‘And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life: ‘I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death.
Smyrna lies forty miles north of Ephesus. It was an important seaport at the mouth of the Hermus River. It was a flourishing city and in 23 AD had been awarded the honour of building the first temple dedicated to worshiping the Roman emperor Tiberius. It was about 60 years later that it became compulsory for every Roman citizen to worship the emperor. This was very difficult for the Christians who could only call Jesus “Lord” and not the emperor. As we live in the UK where Christianity is legal and generally acceptable, we can only imagine how hard it was for the people in places such as Smyrna. We must not forget that in many parts of the world Christians are being persecuted today.
There is hope in this letter. We need hope. We have been through a year that has seen so many changes to our normal way of life. Churches have been closed for long periods. Despite this more people are “attending” online services than attended services in churches. We are rich and yet we are also poor. The message “Do not fear what you are about to suffer” would have been good to receive last year as this pandemic took hold. We can still hold onto this and trust that if we are faithful, we will receive the crown of life.
Just as the people of Smyrna were to listen, we need to keep our ears open to hear what God is saying to us today. We need to hold onto the truth and reject false messages and false messengers. We need to be “Walking the Way”, if we are, we can be sure that we will inherit the crown of life.
Loving God we thank you for all you give us. We know that we don’t deserve your love, but we thank you that your love is unconditional. We pray for those who are being persecuted for their faith, We ask that you give these persecuted people your strength. We pray for all who have suffered through this pandemic and as many put their trust in vaccines may we also keep our faith in you. Help us to hold onto our faith so we might receive the crown of crowns. We bring our prayers in the name of Jesus. Amen