divine promise, succour, and fellowship; therefore, fear not! 2. Fidelity. “Be thou faithful unto death.” When Christ left the world, He put His disciples in possession not of money, or land, or titles, or honours. These He had not to bestow. But He gave them His ideas, His purposes, His character, incomparably the most precious things. He did not write these things in books, and leave them in libraries. He trusted them to living souls, and said, take care of them. What a rare thing it is, alas! to find a man worthy of truth—worthy of the quantity and quality of truth which has been put into his possession. Notice here two things—(1) The extent of this faithfulness. “Unto death.” Fidelity must not give way at any future point of life. No event can justify its suspension for a moment. It must stand even the fiery test of martyrdom. (2) The reward of faithfulness. “I will give thee a crown of life.” Let thy faithfulness be strong enough to die for Me. (Caleb Morris.)

The address to Smyrna:—

  1. The preliminaries. 1. The party addressed, “The angel of the Church in Smyrna.” Of the time and manner in which a Church was planted in this city no authentic information remains. It is probable, from its contiguity and commercial relations with Ephesus, that the gospel first reached it through that channel. We do not find it visited by any of the apostles, or mentioned in their epistles. Some private Christians, who were merchants, or who had been led to settle in that city, after receiving the light of the gospel elsewhere, may have formed the nucleus of a Church, which, toward the close of the first century, had become eminent for its purity and extent. 2. The title which the Saviour assumes to this Church. “The First and the Last, which was dead and is alive.” Though equally belonging to the whole, one part of Christ’s character and office is revealed more to one Church than another. He is more to some Christians than others, though He is all things to all. The Church at Ephesus needed to be reminded that His watchful eye was upon them, to stimulate them to recall their first love, and to do their first works; but the Church at Smyrna, which was more pure, and yet had to pass through fiery trials, needed most of all to dwell upon the unchangeableness of His power and love.
  2. The address to the Church in Smyrna. 1. The recognition of its present state: “I know thy works,” &c. There were genuine Christians amongst them, and there were Jewish pretenders. These were viewed differently by Him whose “eyes were as a flame of fire.” He knows who are right-hearted, and He knows who are insincere. He observes particularly those who rely by faith upon His merits alone for the hope of eternal life, and those who confide in their own observance of moral duties, and ceremonial institutions. Let us attend, now, to the allusion made to the party by which the Church at Smyrna was principally opposed. The address is not to them, but to the Church respecting them; to sanction its views, and to guide its proceedings in future. “And I know the blasphemy,” &c. They were Jews, who magnified the ceremonies of the law above the grace of the gospel; and looked upon Christianity as heretical, except as far as it could be amalgamated with their institutions, and made subservient to their interests. The synagogue was far above the conventicle in their esteem. They boasted of their privileges, as Jews, and cherished the old conceit of being the favourites of heaven, and heirs of the promises, on account of their natural descent from Abraham. How dangerous are all systems and forms of religion which cherish and confirm the self-righteousness of human nature! How much worse than none at all! The weapons of religion are transferred, by these means, into the hands of its adversaries. There might have been a few in the Church at Smyrna who, finding these Jews had some truth on their side, were inclined to think more favourably of them than they deserved. The boldness with which they averred the superiority of their station, and their long prescriptive rights, would naturally have its influence upon a certain class of minds; and those especially who had counted all they could have gained by Judaism as loss for Christ might still have looked with some hesitation upon the safety and propriety of the step they had taken. For some such reason the Redeemer sees fit to express His opinion concerning them. This He does in most decisive terms. He accuses them of blasphemy, a crime which the Jews were taught to hold in the greatest detestation, and to punish with the most summary and humiliating death. He denies that in any sense in which they could boast they are Jews. Then what are they? They are, he says, “the synagogue of Satan.” In the sense in which they are not Jews, that is, in a religious and spiritual point of view, they were the synagogue of Satan. Strong terms are employed to inspire His people with horror at hypocrisy and formality. 2. An intimation of approaching trials. “Behold the devil is about to cast some of you into prison.” Human agents were employed to seize upon some of the Christians in Smyrna, and to cast them into prison, but it was at the instigation of the devil. If this rendered their guilt less, in reference to that particular transaction, it rendered it greater in having sold themselves into the hands of such a master. It is one great proof that Christianity is the true religion, that against this alone the demon of persecution has been excited. It is the only religion that Satan cannot turn to his own interests, the only kingdom that is opposed to his own, and consequently against this his whole rage and energies are employed. 3. Exhortations to unwavering fidelity, in reference to this approaching season of persecution. One relates to its anticipation, and another to its endurance. First, “Fear not.” When such an exhortation is given by God to man, who has reason to fear everything from Him, it implies the entire work of reconciliation. It is a promise also of all the support and consolation which the approaching trial may demand. The other admonition is, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” This intimates, that for the profession of the truth they would be exposed to death. They are not to temporise or prevaricate through fear, but continue stedfast and inflexible unto death.

III. The general application of the address to this particular Church. “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” The original word for “hurt” assists the interpretation of the whole sentence. It is a judicial term, signifying that he shall not be wrongfully adjudged to the second death, as he has been to temporal death. He has been unjustly treated and injured in the first death, but no injury or injustice shall be done him with respect to the second death. Natural death is overcome by submission, not by resistance. When by faith in Christ we overcome the fear of it, we overcome the reality. If our faith conquers the first death, it will conquer the second. (G. Rogers.)

The words of Christ to the congregation at Smyrna:—

  1. Wealth in poverty. 1. Secular wealth is of contingent value; spiritual is of absolute worth. 2. Spiritual wealth is essentially virtuous; not so secular. 3. Spiritual wealth is essentially a blessing; secular often a bane. 4. Spiritual wealth is inalienable; secular is not. 5. Spiritual wealth commands moral respect; not so secular.
  2. Fiends in religion. Satan has ever had much to do with religion. Religion—not godliness—is at once his shrine and his instrument. It was religion that put to death the Son of God Himself.

III. Saints in persecution. 1. It was religious. 2. Severe. 3. Testing. 4. Short.

  1. Duty in trial. 1. Courage. 2. Faithfulness. 3. Perseverance. 4. Reflectiveness.
  2. Victory in death. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

The Church in great tribulation:—

  1. The trial to which this Church was subjected. 1. The persecution of inveterate enemies. 2. Temporal poverty. 3. The bigotry and reproach of embittered co-religionists. 4. The anticipation of future afflictions and imprisonment. (1) The nature of this future suffering. In the hands of enemies. (2) The instigator. Satan is the primary agent of all persecution. (3) The duration. Determined by God. Brief at the longest. (4) The design. The moral elevation of the pure.
  2. The wealth by which this Church was characterised. 1. The worth of a Church cannot always be estimated by its temporal circumstances. 2. The worth of a Church cannot always be estimated by the opinions of men regarding it. 3. Moral considerations alone determine the true value of the Church.

III. The fidelity to which this Church was exhorted. 1. This exhortation indicates danger. 2. This exhortation requires steadfastness. Lessons: 1. That the Church of Christ is often exposed to many trials and fierce persecutions. 2. That the Church of Christ is often persecuted by men who ought to know better. 3. That sectarian strife is the occasion of much persecution. 4. That the consolations of heaven are richly given to a tried Church. (J. S. Exell, M.A.)

Christ’s message to the tempted and tried:—“You have a passion for people who are pelted, Dan,” said Sir Hugo Mallinger. “I’m sorry for them too; but so far as company goes, it is a bad ground of selection.” Our Saviour has a specially tender word to say to the pelted, and He speaks it here.

  1. Surrenders that enrich; or the gain of loss for Christ. We mean that which Augustine felt, when he said in speaking of his conversion, “How sweet did it at once become to me to want the sweetness of these toys! And what I feared to be parted from was now a joy to part with!” What constitutes the true wealth of Churches? The number of moneyed men who are in the congregation? Nay, not so; but they become wealthy by accounting all that they possess as a solemn trust, and by employing every talent which they possess for the purpose which the Saviour had in view when He gave it to them. These Christians had not only endured the loss of all things, but they had been called upon to undergo even further ignominy, for they had been compelled to endure reviling and slander. To comfort them, calumny is noted in its relation to God. Perhaps the very virtues of these patient inoffensive people had been misrepresented. What had Christ to say about this form of iniquity? He styles it blasphemy; for Christ always calls things by their right names. Calumny against the saints is really blasphemy against God, for He has taken the comfort and good name of His people under His especial care, quite as much as He has assumed the responsibility of their eternal salvation. “It is our maxim,” said Justin Martyr, “that we can suffer harm from none, unless we be convicted as doers of evil, or proved to be wicked; you may indeed slay us, but hurt us you cannot.” Sublime words truly, from a man who expressed his own reasonable conviction of the consequences of his faith when he said, “I also expect to be entrapped … and to be affixed to the stake.” We are invulnerable if we are true to our Saviour, for no weapon which is formed against us can really prosper. Our battle is chiefly won by resistance; let us but wait, and we shall wear out the energies of our enemy and of his helpers.
  2. Stout hearts for stormy times: the courage that conquers circumstances. “Fear not,” saith Christ, and still continue to fear not. The “unto death” is first and mainly intensive. It marks the sublime quality, and not the continuance of our faith. Although you are robbed, suffer injustice, and are cruelly slandered, yet fear not. Continue steadfastly in your duty, and be prepared to die rather than yield up what is committed unto you. Poverty, sickness, the loss of good name, bereavement, even death itself: Christ knows them all, for He has Himself endured them, and so He says from experience, “Fear them not!” Let us say about all the hard facts and enemies of our lives what Andrew Fuller said during a crisis in the history of the Baptist Missionary Society, “We do not fear them. We will play the man and fight for the cause of our God, and Jehovah do that which pleases Him.” 1. The omniscience of Christ is a ground of courage, for the author of the mischief is known. If God’s enemy be the prime mover in our sorrows, we may safely anticipate especial grace to interfere upon our behalf. It is also no small comfort for us to know that the author of our misery is known to God, who will one day tread Satan under our feet. 2. And another source of holy courage is the Divine control of evil, which is seen in the fact that the suffering is limited by Divine wisdom. It is true that ten days are a dreary time while the tribulation endures, but they form, after all, a very insignificant portion of our lives. Is it not a comfort to know that there are no contingencies in our lives that Christ has not provided for, that if, for reasons which will be made clear some day, He determines that ten days’ suffering is needful for us, or for others, not more than ten days will be allotted to us. We must endure all that period, but not an hour longer than He deems requisite, for Christ is the judge of our sorrows and the giver of our affliction. 3. Another motive to courage is the fact that God does always actually triumph, and that, however unwillingly, the worst does the best for those who love Him. These Christians were to be tried, and some of them would be killed. It is hard to part with life, even with all the alleviations of the gospel. But these men were likely to die amidst cruel mocking, and with none of the consolations which minister to our loved ones when they pass away from us. Christ may require even this sacrifice of our inclinations of us; at any rate, He expects that if He should demand it, that we should be ready to yield at once to His requirement. Nor should it be hard for us to do so, for death will only accomplish Christ’s bidding. Let us then say to each other, as Annie Bronte said to her sister, “Take courage; take courage.” And the more so because courage is no virtue in those who are blessed by the love of Christ; it is only natural.

III. And He who exhorts us to be brave furnishes us with strong antidotes for sore evils; there are some things that we should never forget. 1. In the first place, we should ever keep in mind the fact that Christ has the last word in every conversation, and the completing touch in every work. “I am the First and the Last,” He says. “I was the first in raising you, and I will be the last in preserving you. I began the conflict, and I will terminate the fight.” A declaration also of our Lord’s dignity, and a proof that He judges persons and events. 2. Another antidote to fear will be found in Christ’s person and offices, which are a source of unfailing strength. Death has not made an end of Christ; even such agony as He endured has not changed Him. He knows therefore from His own experience what the pangs of death are. “Died He, or in Him did death die?” Augustine asks. “What a death that gave death its deathblow!” And to the victor who will seek to conquer his own timidity, and will persevere to the end, the Saviour promises a crown of life. Kingly life, the dignities and happiness of heaven, are here promised to those who will be faithful. As against the loss of a life which is burdened with care at the best, and is often embittered by failure and sin, our Saviour promises a better life, which is to come. Over the entrance of Thornbury Castle there is a scroll upon which is inscribed “Doresenevant.” This is an old French word which signifies “Henceforward,” or “Hereafter.” The builder was a Duke of Buckingham, who thus expressed his sanguine hopes with regard to the English crown. We may truly say “Hereafter,” and the watchword should nerve us to endure the period of waiting for our kingdom, because one day we too shall be crowned. (J. J. Ellis.) The First and the Last, which was dead, and is alive.—

Christ’s designation of Himself:—What is meant by Christ being “the First and the Last”? The words are quoted from Isa. 44:6, 7, where God supports His claim as the declarer of truth on the fact that He was before all, and continues through all, standing alone as acquainted with all. When our Lord uses this phrase for Himself, He makes Himself the Eternal Jehovah. He uses a title which belongs only to the Most High God. And yet in close connection with the title which best marks His Deity is the title which best marks His humanity—“which was dead, and lived again.” The Cross is seen on the background of the Divine. The suffering Man is one with the saving God. The two titles together form a compendium of the great salvation, and lift the mind to the contemplation of the grand scheme of the Divine mercy and love, as against any earthly trial of whatever kind. (H. Crosby.) But thou art rich.—Spiritual riches:—It often happens that people do not know how rich they are. So it appears to have been with the Smyrnian Church. Let us consider some of the elements of these spiritual riches possessed by this Church with which Jesus has no fault to find.

  1. It was rich in faith (James 2:5). Do you know why faith enriches its possessor? It is because he is justified by faith. There is not a more impoverishing thing than a consciousness of sin.
  2. This Church was rich toward God (Luke 12:21). This phrase is used by our Saviour in contrast with laying up treasure for one’s self. Wealth, when well gotten, is a trust from God, and ought to be administered for Him. But this Church was not rich, and had no opportunities to speak of laying the treasures of earth upon God’s altar; and yet it was rich toward God; for the principle of complete consecration was well honoured in the observance of the brethren.

III. This Church was “rich in good works” (1 Tim. 6:18). Good works are the current coin of the heavenly kingdom; happy he who has his spiritual coffers full of them. And as all the coin of the realm must have its origin in the royal mint, so all good works to be genuine must spring from faith in God, and bear the image and superscription of King Jesus.

