Studies in Revelation: Faithful Unto Death

Studies in Revelation: Faithful Unto Death

I’ve often wondered what it would say if we had the privilege of reading a letter that Paul, John, or Peter wrote to our congregation. Even more interesting, though, would be reading a letter from Jesus. It would likely include elements of the letters that he sent to seven churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) near the end of the first century, and recorded in the second and third chapters of Revelation. Probably, what these churches were doing poorly and what they were doing well would be similar to our successes and struggles today.

Recently we began a series of studies of these letters to learn what Jesus said to these Asian churches and, hopefully, to discern in these letters his message to us. Tomorrow we turn our attention to Smyrna.

In this letter Jesus used some of the most familiar words in the book of Revelation: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” We’ve sometimes read this admonition as if Jesus were saying, “Be faithful until death”–as if he were saying something like, “Be faithful until the day that you die”–but that’s not what he’s saying. The NIV gets it right: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, . . .”

Followers of Jesus near the end of the first century knew what he was saying to them, and it hit close to home. They lived in a time where confessing Christ might very well lead to execution.

For obvious reasons, it’s somewhat difficult to apply these words to ourselves–people who live in times where Christianity and other religions are protected by the government. But nonetheless we get Jesus’ point: discipleship includes the Lord’s claim on our entire lives . . . nothing takes precedence over our relationship to Jesus.

It’s a message that twenty-first-century western Christians need to hear. Christianity has never been a one-day-a-week commitment–show up for church, living a pretty decent moral life, and look forward to eternal bliss in heaven with Jesus. It’s a totalizing claim, i.e., an all-consuming, all-of-life commitment that changes absolutely everything about us.

We’ll wrestle with the difficult implications of this letter tomorrow morning. To whatever extent appropriate, perhaps you can incorporate some aspect of these thoughts into your part of worship leadership.


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