Strength in the Midst of Suffering (Revelation 2:8-11)

As Christians We Will Find Ourselves Facing Persecution.

Matt Stokes
Nov 29, 2020    42m
Have you ever found yourself facing persecution for your belief in Jesus? This sobering message from the Book of Revelation teaches us that all Christians will eventually be persecuted for their faith, but don't be afraid, for we can find hope in the promise of eternal life that is promised to all believers. Video recorded at Ocean City, New Jersey.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Matt Stokes: 00:02 As the Book of Genesis begins with the origins of the world, Revelation is a Book of the consummation of the world, the divine program of redemption is brought to fruition, Christ is shown as victor before all creation. In the Greek text, the title of this book is Apocalipsis, where we get our word apocalypse, which at its essential meaning actually means the unveiling, the disclosure, or revelation. So the book is a revealing of that which could not be known. And this book is a Book of prophecy, not unlike Daniel or Ezekiel, it is filled with visions, symbols, and imagery that simply need to be understood and put in their proper context. Written by the Apostle John on the Island of Patmos, there is a unifying theme. That's why we need to be careful not to call it Revelations, there is a single, critical, central, unifying theme upon which this book centers, and that is the unveiling, revealing of the victory of Christ. These are not the revelations of John, this is the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Matt Stokes: 01:16 So yes, we want to welcome you back to the Book of Revelation. Hopefully you've brought your copy of the scriptures, as we're trying to recreate and continue with that culture of bringing your copy of the scriptures to church, so that you can read, and you can circle, and underline, and highlight. So open your Bibles please, to the Book of Revelation. I want to welcome all of you that are watching online with us right now as well, you can open your app, in there you'll find study questions and verses to which I'm referring. Some particular notes may be in there as well, that'd be helpful to you.

Matt Stokes: 01:48 When we started the Book of Revelation, just a few weeks ago, in chapter 1, we saw as the book opened that John introduced himself. And then after that, he explained why he was on Patmos, and then he was caught up in a vision. And in this vision, he had this epic, awesome image of Christ revealed to him. And then after that, Jesus speaks to him and says, I want you to write this letter to the seven churches.

Matt Stokes: 02:15 Last time we were together, we looked at the church at Ephesus, and it was remarkable to see what God had to say to them. Jesus, speaking to them, says there are many things that you're doing that are really awesome and wonderful, but there's one thing that really concerns me, and that's that you've lost your first love. And we saw that it's possible to do great works for God, and actually be losing your relationship with God, and he called them back to having a passionate, intimate relationship with him. And hopefully we took that, we applied that to our lives. There's so much to take from each of these particular passages.

Matt Stokes: 02:50 Now, we're going to move into the second church. I was hoping to do all seven churches in two weeks, now it looks like, I think I'm going to do one church a week, because this isn't something that we should rush. And a few of you actually emailed me, you were like do one church a week. I'm like, okay, I think you're right, that's what we should do. We probably shouldn't rush through this, because there's so much for each particular church that I think is applicable to our lives today, or will be at some point.

Matt Stokes: 03:17 So with your Bibles open to Revelation chapter 2. I'm going to pick right up in verse 8 and it says this, God bless the reading of your word. "Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the one who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive." Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. We talked about this last week, the word angel, can also be very easily translated messenger. So we believe that there were seven pastors, or seven overseers over these churches, and these messages are given to these seven leaders that are overseeing these seven churches. And this church in Smyrna, here's something you might find remarkable, it's still there today. Today it's called Izmir or Ismer.

Matt Stokes: 04:15 And actually Smyrna is where we get our word is where we get our word myrrh, you can hear it right in the word. And it's so interesting because myrrh, you know, is symbolic in the scriptures. When Jesus was born, it says the wise men also known as the Maji, they brought three gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold of course, being symbolic of royalty and a King, frankincense, if you didn't know, is the incense that the priests would use, the priestly ministry of Jesus. For those of us who grew up Catholic, you remember during the mass, when they would swing the incense, they would take the incense and put it inside the laver, and then they would swing it. Then the whole Catholic church kind of had a smell to it, even when it wasn't burning, you know, that smell. I can almost smell it right now just because, it's like it's in there for years, right, that smell is frankincense. They use that in symbolic imagery of the priestly ministry in the Old Testament, so priests today still use frankincense. So if you smell that smell, that's the smell of that's symbolic of the priestly ministry. Myrrh is actually symbolic of death, it was used during embalming, and it was used to cover the smell of death.