  1. The power of making others rich was another source of spiritual wealth to this Church. He is truly wealthy who can describe himself, like Paul, “as poor, yet making many rich.” (J. Cameron.) The riches of the poor.
  2. The poor are rich; for they have the most valuable possessions and enjoyments of the rich, and want only those which are of less value. Gaiety and cheerfulness, in infancy and childhood, gladden the offspring of the peasant as well as the offspring of the prince. The sleep of the labouring man is as sweet as his who has acquired or inherited the largest fortune. The mind of the servant may be more contented and serene than that of the master.
  3. Many of the poor, yea, all of them who have obtained precious faith, even in this life possess and enjoy the best riches. 1. They possess a title and claim to all things. To Jesus, the heir of all things, they are united by faith and love. 2. They possess an interest in Him who is the fountain of all blessedness and the possessor of heaven and earth. Be it so that they cannot say this house or these lands are ours, they have ground to say, this God is our God for ever and ever. 3. They have a charter which cannot be revoked; and which secures their possession of all that is good for them (2 Pet. 1:4; 1 Tim. 4:8; Psa. 34:10; 84:11; 132:15; Isa. 54:17; Zech. 9:8; 1 Cor. 10:14). 4. True Christians, through the operations of the Spirit of Christ and the influence of faith purifying the heart, are enriched with a temper of mind, and with dispositions which are the seeds of true happiness. Religion consecrates the understanding, the will, and the affections, to the best and noblest purposes; and opens the purest sources of transporting delight. 5. True Christians are rich in the well-grounded prospect of a state beyond the grave, where every source of sorrow shall be dried up and every spring of joy opened.

III. The poor are rich, for they have the means of acquiring and securing the most substantial and durable riches. They have large, free, and generous offers of all that is needful to make them happy. To the pool the gospel is preached; and thus a price is put into their hands to get wisdom (John Erskine, D.D.)

Poor but pure:—Sweet-smelling Smyrna, the poorest but purest of the seven. (J. Trapp.)

Poor and rich:—There are both poor rich-men and rich poor-men in God’s sight. (Abp. Trench.)

Poor yet rich:—There is no proportion between wealth and happiness nor between wealth and nobleness. The fairest life that ever lived on earth was that of a poor man, and with all its beauty it moved within the limit of narrow resources. The loveliest blossoms do not grow on plants that plunge their greedy roots into the fattest soil. A little light earth in the crack of a hard rock will do. We need enough for the physical being to root itself in; we need no more. (A. Maclaren, D.D.) Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer.—

Suffering Christians:—

  1. Suffering is the lot of Christians in this world. No situation in life, however desirable—no circumstances, however auspicious—no degree of consistency and utility of moral character, can exempt any individual from trouble and sorrow. Perfect freedom from trouble and sorrow will never be experienced on this side the kingdom of glory.
  2. Many of the sufferings of Christians are produced by the agency of Satan. Persecutors of the Lord’s people are agents of the devil, and if left under his power, they will eternally share with him in punishment. That which the devil effects in malice, with a view to their ruin, the Saviour permits in mercy, with a view to their advantage. The faith and the patience of suffering saints confound Satan, encourage the Church, and glorify Christ. The time when Christians are to be tried, and also the nature, and the degree, and the duration of their trials, are wisely and mercifully determined by the Redeemer.

III. Christians have no cause to fear in the prospect of sufferings.

  1. Christians are encouraged to fidelity by the promise of final victory and eternal felicity. (J. Hyatt.)

Sin and suffering:—Take more pains to keep yourselves from sin than from suffering. (T. Brooks.)

Trial and strength proportionate:—God sees fit to try us all. When you are going through some large works, you will see a crane or teagle on which are such words as these, “To lift five tons,” and so on. Now, nobody would expect to weigh ten tons on a teagle which is capable of sustaining only five. Neither will God permit you to be tried beyond your capacity. (W. Birch.) Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.—

An appeal with promise:—

  1. There is recognition in this message of man’s unique place and power in God’s creation. That the crowned Christ should speak to man at all from His throne above suggests human dignity. But the inference is enlarged and certified when we consider the character of the speech. Not to the grandest of His countless worlds does God say, “Be thou faithful.” He speaks, and it is done. Everything yields to His touch, takes fashion from His will, obeys with precision His impulse. But not as to His works does God relate Himself to men. With them He reasons and pleads, for them He sacrifices and waits. The difference is neither accidental nor arbitrary. We are God’s children, not His creatures, nor merely His subjects. Hence in His dealings with men the Creator becomes the Father, the Sovereign the Saviour, the Supreme Authority the most impassioned Reasoner. Higher than the angels, and centred in the thought of eternity, man is God’s child, God’s care, God’s desire. If this account of us adds value and dignity to human life, it confers a more solemn responsibility and calls for a worthier and more constant recognition. The redemption of life, whether among rich or poor, can find its impetus in no lower motive than a recognition of man’s sacredness as a son of God and a child of eternity. Only as we see each other in the light of God can we live together in relations of perfect justice and peace. When the divinity of every man has been realised through the humanity of the God-Man, life will reach its true grandeur and simplicity. Alike upon individual character and upon the social organism the effect will be as of a new creation. The vices which have flourished upon a degraded conception of human nature, the wrongs which have grown up on the basis of mere political and economic relations, will wither away in the atmosphere of diviner thought—old things shall pass away, behold, all things will become new! And it is religion—the religion of Jesus the Christ—which alone is adequate, alike by its revelation of God and its consequent doctrine of man, to elevate thought, to humanise motive, to deify life.
  2. The form into which our text is cast is not without significance. It is a simple exhortation coupled with an attractive promise. “Be thou faithful” is not a lecture, but an appeal, and it is addressed to the latent energies of our emotional nature. The Scriptures are full of similar exhortations, and the implication clearly is that knowledge is not a self-acting motor, that man is not a self-impelling power. He requires to be aroused from slumber, to be stirred into activity, to be moved as well as taught. Religion takes note of that necessity. It is more than truth: it is impulse. Bringing to man’s aid a new world of motives, it completes its teaching by persuasion and appeal. To our gospel man appears not as a poor ignoramus groping his way to more knowledge in order to nobler life, but as a wayward sinner needing to be aroused, forgiven, assisted. He is wrongheaded because wronghearted. It is in view of this condition that the gospel makes its appeal to each one of us. Bringing into our impoverished life a new and glorious world of knowledge, and offering for our acceptance resources of power not derivable from ourselves, it directs its penetrative appeals to the arousing of holy desire and purpose in our hearts. It is a reiterated and urgent invitation to men who know they are wrong, but who are slow to seek and strive after the right. Its characteristic words are “come,” “look,” “believe,” “take,” “follow,” “hold fast,” “be faithful.” And until we make personal response to these calls we stand in a false relation to the Christ and His Gospel.

III. In the spiritual order of life something comes before faithfulness. “Be thou faithful” suggests an antecedent vow or covenant to which allegiance is urged. Conversion goes before consecration, and both before faithfulness. The text has no message for a man until he has taken the first of these steps. Have you yet taken it? One point, touching the matter, requires to be re-emphasised. The new life does not grow, as plants grow, by mere unconscious absorption of vital elements. And the reason is because men are not plants, but free intelligences, who are here for the very purpose of exercising their freedom and determining their own destiny. An act of decision is therefore of the very essence of the problem involved in human liberty and Divine grace. But it must be there in every life. Free men, who are here for the purpose of using their liberty, must and do make choice. Life’s issues are not determined by hap or accident. Every man’s destiny awaits his own decision. All that God can do He has done. The issues depend now upon us. We are surrounded with helps to the fulfilment of life’s true issues. Have we made our decision? Are we intelligently and heartily on the Lord’s side? That is the supreme question. Until it is answered we have done our duty neither to Christ nor to ourselves. We cannot be Christ’s men without knowing it. May God give us grace to face that question—and that question only—till we have reached a definite decision and made a personal surrender!

  1. But while the text recalls the antecedent necessity of decision, it throws an equal emphasis upon the duty of continuance. Here it speaks to men and women who have taken a stand in respect of Christian faith and service. It is a call to that loftiest and most difficult duty of daily constancy in effort and devotion. Constancy is a finer discipline than ecstasy. Faithfulness is more and better than originality. “Go on,” Christ seems to say; “do not fret as though you were forgotten, but endure as those who will be surely rewarded: look not down and around at the difficulties of your lot, but look on and up to the powers and issues of your discipleship: be not dismayed at the variations of feeling, but stand loyal to the resolutions of obedience: Heaven is around you, God is above and within—be not deceived by the scepticism of the eye, but informed by the vision of faith, and your victory will be your reward.” The quiet and faithful worker, who undertakes a task and keeps at it with noble pertinacity, may not be so prominent, but is incomparably more fruitful in the Christian Church. Restless activity may only be busy idleness. Emotion is not obedience. “Be thou faithful,” and thou shalt be peaceful and strong.
  2. The text, so full of wise counsel, closes with a promise: “I will give thee a crown of life.” The promise points far forward to that blessed day when we shall stand among the victors on the other side of death. Life, life full and strong and perfect, shall then be ours. We can only dimly anticipate the glory of such a crown. Now and again we seem to get glimpses of it, but the glory is swiftly hidden lest it should blind us to earth and time and duty. But behind the cloud of years and beyond the horizon of discipline this promise clearly points to a full and perfect life. Faithfulness is ever winning and ever wearing the crown. Life is every day putting on a new crown. The judgment seat of God is set every morning, and His rewards are bestowed upon the faithful soul. What life, what love, what joy, does God give day by day to men who live simple, sincere, unselfish, pious lives! The best is kept in store, but brief foretastes are granted while we suffer and strive. (Charles A. Berry.)

The law of fidelity and its Divine reward:—

  1. The law of fidelity. 1. Fidelity is a virtue of universally acknowledged importance and worth. 2. Fidelity is a social virtue based upon the universal law of love. 3. Fidelity is a duty man, as man, owes to his Creator. 4. The degree of love is the measure of fidelity. 5. Fidelity to Christ involves fidelity to the great truths of the Cross. 6. Fidelity to the Cross involves fealty to every true friend of the Cross. 7. Faithfulness to Christ involves continued and life-long fidelity.
  2. The Divine reward of this life-long fidelity. Those who are faithful unto death will be crowned with life—that is to say, life in its sublime and subliming form. Our life here is more death than life. Here we have the minimum of bliss, there the maximum of happiness; here the minimum of power, there the maximum of might. (William McKay.)

Christian faithfulness:—

  1. The nature of the appeal: “Be faithful.” Faithfulness is—(1) Due to Christ; (2) Possible to all; (3) All-pervasive.
  2. The range of the appeal: “Be thou faithful unto death.” Faith should be—(1) Superior to circumstances—“Tribulation”; “Death.” (2) Independent of others: “thou.” (3) Of life-long duration: “unto death.”

III. The enforcement of the appeal: “I will give thee,” &c. There is another sphere of life, with reality and splendour of reward, and the reward itself will be—(1) Appropriate, in character; Faithfulness crowned; “death”—“life.” (2) Personal, in enjoyment: “I will give thee.” (3) Certain, in attainment; because (a) gratuitous in its vouchsafement: “give;” and (b) definite in its promise: “I will.” (Homilist.)

Fidelity to Christ enforced:—

  1. A solemn exhortation. 1. Christians are urged to fidelity in their professions of personal attachment to the Saviour. 2. The exhortation calls on Christians to be faithful in their adherence to all the doctrines of Revelation. 3. To be faithful in maintaining the royal authority of the Saviour, and His Headship over His Church. 4. To be faithful in paying your solemn vows.
  2. The gracious assurance. 1. The gift—“A crown of life.” A crown is the highest object of earthly ambition and the possession of it the loftiest pinnacle of worldly glory—to obtain it, no toils, struggles, or sacrifices are deemed too great. But between this crown of life and all the glory and honour of this earth there is no comparison. It is a crown of life, and this is indicative of the pure, lofty, and endless enjoyments to which it introduces. 2. The glorious giver. It is Christ who is to bestow the crown of life. Those who are to wear it have not won it by their own prowess, obtained it by their own merit, or inherited it by their natural birth. It is given freely by Him by whose blood it was secured, and by whose munificence it is bestowed. 3. The solemn period at which this crown shall be bestowed. The text directs forward our expectations to the solemn period of dissolution when this reward shall be obtained. This advantage is peculiar to Christianity. At death the conquering hero lays down his crown, and leaves all his worldly glory behind him. But at death the Christian triumphs. Then he puts off his armour and receives his crown. His conflicts terminate, his enemies are for ever defeated, and death is swallowed up in victory. (A. Harvey.)

Faithful unto death:—The original means not simply, “Be thou,” but rather, “Become thou”; as showing that it is a thing which we are not; but which continually we must, from time to time, make ourselves, by a holy effort. “Become thou faithful unto death.” To be “faithful” is to be “full of faith,” i.e., full of the realisation of things unseen. For the only way to secure “faithfulness” in anything is to carry with us a constant presence and a deep sense of the invisible. And you must be careful that you have caught the exact sense of “unto death.” It relates not so much to the measure of the duration of the time as to the degree of the power of the endurance—“to the death-point.” You will set about your endeavour to be “faithful,” with the greater pleasantness and the more assurance of success if you carry with you the recollection that it was the characterising grace of our Master. St. Paul has drawn for us the striking comparison that Moses indeed was “faithful in all His house,” but that the glory of the faithfulness of Christ exceeded the glory of the faithfulness of Moses as much as the builder of a house is better than the building. Of the many voices with which your motto will speak to you, let me now anticipate only a very few. And, first, your “faithfulness” to God. For remember that no other relation can ever be quite right while that is wrong. The upward will rule all the rest. First, as an act of justice, take honouring views of the Father. Never question that you are His child—though the unworthiest; and believe God’s love, even when you have grieved Him to the very quick, and when He is chastening you the most sorely. Secondly, keep short accounts with God. Never leave more than a day’s debt to God unsettled. Thirdly, be “faithful” to God in telling Him everything. Be “faithful” in your confidences, have no secrets, open to God the whole heart. The mortification will be severe, but you cannot be “faithful” in prayer unless the prayer be “unto death,” to the death of your dearest sin. These voices let your motto speak to you in your own room. Next, be faithful to yourself. First, to your pledges in baptism, in confirmation, in the Lord’s Supper, in many a sorrow. Deal honourably with your own pledges, acknowledging the responsibility and facing the duty. And, secondly, to your conscience. A man will never go very far wrong who really listens to and follows his conscience. Thirdly, be “faithful” to your Church. Faults, no doubt, our Church has. There has been too much admixture with the world since that day when she came pure out of her Master’s hand that she should not have contracted some earthly alloy. But she is the fairest Church upon earth and the freest from blemish, the purest thing out of heaven. And she is the Church of your fathers, of your baptism, of the holiest associations of your life, and of your best hours. Be “faithful” to her. Follow her teaching. Obey her laws. Love her services. Reverence her simplicity. Bow to her judgments. Strive for her increase. Pray for her unity. It would be far too large a field if I were to attempt to enter now, in any detail, upon the “faithfulness” of daily duties. Whatever you have to do, do not be so anxious to do it well, cleverly, effectually, as to do it “faithfully.” The rest may not be in your power—this is. Every man can be “faithful.” Your chief danger will be, not that you be unfaithful one day or two, but that you will become weary and grow slack. Therefore read the precept with emphasis, day after day, week after week, all the year round—“faithful unto death.” (J. Vaughan, M.A.)

Christian faithfulness and its reward:—

  1. Christian faithfulness implies—1. Sincerity, in opposition to hypocrisy. 2. Fidelity, in opposition to fraud or peculation. 3. Diligence, in opposition to indolence. 4. Courage in the time of danger or suffering. 5. Perseverance.
  2. The reward of Christian faithfulness. 1. The firstfruits of that glorious harvest, which is included in the future reward, are enjoyed upon earth. (1) There is a present reward in the enjoyment of the testimony of a good conscience. (2) The consciousness of the approbation of God is worth a thousand worlds to a man in the present life. (3) And there is, then, the great luxury of doing good, relieving misery. 2. The Lord not only gives us grace and strength and support and comfort in our work, but He has reserved for us “a crown of life.” (T. Entwistle.)

