[Rev. 2:8] ¶ “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write the following: ¶ “This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who is the first and the last, the one who was dead, but came to life: [Rev. 2:9] ‘I know the distress you are suffering and your poverty (but you are rich). I also know the slander against you by those who call themselves Jews and really are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. [Rev. 2:10] Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. The devil is about to have some of you thrown into prison so you may be tested, and you will experience suffering for ten days. Remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown that is life itself. [Rev. 2:11] The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will in no way be harmed by the second death.’
From and In. Two little words. Yet as different as Everest (a mountain in Nepal) is to the You-Yangs (a ‘mountain’ range near Lara). Christ promises to keep His followers in times of trouble not from. When troubles come, said Christ, to His disciples, not if troubles come, He would keep them in it. Keep, not abandon. Another little word which we today we only half use by employing it in reference to things we’ve stored away somewhere (but can’t find right now.) Whereas to keep means to hold and guard. Jude thought this was the most valuable thing he could pray for his readers – May the Lord keep you…
It is in this light that Christ tenderly speaks to the beleaguered Smyrnians. Their troubles had started. They felt poor because the rich didn’t have such troubles. Yet because they were depending on Christ, they were truly rich.
We sometimes confuse Christ’s promise to us to keep us as meaning He will keep us from troubles when we should thank Him for keeping us in the midst of our troubles. For the Smyrnians this required spiritual ears to understand just as it does for us today who all too readily confuse Christ’s blessings as supplying how we want Him to bless us. Christ had called the Smyrnians to be victorious which He also calls us to as well. But there can be no victory, no overcoming, no conquering, unless we have battles, difficulties, troubles to deal with. And just in case the we lose focus on what this life has to offer compared to the possible glorious life to come, Christ reminds this embattled church that the prize for doing so would be eternal life. We were born to live forever so let’s not be like Esau who sold his birthright for a piece of bread by selling out on our commitment to Christ in times of difficulty.