Matt Stokes: 05:31 What's really interesting is this myrrh, like all incense, it needs to be crushed. Hey, it needs to be crushed in order for the sweet fragrance to actually come forth from it. And how interesting is it that in our lives, it's often in the crushing, is often in the pressing, that the sweet aroma of comes forth from our lives. And it's also unique to Smyrna, because Smyrna, by the way, again, it's still there today, this church is still alive. I told you, Ephesus is just rocks, but Smyrna is still there. Interestingly enough, as well, check this out, this is one of the few churches, Philadelphia, I think is the only other one where there's no rebuke against this church. The other churches had corrections, this church has no rebuke, but it does have challenges. Christ does challenge them, but the challenge they were facing ultimately was persecution.

Matt Stokes: 06:31 This church, although it was called the Jewel of the East, because there were a lot of people there that were affluent, there was a lot of persecution. And here's why, they had an unabashed, unashamed loyalty to the Roman empire. And for that reason, if you were a Christian in this region, you suffered persecution. You suffered hardship. And we'll look at that in just a minute, but I just think it's important for you to see the backstory of why Jesus speaks the way that he does watch what he says again, "This is the message from the one who was the first and the last who was dead..." Was [Foreign language] in the Greek, where you get the word Genesis. It means the one who, watch this, the one who became dead, but is now alive. Now, why would he describe himself that way? The first and the last, the one who was dead became dead, but is now alive. Because if you're going through extreme hardship and persecution, possibly losing your life, you want to know that you're listening to the voice of the one who is the first and the last, the one who was dead became dead, but it is now alive.

Matt Stokes: 07:51 So if I was going to climb Mount Everest, right? Like ideally if I was going to climb Mount Everest, there's probably two people that I would want to talk to more than anyone else. Right? I would read the books, I'd watch the YouTubes, whatever, and go through the training. Two people I would want to talk to, the very first person who ever climbed Mount Everest, and the very last person who just finished climbing Mount Everest. Would that make sense? I mean, I'd want to get the spectrum of, okay, so what was it like and how did it go? So here's Jesus, the scriptures say that he is the firstborn from among the dead. The first fruits from among the dead, Jesus was the first one to rise on his own volition, by his own strength. Jesus said, no one takes my life, I have the power to lay my life down and I have power to raise my life back up again.

Matt Stokes: 08:41 Jesus said in John chapter 13, "As I live, so shall ye live." I lay my life down, I am the first and the last., when it comes to this experience of suffering. Because in this picture he proclaims his eternality, but he also proclaims that his suffering and death, how do these two things work together? Because he is the almighty, he is filled with majesty, and yet he also died and is alive. And I know that if my life is going to go into suffering, pain, and persecution, and maybe even death, this is the one I want to be speaking to. This is the one from which I want to hear. So he introduces himself to this suffering church, this persecuted church, with that introduction, remarkable.

Matt Stokes: 09:33 He says this as well, “I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan." Look at this first phrase, I know about your suffering. Why is this so important? Again, how many of you in this room are suffering in some particular way? And I don't know what that way might be, it may be different for each person in this room, but how many of us go through certain measures of pain and suffering, loneliness, hardship, affliction, anxiety, depression, frustration, and we think to ourselves, nobody knows what I'm going through. Nobody knows the pain that I'm experiencing, I'm alone in all of this. I may be in a room filled with people, but I'm alone in my pain. That's a lie from Satan. Jesus wants you to know, I know you're suffering. And again, that word in your Bible might be tribulation, it's that same word I know you're crushing. I know the crushing. And again, it just by way of analogy, I'll say the same thing is true of grapes. It's only in the crushing of the grapes that the sweetness of that wine comes forth. And Jesus, in the midst of this, he wants to say, hey, listen, I love you and you're not alone, I know you're suffering.

