The family of God is a culture of children, fathers, and sons. As God’s children we know that God loves us, our sins are forgiven, and He is in our lives. As fathers we know that He is good and able to work all things out for good in our lives. We have known Him who is from the beginning and we give hope to others that God will always work things out in our lives. As sons we are all growing in our ability to overcome in all things. We are strong in God’s Spirit and in the testimony of His word. We can overcome anything and everything that comes from the wicked one, because we know the power of God’s grace at work in our lives. God’s mercy reveals His love and His presence, but God’s grace is the personal working of His love and His presence in our lives.
In the book of Revelation, the seven letters relate to the church that was in John’s day, the church that was throughout time in the past, and the church that would be in the days to come. The context of the letters is from a New Covenant reality of what is, what was, and what is to come. This is the reality of Jesus in our lives. He is the One who is, who was, and who is to come in all situations and at all times. When we have a revelation of Jesus in our lives we discover the empowerment of God’s grace at work in our live. When we see Jesus, something supernatural happens to cause us to overcome! It is the power of God’s grace at work in our lives!
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ…
The letter to Smyrna revealed that some were about to be thrown into prison, as was Joseph at the hand of his brothers. They were told to remain faithful in the midst of suffering. Those who remained faithful would receive the crown of life, just as Joseph was rewarded for his faithfulness. It is through death in Christ that we receive the crown of life (Jam. 1:12). Faith towards God will empower us to even endure suffering with a testimony of works that speak of our faith. This was part of the overcoming foundation of the firstfruits first century Church! Their overcoming faith set precedence for every successive generation in the Church!
Revelation 2:8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: 9 I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
The testing for ten days is reminiscent of the language of the children of Judah in Babylon. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the captives placed into service of the king after Babylon laid siege to their nation (Dan. 1:7). These men were placed into a natural circumstance that destroyed all of their former expectations of the future as sons in Judah. Natural sight was for sure a challenge to their faith. After assessing the situation, these men requested that they be allowed to eat only vegetables and drink only water for ten days (Dan. 1:12). The number ten is symbolic of ‘completeness’, ‘totality’, ‘judgment’ – more specifically, a ‘judgment of love’, as the ten commandments sum up a love for God and a love for others. The lives of these men exhibited a faith towards God and a testimony of not fearing death. Faith works through love (Gal. 5:6, 13). These men refused to compromise in their love for God and they were not shaken in their belief of His love for them. They had faith to eat the Babylonian vegetables and drink the Babylonian water, but eating the other delicacies of Babylon would compromise their faith towards God. They refused to be separated from their love for God.
These men were given different names by those who observed them from a culture that did not understand faith and God’s overcoming grace. The names of these men speak of a testimony of faith that gives men access to the overcoming grace of God in all things. Daniel means, ‘God is my judge’. To him the Babylonians gave the name Belteshazzar, a name meaning ‘one who knows secrets’. When we trust the One who speaks it will appear to those who don’t understand faith that we know secrets. The name Hananiah means, ‘God is merciful, gracious and a giver of gifts’. It is a name that implies being willing to receive everything and anything from the One who speaks. To Hananiah the Babylonians gave the name Shadrach, a name meaning, ‘one who sucks the nipple’. A culture of faith inspires a attitude of being willing to receive everything and anything that God gives. When we are willing to receive anything that God gives it will appear to those who don’t understand faith that we are childish and foolish in our actions. The name Mishael means, ‘who is asked for or lent’ in the sense of ‘in awe of God’ or ‘God is awesome’! This name implies an awe for the One who speaks. To Mishael the Babylonians gave the name Meshach, a name meaning ‘drawn or controlled by force’. When we are willing to respond to the One who speaks with actions of honor, those who do not understand faith will accuse us of being controlled by force. They will interpret our honor for God as some cultic force of control in our lives. The name Azariah means, ‘God is my help’ or ‘he that hears the Lord’. It implies not knowing anything and being completely dependent upon God. The Babylonians called Azariah, Abed-nego, a name that means you are ‘in league with the god of knowledge or science’. It implies that you ‘know things’. When we are completely dependent upon the One who speaks it will appear to those who do not understand faith that we are in league with some form of knowledge or enlightened truth. These are the attributes of a culture of faith that knows how to access the grace of the Spirit of Wisdom to overcome any fear of death.
The Holy Spirit in the expression of the Spirit of Wisdom is a testimony of ‘faith’ towards God in the face of worry and death. This kind of wisdom inspires actions that testify of faith towards God. Faith without works is dead, but faith motivated by the Spirit of Wisdom is seen in works done with the absence of the fear of death (Jam. 1:2-6).
Those who enter into the New Covenant are granted resurrection life whereby the second death has no power over them. All New Covenant Believers have passed from death to life and have been justified to live by faith (Eph. 2:1-5; 1 Jn. 3:14). The New Covenant believer has experienced a first resurrection and is thus prepared for the physical resurrection at the end of the world (1 Cor. 15:22-28). They are forever alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1, 4-6; Jn. 5:24-29; Rom. 6:4 -1st and 2nd resurrections).
Revelation 2:11 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”
The person who is clothed with Jesus Christ is the inheritor of the promises of Abraham (Rom. 11:11-24; Gal. 3:7-9, 26-29). When we have no fear of death we are motivated to do things that speak of our faith. That faith is demonstrated with actions that testify of a love for God in our hearts. Faith works by love (Gal. 5:6). Faith towards God is seen in our works of faith (Heb. 6:1; James:all). The Spirit of Wisdom (Isa. 11:2) in Christ is the angel of the Church of Smyrna. Because we died in Christ we forever live to do works in Christ. Pain and suffering only prove to birth a new day in Him! In Christ we can know one faith!
Food For Thought,
Ted J. Hanson