Faithful unto death:—

  1. A great trust.
  2. A solemn injunction concerning this trust. 1. Be serious that you may be faithful. From the Christian standpoint what a thing is life! What solemn mystery broods over it! What passionate interests it holds! If we consider all this we cannot be frivolous. 2. Be firm that you may be faithful. A great part of practical faithfulness consists in resistance. 3. Be ready that you may be faithful. Say “Yes” before your fears have time to shape “No.” Say “No” before your inclinations have time to whisper “Yes.” Stand out declared, before friends or enemies have cause to think you are yielding to the point where the assault is made. 4. Be tender, gracious, and loving, that you may be faithful. The Master whom we serve is the Saviour, whose pity never sleeps. Thus in the Christian faithfulness there is a combination of things which seem opposite—hardness like that of the adamant, and softness like that of the air. 5. Be patient, that you may be faithful.

III. A decisive day. It is the day of death. “Be thou faithful unto death.” Better is this end of life than the beginning.

  1. A great reward. “I will give thee a crown of life.” (A. Raleigh, D.D.)

The duty and the reward of Christian fidelity:—

  1. The command. 1. Christian faithfulness relates to the testimony God has given in His Word. Other knowledge may be useful, but this is the direct communication from God, acquainting us with His rich compassion towards us in not sparing His own Son. This system of revealed truth we are to make the subject of habitual study and the source of our chief consolation—it is to be the director of our conduct. Fidelity to the truth of God requires that we make an open, though an humble, confession of it. To this, its intrinsic excellence, its vital importance, its adaptation to all the wants and miseries of men, entitle it. 2. Christian fidelity relates to the claims of the Saviour to our obedience. His benignity and excellence render Him worthy of the love and homage of all created beings; but He has won to Himself a title to the gratitude and obedience of mankind, by assuming the character of Redeemer, by suffering as their Surety. When the enemy would persuade us to turn away from Him, when temptation would lure us away from the Captain of our salvation; when the indolence and remissness to spiritual exercises, natural to man, would often be a hindrance to our fidelity, let us hear His animating voice, saying, “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.” 3. We are to be faithful in the exercise and in the improvement of the talents entrusted to our charge. 4. We are to be faithful in exercising the courage which the Christian warfare requires. The allusion in the text is to military life, and to the obedience due from a soldier to his general, leader, and commander. He must never, through treachery or cowardice, desert the banner he has sworn to defend, nor refuse to follow the order of his general. 5. Christian fidelity is to be continued unto death.
  2. The promise of gracious reward expressed in the text—“I will give thee a crown of life.” (D. Dewar, D.D.)

Christian faithfulness:—

  1. A personal faithfulness. “Thou.” 1. Individual attention to, and steadfastness in, our own particular work. The mode and circumstances of the testimony different. Philip’s part different from Sephen’s, Paul’s from Peter’s, and so forth. But individual faithfulness the common characteristic of all true witnesses. 2. Personal also in respect of the one object of faith. He served not merely “a cause,” but the Lord, his own loved and adored Master in heaven.
  2. A permanent faithfulness. The faith is persistent unto the end, through all sufferings, opposition, temptation, death itself. Not “fits and starts,” but a steady, onward course (2 Tim. 4:7; 1 Cor. 15:58).

III. A perfected faithfulness. The faithfulness is perfected at last, and this perfection is “the crown of life.” (Bp. W. S. Smith.)

Christian fidelity and its reward:—

  1. Christian fidelity. 1. The Christian must be faithful to the claim of the Supreme Being upon the devotion of his soul and the service of his life. 2. The Christian must be faithful to the requirements of truth and to the inner experiences and convictions of the soul. 3. The Christian must be faithful to the needs of men around him, and their relation to the redemptive mission of Christ. 4. The Christian must be faithful notwithstanding the dangers of the Christian life.
  2. Its reward. 1. The reward of Christian fidelity will be ennobling in its character. 2. The reward of Christian fidelity will be given by Christ. Lessons: 1. Are we faithful to the claims of God? 2. The solemn motive to fidelity. 3. The glorious reward of fidelity. (J. S. Exell, M.A.)

Cross and crown:—

  1. Christian consecration. 1. It must be thorough—“Faithful.” This implies—(1) Adverse circumstances. (2) Strong conviction. (3) Resolute will. (4) Persevering effort. (5) Dauntless courage. 2. It must be personal—“Thou.” Each one has his own power, sphere, and responsibility for service. 3. It must be life-long. Necessary for—(1) Thorough discipline of character. (2) Required usefulness to society. (3) Complete devotedness to God.
  2. Christian compensation. 1. Glorious “Crown.” 2. Enduring—“Life.” Eternal—real “life” to enjoy it. 3. Certain—“Will.” 4. Personal—“Thee.” 5. Unmeritorious—“Give.” 6. Divinely bestowed—“I.” Conclusion: 1. Effort, not enjoyment, is the object in life. 2. Be true to Christ above all others. 3. Jesus rewards effort, not prosperity. 4. Death the great transformation scene. Cross to crown. 5. Heaven a world of conquerors. All crowned. 6. Draw upon future glories to encourage in present trials. (B.D. Johns.)

A crown of life:—The finest heroism is that of ordinary life. Steadfastness in hard times is a far nobler manifestation of moral strength than the most dashing valour which souls display under the joyous impulse of great success. For instance, the greatness of General Washington is shown by the magnificent hopefulness and steadiness with which he held his poor little army together through long months of retreat and suffering, far more than by his consummate ability in the guidance of actual battle. Many persons after they have done well in an enterprise think they have received no reward unless they have obtained fame or riches. Yet comparatively few do receive such rewards as these, and we hear a continual outcry that justice does not rule between God and man. Is it just that the world’s multitude of sufferers includes not merely the idle, inefficient, and vicious, but in large numbers those to whom poverty clings in spite of their devoted labours, and those who are kept down by constant illness or other unavoidable weakness? Why has God denied to all the multitudes of the unfortunate all adequate reward to their efforts? The sufficient answer to these doubting questions is the pointing out of the fact that those who ask them have set up a wrong standard of rewards, and so have overlooked the most important things God is doing in human souls. Who told you, my doubting friend, that the only just reward for writing a noble book is immediate fame, or that wealth ought always to be showered upon the most diligent workers? God is not a magnified committee of award, who examines the records of earth, and metes out to men as rewards for good conduct the things they most desire to possess. Abundant resources, delightful pleasures, gratifying honours, enrich some lives and fail to reach others by causes that are not intended, in my belief, to make of them arbitrary rewards. They fall to the share of evil men and good alike, and are missed by myriads of the most virtuous persons. Divine rewards must therefore be a different sort of thing; and, inasmuch as God can do no wrong, we ought to be able to discover His marks of approval in every life we know to be a noble one. This search inevitably becomes a religious one. Our trust in God is our chief guide; and by this we are led to see that the deepening of life itself is the Divine reward to all excellent deeds or hopes. Jesus gave the noblest utterance to His mission when He said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” They who are faithful, pure in heart, noble, do receive at once more abundant life; and life is but one thing before or after death. There is something which no evil heart can enjoy, but which no righteous soul ever for an instant fails to receive as the immediate reward of his good qualities. That gracious reward is life with its uncounted possibilities, to be your deepest joy at the present time and your eternal field for high surprise. The ancient Greeks gave a crown of wild olive to the victors in their athletic or poetic contests, and the modern world gives crowns of wealth and conspicuous leadership to those who win in its competitions. But there is a lovelier crown than these. The many souls that seem to lose in their competitions with others are in reality gaining much of permanent value while they strive with noble aims. To all who work thus, whether they seem to win or not, there is given life as a crown. Be faithful unto death; and you receive that crown—simply life. The hero makes his greatest sacrifice at the place of perilous duty, loses all his joys and treasures because honour bids him die, only to awake and find that life is still his, but brighter, dearer, than ever, because now ennobled by his faithful heroism. Once a mere existence full of mingled joy and sorrow, life has now been by his own act transformed into a crown, a reward sufficient for all goodness. It may well be that heaven is simply the discovery by an immortal soul of the Divine joy it is to be alive. If so, then, surely, life can be transformed into a crown, a measureless joy, at any moment by any sterling act of worthiness in the midst of the trials that make goodness difficult. To be faithful unto death is required but once of any man; but to be faithful up to the full requirement of every situation is demanded of us all at every moment, so that we can at any instant discover the real sublimity of this life of ours. Life may seem nothing rare to one who idly, selfishly, squanders its precious hours; but to every diligent man life is a treasure beyond estimation, and such natures find in the opportunities of each new day the ample reward for faithfulness in the day before. The true scholar’s reward does not lie in the fame he may or may not receive for his book, nor in the financial returns it secures. His joy is in the doing of the work itself, in the eager search for truth, in the knowledge he is acquiring, in the actual labour of his literary art. The artist Turner cared so little for public praise and for the selling of his famous works, that when he died there were in his possession hundreds of his paintings, which by a little worldly wisdom he might have turned into gold. His joy was in the art itself, in the painting of pictures; that is, in life rather than in common rewards. Life was his crown, as is that of every worker who honours his occupation. The Divineness of this crown of life is made evident by its universality. Every good deed, every pure thought, broadens into finer life. If any man of an earnest mind understands what earnestness is worth, he has already the one Divine reward of earnestness, and need not care to be popularly known as an example of zeal. See life in this light, and, so far as you are concerned, the sting is taken away from all your failures and difficulties. The deepening, broadening, enriching, of your nature is your reward for your faithfulness through your long years of toil, hardship, loss, and grief. We know that restricted resources call out a man’s own mental resources, and that a Robinson Crusoe with only a jack-knife to depend upon accomplishes more with it than another can with a whole kit of tools. We know that the gravest anxieties of business or private life give rise to our firmest courage, our grandest moral strength. We know how the trials and bitter, searching things of life take hold of careless youths and silly girls, and change their mood from vanity to beauty and strength, as the flames that burn out the iron’s impurities and give forth the royal steel. In all such moral developments we see the gift of larger life coming to those that have earned it by desert; and, what is of most immediate interest to us, we see it coming without weary delay while yet the fierce struggle goes on. The most significant thing in the matter is that the crown of life—that is, life in its aspect of moral success and self-reliance—does not come to any one class of men more than to others. It comes in the very midst of anxiety, poverty, and physical weakness; and it blossoms forth also in souls that have easier careers. The only places where it does not appear are the wastes of vice and selfishness. No wicked person can know the depths of life until he changes his course, and begins by moral struggle to develop his soul. (C. E. St. John.)

The crown of life:—A crown without cares, co-rivals, envy, end. (J. Trapp.)

A crown for the faithful:—

  1. Christ’s charge to all His followers. 1. “Be faithful” to your soul, in seeking its prosperity. 2. “Be faithful” to Christ, in your profession of His name. 3. “Be faithful” to the gospel, in attachment to its doctrines. The gospel is the legacy of Christ to all His followers; dearer to us ought it to be than liberty or life. 4. “Be faithful” to the world, in your interest for its conversion. You are “the salt,” to preserve the world from putrefaction; you are the cities which, for unity, beauty, and security, are to be admired as patterns; you are lights, to “shine before men, that they may glorify your Father which is in heaven.” 5. “Be thou faithful unto death.” This faithfulness is to continue, then, during life; there is to be no cessation.
  2. The glorious reward He gives to all who obey it. 1. Its nature. This “crown” is to set forth the unspeakable glories of the upper world by objects that are familiar to our senses. Is a crown, for instance, emblematic of royalty? This happiness, then, is to be a residence with the King of kings. He shall rule, and you shall reign. Is a crown symbolic of victory? There we shall be conquerors—“more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” Many, like Nelson, conquer, but die in the conflict—do not live to enjoy their conquest; but you are led in triumph to the obtaining of the conquest by your great Master. 2. Its superiority. It is “a crown of life.” Four things constitute life—that is, happiness—on earth: health, plenty, friendship, knowledge. These are reserved in perfection for paradise. 3. Its bestowal. It is a gift of grace. Man’s merit did not buy this glory. Grace first brings the mind into the way, grace strengthens the soul to persevere, and grace puts the crown of glory upon the head. 4. Its certainty. Every one that cleaves to Him, every one that serves Him, every one that loves Him, shall have this crown. There is no venture here, no speculation here; the virtue of the atonement, the oath of God, the experience of all His children, the dying testimony of those who have passed away to that far better world, all confirm the truth—“Where I am, there shall also My servant be.” Conclusion: 1. Since so much depends on faithfulness to Christ, diligently use those means which are sanctified to preserve it. One of the first means to obtain these blessings is, crave Divine keeping. He is well kept whom God keeps, and he only. 2. Preserve intimacy with Jesus Christ. Unfaithfulness commences in absence. 3. And shall I say, avoid the company of Christ’s enemies? 4. And choose decided friends of Christ as your companions: not half-hearted persons, that you cannot tell whether there is any religion in or no. (J. Sherman.)

Faithfulness:—A faithful person you can always trust; he is ever the same, behind your back as before your face. There are three things about faithfulness which show how important it is, and how earnestly we should learn and practise it.

  1. It is so useful. Look at the mariner’s compass. It is a small, flat piece of steel, called a needle. This is placed on the fine point of a piece of iron, which is fastened in an upright position inside of a little box. It is free to turn in any direction; but God has given that little needle the power of always turning to the north. We do not know what this power in the needle is which makes it turn to the north. People call it magnetism. No one can tell what this magnetism is, but we believe in it. The wonderful power of this little needle makes it one of the most useful things in the world. When sailors go to sea, and lose sight of land, this needle is all they have to depend upon to guide them across the trackless ocean. There are hundreds of vessels out at sea now that could never find their way back to port if it were not for the strange power of this needle. And faithfulness is to us just what the magnetism of that needle is to the compass. It guides us to usefulness. Faithfulness will make us honest and true; it will lead us to do what we know to be right. And then we can always be trusted.
  2. It is so beautiful. God has given us the power to delight in beautiful things; and in His great goodness God has filled the world about us with beautiful things in order that we may find pleasure in looking at them. How beautiful the sun is as it rises and sets in floods of golden glories! How beautiful is the moon as it moves through the heavens so calmly bright! How beautiful the stars are as they shine in the dark sky! And how beautiful the flowers are in all the loveliness of their varied forms and colours! We thank God for all these beautiful things because of the pleasure they give and the good they do us; and when painters make beautiful pictures, and sculptors chisel out beautiful figures in marble, we thank them too, because we love to look upon the beautiful things they make. It gives us pleasure, and does us good, to see things that are beautiful. It is a pleasing thing to see a boy or girl, a man or woman, who is trying to be faithful and do what is right.