Matt Stokes: 11:21 And he says, did you notice this? I know your poverty. In this region called Smyrna, which was extremely affluent, the Christians were suffering abject poverty. Why? Did you see this, what it said about the Jews? Jews and Christians were all together. In fact, if you know your history, Christianity comes out of Judaism. And if you read the Book of Ephesians, you'll see that there were many Jewish people that were becoming Christians. Well, that actually became counterproductive, so much so, that the Jews actually outing the Christians to the Roman empire. And what happened was is those Christians would either lose their lives, or they would lose their jobs, they would lose their social strata. And again, talking with KP, if you know anything about India, your social status means everything. When you're born you are locked into a social status, and just imagine losing that status, losing your job, now, you can't feed your family. He says, I know, I know you're suffering, and I know your poverty.

Matt Stokes: 12:25 There are these Jews that, he says, I know the blasphemy Did you see that? Of those opposing you. That word blasphemy literally is the word, listen to this, maybe you want to write it real small on your margin, it's the word slander. Now, usually when you think blasphemy, you think like about God. It's like slandering God, but the word in general just means slander, I know you're being slandered. Hey, anybody here ever been slandered? Have you ever have someone speak against you? Like, just say things about you that were hurtful? How about say things about you that were hurtful, that weren't true? What I'm saying is, I have trouble with that. Okay? I'm a pastor, people hurt me all the time. And I say to myself, oh, that was stupid, they didn't mean that. But when someone actually tries to hurt me with their words, I struggle with that. I'm like, [inaudible] right? Like it takes an extra measure of grace and forgiveness for me to try to overcome what's going on in here, when I know someone's trying to hurt me.

Matt Stokes: 13:35 But there's a promise that comes in scripture that says in Timothy, "Yea, all those who live godly in Christ will suffer persecution." Second Timothy chapter 3. If you choose to live for Christ, you will suffer persecution. Peter says the same thing, right, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you." This is the way you're going, the way of all believers when you're suffering a certain measure of persecution, because you're trying to live for Christ. Walk with Christ, go all the way with Christ. In fact, there's another verse, Matthew chapter 5, that's the beatitudes, blessed are the poor. Blessed are the meek, right? There's one, I think it's a 5:11-12, where it says, "Blessed are you when all men revile you, and speak evil of you." And it goes on and explains, "Because such as they did also to the prophets before you, so that your riches may be great in heaven."` So like all the way back to Jesus in the gospels, just know that he was preparing us, Coastal Community, he was preparing us for a day when we very well be suffering for his name. Maybe we're not suffering now the way they are in Indonesia, again, Somalia, and Pakistan, and Iran, and Iraq, and what have you.

Matt Stokes: 15:02 But there's a question I have to ask you, if you're not suffering to some degree, I would challenge you to consider your calling in Christ, your witness for Christ, your testimony for Christ. I don't like being criticized either, right? Like I don't like being criticized, most people don't like being criticized. Right? In fact, in all the years that I've been in ministry, I've been through a lot of criticism. You know, Laura was here first service, my wife could tell you, sometimes the criticism felt almost paralyzing, because some of the negative things that have affected me over the years as I was trying to lead the fellowship. Until one of my mentors said to me, if you're not being criticized, then you're not leading. And all of a sudden that simple statement gave me the strength to rise up and say, do you know what? I'm going to keep on going. So just to let you guys know, you know how for years after messages, when I say, and with that, I'm in? People are like, you know, people always say, why do you say that? Because there was a season I went through where I was like, so criticized in the midst of trying to lead. Someone said to me, well, look, you could go anywhere and just take your messages, you've got to go big archive, you could go anywhere you want, are you still in this? I'm like, I'm in. And since then, I always finished the message by saying, and with that, I'm in. It's my way of saying, I'm still going. If there's one way I can stop being criticized, do you know what that is? Just lay down, do nothing. If I don't do anything, I won't be criticized.

