Word for the day by Christian Education Forum
Faithful, even to the point of death
“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
Today’s passage is a beautiful exhortation to the church in Smyrna. Smyrna was a city located on the west coast of Turkey, north of Ephesus. Smyrna also means “myrrh” which is fitting, since myrrh was a spice used to embalm the dead (and as one of the key ingredients in holy anointing oil). In this short passage, Smyrna is exhorted to continue to be faithful, even to the point of death. It is a comforting message, which starts with Christ stating that He is the Alpha and the Omega, who died the first death and has been resurrected. With that first sentence, Christ offers hope to Smyrna – that their persecution will not be for vain.
The passage further discusses that Smyrna is afflicted and poor – yet that they are rich. This can be contrasted against Chapter 3 of Revelations, where Laodicea where they are spiritually poor yet materially rich. Smyrna continued to be a fragrant offering through its persecution, and the passage exhorts them to stay strong – even in the face of unthinkable persecution and death. The message came true in Smyrna – in the life of Bishop Polycarp. Polycarp was a pupil of Apostle John, and he was a famous martyr in Smyrna. He was persecuted for his beliefs, and he was offered a reprieve from death if he would deny Christ. Polycarp stood strong and said, “Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" Because of his refusal to deny Christ and offer incense to Caesar, Polycarp was burned alive. What an example of unyielding faith that has been provided to us!
As we read this passage, the question we must ask ourselves is: who are we? Are we Smyrna or Laodicea? When we look at our lives and the strength of our conviction – are we ready to be faithful, even to the point of death? This is a difficult question to ask – but it is more relevant today than ever. As Christ foretold in the Revelations, there is persecution coming. The passage points out, that the Smyrna would suffer persecution for “ten days” but their reward would be the “crown of life”. Christ rightly points out that while the suffering will be great; it is short-lived when compared against eternity. The second death is one that His people would not suffer.
The passage started with Christ declaring that He is the First and the Last. Our time on earth is but a fraction of time, where we can be a fragrant offering to God. Let us use the example of Polycarp and the church in Smyrna to strengthen our resolve in this age of relativism and spiritual weakness.
Prayer: Father, we ask that you strengthen our faith; that we might be more like the Church in Smyrna. Help us to focus on our spiritual riches instead of our material riches, so that we can be faithful, even to the point of death. Amen.
Thought for the Day: He is the Alpha and the Omega
Charles Abraham, St. John’s MTC, NY