Time, Truth, and Human Existence (Rev.2:8-11)
The second letter Jesus dictates is written to a church called Smyrna. He speaks with an air of authority to these believers that rings true to our experience too. He describes Himself as having authority over time, truth and human existence. The letter to Smyrna is a letter to each of us, because, admit it, we all have issues with letting someone else, even God, have authority over us.
“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 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 the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.”
Jesus is the Time Authority. He calls Himself, “The First and the Last” in the realm of time; He brought time into being, sustains the world within the parameters of time, redeems time for His glory, and is the host who will usher us out of time and into eternity one day.
At its root, Smyrna’s problem is time-related. The church is suffering, and the suffering seems to be endless. The believers in Smyrna are in constant pain, dire poverty, and their very lives are at stake because of their faith. The political climate is not a healthy one for these faithful few; the social stigma and price to pay for their faith is high and is not about to end soon. Jesus admits it. So if Jesus is the authority over time, why does He allow these trials to go on and on?
We know how the Smyrnans felt. Some of us have suffered interminably too: we’ve lost friendships, educational opportunities and job prospects because our faith has called us to be people of integrity. Time hasn’t changed. Pop culture has always attempted to silence those who speak of God’s authority. Jesus encourages us to “not be afraid”, but to “be faithful”. We mustn’t quit. He has time and us in His hands, and it will all come out right in the end. Jesus promises.
Jesus is also the Truth Authority. He calls Himself “The First and the Last” Word. He created the world with the first of words and he has the last say in everything. He knows truth so intimately, nothing and no one can deceive Him: not Satan nor his demons, not those who hide their evil behind facades of false piety, not even the lie that tempts us to think all roads to truth are equal. He alone is Truth. Allowing His Spirit to reveal truths to us through His Word, the Bible, is His exclusive right; the slander of those who seek to destroy is nothing but lies. As we suffer the corruption of truth in our culture of relativism, he who has the authority of truth calls us to endure. Hold fast to truth. His ways are right and one day all will be made right. We have His word on it.
And thirdly, Jesus is the Human Existence Authority. He is the “one who died and came to life again”. He has experienced everything the Smyrnans or we can ever experience, but without sin. He has lived the gamut of life and death experiences; there is nothing in living that surprises Him. Do we have pain? He did too. Have we been disappointed? He knew it deeply. Have we felt joys? Deeper still are His. Again, Jesus says don’t quit: don’t quit believing Him, don’t quit finding identity in Him, and don’t quit living life fully for Him. Jesus, the authority on life, has more life to give us than we can imagine.
Time, truth and life are all under the authority of Jesus. That’s what Revelation 2:8-11 reveals. While culture likes to intimate that there is no ultimate authority, that it’s all relative, Jesus speaks a different message. Don’t be intimidated, He says. I am there for you through all of life and truth and even beyond time into eternity. I give you authority to overcome every obstacle if you are faithful. I am with you. Our response to this challenge determines our outcome. Let’s take the risk, submit ourselves entirely to Him and see what He will do. Isn’t it high time we truly start living?