A Brief Meditation for the Month

April 2021

Among the seven churches in Asia to which the apostle John was directed to write was the “the church in Smyrna,” Revelation 1:11. While the message to this church is somewhat briefer than others, it is a message of encouragement from the glorious head of the Church, Christ himself. The Lord Jesus Christ, who walked in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks (the seven churches), knew of the devil’s opposition to the witness of this poverty-stricken church, with its experience of trials and tribulations, Revelation 2:8–11. Out of the fullness of his divine compassion for his suffering people, Jesus Christ assured the church in Smyrna that he was fully aware of all that was happening to them, and of what they were yet to experience in the future. As Christ’s penman, the apostle John wrote: “behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried.” Just as Jesus knew of Satan’s intentions for Peter while he himself was ignorant of such intentions, so the exalted Saviour knew what the devil planned to do with the saints at Smyrna. Jesus knew in advance that Satan desired to have Peter, to sift him like wheat, and expose his chaffy weakness, and worthlessness, Luke 22:31–32, so he prayed for him that his faith would not fail or die.

Every child of God is required to wage war with the devil, and the forces of the kingdom of darkness, as they make their journey through this earthly pilgrimage. Describing Christian’s confrontation with the wicked Apollyon in John Bunyan’s ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress,’ it was, said Bunyan, “the dread-fullest fight that ever I saw.” Bunyan depicted a conflict so fierce that at one point, Apollyon said to Christian, “I am sure of thee now. And with that, he had almost pressed him to death; so that Christian began to despair of life.” However, the outcome of the conflict was somewhat different. Bunyan wrote, “In this combat no man can imagine, unless he had seen and heard as I did, what yelling and hideous roaring Apollyon made all the time of the fight; he spake like a dragon: and on the other side, what sighs and groans burst from Christian’s heart.” When Christian gained the victory with his two-edged sword, putting his adversary to flight, he said, “I will here give thanks to Him that hath delivered me out of the mouth of the lion; to him that did help me against Apollyon.” [Apollyon, meaning destroyer, is the Greek name of the angelic king of the bottomless pit, Revelation 9:11.]

Sometimes believers become discouraged and are tempted to despair, in the heat of their spiritual battle “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” Ephesians 6:12. Yet, what a source of encouragement for such, when they know that their Saviour already knows of Satan’s schemes and devices. He who knows all things knows when and how to strengthen even the weakest saint, to put the devil to flight. They who believe their Saviour’s promise, never to leave them, nor forsake them, Hebrews 13:5, will persevere and endure to the end. Like Polycarp of Smyrna, the last of the early church fathers to have direct contact with the apostles; when demanded to deny Christ to save his life, boldly testified: “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He has never done me wrong; how can I blaspheme Him, my King, who has saved me? I am a Christian.” For this witness, Polycarp of Smyrna was burned. He was given grace to live for Christ and grace to die for Christ because his Saviour provided the grace, he knew he needed. Dear embattled child of God, he will do the same for you.

G. G. Hutton.