III. It is so honourable. The highest honour we can gain is to do that which God and good people approve, and which will lead them to love us and think well of us. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” And so, when we are doing the things that faithfulness requires of us, we may be sure that we are doing honourable things. (R. Newton, D.D.) He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.—

The second death and how to escape it:—

  1. This language implies that there is a death prior to the second here named. The first death is severe, is penal, but is often rendered glorious by the power of the grace of God.
  2. That the second death is more dreadful than the first. The first death is but the taking away of the man from the scene of this world, from the activities of time; whereas the second death removes the soul eternally from the presence of God, from the joy of heaven, and casts it into the dark regions of the lost.

III. The second death may be escaped by continued and triumphant moral goodness. A pure soul will never be banished from the presence of God, His presence is immortality and spiritual delight. Lessons: 1. Let us endeavour so to live that we may escape the second death. 2. Let us remember that physical death is not the end of being; there is yet a death beyond—a death in life. (J. S. Exell, M.A.)

The victor’s immunity from the second death:—Two of the seven Churches—viz., Smyrna, to which our text is addressed, and Philadelphia—offered nothing, to the pure eyes of Christ, that needed rebuke. The same two, and these only, were warned to expect persecution. The higher the tone of Christian life in the Church the more likely it is to attract dislike, and, if circumstances permit, hostility. Hence the whole gist of this letter is to encourage to steadfastness. That purpose determined at once the aspect of Christ which is presented in the beginning, and the aspect of future blessedness which is held forth at the close. The aspect of Christ is—“these things saith the first and last, which was dead and is alive.” A fitting thought to encourage the men who were to be called upon to die for Him.

  1. The Christian motive contained in the victor’s immunity from a great evil. Now, that solemn and thrilling expression, “the second death,” is peculiar to this book of the Apocalypse. The name is peculiar; the thing is common to all the New Testament writers. Here it comes with especial appropriateness, in contrast with the physical death which threatened to be inflicted upon some members of the Smyrnean Church. There is something at the back of physical death which can lay its grip upon the soul that is already separated from the body; something running on the same lines somehow, and worthy to bear that name of terror and disintegration. “The second death.” What can it be? Not the cessation of conscious existence; that is never the meaning of death. The deepest meaning of death is separation from Him who is the fountain of life, and in a very deep sense is the only life of the universe. Separation from God; that is death, that touches the surface, is but a faint shadow and parable. And the second death, like a second tier of mountains, rises behind and above it, sterner and colder than the lower hills of the foreground. Like some sea-creatures, cast high and dry on the beach, and gasping out its pained being, the men that are separated from God die whilst they live, and live a living death. The second is the comparative degree of which the first is the positive. “To eat of the Tree of Life”; to have power over the nations; to rule them with a rod of iron; to blaze with the brightness of the morning star; to eat of the hidden manna: to bear the new name known only to those who receive it; to have that name confessed before the Father and His angels; to be a pillar in the Temple of the Lord; to go no more out; and to sit with Christ in His throne. These are the positive promises, along with which this barely negative one is linked, and is worthy to be linked: “He shall not be hurt of the second death.” If this immunity from that fate is fit to stand in line with these glimpses of an inconceivable glory, how solemn must be the fate, and how real the danger of our falling into it! Further, note that such immunity is regarded here as the direct outcome of the victor’s conduct and character. Transient deeds consolidate into permanent character. Beds of sandstone rock thousands of feet thick are the sediments dropped from vanished seas or borne down by long dried-up rivers. The actions which we often so unthinkingly perform, whatever may be the width and the permanency of their affects external to us, react upon ourselves, and tend to make our permanent bent or twist or character. The chalk cliffs of Dover are skeletons of millions upon millions of tiny organisms, and our little lives are built up by the recurrence of transient deeds which leave their permanent marks upon us. They make character, and character yonder determines position. The little life here determines the sweep of the great ones that lie yonder. The victor wears his past conduct and character, if I may so say, as a fireproof garment, and if he entered the very furnace heated seven times hotter than before there would be no smell of the fire upon him. “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”
  2. Now, note, the Christian motive contained in the victor’s reception of a great good. “I will give him a crown of life.” I need not remind you, I suppose, that this metaphor of “the crown” is found in other instructively various places in the New Testament. It is life considered from a special point of view that is set forth here. It is kingly life. Of course, that notion of regality and dominion as the prerogative of the redeemed and glorified servants of Jesus Christ is for ever cropping up in this book of the Revelation. And you remember how our Lord has set an example of setting it forth when He said, “I will give thee authority over ten cities.” The rule over ourselves, over circumstances, the deliverance from the tyranny of the external, the deliverance from the slavery of the body and its lusts and passions, these are all included. The man that can will rightly, and can do completely as he rightly wills, that man is a king. But there is more than that. There is the participation in wondrous, and for us inconceivable, ways, in the majesty and regality of the King of kings and Lord of lords. But remember that this conception of a kingly life is to be interpreted according to Christ’s own teaching of that wherein loyalty in His kingdom consists. For heaven, as for earth, the token of dominion is service, and the use of power is beneficial. That life is a triumphant life. The crown was laid on the head of the victor in the games. If we do our work, and fight our fight down here as we ought, we shall enter into the great city not unnoticed, not unwelcomed, but with the praise of the King and the paeans of His attendants. “I will confess his name before My Father and the holy angels.” That life is a festal life. Royalty, triumph, festal goodness, all fused together, are incomplete, but they are not useless symbols; may we experience their fulfilment! Hope is surely a perfectly legitimate motive to appeal to. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)[12]

To the Church in Smyrna (2:8–11)

To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Those who are victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.

John’s second letter is directed to the church in Smyrna, a city about fifty miles north of Ephesus at the head of a deep gulf, and therefore with an excellent harbor. In wealth, commercial importance, and splendor, it was one of the foremost cities of Asia Minor. A temple in honor of the emperor Tiberius had been granted the city in 20 CE; hence it had also become a leading site for emperor worship. The origin of the church itself is unknown, but is probably related to Paul’s mission to Ephesus on one of his several stays there. The church in Smyrna is better known to us in the years just beyond John’s time, through the letters of Ignatius of Antioch. On his way to Rome for martyrdom Ignatius had stopped for a short stay in Smyrna, where he also wrote four of his seven preserved letters. The letter he wrote back to the church in Smyrna and to Polycarp, its “bishop,” when he traveled further north to Troas, on the same western end of Anatolia (present-day Turkey), serves as the basic source of what little later information we have.

Turning to the present text, as with each of the letters, this one begins with these are the words of him (Christ), who in this case is described by a combination of two phrases taken from the Lord’s own words in 1:17–18. He is the First and the Last, which as noted regarding this phrase in 1:17, is language borrowed from Yahweh’s self-identification in Isaiah 44:6. Thus Christ is presented first of all as the Eternal One, to which is added the most significant event of his incarnation—who died and came to life again. The significance of these appellations for this church can be found in the content of the letter itself, since whatever else a suffering church may need to hear, at the heart of things is the reality of Christ’s resurrection. Indeed it is content such as this that drove the leaders of the early church (the church fathers) to wrestle theologically with this core reality of the Christian faith—that the Eternal One, without beginning or ending, becomes the Incarnate One, who in his incarnation experienced our singular reality of death, but who through his resurrection guaranteed our own future.

In one of the two instances (see Pergamum below) where Christ’s “knowing” the church is not expressed in terms of “your deeds,” his knowledge of the Smyrnan believers is threefold, all of which give expression to the hardship they are currently experiencing because of their faith in him. Thus Christ begins with two words about their suffering: I know your afflictions and your poverty. The Greek word rendered “afflictions” is actually in the singular, and is the basic New Testament word for trials and afflictions of all kinds—although it is of interest that it occurs only three times in the Revelation (here and in vv. 10 and 22). The believers’ “affliction” in this case includes “your poverty,” which is probably related to their being followers of Christ in an intensely proud pagan city, where such anti-idolatrous outsiders as these would be scarcely tolerated. But the living Christ immediately reminds them that their poverty is only of one kind, having to do with material well-being in the present world. In the real world, the one where Christ alone is Lord, their wealthy fellow townspeople are the truly impoverished, as he reminds the believers themselves, yet you are rich!

The third item in the list of Christ’s “knowing” these suffering believers has to do with the verbal abuse (slander) they have experienced, especially from the (apparently) privileged Jewish community in their city. Since John is himself a Jew, and given that his fellow Jews do not fare well in his Gospel either, his language regarding them here is especially strong—but not anti-Semitic, as some of his detractors would claim. From the perspective of Christ, crucified and risen, those who belong to the same Jewish worldview that rejected Christ historically are not true Jews; rather they are now to be understood as those who say they are Jews and are not. That much is easy enough to handle; the more difficult clause is the concluding one: but are a synagogue of Satan. Although this pronouncement sounds especially harsh when heard by modern ears, it is not intended by John to be derogatory, but to represent the present reality in Smyrna. What seems certain from John’s sentence is that the Jewish community had taken the lead in whatever had happened to bring about the believers’ “afflictions and … poverty.” This is anti-Semitic only to those who read the Gospel accounts of Jesus and his disciples, themselves Jews, in a presuppositional way.

The risen Christ’s response to those who are about to suffer for him in Smyrna is not especially encouraging in itself, as the next two sentences make plain. First, he enjoins them, do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer, thus making clear that their suffering was both an inevitable and immediate result of their being followers of the Crucified One. Second, he spells out the nature of their on-the-horizon suffering: the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, language that is full of theological grist, even as it spells out the harsh realities of what awaits these particular believers. Not one to yell “devil” (as in “the devil made me do it”) at every occurrence of evil, John nevertheless recognizes that lying behind the evil that persists in Smyrna is “our ancient foe, who seeks to work us woe.” The nature of the persecution will be imprisonment, whatever that would have meant at that time in such a city; but its ultimate purpose from the divine perspective was to serve as a means “to test you.” That it is said this persecution will last for ten days is to be understood as indicating that it would be for a limited time only.

That the threat was a real one, full of imminent danger, is made certain by the final admonition: Be faithful, even to the point of death. As we know from the letters of both Ignatius and Polycarp, these were not idle warnings for the Smyrnan believers. Already toward the end of the first Christian century John recognized that the warnings of Jesus regarding his disciples were moving toward their fulfillment in this sector of the Empire in the province of Asia. While this is easy for us to see from hindsight, John was “in the Spirit” (1:10), which made it possible for him to see with foresight. So the Lord urges faithfulness on them, because the ultimate result of such faithfulness comes from him: I will give you life as your victor’s crown—thus reflecting the warfare imagery that permeates the whole of the Revelation. From one perspective this might seem like a strange thing to say to those who were currently alive, but in fact it is written from the perspective of what was about to happen to them. And since Christ had identified himself as the one “who died and came to life again,” their “victor’s crown” was his to give!

The letter then concludes with the same admonition found in the preceding letter, and in all the subsequent ones: Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Also as before, the final promise is expressed in language appropriate to the content of the letter itself. As always, those who are victorious is a reference to God’s people, now based on Christ’s triumph noted at the outset (“who died and came to life again”). In this case they are promised they will not be hurt at all by the second death, a reference to the eschatological future of those who have rejected Christ, which is spelled out in plain terms in 20:14 (“the lake of fire is the second death”). As always in this book, this is a promise intended for all its readers who remain faithful to Christ.[13]


2:10 “Do not fear” This is a PRESENT MIDDLE or PASSIVE (deponent) IMPERATIVE with the NEGATIVE PARTICLE which meant to stop an act already in process. These churches were afraid. Persecutions were a sign of their salvation and God’s blessings (cf. Matt. 5:10–12).

© “the devil is about to cast some of you into prison” Behind evil human leaders lurks a supernatural personal force of evil.

The term Satan is an OT title and description of a covering cherub (cf. Ezek. 28:12–16). His God-given task was to provide a rebellious, self-centered alternative to mankind and thereby accuse them when they yielded to temptation (cf. Gen. 3; Job 1–2; Zech. 3). There is a development of evil in the OT. Satan was created as a servant and progressed into an enemy (cf. An Old Testament Theology by A. B. Davidson p. 300–306).

It is surely an assumption that the highly figurative language of Isa. 14, which directly refers to the arrogant King of Babylon and Ezek. 28, which directly refers to the prideful King of Tyre, ultimately identifies the spiritual pride and fall of Satan. The language of Ezek. 28 is taken from a description of the Garden of Eden. It is difficult to accept a description of a human, historical, pagan king in angelic terms taken from Eden (cf. Gen. 3). However, Ezekiel does the very same thing with the King of Egypt in chapter 31. He is described as a huge tree in the garden of Eden.

All believers long for more information, especially about the origins of God, angels, evil, etc. We must be cautious of turning metaphorical, prophetic description into dogmatic theology. Much modern theology comes from isolated, figurative texts mixed with modern writing, both theological and literary (Dante and Milton).

In the NT he is called the devil (cf. 12:9, 12; 20:2, 10), which is a composite Greek term meaning “to throw across,” “to slander,” or “bring accusations against.” This again reflects his task of accusing and tempting. These terms are synonymous in the Revelation (cf. 12:9; 20:2). See Special Topic: Personal Evil at 12:9.

© “that you may be tested” This term is used in two senses: (1) believers are tested so as to show their true faith and grow stronger (cf. 2:10; Acts 14:27; Rom. 5:3–4; 8:17–19; Heb. 5:8; Jas. 1:2–4; 1 Pet. 4:12–19) and (2) unbelievers are tested to show their unbelief and deserved judgment (cf. 3:10). In Revelation the Christian’s trials are called “tribulations,” while the unbelievers are subjected to “the wrath of God.”

There were two Greek terms translated “test,” “try,” or “tempt.” One had the connotation of “to test with a view toward destruction” (peirasmos, peirasmo). The other terms (dokimos, dokimazo) were used with the connotation of “to test with a view toward approval.” Satan tempts to destroy; God tests to strengthen (cf. 1 Thess. 2:4; 1 Pet. 1:7; Gen. 22:1; Exod. 16:4; 20:20; Deut. 8:2, 16; 13:3; Judg. 2:22; 2 Chron. 32:31).

© “ten days” There has been much speculation about the phrase “ten days”: (1) some say that it referred to a literal ten day period of persecution in the city of Smyrna in John’s day; (2) others say that because ten is the number of completion, it simply meant a complete number of days of persecution; or (3) some say that it referred to an unspecified period of persecution. The good news is that it has a limit. The persecution will end!

However, in an apocalyptic book one is never sure if the numbers are used figuratively or literally. If the number was often used in the OT and inter-biblical apocalyptic literature with a symbolic meaning then probably it is figurative. The most often used symbolic numbers are 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 12 and their multiples.

© “be faithful unto death” This is a PRESENT MIDDLE or PASSIVE (deponent) IMPERATIVE which emphasizes the believer’s need to continue in faith even if it means physical death (cf. Matt. 2:13; 12:11; 10:22; 24:13; Luke 12:4; Gal. 6:9). Some believers were and are killed. This is the paradox of the sovereignty of God and our experience in a fallen world.

© “and I will give you the crown of life” This was the victor’s crown called the “stephanos” (cf. 1 Cor. 9:25). It was the reward of Christian martyrs. We learn from Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, 4:15, that there were many martyrs, including Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna. There are also other crowns (rewards) mentioned in the New Testament (cf. 2 Tim. 4:8; Jas. 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 3:11).

