“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.Revelation 2:8-11
A couple observations:
First, the lie of universalism becomes more obvious in light of passages like this in scripture. These are the direct words of the ascended Jesus. If all will be saved one day, what is the point of suffering persecution? What is the point of being faithful? What is the point of Jesus saying that “the one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death” unless there are those who will be hurt by the second death?
This passage couldn’t be more clear–there will be some who are saved and others who are not. Jesus is encouraging the church of Smyrna to withstand persecution for their faith and not fall away so that they can inherit the victor’s crown of eternal life.
Secondly, when Christians around the world today undergo persecution and imprisonment for their faith in Jesus, there are many reasons offered up by our culture. Some offer a political reason. They say, “We need political pressure so that religious freedom and human rights will be adopted by that country.” Others offer a social reason. They say, “We just need greater concern for the religious minorities, and all minorities, in countries across the globe.” And while there is truth in both of these approaches, the political and social realities are just symptoms of the deeper reality that is being missed.
Jesus is clear about who and what is causing the persecution of Christians around the world. He tells the church in Smyrna that it is the devil who is testing them and persecuting them. It is the enemy, Satan, who tries to get Christians to turn away from Jesus by causing suffering. Everyone else is just a pawn in this game the devil is playing. Jesus couldn’t be more clear.
How ironic it is that people then blame God for their suffering. Jesus warns us that suffering will come (“In this world you will have trouble…” John 16:33). Then Jesus tells us who the author of that trouble is–the devil himself (also see Ephesians 6:12). Finally, Jesus encourages us that if we stand firm in the faith we will be rewarded. And what do we do? We turn around and blame God for our suffering…(smh).
“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.“