Matt Stokes: 16:38 There's probably a dozen churches that you might know that aren't experiencing any criticism today, because they're not doing anything for the gospel. You decide to stand up for Christ, go all the way with Christ, shine your life for Christ. Say, I've decided to follow Jesus, and there is no turning back. And you will be criticized, it is promised in the scriptures. So I just want to comfort you with that, as much as challenge you with that, but also be comforted because Christ said that that day is going to happen, there are going to be those that oppose you.

Matt Stokes: 17:12 I had a man, his name was Ashton, who came to my Bible study when I worked at another church in Philadelphia, somewhere around Home Circle, if you know where that is. And so the pastor gave these really short sermons. Did you ever hear sermonettes. Right? They say, sermonettes produced Christianettes, right? That's why Matthew and I tend to go long, because we want to produce disciples, right? So he would give these sermonettes, but he gave me permission after church to go in the basement and hold a Bible study, and I would actually teach what he taught in full length. Well, there's this guy, I got a nice handful of people that would come down and sit and listen to me teach in my late twenties. And this man Ashton would come to every one of my studies, and would systematically just cut down everything I said. It was like, he came for the personal purpose of making sure that I would not succeed in teaching them. Well, that's not really what it says. Well, there's another way to interpret that. Have you read the midrash? Do you know the Talmud? Because in the ancient Hebrew, it actually...It's just like, dude, shut up. Like, you know, it was frustrating me because I felt like, like it says here, I know the ones who are opposing you. Like, at some point you realize this is satanic, right? And I'm not afraid to say that, I won't judge, only God knows his heart. All I know is this, I could not minister to the greater majority of people, because this man was committed to making sure that I could not share the gospel with this handful of people that were coming.

Matt Stokes: 18:44 And look, that's not really persecution, it wasn't really suffering. Right? Like we know people that really suffer, right? They're really suffering in India right now, right, and they're suffering around the world. But I'm saying there may come a day where this right here, mask not mask, you know, you get the temperature. I'm like, we will love this, we will long for these days, once again, right, you know, concerned about social distancing and, you know, every other row, and did we hard clean between services? There's going to come a day where we will just, I don't care what, I just want to be back in the house of God, that may come. That day, am I by myself, I feel like that day is closer than it ever was before. I couldn't imagine that growing up, I heard preachers say that growing up all the time, I can imagine it. Okay, I can really feel it, it's like almost palpable at this point. So I'm saying, if you're hearing me, that Smyrna, is getting very applicable to this community, and to this world in which we live today, and I hope you're taking it to heart.

Matt Stokes: 19:46 "I know you're suffering, and I know your poverty." And again, because the Christians were being outed to the Roman empire, they were losing everything. So they were suffering, and they were impoverished, but what does it say next? "But you are rich." Why? Because Jesus sees things, so other than the way we see things. Like for us, it's all about, and me too, like I have financial goals, right? I want to see my kids be successful, and effective, and whatever those things might be. And none of those things are wrong, the scripture says that God has given us all things freely to enjoy, I get that. But it's not about stuff, it's not about the stuff. When it all comes down at the end of the day, at the end of the line, it's about knowing intimately, the one who owns everything, and that is Jesus Christ. Yes, he is the King, I know the King of Kings, I know the Lord of Lords, I know the Prince of Peace. He's personally acquainted with me, he knows everything about me, and he loves me. That makes me rich, you cannot put a price on knowing the King of Kings, and him knowing you. Again, J I Packer said there is no peace like that of a man who knows that he has known God, and God has known him. I would just turn that and say, there is no riches like the riches of a man or a woman, who knows he's known God, and God knows him or her. That's true riches.

Matt Stokes: 21:28 Remember the parable, and I can't get off on too many tangents here, but remember the parable about the man who had the barns. And he had so much stuff, he had to build bigger barns because he had so much stuff. And then it says, the Lord came to him in the night and said, you fool, didn't you know this very night, your soul will be required of you, and who will receive all the things that you now have. And then Jesus said, at the end of that parable, he said, so is the man who is rich towards himself and not rich towards God. What does it really mean? What is Jesus' definition and description of riches, those are the riches for which I want to pursue.

