There is a little letter tucked into the second chapter of Revelation, written by Jesus to a church that was greatly persecuted and burdened. The old apostle John wrote down the letter as Jesus gave it to him and sent it to the church, as he did with six others to whom Jesus wanted to send a personal note.
There is a curious passage in the letter to the church in Smyrna that captured my imagination one day and, late last night, I thought it might be a point of encouragement for the church today, not only here in the U.S., but around the globe.
Jesus knows what we are all going through, those living in terrible, disease-ridden, areas, the persecuted in Africa, North Korea, China, and the Middle East, even those thrown off-kilter with the Corona virus that find themselves in an epicenter of the spread and wonder how to face it. Jesus knows. He hasn’t changed, and He has an encouraging word – there is a limit.
The following is a short passage from my little book, Sincerely, Jesus…
Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 2:10
Jesus knows what they have been through, He knows the pressure they are currently under, and He says, basically, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.” See it there, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer.” Wow! The Christians in Smyrna have been under the torturous hand of persecution for some time, and, instead of finding solace, they are told that it is going to get worse.
Have you ever been to the end of your rope? Taken all the sickness, rebellion, heartache, and tribulation you can bear? How encouraging would it be to be told, “Friend, don’t be afraid, but it’s going to get worse.” To hear something like that would surely knock the wind out of you and you might rightly think, “I don’t know if I can take much more of this.”
But, before we drop our hands and give up, Jesus provides a curious detail that brings new perspective to the upcoming season of trial.
It’s going to last ten days.
Scholars don’t really know what Jesus meant by ten days of tribulation. Some have suggested that it refers to the ten periods of Roman persecution, while others say it refers to ten literal days of prolonged attack. But whatever “ten days” refers to, it means that Jesus is determining the limits, not Satan. The period of suffering cannot go beyond the limits Jesus has set. There is no power in hell or on earth that could extend this trial to eleven days. It won’t go eleven. It won’t go twelve. Christ Jesus sets a boundary beyond which Satan cannot go.
Whatever it is you are going through, whatever suffering and trial you are being afflicted with by the enemy of your soul, there is a limit, and Jesus has already determined it! Whether you are in day one or day eight, the good news is that Jesus has defined the limits to the distress and tribulation over your life. He knows you better than you know yourself, and He knows that you can make it. If you couldn’t, He wouldn’t let it continue. Take a moment and say this out loud a few times, letting it sink into your heart and soul;
“I can make it ten days. Jesus defines the limits of my suffering, not Satan. I will make it. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. With Christ’s strength, I will make it ten days!”
Then Jesus adds, “be faithful unto death.” Now does that mean that they would be dying for their faith? Yes, some would. Many did, and more Christians around the world will, even this week. But it also means remain faithful no matter however long life is and through everything that comes your way. Be faithful unto death. Remain faithful if you live another fifty years; remain faithful through thick and thin; remain faithful unto death whether it comes tomorrow through persecution, or thirty years from now due to old age, and you will receive a crown of life.
What a great crown! This isn’t a crown of gold; it’s not a crown of jewels, this crown is made of a different material altogether. The crown being fitted for the faithful is made of life. Can you imagine a crown of life? I don’t know what it looks like, but I know there are many people, some of our own loved ones, who are wearing theirs even now. And I know that Jesus has one ready for each of His precious, faithful, persevering children.
There is a limit to this, dear one, it has already been set by Jesus. Satan can’t step one inch across that line. You can make it. Press on.