A young man was coming out of church one day, and the preacher was standing at the door as he always is to shake hands. The preacher grabbed the young man by the hand and pulled him aside. The Pastor said to him, 'You need to join the Army of the Lord!' The lad replied, 'I'm already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor.' The Pastor questioned, 'How come I don't see you except at Christmas and Easter?' He whispered back, 'I'm in the secret service.' So too are many in the church today, as we rarely see them except for the occasional sneak in and out of a service. They just aren’t interested in the things of God. So we do whatever it takes to reach the “Emerging Generation,” through power points, laser shows, and dancing bears. What direction does the Bible give concerning this?
In the second chapter of the book of Revelation the Lord Jesus Christ, through the Apostle John, writes to the church in Smyrna and says to them, “These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
Written not only to a church geographically on a local level, but also prophetically on a historical level, the Church in Smyrna corresponds to that era in history from 100 to 312 A.D. when Caesar Nero was burning Christians in his garden for night lights.
The Lord says to this church at Smyrna, “I’m the first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life.’ That is incredibly relevant to our day and age. Turn on the television and what do you see? Extreme sports, extreme feats, extreme living conditions, and extreme encounters with animals. Everyone in our generation wants the extreme and not the dull; they want the flash not the bore. So how does God introduce himself? Extreme! He says, ‘I am the FIRST, and the LAST!’ He tells us, ‘I was DEAD, now I am ALIVE!’ Jesus uses extreme opposites to describe Himself. Then He says, concerning the church in Smyrna, ‘I know thy WORKS, and TRIBULATION.’ The poor church at Smyrna seemed to try to do so well to get an ounce of approval and acceptance from those around them, but got nothing except persecution. Jesus continues, ‘I know you guys are in squalor but in reality you’re filthy rich!’ Here was a church that was outwardly greatly lacking but eternally storing up incredible treasure. The Lord says, ‘I know the blasphemy of them which say they are religious, but are actually Satan’s servants.
There was a heavy Metal Rock band called K.I.S.S., who in the eighties went straight to the top of the charts and seemed to be the leaders of that Genre of Music. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for knights in Satan’s service; they may have appeared to be somewhat respectable but their satanic lyrics were being blamed for all kinds of young violent crimes in that decade. So too, Jesus says, ‘I know you guys are dealing with people that say they are respectable followers of the Lord but are far from that, they are actually knights in Satan’s service.’ This church opened its doors to some extreme hypocrites according to the biblical account.
In verse ten, the Lord begins to describe how the church would begin to suffer, encouraging them to be faithful to the end, and promising them that through their obedience they would be protected from the second death. Now what is the Lord showing us? Simply this, that Smyrna was an extreme church and they served an extreme God. Smyrna had huge faith, no money, great works, and heavy troubles. And God tells an extreme church in a time of extreme persecution to be faithful.
Faithfulness is showing the fullness of my faith by staying in one place. Many in the modern church today say that we need people that are full of faith. God says to the church today, ‘I need people that are faith-ful!’ And many things that the world would call fanatical, the lord calls faithful. He is telling us today, to be an extreme church.
One last thing. At the end of the paragraph, Jesus says, ‘He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.’ What is the Second death. Well Biblically the second death, is what happens to non-believers after the Great White Throne judgment of Revelation twenty, when the world that has rejected Christ is judged once and for all, where all those whose names are not found in the book of life are cast into the lake of fire. Jesus says, ‘Be faithful, and you wont be a part of that. Biblically that is the second death. Practically, the second death comes on Tuesday. What in the world? That’s right the second death is on Tuesday, and the third is on Wednesday. Every day is a new day for the extreme Christian to die to self, as Jesus told his followers – “Take up your cross daily and follow Me.”
It’s been said that, “The church needs revival.” The Church needs a reformation not a revival. The church needs more people that are faithful. The Lord wants more people in church to express the fullness of their faith by doing things that the world around them might actually call fanatical. An extreme church is what our generation needs; a church that takes huge ventures of faith knowing that where God guides, God provides; a church that undergoes persecution and comes out saying, ‘Give me your worst, World, cause I’m givin ya mine!’