John uses the term for life, zoē, to refer to eternal life, resurrection life (cf. John 1:4; 3:15, 36; 4:14, 36; 5:24, 26, 29, 39, 40; 6:27, 33, 35, 40, 47, 48, 51, 53, 54, 63, 68; 8:12; 10:10, 28; 11:25; 12:25, 50; 14:6; 17:2, 3; 20:31; Rev. 2:7, 10; 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:6, 27; 22:1, 2, 14, 17, 19). True life is far more than physical existence![14]


10. none. So א, Vulgate, Syriac; but A B C, Coptic, ‘Fear not those things,’ &c. ‘The Captain of our salvation never keeps back what faithful witnesses for Him may have to bear; never entices recruits by promising they shall find all things easy and pleasant’ (Trench). devil—‘the accuser,’ acting through Jewish accusers, against Christ and His people. The conflict is not with mere flesh and blood, but with the rulers of the darkness of this world. tried [peirasthete]—with temptation. The same event is often both a temptation from the devil, and a trial from God—God sifting the man to separate his chaff from his wheat, the devil sifting him in hope that nothing but chaff will be found in him (Trench). ten days—not the ten persecutions from Nero to Diocletian. Lyra explains ten years on the year-day principle. The shortness of the persecution is made the ground of consolation. The time of trial shall be short, the joy for ever. Cf. “ten days” for a short time, Gen. 24:55; Num. 11:19. Ten is the number of the world-powers hostile to the Church: cf. the beast’s ten horns, ch. 13:1. unto death—so as even to die for my sake. crown of life—(Jas. 1:12; 2 Tim. 4:8, “of righteousness;” 1 Pet. 5:4, “of glory.”) The crown is the garland of a conqueror, or one rejoicing, or at a feast; but diadem is the mark of a king.[15]


10. “And do not be afraid of anything you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

  • “And do not be afraid of anything you are about to suffer,” Once again Jesus utters the words “do not fear” (1:17). Now addressing each individual believer, he expands the saying to “don’t be afraid of anything.” He who is in full control of every situation knows what lies ahead of his people; he reveals that they are about to enter a period of suffering.
  • “Look, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison that you may be tested.” The Christians in Smyrna must be fully aware that they are fighting a spiritual war in which they confront the devil. Hence, they are told to be alert, for the devil will incite the authorities so that some people of the congregation will be imprisoned with the distinct possibility of being put to death. This will strike fear into the hearts of the believers, who can expect to endure confiscation of property and goods, extreme poverty, and slander. But incarceration, at times without trial, may result in death. Jesus says that this threat to their lives is to test their faith in him.

Imprisonment may be a measure to subdue a rebellious person, an arrest while the guilty person is awaiting trial, or a prelude to his execution. The context of verse 10, “be faithful unto death,” implies that incarceration of the Christian will be an “interim period of suffering in anticipation of martyrdom.”

  1. “And you will have tribulation for ten days.” This is the second time that the term tribulation occurs (v. 9). But here its duration is specified: for a ten-day period. In Revelation, the number ten conveys the meaning of fullness in the decimal system. It is a symbolical number to express the completeness of the period of suffering, which is neither long nor short but full, for its termination is sure.
  2. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Throughout the history of Smyrna her citizens had been faithful first to the Greeks and then to the Romans. Faithfulness to Rome was a well-known characteristic of the people in Smyrna, but now Jesus calls these followers to be faithful to him. Jesus is called “the faithful one” (1:5; 3:14; 19:11) and so is Antipas, the martyr in Pergamum (2:13). Now the saints in Smyrna are asked to pay the sacrifice to be faithful to death.

In view of Smyrna’s city layout, commentators have no problem seeing a connection between the crown of the city and the crown promised to the faithful followers of Christ. But the words of Jesus are “the crown of life,” which make them different and meaningful. The phrase probably was idiomatic—it occurs also in James 1:12—and can be translated “the crown, that is, fullness of life.” It is emblematic of the “highest joy and gladness and of glory and immortality.” If the saints in Smyrna pay with their life for the testimony of Jesus, they will receive imperishable life in eternal glory.[16]


2:10 (Command). Of all the churches, only Smyrna and Philadelphia escape criticism. This struggling church, however, now hears a message it may have dreaded. Therefore, the Lord’s command begins with do not be afraid. The suffering in Smyrna is about to get worse. The tribulation will expand to the point that some church members will be thrown in prison. The intense persecution will be restricted to ten days, probably a symbolic number standing for “a limited period of time.” This persecution will extend to the point of death. Behind it stands the devil, that is the same Satan who had inspired Jews to harass the Christians.

This suffering from Satan does not prove the Lord is powerless—he is the First and the Last. This particular suffering comes because God has determined to test you. While the Lord’s tests are not pleasant as we undergo them, they have a good goal. The suffering of the Smyrnan Christians will show that the crown of life was not idly given them. This “crown of life” is the victor’s crown rather than the king’s crown; here it symbolizes “eternal life,” identical in significance to “eating from the tree of life” in Revelation 2:7. The only other biblical instance of “crown of life” uses the same symbolism James 1:12—“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”[17]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1999). Revelation 1–11 (pp. 78–79). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 618). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (pp. 76–77). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] Wall, R. W. (2011). Revelation (pp. 73–74). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Duvall, J. S. (2014). Revelation. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (pp. 46–51). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[6] Barclay, W. (2004). The Revelation of John (3rd ed. fully rev. and updated, Vol. 1, pp. 80–95). Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press.

[7] Hawker, R. (2013). Poor Man’s New Testament Commentary: Philippians–Revelation (Vol. 3, pp. 499–500). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[8] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Revelation (pp. 60–61). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[9] Morris, L. (1987). Revelation: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 20, pp. 68–69). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[10] Paul, I. (2018). Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary. (E. J. Schnabel, Ed.) (Vol. 20, pp. 83–86). London: Inter-Varsity Press.

[11] Wilcock, M. (1986). The message of Revelation: I saw heaven opened (pp. 45–46). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[12] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Revelation (pp. 134–150). London: James Nisbet & Co.

[13] Fee, G. D. (2011). Revelation (pp. 29–32). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.

[14] Utley, R. J. (2001). Hope in Hard Times – The Final Curtain: Revelation (Vol. Volume 12, pp. 37–38). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

[15] Brown, D., Fausset, A. R., & Jamieson, R. (n.d.). A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments: Acts–Revelation (Vol. VI, p. 662). London; Glasgow: William Collins, Sons, & Company, Limited.

[16] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, pp. 124–125). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[17] Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 37). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Saturday Sampler: July 5 — July 11 — The Outspoken TULIP

I’m delighted that Ryan Higginbottom explains The Dangerous Consequences of Ignoring Context for Knowable Word. His article provides great insights that few Christians ever consider.

Life is ticklish for Christians these days. In The Mailbag: Guess who’s coming to (the women’s ministry dinner?Michelle Lesley tackles a difficult question that wouldn’t have occurred to anyone even five years ago. Did I say difficult? Michelle helps us see that the Bible makes the answer uncomfortably simple.

Sometimes Leslie A gets under my skin! She irritates me because I know she’s absolutely right in the articles she writes in Growing 4 Life. For example, Christian, How Are You Responding? nails wrong reactions I’ve been having to various upheavals in my personal life. My flesh doesn’t like much of what Leslie says in this blog post, but I praise God for her refreshing conclusion! Ladies, you won’t regret letting her get under your skin.

The Ligonier blog features How Do We Become Spiritually Mature? by John MacArthur. None of us is so advanced in the faith that we can’t benefit from this article.

Evangelism can discourage and frustrate even the best of us. Mike Ratliff, who blogs at Possessing the Treasure, writes God Will Judge the Ungodly as an encouraging reminder that the Lord reaches those He calls to salvation, asking only for our faithfulness.

Responding to a recent New York Times article, Tim Challies examines the question, Are Churches “A Major Source of Coronavirus Cases?” Usually I try not to share posts of this nature — even though I tend to agree with them. But Challies raises points that I strongly believe we must consider. If you disagree with him, okay. I’ll not think less of you. But at least hear him out. It’s important to think about his perspective.

Elizabeth Prata asks, How do I know if I lack spiritual discernment? in The End Time. She answers this question by reviewing five common objections to discernment ministry and refuting those objections from Scripture.

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via Saturday Sampler: July 5 — July 11 — The Outspoken TULIP

July—11 The Poor Man’s Evening Portion

 

Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance when it was weary.—Psalm 68:9.

How truly grateful are the falling showers upon the thirsty earth, after a hot summer’s day, such as this season of the year abounds with! Such, my soul, (and thou knowest it, I hope, in the many refreshments thou hast had,) is Jesus, in the visits of his grace! “He shall come like rain,” was the sweet promise given to Old Testament saints, “upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth.” (Psalm 72:6.) And every New Testament believer hath, more or less, a real personal enjoyment of it. Sometimes the Lord comes as the tender dew, for he saith himself, “I will be as the dew unto Israel.” (Hosea 14:5.) And hast thou not found thy Lord, not unfrequently, so to come? silent and unperceived for a while; yea, at times, when wholly unlooked-for, unasked, unsought! Yes! thou dearest Jesus, thou tarriest not for man’s desert, neither waitest thou for their prepared state to receive thee! (Micah 5:7.) And sometimes, as this blessed portion for the evening expresseth it, the Lord comes in a “plentiful rain:” even showers of his love, washing away “the filth of the daughter of Zion,” and cleansing every thing that is polluted; as the natural clouds pour their fulness, which wash off the insect from the vegetable creation, and purify the air from noxious vapours. And when my God and Saviour thus comes to his people, how doth he make the wilderness-frames of their dry and languishing minds to blossom as the rose! So come, Lord Jesus, I beseech thee, on my soul, and not on mine only, but on thy churches, thy ministers, thy people! But, my soul, do not dismiss this charming scripture, until thou hast first gathered another blessed instruction from it, for it is most blessed. The words say, that Jehovah sends this plentiful rain, whereby he “confirmed his inheritance when it was weary.” And doth not this most abundantly prove that Christ, with all his fulness, and all his graces, is the sent of God the Father? “We have seen and do testify” (said John, the beloved apostle) “that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” (1 John 4:14.) Oh! precious, precious scripture! Do I not read in it the grace, and love, and mercy of all the persons of the Godhead? Surely, almighty Father! thou dost confirm all thy covenant faithfulness, when thou thus dost send thy dear Son to the souls of thy people! Thou dost, indeed, both confirm thy truth, and refresh their weary, dry, and thirsty souls, when Jesus comes to bless them in the dew of his grace, and in the showers of his love and mercy.[1]

 

[1] Hawker, R. (1845). The Poor Man’s Evening Portion (A New Edition, p. 210). Philadelphia: Thomas Wardle.

July 11th The D. L. Moody Year Book

 

He that covereth his sins shall net prosper: but whoso confesseth end forsaketh them shall have mercy.—Proverbs 28:13.

“HE that covereth his sins shall not prosper.” He may be a man in the pulpit, a priest before the altar, a king on the throne; I don’t care who he is. Man has been trying it for six thousand years. Adam tried it, and failed. Moses tried it when he buried the Egyptian whom he killed, but he failed. “Be sure your sin will find you out.” You cannot bury your sin so deep but it will have a resurrection by and by, if it has not been blotted out by the Son of God. What man has failed to do for six thousand years, we had better give up trying to do.[1]

 

[1] Moody, D. L. (1900). The D. L. Moody Year Book: A Living Daily Message from the Words of D. L. Moody. (E. M. Fitt, Ed.) (p. 117). East Northfield, MA: The Bookstore.

Whistleblower: New Epstein Tapes Show Top Supreme Court Justice Being Blackmailed

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 • https://www.rumormillnews.com, NaturalWisdom

Early Tuesday morning, a whistleblower who allegedly works in the federal circuit revealed a Supreme Court justice was seen in various “Epstein tapes” that were recently recovered by investigators:

“One of the SCOTUS [justices] is in the Epstein tapes that were recovered yesterday. I’m sure you can guess which one.

“The shocking part is the canary is telling the feds a certain nation state has been blackmailing this gentleman since prior to his nomination to SCOTUS.

“What does this mean? This justice was hand picked at the highest levels specifically because he was being controlled via blackmail. A sheep in wolf’s clothing appearing to be which he is not.

“Cat is out of the bag… or I should say almost.”

…The name “John Roberts” reportedly appears in Epstein’s infamous “little black book”

Ex-Jewel Thief Claims Epstein And Ghislaine Maxwell “Forced Him To Watch Pedo Videos Involving US Politicians” | ZeroHedge News

An alleged former Jewel thief who says he had group sex with Ghislaine Maxwell but ‘drew the line at under-age girls’ claims he was forced to watch pedo videos involving ‘two high-profile US politicians’ and ‘two high society figures having a threesome with an under-age girl.’

Whether one believes an anonymous ex-jewel thief’s exclusive interview with The Sun is up to the reader. That said, Epstein accuser Maria Farmer claimed there was a ‘secret media room‘ in the dead pedophile’s New York mansion which was full of recording equipment.

What’s more, former Israeli spy Ari Ben-Menashe – alleged “handler” of Ghislaine’s father, Robert Maxwell, told the authors Epstein: Dead Men Tell No Tales, that the Epstein was operating a “complex intelligence operation” at the behest of Mossad, and ‘filmed US politicians and power players having sex with underage girls to blackmail them.’

Jumping into the salacious claims by the jewel thief, who goes by the name William Steel, the story begins in the mid-1990s when Steel claims he met Epstein in the “upstairs room at a very high-end diamond dealer, the kind of place where only a few people are allowed in at a time.”

“I was there doing what I do. I was meeting my fence.

I saw Jeff with a young girl who looked only about 13 or 14 and he had his hand in the back of her shorts.

“That’s what first got my attention.

“She was so young and he was much older. That’s when I knew that he was dirty.

I had about 200,000 dollars worth of jewellery that I was getting rid of and later I struck up a conversation with him.

“He later said the girl he was with was his niece but I called bulls**t on that, telling him I saw what he was doing with her. –The Sun

At some point later, Steel says he met Ghislaine Maxwell – who he says he had sex with on multiple occasions – and wanted to see how she could use him to help Epstein. Steel says he was trying to do the same thing:

“I wouldn’t say it was a relationship — it was all about what she could use me for to help them. Me being a cocky young guy from New York City, seeing their arrogance and their wealth — I just looked at it as an opportunity to milk them for what I could.

I used to brag about what I was capable of to them.”

Steele added that “When I wanted to impress or scare somebody, I’d get my briefcase out and it would have police scanners in it, gloves, lock picks, guns with silencers,” adding “I even owned an ultra-thermic torch which would burn a hole into anything in seconds.”

That impressed Ghislaine and Jeff.

SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE:

Steel claims that he saw a parade of underage girls ‘coming and going’ from Epstein’s Palm Beach oceanfront mansion, but that he never participated in pedophilic sex acts.

