This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Smyrna:
I am the first and the last. I died, but now I am alive! Listen to what I say.
I know how much you suffer and how poor you are, but you are rich. I also know the cruel things being said about you by people who claim to be God’s people. But they are really not. They are a group that belongs to Satan.
Don’t worry about what you will suffer. The devil will throw some of you into jail, and you will be tested and made to suffer for ten days. But if you are faithful until you die, I will reward you with a glorious life.
If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. Whoever wins the victory will not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:8-11)
God’s perspective is hard to come by and hard to keep in our heads. Smyrna is on the west coast of what is today the nation of Turkey. At the end of a major east-west road, it had a good harbor, along with a major temple dedicated to the worship of Rome and its Emperor. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the city was very loyal to the Roman Empire. The Christian community in Smyrna was in conflict with the Jewish people there, or at least its leaders. Apparently the Jewish religious leaders regularly accused the Christians of crimes. And they repeatedly brought all their legal disagreements before the city’s government.
In the letter that Jesus dictated to John, Jesus told these suffering Christians that these religious leaders who were persecuting them, though they claimed to belong to God, actually didn’t. Instead, the religious establishment aligned against them in Smyrna belonged to Satan.
Jesus comforted his people in Smyrna with the fact that though they would suffer, it would be only temporarily. The “ten days” means that they would suffer for a short time, just as Daniel and his three companions. They were tested for ten days by having to eat nothing but vegetables and having to drink nothing but water. But when the time of testing ended, they not only survived, but prospered. Likewise, God struck Egypt with ten plagues, but as a result, Israel gained its freedom.
Bad times are not permanent. Eternity with Jesus will make all our suffering, no matter how severe, seem like nothing.