Monday, August 16, 2010

The Church of Smyrna: Trusting God and Trouble Ahead

I have yet to post this week's installment from The Fundamentals, so I will probably forgo it until this weekend. We'll see how my schedule goes.

In the meantime, let's continue our look at the messages of Jesus to the churches in Revelation. This time, I'm focused on the church at Smyrna.

Smyrna was one of two churches out of the seven in Revelation 2 and 3 that received no rebuke from the Lord. Instead, He had much to commend. The Lord knows of their tribulation, and their endurance of great poverty (but they are rich in spirit). They stood firm against their theological opponents who were blasphemers. You see, the city of Smyrna at the time eagerly went along with emperor worship, and to refuse to bow to the Roman emperor came at great cost. Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John and bishop of Smyrna, was an early martyr.

There was no rebuke from the Lord for any sin in the church, but there was a warning. More tribulation and testing lay ahead. The Lord encouraged them to persevere, and at the end He would give them the crown of life.

The other church to receive no rebuke was Philadelphia. In their case, the Lord promised to keep them from (or through) the "hour of testing" that the whole world was to experience. At first glance, I don't know why God allowed differing circumstances for these two churches. Again, it is not my purpose right now to look at the future prophetic implications, but rather to look on the more immediate message that had been delivered to a real church at a specific time in history. That immediate message is timeless, as all churches then and now have their issues.

We do know that God has His purposes, and those purposes are good, and are for His glory. The message I take from it today is that we must stay faithful no matter what. Trouble may well be ahead. But we know who is sovereign, and who has our times firmly in His hand.

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