Matt Stokes: 22:11 Next, he says in verse 10, "Don't be afraid." Alright, can we just stop right there? Can you just underline that? Because there are two challenges in this entire little piece we have, and the one challenge is this, don't be afraid. Why does he say that? Well, come on, I mean, he says it because we fear. We have a tendency to be afraid, we are people, we are given to fear. In fact, we talked about this not too long ago, the Bible says not to fear in different forms and variations, don't fear, fear not, be not afraid. If you put them all together, it says it 365 times in the Bible, it's almost like it says it once for each day of the year. Isn't that remarkable? I mean, just works out that way, but I do think it's kind of cool because God knows that every day is sufficient with its own fears, so many unknowns that are in front of us. And when we have unknowns in front of us, we're given to fear. Because whatever that unknown is, watch this, whatever that unknown is, that might be painful. And I don't want to experience pain, I'm kind of hardwired to run from pain. So when I see that unknown, it causes me fear. But Jesus, in the midst of this says what? He says, "Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life." Don't be afraid for what you're about to suffer, the devil will throw you into prison to test you.

Matt Stokes: 23:46 We're all going to be tested, it says here tested for ten days. And let me just, I'll jump to that, and come back. Ten days, like this is one of those pieces that scholars differ, and something ten days means ten epochs of time, ten Roman emperors who put them through particular persecutions. Some people think it means ten years, because you can kind of argue from scripture that one year equals a day in certain places. Some people think it's a literal ten days. I think it's a literal ten days, I try to take things as literally as possible, unless I can't, then I move to the metaphor. Does that make sense? It doesn't matter, well, I think this, I think...It doesn't matter, because what he's really trying to drive home in his point here is this, listen, the point he's making, when he says this is, it's a set amount of time, and it's a short amount of time. He's saying I know Satan's plan, and I'm in complete control of the situation. I know Satan's plan, and I'm completely in control of the situation. You're going to be tested, but it's only going to be for a short time. And if you endure through that, and you're victorious through that, I'm going to give you the crown of life. I mean, what if you really believed in your core that God knew your suffering, and he said, I know everything about Satan's plan, and I've got a plan for you that infinitely supersedes his plan. And I'm going to have the victory, and I want to share it with you. But you are going to be tested, you are going to be tested.

Matt Stokes: 25:17 Remember James said, in chapter 1 of the Book of James, "Consider it pure joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials. Not if you encounter various trials, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing, the testing, the testing of your faith is going to produce endurance. You will be tested. Now, how do you test something? Like, let's just talk about gold, right? So most of us have, you may be familiar with this illustration, but if not, let me just describe it again briefly. When you take gold, and you want to refine gold, actually you take the gold and you melt it into a cauldron, and then you stir it. And what happens is, as it gets hotter and hotter, that gold starts to pop and crack and pop and squeal and everything else, and all these impurities that are in the gold star to rise to the surface. And then when they rise to the surface, there's actually this professional, he's called a smelter, and the smelter takes a tool and he skims those impurities off the top, and then he continues to skim those impurities off the top until the gold is pure enough that the smelter can see his own face in the reflection of the gold. And in that there's this marvelous metaphor that our smelter savior Jesus, wants to test us, so that he can refine us, so that we come forth as pure gold, so that our smelter savior Jesus can look down into the gold of our lives and see his own reflection.

Matt Stokes: 26:53 Can Jesus see his face when he looks into your life? Can I look at you and see the face of Christ, in the way that you're loving, in the way that you're using your gifts, in the way that you're following through on being a disciple? It says in First Peter, that the trial of your faith is worth more precious than gold. The trial, some passages say the testing, the testing of your faith is worth more precious than gold, gold that's been refined in a fire. And it says, so that, here's the reason that the gold is refined, so that it might bring much praise glory on the day that Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. That means a lot to me, right? So like when I read that, and I'm going through a certain amount of trial, and pressure, and hardship, and struggle, I'm like I'm being tested here. But God is refining me, because he loves me, and he wants to look down and see his face in me. And someday, it says in First John, "Someday when he is revealed, I will be like him, and I will see him just as he is. And any man who has this hope..." First John chapter 3, "Any man who has this hope purifies himself." There's that word, the purifying, the refining, "Just as he is pure."

