“These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and which is life (2:8)”
Here the risen Christ places stress on the immortal aspect of Godhead. He is first and the last of which the Alpha and Omega aspect is a symbol of his immutability.”For I am the Lord, I change not;….(Mal.3:6)”. It reveals two qualities which has to do with Life (in capitals against life that signifies all created life forms). Secondly it denotes Intent, his Will “”For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD (Is.55:8-NIV). When God has chosen to give abundant Life or Life it reveals His constancy or immutability of which the world know nothing.
Against this constancy the world is given to changes. Persecution of the godly is how the world will use its power as a persuasive weapon. Reason is simple: the world and its blandishments come from a different source than from God.
When Christ reveals himself to the church he has a definite purpose. The church at Smyrna need take comfort that the wave of persecutions that were breaking about them would spend itself and it shall not prevail. For this reason St Paul asserts confidently “… Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:….in that he liveth, he liveth unto God (Ro.6:7-10). It is a high calling that no one who is worldly,- though he were revered as benefactor of the people and were to carry names anything from Caesar to President, can ever hope to equal. and you may ask why? All these are changeable and at the snap of fingers their glory and honor can change to dust.
Crown of glory is reserved for the overcomers. This is the prize of anyone whosoever is adopted in God through his Son. It is calling, a high calling since it transcends death. For this St Paul suffered and did not faint. In his own admission we have a resume:”Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;2 Co.11:25-NIV. “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God (Ac.20:24).He despaired at times of a thorn on his side that constantly caused concern. He prayed thrice for its removal but what did our Redeemer Lord say? “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me(2 Co.12:9)”. Considering the weight of glory that God has promised for his saints, and among them martyrs throughout the ages willingly suffered,-and death was not their end but what the world cannot see,- their hope which was secure in the eternal promises of God. Recall the manner St Stephen faced death? Ac.7:56-60. What could instill such courage or beatific expression in the face of death? It is a crown that never fades or dulls with changes. It is the crown of righteousness. Faithfulness of the One who promised St Paul,-for whom sufferings were very familiar, having tasted death for all lives forever. “The crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing(2 Ti.4:8,7).
We are not of this world. We revere the blood of the Son too precious for any changeable circumstance of this world to dissuade us to treat it lightly. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.(Jn.15:18-20). If we had been foreordained for glory before the worlds began we need set before us that it is a high calling and we shall attain it with grace from high. If we have been set apart for glory it may be necessary to withstand every obstacle that stands in way, so we may reign with him for eternity. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.(Phil.3:14)
(To be continued)