GETTING THE MESSAGE/In Christ, you are rich indeed

GETTING THE MESSAGE/In Christ, you are rich indeed


Revelation 2:8-11 is the letter to the church in Smyrna from the Lord Jesus. He tells the church he knows what they are going through: “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”

Economic prosperity came from Rome, and Smyrna was known for honoring the Emperor of Rome. Rome allowed regions under its reign to worship their own gods so long as they didn’t rebel against Rome. Judaism was an acceptable religion to Rome. For a time, Christians were seen as connected to Judaism, but in Smyrna it is apparent the Jews had accused Christians of being opposed to Rome.

This happened in other cities as well (see Acts 17 and events in Thessalonica). The effect of this slander in Smyrna was to cause Christians to suffer economic hardship. They might have lost their job or business, been fined, or endured other hardships. They suffered for belonging to Christ.

The Lord tells the church that though they are poor in this world, they are rich spiritually. The apostle Paul said of his own poverty, “As having nothing yet possessing all things.” If we have Christ as our portion, we can never be impoverished in what matters the most. Our chief good will be in the infinite God. 

Earthly goods or portions are perishing and left behind when we die. At Christ’s right hand are eternal riches. Patrick Henry, the famous patriot in the founding of America, ends his will with a statement about his worldly goods: “This is the poor inheritance I leave to my dear family. But the religion of Christ can give you an inheritance that will make you rich indeed.”

In verse 10, we see that the Lord tells his people in Smyrna that they are going to go through more suffering: “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.”

When you hear, “Do not fear,” and then an alert that prison and death may be around the next bend, it isn’t easy to not be nervous. The encouragement “Do not fear” is connected to the sovereignty of Christ over the tribulation. He says it is a test, which means it will show the validity of their faith and assure them that they will receive the crown of life, meaning eternal life.

Throughout the New Testament, Christians are taught to value eternity over the present world. Paul described the great afflictions he suffered as “light and momentary in comparison to the eternal weight of glory.”

James said to Christians facing tribulation, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life.” Peter says something similar in his first epistle when he tells Christians that their trials are proving the genuineness of their faith which is of more worth than gold which perishes.

To the Christian, genuine faith in Christ and an inheritance of eternal life with Christ is of more worth than the whole world if we could have it. We have a better possession and one that abides forever. If you have forgiveness of your sins in Christ, you are rich indeed.

George Swinnock , a 17th century Christian, knew what it was to face suffering and death for his faith. He writes to other Christians who are facing tribulation, “Make Christ your chief portion. You may receive comfort from this portion in the most afflicted condition. Do men steal your possessions? You have a more enduring substance and are rich toward Christ.

“Do they cast you into prison? Though your body is in chains, you may fly to heaven in meditation and prayer. Do they take away your food? You have food to eat they know not of. Is your body sick? Your soul is sound, so all is well. If your enemies kill you, they cannot hurt you. They do you a kindness by freeing you from your corruptions and sending you to heaven. Blessed are they who die in the Lord. God is our portion - O think of it and take comfort in it.

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