Matt Stokes: 28:08 I mean, does that inspire you? Does that convict you? Like, nobody here wants to be tested, but he saying, let me give you the why behind it all. It's because I love you, and I'm trying to purify you, and the means by which I may do that is through a testing that may involve hardship, it may involve hurt, it may involve persecution, it may involve extreme confusion. Like some of you are going through right now, because you lost someone that you love, and Thanksgiving, it was hard to be grateful. And now here comes Christmas, and there's really nothing merry about it. They say, the research shows, that the suicide rate in this country is the highest during this season right here. I mean, what is that about?

Matt Stokes: 28:58 And here you have Christ in the midst of that saying, I know everything about you, I know Satan's plan. It's going to be a short time, but I want to assure you, I know his plan and I'm in complete control of the situation. So what I want you to do is, don't be afraid, even though you're going to be tested, it's only going to be for a short time. Well, wait a minute, I've had some tests that lasted for years. We'll look, it's a short time in terms of eternity, you have to think what's called eschatological. One of my professors taught me this back in the university, to think eschatological means that you think eternally, you think into infinity, how long is this earth? How long is the length of our trial? Paul says in Romans that this affliction that he's experiencing is light, and momentary, compared to the far more exceeding eternal weight of glory that shall be revealed as we focus, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporal, but what is unseen is eternal. We've got to fix our minds on eternity, and realize no matter what we're going through, you know, that expression, this too shall pass, right? Like the world uses that expression, right? This too shall pass, I don't know if it's Shakespeare or wherever it came from, you can email me if you know, I don't really care. But the point is, but the point is this, that that is never so true as it is for the believer, that this too shall pass. And what's in store for you, is a far more and exceeding eternal weight of glory that shall be revealed.

Matt Stokes: 30:43 "You will suffer for 10 days, but if you remain faithful." That's the second challenge that I want you to underline. There's two challenges in this short little passage, the first one is don't be afraid, and the second one is remain faithful. Hey, Costal, be fearless and be faithful, those are the two things to which he's calling you to today. Be fearless and be faithful. Be faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life." So here's another one of those mysterious places in the Book of Revelation, like the crown of life. Okay, so what's the crown of life? The crown of life, the crown of life, what's the crown of life? I don't know. It's in James, right, in James chapter 1 it says, "Blessed is the one who endures temptation for he shall receive the crown of life." I know this, what really fascinates me, what warms me when I read this, is that not just the crown of life, but guess where I'm getting the crown of life from? Jesus, he gives it to me.

Matt Stokes: 31:45 In Ephesus, when we read last week, it says that Jesus actually gives us fruit from the tree of life. As if eating from the tree of life wouldn't be good enough, he's the one who gives it to you. Right? So it's one thing to eat something delicious, but how about the person you love, who made it for you? Isn't there just something more precious when you receive that from the person...It's one thing to go to a restaurant, tell the chef that was delicious, right? But what about when the person you love makes that meal for you? Jesus, I'm going to be the one who gives to you from the tree of life. You endure, you endure and you remain faithful, even to the point of death, and I'm the one who's going to give you this crown of life. By the way, in the scriptures, there's two crowns, okay? One is a Royal crown, right, that would be placed upon the head of royalty. It's interesting because the scriptures say that we are a royal priesthood, that's interesting. But not the word that's used here, this is a victor's crown, this is the crown that's given to the one who overcomes, the one who wins, the one who wrestles, the one who runs and wins the prize, that's the crown he's saying he wants to give you here. He wants to give you the crown of Zoe, it means eternal life, I want to give you that crown.

Matt Stokes: 33:01 Oh, if I would just have a steady meditation and contemplation on the day that Jesus gives me fruit from that tree of life, and he places that crown upon my head, what kind of life would I live? I mean, we're not even done, we're just on the second church. But imagine these promises, I mean, if you really believe to the core of your being that Jesus is like, hey, this is going to blow your mind, here's the tree of life. And by the way, for being faithful and for being fearless, this is for you, and he places that crown upon my head. And we'll read later in the Book of Revelation that you don't keep that crown too long, it actually says that we will take our crowns and we will cast them at his feet. So I want to challenge you get some crowns, right, you don't want to be in front of Jesus with no crown. And you've got nothing to throw, you've got a little beanie spinner hat on, your like, I got nothing. Right? Get some crowns, endure, be victorious, be an overcomer, and receive the crown of life.

