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  • Writer's pictureJan Weihl

Worshiping the Government (Revelation 2)

The second church Jesus sends a message to is Smyrna. Smyrna still exists in Turkey today but has been renamed, Izmir. Jesus commended this church, instructed, and encouraged them. They received no correction due to the persecution they endured.

Smyrna was dominated by Roman Emperor worship. This was a fanatical religion that required the people to bow down to the government, in this case Caesar. They were required to burn incense as an act of worship to Caesar. Those who refused to worship him were put to death.

In fact, Polycarp, the bishop of the church of Smyrna, refused to deny Jesus and bow down to Caesar. So he was burned alive at the stake at 86 years old. Well, at least they tried to burn Polycarp at the stake. According to extra Biblical records, the flames circled around him and did not burn him. So they pierced his heart with a spear.

Clearly, the church of Smyrna experienced tremendous persecution for refusing to deny Jesus and obey the government mandate to bow down to Caesar.

We are also living in a time in which the world wants us to bend the knee to ideologies which absolutely fly in the face of God's Word. Affirming these ideologies would be denying the truth of God's Word, just as burning incense to Caesar denied Jesus.

So first we have to know God's Word to make sure we are not denying it. Second, when we are pressured to bend the knee and worship anything other than Jesus, we must refuse in a respectful and loving way which draws people to Jesus rather than pushing them further away.

Let's look at the specific encouragement Jesus gave to Smyrna:

Revelation 2:9-11 [9] I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. [10] Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. [11] .. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.

Jesus commends this church which was persecuted by those claiming to be righteous but were denying Jesus and His Word. In fact, because they refused to deny Jesus and His Word, they were cast out of the trade guilds meaning no one would buy from them.

Can you imagine your employer forcing you to agree to something that would violate your faith and fire you if you refuse to do so? Jesus commended these believers for standing strong in their faith. He encouraged them to stand strong until death and they would be rewarded.

I wonder though if our bigger challenge today is to make sure we are showing love and grace to those who don't know Jesus while at the same time standing strong in our faith.

Dear Lord, It seems to me that it is a bit of a tight rope to shine your light and your love with all people while at the same time obeying Your Word and not bending the knee to anything that contradicts your teachings. Lord, please guide me in how to love all people unconditionally while remaining true to You and Your Word. Lord, I pray for our nation and its leaders to turn back to You and follow You. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Jan Weihl

Living Word Ministries

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