Revelation 2:8-11

We often face situations in life that buffet our faith in the Lord. We or our family members face injustice. We experience health problems. Our non-believing family members die suddenly. When we encounter such situations, we often wonder, “Does the Lord really love us?” How does the Lord feel about these types of situations?

There are times when life goes bad for all of us. The letter from Jesus to the church at Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11) helps us think biblically about life’s struggles, especially those struggles that come because of our Christian faith.

The letter to the church at Smyrna tells us something about this church and much more about the Lord Himself. Through these brief words, we will find much to encourage us in our own struggles.


“I know your afflictions” (verse 9). The word “afflictions” does not describe the ordinary troubles of life; rather, it refers to what we might call catastrophic pressure. In another context, it was used to describe a man being crushed by a massive boulder. When the sky falls around us, when all hope is lost, when darkness surrounds us and the enemy closes in, Jesus says, “I know your afflictions.”


“I know . . . your poverty—yet you are rich!” (verse 9). These words are literal, not metaphorical. Christians in Smyrna evidently came from the lower rungs of the economic ladder. If they once had been rich in worldly goods, those days were long past. No doubt many had lost their jobs in the trade-guilds because they would not say, “Caesar is Lord.”

To these poverty-stricken Christians, Christ says, “But you are rich!”

Is He mocking them? It depends on how we value time versus eternity. If this life is all that matters, then the words of Jesus are nothing more than pious nonsense. What good is it to say, “You are rich!” to people who are starving?


“I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9). Who are these people who are called a “synagogue of Satan”? This fearful description applies to those Jews in Smyrna who had joined forces with the pagans to accuse the Christians of treason against Rome. In taking sides against the church of Jesus, they were taking sides against the Lord Himself.

Because Christians did not worship idols but instead worshiped God, who is invisible, they were sometimes considered atheists.

Never be surprised when religious people hate you. They hate Jesus, too. And religious people crucified Him.


“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days” (Rev. 2:10).

We find much to instruct us in this verse. First, our Lord has perfect knowledge of all that is about to happen to us. What surprises us does not surprise Him. Second, the Lord sometimes allows the devil to attack us severely. Third, the Lord limits our sufferings. Jesus tells the church that the severe persecution will last for “ten days.” Some of us may think, “That doesn’t sound so bad.” But how will you feel after you have been fired from your job, beaten senseless, your house plundered, your spouse abused, and your children physically attacked? Will 10 days seem so small to you then?

I cannot explain why some people seem to suffer more than others. While it is true that “into each life some rain must fall,” some folks seem to have a perpetual monsoon pouring down upon them. After pondering this for many years, I have concluded that all our speculations are just that—idle speculations that do not help us much at all. But let us rest our soul in this: We cannot be tempted beyond that which we are able to bear (1 Cor. 10:13). Think of it this way: If Jesus says you will suffer for 10 days, no force on earth can make your suffering last 11 days! It won’t end early, but it won’t go longer either. The Lord has determined the time limit on our trials—whether for 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 months, 10 years, or 10 decades.

That is why He says, “Fear not.” The Lord knows what He is doing, and He is doing it. He will accomplish His purpose concerning us.


“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death” (Rev. 2:10, 11).

There is one important fact we must not miss: Jesus never promises to remove the trials of life. He never says to the church at Smyrna, “Just believe in me and everything will get better.” Jesus was not a “prosperity gospel” preacher. That heresy has infected the church around the world and created a generation of Christians who are materialistic, worldly, and spiritually anemic. Because they have no theology of suffering, they are not ready when suffering comes, so they have no strength to face the terrible struggles of life.

Jesus never says, “Believe in me, and I will give you an easy life.” He says, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

No doubt many of the believers in Smyrna paid the ultimate price for their faith. Having followed Jesus in life, they now wait for Him in death. It is against that backdrop that we see the importance of Christ’s title for Himself in Revelation 2:8: “These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.” These are the extremes.

Death itself has no power over the believer who remains faithful (John 11:25).

We may die—indeed, we will die someday! That’s not the question. Will we be faithful no matter what? Fear not! Be faithful! Death may come, but it cannot take from us what God has given us. The world gives fame, and the world takes it away. So be it. We are rich today and poor tomorrow. We have a job and then we don’t. We are healthy and then cancer strikes. We have a happy family and then it falls apart. Our friends say they love us and then they disappear.


To those who stand strong in the midst of trials, the best is yet to come. We will receive the “crown of life” and reign with Jesus forever.

Be encouraged, child of God. Buckle up your chinstrap and get back in the game. Don’t run from the troubles of life. You are richer than you think.

Jesus is coming soon! Jesus knows your troubles. He knows your poverty. He knows your enemies. Jesus says, “Do not fear. Be faithful, and I will give you the crown of life.” Are you willing to be faithful to the Lord?