10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
As we enter into this passage in Revelation (under the topic of conditional security), I need to admit that I have had a very mixed relationship with this book.
Early in my life, Revelation was the book that “revealed” to me the Judge of all creation, a Mighty God who was holy, rightfully angry at me. Revelation provided word pictures in a seven year old’s mind of a Great White Throne, of eternal suffering and anguish, of darkness and continual pain, of an eternal fire that burned without relief. (See Testimony) Revelation exposed to a seven year old boy a destiny that was certain due to my sin. No mercy was available to that little seven year old!
Fast forward fourteen years and the Judge became my Savior. Mercy and grace was offered to a twenty-one year old alcoholic drug pushing loser and I couldn’t resist. Jesus took my guilt and punishment – How could I not follow?
Yet Revelation was still a book I shied away from. At first, a certain dispensational teaching helped me to avoid the last book of the Bible, placing all the scary stuff (chapters 6 through 19) all beyond my time on earth. I understood that I would be raptured and taken to safety while everyone else would suffer the tribulation. Sure a few verses (such as the ones we are considering today) disturbed me, but I was good at generally ignoring the book.
Yet there were verses in the second and third chapters that would still haunt me, since they were directed to churches, and I gladly identified as belonging to the body of Christ. Dispensational teaching helped out there also, for it taught that each of these churches represented a certain “age” in church history. Under dispensational teaching, Smyrna represented a church under persecution, specifically during the years just prior to Constantine.
Whew – I dodged another bullet! All this talk of suffering was getting hard to avoid, but at least this passage could be ignored safely! Yet the Bible is a consistent message, and though I found an excuse to avoid a truth in one verse, other passages reared their head and witnessed to my heart and mind as I began to listen. Eventually I abandoned dispensational teaching, for the inconsistencies and internal conflicts became too great for me to accept.
Quite an introduction to a short passage, yet this set of verses was one of the many that caused me to jettison my acceptance of dispensationalism. The mention of tribulation for ten days seemed so inconsistent with the seven years of tribulation supposedly taught in the Bible.
And what about that crown of life? Of not being hurt by the second death? This was a church the Savior was speaking to! Didn’t He understand that believers were eternally secure? (I speak as a fool!)
No matter how a believer reads this passage, it is either troubling (or greatly encouraging!)
Be faithful unto death! The passage speaks of a continual faithfulness, of being faithful to the point of death! My understanding of once saved always saved just did not fit into this passage. Wasn’t my initial expression of faith back in February 1981 enough?
Jesus said to “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer”. Believers in this type of church (no matter when the church exists) were to not fear the persecution! It would have a definite time (ten days, not eleven or twelve), an end would come and life would be granted. Pain from men may be experienced, but the hurt of the second death would be avoided by those believers who overcome.
The question that hangs out there is of believers who do not overcome, who are not faithful unto death. Is the crown of life withheld from them? Does the crown of life represent life or rewards for the believer? (This question was discussed in an earlier post – See Conditional Security – Revelation 2:7)
Be faithful unto death. And why not be faithful unto death? Let us not quibble over debatable issues, for He is the Savior, a Great and Mighty God who has died to rescue us. He has rescued me from my rebellion, from my rejection of truth. He is good and His love draws me constantly. Will I allow my heart to reject His continual expressions of love and grace, having witnessed His many acts of kindness in my life?
Truly, my heart can be a traitor to my own good and to my dear Savior. May the Lord give us strength in the life He provides us, in the way we are to walk, and to be faithful unto death, whether He chooses open persecution or otherwise for each of us
For He is good and the great God we have the privilege to worship! May we be faithful to Him.
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