“I only ever had sex with Maxwell and threesomes with her and other adult females,” he said. “I suspected what they were doing with the under-age girls, I knew their routine, so when they tried to get me involved, I said, ‘No, I’m not into that — you’re not getting me on video doing any of that’.”

Steel also says Ghislaine is a “nymphomaniac” who would try “everything and anything in bed.”

…he was shown footage involving two high-profile US politicians having sex with minors and two high society figures having a threesome with an under-age girl.

Steel — who is not being paid for this interview — also branded Maxwell, 58, who was arrested last week in connection with trafficking young girls, a wild “nymphomaniac” who would try “everything and anything in bed”.

He says: “I was forced to watch their videos because they were trying to impress me.

“They wanted to convince me of their power and who they held in their grip.

They boasted about ‘owning’ powerful people.

Ghislaine was more into showing me those than Jeff.

“When you’re in a situation like that, you have to pretend to be non- judgmental. But it was shocking. –The Sun

“She said to me that she often thought she needed to do something about Epstein, telling me, ‘He is going to be the death of me’” claimed Steel. ” So while she protected him and helped him, she was simultaneously plotting against him and trying to distance herself. ”

“She knew they could drag each other down,” adding “I think she saw herself as the more respectable of the two. She wanted me to do something about Jeff.

Ghislaine allegedly told Steel she had a “Polanski plan,” named after disgraced pedophile and film director Roman Polanski, who fled the US after he was charged with the rape of a 13-year-old girl.

“She told me about her Polanski plan where she would flee to France because they couldn’t extradite her,” he said, adding “I was surprised to hear she’d been picked up in New Hampshire.”

“I want the authorities to know about her plan before her bail hearing.”

Steel claims he absconded with evidence – “discs and things they were trying to get rid of,” and says he “sent them to the authorities, but I don’t know if they did anything with them.”

Why he wouldn’t make copies is anyone’s guess.

Steel said the pair also asked him to help them find girls — but he refused.

He adds: “Ghislaine was always talking down to people.

“She tried to pull that on me but I told her straight, ‘Don’t speak to me like you speak to your f***ing staff. I’m doing favours for you guys. You’re not talking down to me. I don’t give a f how much money you have’.

“They knew I had connections in various places and they offered me money to bring in girls but I never took them up on any of that.

“They told me, ‘Whatever the girls want, I can help them with their modelling career if they want that or pay for their education, and it’s just massages’.

“And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m pretty sure what your massages turn into’.

“And he would just smirk at me and say that I could have what I wanted.
“I said I didn’t want that, it’s not fair to take advantage of these young girls. It’s not right.

He wanted me to help him with a plan he had to kidnap or pay 100 young girls and take them to an island where he would have sex with them, orgies, use them for blackmail and have babies with them.

“I just told him to shut up. I didn’t even realise he was serious until years later.

“For him, at that time, his focus was getting girls that were not from the United States.

He wanted girls from abroad because he felt they wouldn’t know how the criminal justice system in the US works and would be less likely to report him.

“He said he would help look after their families but I said, ‘I’m not going to help you ruin a teenage girl’s life’. –The Sun

And that, is the rest of the ex-jewel thief’s sordid tale.

Source: Ex-Jewel Thief Claims Epstein And Ghislaine Maxwell “Forced Him To Watch Pedo Videos Involving US Politicians”

Awakening Events, Salvation Army team up for drive-in concerts featuring Casting Crowns, Michael W Smith

Awakening Events and The Salvation Army have teamed up this summer to support Americans in need by hosting a star-studded nationwide drive-in theater concert tour.

Source: Awakening Events, Salvation Army team up for drive-in concerts featuring Casting Crowns, Michael W Smith

The 4 Real Reasons For Mandating Masks in Public — Istoria Ministries Blog

A protest rally in Brooklyn during late June 2020

This post is about political leaders in a city or state who wish to mandate that everyone wear masks in public. This post is not about people who voluntarily wear masks.  Any person who chooses to wear a mask for health reasons should be respected and honored. Wearing a mask in certain situations is beneficial and wise. I’m writing in opposition to mandatory masks and to limiting the size of public gatherings.

Enid, Oklahoma’s city council is scheduled this Tuesday night, July 14, 2020, to consider making masks mandatory for every person in public. The council will also consider limiting the size of public gatherings, including churches, sports activities, funerals, etc… An Enid city councilmen named Ben Ezzel, according to the Enid News and Eagle, has repeatedly pushed Enid Mayor George Pankonin for more mandatory measures as Covid-19 cases began spiking again after Enid reopened the beginning of June.
 Enid has abundant ICU bed capacity
Here are the facts. Enid, Oklahoma serves as the county seat for Garfield County. There have been only 102 cases of Covid-19, with 75 recoveries and 2 deaths in our county. According to recent public statements in the Enid News and Eagle by the leaders of our two major hospitals in Enid, we have 3 patients in the hospital with Covid-19, and almost 75% hospital capacity available. In other words, the number of Covid-19 cases have more than tripled, but ICU beds available for treatment of Covid-19 patients remain at normal or above normal levels. We have plenty of hospital ICU capacity, and the number of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 is not growing. They’re being treated at home.
Emmanuel Enid, the church I pastor, closed its buildings in March out of an abundance of concern for our local hospital capacity. We kept the buildings closed until the end of May, but during the time our buildings were closed, we went throughout our community helping people with food, transportation for doctor visits, and other needs that were called in to a Covid-19 hotline that we established.

But since late May, the buildings of Emmanuel Enid have opened and hundreds of people have come to our facilities every weekend, and large groups have gathered almost every day of the week for different events, including funerals. Even though we’ve averaged about 700 on campus on Sunday, that is only half of our typical attendance. Some come to the buildings, but some choose to stay home and watch online. Some wear masks, but some do not. We provide masks, but they are not mandatory. We disinfect after every service.

Let’s review the spread of Covid-19 in Garfield County since we opened the buildings in late May. Though cases have spiked to 102, hospital admissions have not gone up. Our church has purchased a van and our Pastor to Pacific Islanders, Yohanes Arwakon, has taken nearly 100 Pacific Islanders to be tested for Covid-19. We are ministering to two Pacific Island families who have Covid-19. We teach them how to take personal responsibility, how to isolate from others, how to wash their hands, and provide for them masks. We are on the front lines with the ethnic group in our area that needs the most help. And they are doing quite well taking personal responsibility.
A handful of individuals in our church have been diagnosed with Covid-19. The Oklahoma Blood Institute has told me that I had developed Covid-19 antibodies. My wife has not had Covid-19. In our ministry to people in Enid from the very beginning of Covid-19 (March 11), we’ve discovered that no matter what measures a person takes, some simply can’t avoid catching Covid-19.
Most of the people that we know who have had Covid-19 (about two dozen) all followed health protocols. They wore masks. They washed their hands. They socially distanced. They still got Covid-19. None of them has died, and all except for two were never hospitalized.
Cases of Covid-19 throughout the United States and in Enid are indeed going to go up. Even more Americans are going to get Covid-19. What political leaders should be carefully monitoring is hospital capacity and the mortality rate. Those two indicators are in very good shape.
Politicians who wish to make mandatory mask laws should be required to visit families with Covid-19 and to talk with business owners who must make a living during Covid-19. Doctors who wish to make laws for stopping the spread of Covid-19 should be required to make some house calls to families who already have loved ones with Covid-19 or to business owners who must make a living during Covid-19.
We’ve been doing that every single day. A mandatory mask law and limiting the size of public gatherings are not needed, and in my opinion, such laws could even be more harmful than helpful in Garfield County.  Are they needed in Houston? Maybe. Maybe not. We’re not Houston.
There’s a reason doctors aren’t given the privilege of making laws and politicians ought to be term limited. Doctors tend toward bias from only seeing the sickest and politicians tend toward bias due to power. We are grateful for doctors and politicians and the roles they play, but the people should be heard, for we are America’s government.
People in Enid, Oklahoma want to make our own decisions regarding wearing masks. The people in our county want to make our own decisions on how to operate our businesses during Covid-19. If a private business demands masks, respect them. But let the owners of that business make that decision. For example, it would be reckless for a privately-run nursing home or assisted living center to not require masks. They care for the most vulnerable. When these facilities open again and I can make my weekly visits, I will wear gladly wear a mask for the sake of the citizens inside and out of respect for the requirements of that facility.
America thrives on the principles of personal responsibility, ingenuity, and liberty. The way to stop Covid-19 is for doctors to plead personal responsibility, politicians to encourage private ingenuity, and for all Americans to respect individual liberty.

Now to the four real reasons for mandating masks in public by political officials other than “the common good,” which is the publicly stated reason.

1. Some in political power think they’re smarter than we are. 

 
A New York Times editorial from May 2018 suggested that liberals are not as smart as you think they are. The truth of the matter is even more precise. Liberal politicians aren’t smarter than you are, though they often think they are. That’s why they feel they can tell you what is best for you, what is best for your business, what is best for your family, and what is best for your community. They think they know better than you.
The city of Norman passed a mandatory mask law (Oklahoma University). The city of Stillwater passed a mandatory mask law (Oklahoma State University) last week. Tulsa’s mayor is considering a mandatory mask law. Oklahoma City’s mayor is considering a mandatory mask law.
What do all these places have in common? They have mayors, city councils, and political leaders who may think they’re smarter than the average citizen. Norman citizens are seeking a recall of their mayor and their entire city council through an initiative petition.
But take a look at how the city leaders of Moore, Oklahoma, are handling the mask issue. Moore’s mayor, who leads a city that sits just north of Norman, was recently asked about mandatory masks. He said,

 “We don’t want the government saying you have to wear certain clothes or wear your hair a certain way. We just don’t have any way to enforce this, and I don’t think Norman does either.”

The mayor of Moore gets it. By the way,  the city of Moore currently has the 11th highest COVID-19 case total of any city in the state, with 278 confirmed cases and nine deaths as of Thursday morning, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Enid, Oklahoma, is more than 300% lower than Moore in  the number of cases, hospitals, and deaths due to Covid-19. And Enid’s mayor and city council are considering a mandatory mask law and limiting public gatherings?

2. Change in November requires a chaos voters remember. 

 
Last October 2019 I read a startling article from Market Watch that predicted Donald Trump would be re-elected as President in a landslide.
Moody’s Analytics and Market Watch have accurately predicted the re-election prospects of a sitting President since Richard Nixon by a statistical analysis of the growth of the stock market and the decrease in the unemployment rate.
Bottom line: If the stock market goes up by a certain percentage, and the unemployment rate goes down by a certain percentage, the sitting President is always re-elected.
The numbers in October 2019 suggested Trump would win in a landslide. The article stated:

Trump is headed toward another four years in the White House. And, if the numbers are right, it won’t even be close. In fact, his Electoral College victory could very well be wider than the 304-227 margin he enjoyed over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Then came March 2020 and the Covid-19 scare.
 
The stock market crashed. People were told to stay home. The unemployment rate soared.
Listen carefully: I was never a supporter of Donald Trump. But what I’ve seen and heard since March 2020 has driven me toward support of our sitting President.
Ask yourself the question, “Who is supporting closing businesses? Who is demanding mandatory masks? Who wants to close churches and public gatherings?”
There’s a rule in preaching that I’ve never forgotten. “He who shouts the loudest is typically the guiltiest.”

3. There’ll be billions for a vaccine when public panic is seen. 

I am not anti-vaccine. I typically get a flu shot. However, I have a few friendships with scientists at the National Institute of Health, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, and the National Science Foundation. They’ve explained to me how big pharma makes money.
For a vaccine to bring billions of dollars into the coffers of a pharmaceutical company, the general population must all agree to take a vaccine. It is an axiom of modern science that those scientists with patents on their medicine aren’t happy with people who are healthy without their medicine.
God created the human body as the most efficient virus fighting machine that mankind will ever know. What the laboratory invents, the human body prevents. Humans adapt far faster than any supercomputer.
If the American people focused more on healthy eating, personal exercise, decreased smoking of tobacco, drinking of alcohol, and personal hygiene, America might be surprised how fast Covid-19 disappears.
Big pharma should never be given a platform on television, particularly any person with financial ties to a potential vaccine for Covid-19.

4. If they don’t like what you say, it will be you that has to pay. 

 
I find it incredulous that large gatherings were banned because of Covid-19 until Black Lives Matter rallies began taking place all over the United States.
Suddenly, public health officials began saying social justice mattered more than social distance.
So the message sent, whether intended or not, is that the only people who should keep their mouths covered are those with whom politicians and public officials in power disagree.
Churches were closed in California and people were told they could not sing….
But rallies and riots and protests and pandemonium were allowed in the streets in every state of the union because the message behind the protests was deemed meritorious by health officials.
That’s right.
You can beat your neighbor and destroy his business in California, but you darn better not sit next to your neighbor and sing.
The national media gives reports after Black Lives Matter rallies that stating No Covid-19 Cases Traced to Any Black Lives Matter Mass Rallies Held Two Weeks Ago.
But the President holds a public and civil rally in Tulsa and the national headlines: Trump Rally Perfect Storm for the Spread of Covid-19.
Summary
 
I am not asking anyone to agree with what I’ve written. I always respect you if you disagree with me. The issue is whether or not you will respect me for pointing out that I do not believe mandatory masks or limiting the size of public gatherings is in the best interest of our community based on facts. If you do agree with the premise of this article, one that I trust is a balanced and fair,  it would be wise to let your city councilman and mayor know before Tuesday night.

via The 4 Real Reasons For Mandating Masks in Public — Istoria Ministries Blog

MUST READ: Body Cam Transcript Tells a Different Story on the Death of George Floyd — The Gateway Pundit

 

It Now Looks Like George Floyd, Not Derek Chauvin, Killed George Floyd

Guest post by Larry C. Johnson

The transcript from the body camera worn by J. Alexander Kueng shows clear evidence that George Floyd was suffering respiratory distress before police laid hands on him. He died from a Fentanyl overdose, not from being choked out by Minneapolis police. This news will not bring joy to the crazed, leftist mob screaming to lop off the heads of the Minneapolis police officers who stand accused of “murdering” George Floyd and little attention has been paid to the transcript since its release on July 7. I hope to correct that oversight.

First a note about Officer J. Alexander Kueng. He also is a black man. He was adopted shortly after birth by a white woman and single mother. Can’t have that story out there. Simply does not promote the meme that white Americans are inherently and irredeemably racist. How can a racist white woman be a loving mother to a black child? Racists don’t do that.


Officer Kueng and George Floyd

Once you read the transcript you will understand why the Minnesota Attorney General withheld the video evidence from the public and why the defense attorneys are trying to get the information out–it exonerates the police.

Here’s the link to the full transcript.

The incident starts with a store manager reporting that George Floyd had just given him a counterfeit bill.

The two officers (Kueng and Thomas Lane) go outside and begin the investigation by trying to get George Floyd out of his car:

Floyd was not cooperative. He was disoriented and not acting rationally. Floyd was accompanied by another black man. In contrast to Floyd, the other gentleman followed police instructions:

George Floyd was not passive nor cooperative despite media claims to the contrary. The video that fueled outrage across America tells a very misleading story. The words of the transcript are not lies.

In the next relevant bit of conversation, Floyd concedes that he passed a bad bill to the shop owner who called the police and admits he was not following police instructions.

