“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” – Revelation 2:10
What news this was for the believers in Smyrna. It is startling to think about the things that they were told. It was what they were going to endure. Jesus promised them prison, trial, and tribulation. What would one do with such news? But they were not the first to hear such things.
In John 21:18, 19 Jesus told Peter, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.”
Jesus told Peter that when he would become old he would be carried to a place to which he would not want go. In verse 19, John included the insight that Jesus was indicating to Peter by what death he would die: by what death he would glorify God. Peter was then told to follow Jesus. From reading the book of Acts it is clear that Peter did just that. Tradition tells us that he died by crucifixion.
In Acts 9:15, 16, the Lord was speaking to Ananias concerning Saul, “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
Ananias was sent by the LORD to speak to Saul. Saul had just met the Lord on the road to Damascus. The encounter blinded him, and Ananias was sent to heal Saul’s sight. As the Lord sent Ananias, He told him that He would show to Saul what great things he would suffer for His sake. We know from scripture that for two weeks Saul, by then called Paul, endured a hurricane in a boat on the Mediterranean Sea. Though scripture does not tell us, tradition tells us that he was beheaded. The book of Acts as well as the epistles reveal other things that he suffered. The Lord told Paul what he would suffer for Jesus’ name’s sake.
In John 16:32, 33, Jesus told His disciples, “Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
Jesus Himself knew what was coming as He entered the human race. His death was no accident, it was why He came. Here, He told His disciples that they would abandon Him, but that He was not alone. His Father was with Him. He then tells them that they shall have tribulation. But in that tribulation He told them to be of good cheer! And why should they be of good cheer? Because He has overcome the world. The bad news of tribulation is offset by the wonderful news that He has overcome the world.
Then, in Luke 6:22, 23, Jesus told His disciples, “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.”
Jesus told His disciples that they are blessed when men hated them and separated them from their company. He promised that they would be reproached and reviled, and falsely accused for His name’s sake. They were to rejoice in that day, and leap for joy. They were promised such trials and tribulations, but they were promised a great reward in heaven. The people of Smyrna were promised a crown of life.
In Acts 5 the story is told of the disciples, including Peter, being taken by the authorities, and beaten for preaching in the name of Jesus. In verses 40 and 41 we are told, “… and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”
They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. What had happened was what the Lord promised in Luke 6, and He told them to rejoice in the day when these things came upon them. And so they did!
Like the people of Smyrna Peter, Paul, Jesus, and His disciples were told of the trials that they were going to face. The reason for the trials is the fact that the world hates God, and His people. This means that all His people, including saints to this day, should expect the same treatment. As Jesus said before, “In this world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The things of this world are temporary. Jesus has overcome the world, and will bless His people with eternal benefits: a great reward in heaven, and crowns of life, to name only two. So, Paul told the Thessalonians, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Jesus told His disciples to rejoice. And Jesus told the people of Smyrna, “Fear not.”
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain. (William Cowper)