We now proceed to the fourth point. The purpose of the Jews in serving God is that they may reap more wheat from the fields and that their oxen and sheep will not drop their young but multiply manyfold, just as in Jacob’s case. They are after blessings in this world. God’s promises to them are also promises of earth, that among the nations on earth they may be the head and not the tail. But the first promise to the church is that we must take up the cross and follow the Lord. Sometimes when I preach the gospel, men ask, “Will there be any rice to eat when we believe in Jesus?” I have replied, “When you believe in Jesus, the rice-bowl is broken.” This is the church. It is not that we will gain more in everything after we believe. Once when I was in Nanking, a certain preacher said in his message, “If you only believe in Jesus, you may not make big money, but you will at least make a fair living.” When I heard this, I thought that this was not according to the church. The church does not teach how much we shall gain before God, but how much we will be able to let go before God. The church does not think that suffering is a painful thing; rather, it is a joy. Today these four items—the material temple, the outward laws, the mediatorial priests, and the worldly promises—are in the church. Brothers and sisters, we desire to preach the word of God more. We hope that all the children of God, even though they have secular occupations, will be spiritual men.
In Revelation 2:9 the Lord speaks a very strong word: “Those who call themselves Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” The word “synagogue” is especially related to Judaism, just as “shrine” is related to Buddhism, “monastery” to Taoism, and “mosque” to Mohammedanism. A certain brother said that we should not call our meeting place a church assembly hall, but a Christian synagogue. If so, when a Jew passed by, he would greatly misunderstand; for synagogue is a term used exclusively in Judaism. How can we say that there is such a thing as a Christian synagogue and yet not bring in Judaism? The Lord says that they are the synagogue of Satan. The Jews spoken of here refer to the Jews in the church, because they even bring in a “synagogue.” May God be merciful to us. We must utterly get rid of all the things of Judaism.
In the church in Smyrna there was tribulation, poverty, and the slander of the Jews. But what does the Lord say to them? “Do not fear the things that you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison that you may be tried” (v. 10). Fear not! Many times if we could only know that something is caused by Satan, the problem would be half settled. It is when we start thinking that it is caused by men that we have difficulty. If we could only know that it is done by the enemy, the problem would be solved and our heart could immediately rest before the Lord.
“You will have tribulation for ten days” (v. 10). Here we have the problem of “ten days.” Many expositors of Revelation and Daniel are accustomed to counting one day as a year. Since they count these ten days as ten years, they look for these ten years in history but find nothing. I personally feel that there is absolutely no scriptural basis for this. There are many places in the Bible where days cannot be reckoned as years. For example, Revelation 12:14 says, “A time and times and half a time,” referring to three and a half years, and verse 6 speaks of “a thousand two hundred and sixty days.” A Jewish calendar year is 360 days; therefore, 1,260 days are three and a half years. If one day is equivalent to one year, then this would become 1,260 years. If the great tribulation were to last for such a long time, what would people do?
What then is the actual meaning of ten days? In the Bible ten days are spoken of many times. In Genesis 24:55 there are “ten days.” When the servant wanted to take Rebecca with him, Rebecca’s brother and mother requested that she stay with them for at least ten days. When Daniel and his friends would not allow themselves to be defiled by the king’s food, they asked the officer in charge to try them for ten days (Dan. 1:11-12). So “ten days” in the Bible has a meaning, that is, a very short time. The words which the Lord speaks here have the same meaning. On one hand, this means that there are certain days for our suffering, and that our days of suffering are counted by the Lord. After these days, we shall be released just as Job was. On the other hand, it means that the ten days are a very short time. No matter what trials we pass through before God, they will not last long. When the days are fulfilled, the devil can do nothing. The trials which we suffer will pass quickly.
“Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). Faithful unto death is a matter both of time and of attitude. The Lord insists that the life of all those who serve Him belongs to Him. This is why we must be faithful even unto death. Whoever is bought with the precious blood belongs to the Lord and must be wholly for the Lord. From the very outset Christ demands our all. Now He says, “Be faithful unto death.” As to our attitude, we must be faithful even unto death; as to time, we must be faithful until death. “I will give you the crown of life.” The crown is a reward; at that time, life will become a crown.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall by no means be hurt of the second death” (v. 11). Here it clearly says that not only will we escape the second death, but we will not suffer the hurt of this death, for we have already learned the lesson. Tribulations are severe; if we have not been in tribulations, we never know how terrible they are. Poverty is oppressive; if we have never been poor, we do not know the taste of it. Slander is also oppressive; if we have never been slandered, we do not know its painfulness. It is as if every encounter drags us into death, but as we pass through, we prove that resurrection is a fact. The Lord came out of the grave, and we too will come out. His resurrection life today cannot be drowned, so we dare to say that we too cannot be drowned.