On page 12 of the transcript we get the first evidence that Floyd is high on something and is “foaming” at the mouth. Officer Kueng is very concerned about Floyd’s erratic behavior:

Floyd claims he was “hooping” earlier. According to the Urban Dictionary, “hooping” refers to smuggling/transporting something that is inserted in one’s rectum.

Floyd’s erratic behavior escalates as Officer Kueng and Lane try to put him in the police car:

Pages 15-21 of transcript record the futile effort of the Officers to get Floyd into the police car and Floyd’s drug-induced frenzy and paranoia.

On page 22 of the transcript Floyd starts to claim that he cannot breath. He has not been placed on the ground. In fact, he ASKS THE POLICE TO PUT HIM ON THE GROUND. Cops are not Docs. They do not have magical powers to diagnose whether or not someone is actually having a medical emergency or faking it. Up to this point in their interaction with George Floyd, they had little evidence to trust anything Floyd said:

You can finish reading the transcript for yourself. But the bottomline is clear–Floyd’s respiratory crisis was caused by the Fentanyl he had ingested before the police showed up on the scene. That evidence is quite clear in the autopsy report. Those who have rushed to judgment in condemning the Minneapolis Police Department will have to do some major mea culpas.

via MUST READ: Body Cam Transcript Tells a Different Story on the Death of George Floyd — The Gateway Pundit

July 11-12, 2020 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)

Weekend Snapshot · July 11, 2020

Trump Warns of Far-Left Threat in Independence Day Address

He urges citizens to stand tall against those seeking to destroy America’s greatness.


Thank You, Charlie Daniels

Charlie Daniels was a great American who loved our country and our fellow citizens.


SCOTUS Delivers Wins for Religious Liberty

The two rulings further protect our First Amendment rights to religious liberty.


Omar Calls for Marxist Revolution

The radical leftist demands that our economic and political systems be torn down.


The REAL ‘Problem’ in Minneapolis?

Minnesota’s inner-city black families are being oppressed by Democrats.


BLM’s Red Roots

The Black Lives Matter movement may have been born here, but it keeps company with communists.


NFL Goes Full Woke

The “black national anthem” will be played during the first week of the season.


Biden’s Housing Plan Would Destroy Suburban Communities

He wants to push people into cities.


The Lucrative Business of Peddling White Guilt

There’s a lot of money to be made in telling white people they’re a bunch of racists.


Joe Biden’s Me-Too Economic Plan

He’s no Trump, and his dismal record speaks for itself.


COVID-19: Wishing for the Worst

When it comes to coronavirus, the Leftmedia leads with gloom and doom.


Wrestling With ‘Uncle Tom’

The new film by Larry Elder is the Left’s worst nightmare.



TODAY’S MEME

For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.

TODAY’S CARTOON

For more of today’s cartoons, visit the Cartoons archive.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“The Left controls every major institution in America: mainstream media, the academy, administrative government, Hollywood, Big Tech, etc. So if ‘institutional racism’ really did exist, whose fault would that be?” —Michael Knowles

“The Patriot Post” (https://patriotpost.us)


Top Weekly Stories from ChristianNews.net for 07/11/2020

Somerville, Mass. Unanimously Passes Law Recognizing ‘Polyamorous’ Domestic Partnerships   Jul 07, 2020 05:39 pm

Photo Credit: Katy Black SOMERVILLE, Mass. — The city council of Somerville, Massachusetts has unanimously passed an ordinance recognizing “polyamorous” domestic partnerships as they could not find a “good reason” to limit romantic relationships to two people. “It validates their existence. It validates the way they love,” council member Lance Davis told…

Continue reading the story 

CNN’s Chris Cuomo Claims: ‘You Don’t Need Help From Above’ to Make Country Better; ‘It’s Within Us’   Jul 06, 2020 06:25 pm

NEW YORK — Controversy is stirring over a humanistic comment CNN anchor Chris Cuomo recently made at the end of his “Cuomo Prime Time” broadcast, as he told viewers that “you don’t need help from above” in making the U.S. a better place as the ability to “do the right thing” lies “within us.” Cuomo had concluded his June 26 broadcast by telling two stories of…

Continue reading the story 

California Bans Singing in Church Over Coronavirus Spread   Jul 04, 2020 11:04 am

(KTLA via CNN Wire) — While you can still attend in-person church services in California, you can’t sing. The state, to curb a rapidly worsening pandemic, has temporarily banned singing and chanting in places of worship. “Practices and performances present an increased likelihood for transmission of COVID-19 through contaminated exhaled droplets and…

Continue reading the story 

Christian Mother of Four in India Persecuted Before Her Death   Jul 07, 2020 12:19 pm

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Tribal Hindus persecuted a widowed, Christian mother of four before her body was found severely mutilated in the wilderness near her village in Chhattisgarh, India, sources said. The body of 40-year-old Bajjo Bai Mandavi was initially unrecognizable as it appeared to have been eaten by wild animals when it was found two miles…

Continue reading the story 

CNN’s Don Lemon Claims: ‘Jesus Christ Admittedly Was Not Perfect When He Was Here’   Jul 10, 2020 04:43 pm

NEW YORK — During an episode of “CNN Tonight” this week, host Don Lemon claimed that Jesus Christ was not perfect when He walked the Earth. “Jesus Christ — if that’s who you believe in — Jesus Christ admittedly was not perfect when He was here on this earth,” Lemon asserted to colleague Chris Cuomo, who also made a controversial statement a week…

Continue reading the story 

Ken Ham on Jen Hatmaker’s Pride in Daughter’s Lesbianism: ‘Condoning Her Sin Is Not Love’   Jul 08, 2020 07:07 pm

Photo Credit: Jen Hatmaker Apologist Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis commented this week on women’s speaker and author Jen Hatmaker’s recent podcast “in honor of Pride Month” in which she revealed that her daughter is lesbian, stating that she is “glad” her daughter is homosexual and that it is one of her “greatest regrets and sorrows” that she did not affirm…

Continue reading the story 

Va. Photographer Seeks Protection to Operate His Business Consistent With His Christian Beliefs on Marriage   Jul 04, 2020 02:05 pm

Photo Credit: Alliance Defending Freedom NORFOLK, Va. — A Christian photographer has filed suit to challenge the new so-called “Virginia Values Act”, which by effect would prohibit him from declining to participate in same-sex engagement or wedding photo shoots. Chris Herring, a seminary student who seeks to “combine his photography skills…

Continue reading the story 

Church of the Brethren in Nigeria Says 50 Attacks by Boko Haram Were Largely ‘Unreported or Under Reported’ by Media   Jul 05, 2020 11:52 am

Photo Credit: AK Rockefeller (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) — The Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) has reported that Boko Haram terrorists carried out over “fifty different attacks on different communities between the end of 2019 to June 2020,” most of which were “unreported or under reported by both the print and…

Continue reading the story 

US Supreme Court Allows Employers With Moral Objections to Opt Out of Obamacare’s Contraceptive Mandate   Jul 08, 2020 03:28 pm

Photo Credit: Joe Ravi WASHINGTON (Kaiser Health News) — The Supreme Court Wednesday settled — at least for now — a decade’s worth of litigation over the women’s health provisions of the Affordable Care Act, ruling 7-2 that employers with a “religious or moral objection” to providing contraceptive coverage to their employees may opt out without…

Continue reading the story 

Two Children Among Those Dead as Dozens Shot Amid Another Weekend of Violence in Chicago   Jul 07, 2020 02:37 pm

CHICAGO — It was a bloody Fourth of July weekend in Chicago as dozens were shot and 15 were killed by ongoing gun violence. Two of those fatalities were minors. “You gotta stop this killing. … These are innocent kids. She was only seven years old. She always said, ‘I love you,'” Shelley Fulton told WGN-TV of her Great-Niece Natalie Wallace. According to…

Continue reading the story 


LancetGate: “Scientific Corona Lies” & Big Pharma Corruption – Hydroxychloroquine Versus Remdesivir
There is an ongoing battle to suppress Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), a cheap and effective drug for the treatment of Covid-19. The campaign against HCQ is carried out through slanderous political statements, media smears, not to mention an authoritative peer reviewed “evaluation” published on May 22nd by The Lancet, which was based on fake figures and test trials. The study was allegedly based on data analysis of 96,032 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between Dec 20, 2019, and April 14, 2020 from 671 hospitals Worldwide. The database had been fabricated. The objective was to kill the Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) cure on behalf of Big Pharma.

Chinese Virologist Flees Hong Kong, Accuses Beijing Of COVID-19 Cover-Up
A highly respected Chinese virologist has fled Hong Kong and says that the Chinese government knew about COVID-19 long before they claim they did, and that her supervisors – some of the top experts in the field – ignored research she was conducting at the onset of the pandemic which she says could have saved lives, according to an exclusive interview with Fox News. “The reason I came to the U.S. is because I deliver the message of the truth of COVID,” Yan told Fox from an undisclosed location.

Poll: BLM riots ‘boosting’ Trump among voters
A new poll of likely voters indicates the Black Lives Matter riots are boosting President Trump’s chances of winning the November election. The The poll by the Washington based think tank Democracy Institute and the Sunday Express of London found that while both Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden have 47% support, Trump would win in the Electoral College by 309 to 229, because he is on course to win the swing states of Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

‘The devil’ invoked to chase conservatives away from campus
Progressive and leftist students and their friends at the University of North Texas are taking advantage of the time’s “cancel culture” by demanding that the school banish those who disagree with them. And one even has gone to the extreme of calling on the devil to help with the campaign.

Trump commutes Roger Stone’s sentence, days before prison term set to begin
The White House announced Friday that President Trump signed an Executive Grant of Clemency commuting the “unjust sentence” of Roger Stone, just days before the longtime political operative was slated to report to prison to serve more than three years for charges stemming from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Somerville, Mass. Unanimously Passes Law Recognizing ‘Polyamorous’ Domestic Partnerships
The city council of Somerville, Massachusetts has unanimously passed an ordinance recognizing “polyamorous” domestic partnerships as they could not find a “good reason” to limit romantic relationships to two people. “It validates their existence. It validates the way they love,” council member Lance Davis told NBC Boston. Polyamory is defined as “the practice of … participating simultaneously in more than one serious romantic or sexual relationship with the knowledge and consent of all partners.” The arrangement may include heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual plural relationships.

US Supreme Court to Hear Case of College Student Seeking Justice After Gospel Preaching Twice Shut Down
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case from a former student at Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) who sued the educational institution after his attempts to preach the gospel on campus were twice shut down. Lower courts had declared the case moot as the college changed its free speech policy after the student sued, and due to the fact that he later graduated, but the now-graduate believes the college should still be held liable for violating his rights.

Ex-cyber officials: Iran may change aggressive policies until licks wounds
“Knowing how these things are planned and operated, if they were conducted through cyberspace…if conducted by the US or someone or Israel – it was planned in advance. A HUGE question has been how the Iranians will react – both in terms of whether they will retaliate and whether the explosions have been effective in pushing Tehran to change some of its policies.

Erdogan says first prayers in Hagia Sophia on July 24
The first prayers will be held in Turkey’s Hagia Sophia on July 24, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday, after declaring the ancient monument was once again a mosque following a court ruling revoking its status as a museum. Erdogan said the Hagia Sophia would remain open to Muslims, Christians and foreigners, but added that Turkey had exercised its sovereign right in converting it to a mosque and would interpret criticism of the move as an attack on its independence.

How have Iran’s intelligence forces broken down in face of explosions?
What the world is witnessing right now is someone – the United States, Israel or Saudi Arabia, possibly with Iranian dissident proxy help – hitting Iranian nuclear and conventional weapons and IRGC facilities practically at will. And they are doing it in a way that has virtually never been witnessed in recent memory. The IRGC has had more than two weeks to root out the cell or cells that are making this happen and has gotten nowhere.

Rapper Rejects BLM for Being Supported by Soros
During a recent interview with TurningPoint USA, Lorenzo Dechalus, known professionally as Lord Jamar, stated emphatically that he does not support the Black Lives Matter movement. When asked if he supports BLM, Jamar stated, “No. Absolutely not…Because this isn’t our movement. It’s a movement that was given to us by, you know, George Soros and his **** boys.

Turkey vows to ‘liberate Al-Aqsa’ after turning Hagia Sophia to mosque
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to “liberate Al-Aqsa mosque” from Israel after “resurrecting Hagia Sophia” as a mosque on Friday. The decision the change the status of the ancient Hagia Sophia church, which had been transformed into a mosque in 1453 and then into a museum in 1934, was made controversially last week.

Israel’s Ofek 16 satellite: An eye in the sky over Iran
The launch of Israel’s latest spy satellite, the Ofek 16, into the deep unknown…marked a significant military success for the Jewish state, a country deep in crisis – both politically and socioeconomically. Taking off from Palmahim air base in the center of the country using a Shavit launcher…the Ofek 16 successfully made it into orbit and is expected to send back its first high-resolution pictures by next week.

Iran explosion: Panic erupts as huge third blast in three weeks rocks capital
Another deadly explosion was heard in western Tehran on Friday, according to local reports of a blast at a missile warehouse. However, sources claim there have been more than one in multiple regions. An intelligence official told The New York Times said that Israel was possibly behind the attack. This has not yet been confirmed.

Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’
A major Egyptian army exercise near the border with Libya is being viewed by military and strategic experts as a message of deterrence to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his backing for the Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj and supported by militia groups.

Tensions between European Parliament and Turkey heat up
The European Parliament has become increasingly critical about democratic backsliding in Turkey, with calls…for a complete end to accession negotiations with the country. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) said that Turkey should no longer receive pre-accession funding from the European Union budget as part of its candidacy process and for economic sanctions to be used as a stick against Ankara…

Lebanese hold raucous rally outside US Embassy in Beirut
Dozens of Lebanese protesters held a raucous anti-U.S. rally outside the fortified American Embassy in Beirut on Friday, denouncing what they said was Washington’s interference in Lebanon’s affairs while some chanted in support of the militant Hezbollah group. The crowd, made up of mostly men, hurled stones at riot police near the embassy, from which they were separated by layers of barbed wire.

Deadliest monsoon in 11 years triggers floods and multiple landslides in Nepal
Incessant monsoon rainfall has triggered floods and multiple landslides in several districts of Bagmati Pradesh and Gandaki Pradesh, Nepal, from Wednesday to Friday, July 8 to 10, 2020. The police confirmed at least 12 fatalities…and 19 others missing. According to the National Disaster, Risk Reduction, and Management Authority (NDRRMA)…this season has been the deadliest monsoon in 11 years…

The Defense Bill Could Rewrite How the US Does Cyber Defense
A new Office of Joint Cyber Planning proposed in an amendment to the 2021 defense policy bill aims to help government and private actors respond more quickly to cyber attacks mounted from Russia, China, and elsewhere. “The Office shall lead Government-wide and public-private planning for cyber defense campaigns, including the development of…coordinated actions to respond to and recover from significant cyber incidents”…

False Hope and Real Damage of Coronavirus Lockdown
Life in these United States, and around the world, for that matter, have taken a turn for the worst.  Government forces at all levels have placed us into martial law by another name.  Your Constitutional Rights, we have been told, have been suspended for the time being in order for us to combat COVID-19.  But don’t worry, they assure us, the suspension of your rights is only temporary.

