To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: “The First and the Last, the One who was dead and came to life, says: I know your tribulation and poverty, yet you are rich. … Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will have tribulation for 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. The victor will never be harmed by the second death.” Rev. 2:8-11
In China, Christians are often arrested, thrown into prison and sometimes tortured. In the Middle East, they are disowned by their families, sometimes killed. In West Africa, they can be ostracized from their communal society. In Nigeria, their churches are targets.
Most believers in the West have never tasted tribulation like these verses describe. For now. Will our faith hold, if one day we are held to the fire like so many of our siblings across the sea?
Jesus himself spoke these words to people who faced imprisonment, torture and death. He reminded them that even if the government stole their houses and lands, even if it tore them from their children and families, they were rich. It takes a mighty faith to believe that when one is homeless and sick, when one is lying on the slimy floor of a dungeon. “I am wealthy beyond imagination.”
For those who endure to the end, Jesus promises the crown of life. Imagine, stepping out of a prison cell into Heaven itself, trading the grey walls for golden streets. Imagine a woman at the end of a whip, bleeding on the dusty ground of her village, arriving into the blinding light of God’s throne room and hearing the words “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Then, truly, those persecuted and poverty stricken will see the riches they have longed for and trusted in – the riches of God’s presence and rest, a home with Him where they will weep no more.
I’ve not faced the suffering that persecuted believers endure, but that doesn’t mean I won’t. And even if I don’t, these verses apply to me, too, to anyone who has given his or her life to Christ unreservedly, who is seeking His kingdom instead of worldly success. Those of us who follow Jesus heart and soul have treasure in Heaven that no one can steal.
I am a wealthy woman, and no man can take that from me.