Deadliest monsoon in 11 years triggers floods and multiple landslides in Nepal
Incessant monsoon rainfall has triggered floods and multiple landslides in several districts of Bagmati Pradesh and Gandaki Pradesh, Nepal, from Wednesday to Friday, July 8 to 10, 2020. The police confirmed at least 12 fatalities– including three children, and 19 others missing. According to the National Disaster, Risk Reduction, and Management Authority (NDRRMA), based on water-induced disasters, this season has been the deadliest monsoon in 11 years, with more than 60 fatalities since June 12.

Southern Norway enters July with record 10 m (32 feet) of snow
More than 10 m (32 feet) of snow accumulated in parts of southern Norway by July, according to the BKK energy company, who is conducting clearing operations to prevent flooding in the mountains. The region is currently so cold that the snow is hardly melting, but the situation could change with heavy rainfall, causing rapid melting.

Tropical Storm “Fay” forms just off the coast of North Carolina, bringing heavy rains and strong winds to Mid-Atlantic coast and New England
Tropical Storm “Fay” formed at 21:00 UTC on July 9, 2020, just off the coast of North Carolina, U.S. as the 6th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. The center of Fay is forecast to move near the Mid-Atlantic coast today and move inland over the mid-Atlantic or the northeast United States late tonight or on Saturday, July 11, bringing heavy rain and strong winds.

California to release 8,000 prisoners to slow pandemic 
California will release up to 8,000 inmates early from state prisons to slow the spread of COVID-19 inside facilities, state authorities said on Friday.

Twitter suspends more than 50 accounts tied to white nationalists
Twitter reacted to a scathing report from the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism this week by suspending several dozen accounts operated by white nationalists.

China using coronavirus tracking app to suppress dissent, control the populace
To combat the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), China’s government has been using a health code system that assigns people colored QR codes via their smartphones. A new report, however, claims that this system goes beyond fighting the pandemic and is being used to maintain “social stability.”

The Great Covid-19 Deception and What You Need to Know to Survive
I’ve been speaking with my friends who include medical doctors and other highly educated people about the treatments that they would seek if they were diagnosed with Covid 19. Most of them had no idea what course of treatment they or their families might seek. This conundrum is in part due to the massive volume of information that is being thrown at us. Much of this information is deliberately deceptive. I am writing this article to cut through the deception so that you and your physician can make informed decisions if and when the time comes.

Islamic Movement and Left Join Forces in Anti-American Revolution (Part 1)
As Americans celebrated their 244th Independence Day, the pervasive lawlessness and pro- Marxist demonstrations observed for weeks in cities across the country underscore the methodical planning of domestic insurgents engaged in subversive and seditious activities to disrupt a pivotal presidential election year.

The Roman Catholic Church Used Unprecedented Legal Trickery To Plunder The American Taxpayer For Billions In Coronavirus Aid Money
From its inception in the early 300’s in Rome, the Roman Catholic Church has always been about the money. They invented the concept of Purgatory, a hold place where souls go while awaiting Heaven, so they could then sell indulgences to their bible illiterate followers to buy their loved ones out. As recently as 2018, Pope Francis was busy selling these indulgences to Catholics who remain woefully ignorant of what the bible teaches. But their money heist in 2020 is one to break the bank, literally.

Have we been had? Unmasking the disease delusion
As states hunker down once again, forcing citizens to don face coverings in public, it’s become clearer with every waking hour that the China Coronavirus emergency is based on skewed and distorted statistics.

The Radical Left Is Waging A Cultural Race War Against Whites While Pretending To Be Working To End Racism
Everywhere you look right now, we are bombarded by the Black Lives Matter marketing, it is inescapable at the moment, and I would agree that, yes, black lives certainly do matter. But that’s not how they mean it, Black Lives Matter as a movement is not about ending police brutality or racism, no, far from it. The rich, white Liberals who fund and run Black Lives Matter are using it as a sledgehammer to split America down the middle, and burn it to the ground in an all-out race war. Why? So rich, white Liberals can destroy the free  market economy, end capitalism, and reduce America to a Socialist Marxist paradise.


Headlines – 7/11/2020

France’s Macron asks Israel to drop West Bank annexation plans

Netanyahu to France’s Macron: Annexation doesn’t violate international law

Blue and White official raps PM’s economic plan, says Netanyahu wants elections

American protestors chant ‘Death to Israel’ at US Day of Rage

Israel, U.S Developing Shared Strategy to Harm Iran’s Nuclear Facilities, Officials Tell NYT

Israel’s alleged Natanz strike ‘as complex as Stuxnet,’ a major blow to Iran

Iran explosions: Officials deny reports of fresh blast

Russia, China veto aid to Syria via Turkey at U.N. Security Council

Divided Libya to restart oil production after six-month shutdown

Lebanese protesters rally outside US Embassy in Beirut against ‘interference’

Pompeo slams UN report saying US hit on Soleimani violated international law

Hundreds try to storm Serbian parliament as protests heat up

Trump admits he authorized 2018 cyberattack on Russian troll farm

Russia calls US’s newest stance on nuclear arms agreement ‘undiplomatic,’ considers not extending

India Goes All In On ‘Boycott China’

China Accuses U.S. of Provocation As Drill Tensions Spread to India, Taiwan

Bremmer Says U.S. Relationship With China Is ‘Heading Into the Toilet’

China says it will ‘definitely fight back’ after US imposes sanctions over human rights abuses

Utah governor declares state of emergency due to ‘civil unrest’

Warrants Served on St. Louis Couple Who Defended Home Against BLM Thugs

New York mayor Bill de Blasio helps paint Black Lives Matter mural in front of Trump Tower

Alfredo Ortiz: AOC & Dems launch absurd boycott of Goya Foods after CEO joins Trump pro-Hispanic initiative

Goya Foods CEO won’t apologize in face of boycott, backlash for pro-Trump remarks: ‘Suppression of speech’

Durham, under pressure to wrap up investigation, could ‘punt’ to after Election Day: source

Chuck Grassley: John Durham will be too late if prosecutions begin after 2020 election

Michael Flynn’s defense team says new DOJ documents contain ‘shocking exculpatory evidence’

Trump commutes Roger Stone’s sentence, days before prison term set to begin

Trump threatens tax-exempt status of colleges, says many are about ‘Radical Left Indoctrination’

Facebook considering banning election ads

US global media agency seeks to kick out international journalists

NASA Teases ‘Psyche,’ A Robot To Explore An Asteroid Worth More Than Our Global Economy

A trio of Mars missions in the starting blocks

5.3 magnitude earthquake hits near Carlsberg Ridge

5.0 magnitude earthquake hits near Pacific-Antarctic Ridge

Sabancaya volcano in Peru erupts to 21,000ft

Popocateptl volcano in Mexico erupts 19,000ft

Nishinoshima volcano on Japan erupts to 17,000ft

Reventador volcano in Ecuador erupts to 15,000ft

Tropical Storm Fay makes landfall north of Atlantic City, lashing East Coast with heavy rain

‘Juneuary’ out West as Utah, Idaho, Wyoming see fresh snowfall: ‘The ongoing crazy that is 2020’

Unusual Pink Snow on Alps Is Being Eaten by Algae

The Arctic Is On Fire, and We Should all Be Terrified

Conditions Ripe for Active Amazon Fire, Atlantic Hurricane Seasons

10 Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters Have Happened in the U.S. So Far in 2020

The Russian whistleblower risking it all to expose the scale of an Arctic oil spill catastrophe

Elephant Die-Off May be Due to ‘Novel Disease,’ Botswana Says

WHO sends team to China to set up investigation into COVID-19 origins: report

Chinese virologist accuses Beijing of coronavirus cover-up, flees Hong Kong: ‘I know how they treat whistleblowers’

Trump and Fauci not speaking as coronavirus pandemic worsens

Fauci says he hasn’t briefed Trump on COVID-19 in 2 months

WHO says countries may have to return to “total lockdown,” after cases double worldwide in 6 weeks

California Will Release Up To 8,000 Prisoners Due To Coronavirus

Judge blocks first federal execution in 17 years over coronavirus threat to victims’ families

As coronavirus surges in Republican territory, so does rage over masks

French bus driver dies after ‘barbaric’ attack over face masks

‘I thought this was a hoax’: Patient in their 30s dies after attending ‘COVID party’

Autopsies show COVID-19 victims had blood clots in ‘almost every organ,’ doctor says

‘Vaccine nationalism’ could lead to the coronavirus devastating public health and the economy, experts warn

US bets on untested company to deliver COVID-19 vaccine

Catholic Church lobbied for taxpayer funds, got $1.4B

Ghislaine Maxwell seeks $5 million bond in Epstein abuse case – Her lawyers cited the coronavirus risk in jail as reason to release her


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“A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it…” – Martin Luther

‘Anti-science saga’? NBC contributor who documented harrowing battle with Covid-19 NEVER had the virus | RT – Daily news

‘Anti-science saga’? NBC contributor who documented harrowing battle with Covid-19 NEVER had the virus

The dramatic televised saga of a doctor’s struggle to overcome coronavirus has ended in embarrassment after the NBC News contributor quietly admitted that there’s no evidence he ever had the virus. Is this the zenith of fake news?

Dr Joseph Fair appeared at least 10 times on NBC and MSNBC over the last two months to share his fight against Covid-19 with the networks’ viewers. His television appearances – including an interview from his hospital bed – fueled panic about the illness. Describing himself as a fit and healthy 42-year-old, Fair claimed in May that he had absorbed the virus through his eyes while on a flight. As it turns out, there is no reason to believe he ever contracted the virus.

The doctor announced earlier this week that his Covid-19 antibody test had returned negative and that his “suspected” illness from the virus remains an “undiagnosed mystery.”

“I had myriad Covid symptoms, was hospitalized in a Covid ward & treated for Covid-related co-morbidities,” he tweeted in his defense.

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Incredibly, Fair had been tested numerous times for coronavirus while receiving treatment for the disease. Each test was negative, but that didn’t stop him from continuing to insist he had the virus. NBC appeared similarly unbothered by his negative test results.

On May 14, Today host Hoda Kotb noted the negative tests but dismissed them as inaccurate. “Clearly you have it,” she told Fair. The contradictory results were omitted in his subsequent appearances on NBC and MSNBC.

The Washington Free Beacon created a mash-up of some of his interviews, in which he is presented as someone who is suffering (and later recovering) from coronavirus.

Fair’s misleading battle with Covid-19 has been met with considerable eye-rolling on Twitter.

Media veteran Steve Krakauer described the sordid affair as an “anti-science saga”which left NBC’s viewers with “alarming, false impressions.”

Others labeled Fair’s coronavirus yarn as “comically pathetic” and a tour de force of fake news.

Fair isn’t the only television personality who hasn’t been forthcoming about his alleged Covid-19 experiences. CNN’s Chris Cuomo was caught breaking quarantine after allegedly falling ill with the virus. The network, however, remained curiously silent about his behavior, even as Cuomo lectured Americans about the sacrifices they must make to contain the disease.

Source: ‘Anti-science saga’? NBC contributor who documented harrowing battle with Covid-19 NEVER had the virus

COVID CHRONICLES: How Many Coincidences Does it Take to Make a Conspiracy?

Absolute Truth from the Word of God

International best-selling author, Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA, lists a number of incidents which, he believes, support the contention (shared by many) that we’re in the middle of a global conspiracy to take control of our lives. For more unbiased information about other important matters, please visit http://www.vernoncoleman.com The transcripts of the videos that YouTube banned are also on the website. Thank you for all your support and encouragement. Please subscribe to this channel and please share.

How Many Coincidences Does it Take to Make a Conspiracy?

From June 21, 2020

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Should black conservatives be allowed to form their own beliefs?

WINTERY KNIGHT

Are black conservatives allowed to form their own views in America? Are black conservatives allowed to form their own views in America?

My friend Wes sent me an hour-long video, featuring famous black conservative Larry Elder.

Outline:

1:23 New “Uncle Tom” documentary

10:53 Stats don’t show systemic police racism

14:30 Why police body cams are a good idea

28:12 The rise of “revenge culture”

38:39 Affirmative action is condescending?

44:03 Issues in the Black Lives Matter movement

Are police actually using deadly force disproportionately against black people? And how does the focus on police overshadow other monumental problems facing black America today? Why is believing that, black lives matter, not the same as supporting the Black Lives Matter organization? And, why are black conservatives often excluded from mainstream public awareness and discourse? In this episode, we sit down again with radio talk show personality and bestselling author Larry Elder, who hosts The Larry Elder Show for The Epoch Times. He is…

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A Nightmare Campaign of Outright Idiocy — Christian Research Network

“With less than four months before the election, this is the campaign: a constant media carpet-bombing of defamatory lies about the president on behalf of a comatose candidate, propagation of unfounded hysteria over a fading pandemic, self-induced and redundant economic depression, open borders to admit and give free medical care to the unskilled peasantry of the world, and national self-abasement before militant African Americans demanding minority rule and the renunciation and degradation of those who founded the United States and led it to a pinnacle of influence in the world unequaled in all history.” 

(Conrad Black – American Greatness)  As we get into high summer, there must be a very large number of Americans now actively considering whether the country is going mad.

The leading newspaper in the nation’s capital has accused the president of plumbing “new depths of depravity” in a perfectly unexceptionable and soaringly eloquent speech at Mount Rushmore last Friday. Praising the American revolutionary ideal that “all men are created equal” and its reaffirmation by Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War that brought about the abolition of slavery somehow made Donald Trump “dark” and “divisive.” The president deplored academic and national media self-hate and espoused the highest objectives identified and pursued by every admired American leader from Washington and Franklin to Martin Luther King and Ronald Reagan.

As the violent crime rate skyrocketed in New York City 10 days ago, the City Council voted to reduce the police budget by $1 billion. Meanwhile, Chicago celebrated the July 4 weekend with 87 people injured and 17 killed by gunfire, including two children, but the city’s mayor rebuked the police chief when he suggested there is room for improvement in city governance.  View article →

A Nightmare Campaign of Outright Idiocy — Christian Research Network

July 11 Life-Changing Moments With God

 

I am with you to save you.

Lord God, shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the captives of the righteous be delivered? You say even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible be delivered; for You will contend with him who contends with me. All flesh shall know that You, the Lord, are my Savior, and my Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. So I fear not, for You are with me; I will not be dismayed, for You are my God. You will strengthen me, yes, You will help me. You will uphold me with Your righteous right hand.

I do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with my weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as I am, yet without sin. In that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid me when I am tempted. Lord God, You order my steps as of a good man, and You delight in my way. Though I fall, I shall not be utterly cast down; for You, Lord, uphold me with Your hand.

Lord God, thank You that Jesus helps me

when I am tempted and thank You for upholding me

with Your powerful right hand.

Jeremiah 15:20; Isaiah 49:24–26; Isaiah 41:10; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 2:18; Psalm 37:23–24[1]

 

[1] Jeremiah, D. (2007). Life-Changing Moments With God (p. 210). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.