Matt Stokes: 34:09 "Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death." Here's another one, the second death, this is that Revelation cool stuff. What's the second death? What's the second death? It's really simple, there's nothing real mysterious here, the second death is mentioned three times in the Book of Revelation, it just means hell, okay, hell. The first death is your physical death, you die physically, the second death is actually you being cast into hell. And he's saying here, if you endure, and you're victorious, and you're living a life of overcoming, then you will have salvation and you will never experience the second death.

Matt Stokes: 34:52 We have this expression that we use, have you ever heard this? If you didn't, maybe you want to write it down. Born once, die twice. Born twice, die once. You see that, see if you're born once, if you're only born once, you're only born physically, then you're going to die twice. You're going to die physically, and then you're going to die eternally. But if you're born twice, not only physically, but you are born again because you believe that Christ died on the cross for your sins and in your place, and he shed his blood to offer you forgiveness, and he Rose again on the third day to show you that everything that we're reading about and hearing about is true, that's the gospel. Then if your born twice, that's second birth, then you only die once. And you never experienced that second death, which is hell, instead what's given to you is salvation, remarkable.

Matt Stokes: 35:49 So let me just sum it all up one more time, just by saying this, Jesus is the all power, but he's also the suffering savior. I know that seems like a paradox, but both are true. He's the all-powerful, and he's the suffering savior. Why is that so important? Before you leave today, here's why, because there's no contradiction between the omnipotence and the majesty of Jesus, and the suffering that we are, or will have, in our lives. Because when we go through those things, we go, well, he must not be omnipotent, he can't be all powerful, he can't be all knowing, he can't be everywhere at once, he must be weak in this area or limited. And he's saying, no, no, I am the first and the last, and I died and I rose again, all of this is completely who I am. Jesus, again, knows exactly what's happening in your life, I know you're suffering, whatever you're going through. Someone online, sitting right here in these three gatherings, I'm sure that there are some people right now that need to hear Jesus speak to them and say, I know exactly what you're going through. And Jesus has a different perspective, he sees you as rich, regardless of your income, regardless of your social status, whatever, regardless of your 401k or whatever your IRA, he sees you as rich, when you're rich in him, when you have an intimate relationship with the one who knows everything.

Matt Stokes: 37:14 And what looks like government persecution, like let's just take this Roman empire thing, and these Christians, what looks like government persecution, is actually spiritual warfare. And what I'm saying is, I don't think I need to give you too much color commentary to convince that we are living in that right now, whatever this is happening, governmentally, there's a greater reality and that's spiritually. I don't care what side of the platform you're on, I don't care who you voted for, I'm just saying you need to look right now and see that what's going on here is a spiritual battle, and it's raging. It's raging for the souls of men, not to turn States blue and red, but to make sure that men don't find the truth about Jesus Christ. Talk about politics, talk about rights, talk about this environmental concern, but don't talk about the gospel. Don't make it clear that man is sinful and on his way to hell if he doesn't receive the love of Jesus Christ, and the blood that he shed on the cross of forgiveness, that's the message that we need to teach, that's the message that we need to proclaim more than any other message, that's the message of the Christian, every other thing is secondary.

Matt Stokes: 38:26 I hope we have people in here that are politically passionate, and I hope that you're so politically passionate that you get involved in politics. We need Christians in politics, we need Christians involved in all the levels of politics, whether it's state, federal local, I don't care, global. We need Christians involved in politics, but more than anything else, we need Christians to rise up with the message of the gospel, and share the love of Jesus Christ with lost people and make disciples, because as far as I know, that's the last thing Jesus told me to do. Thank you. There's a crown that awaits you in heaven, and it's not just a royal crown, and there'll be other crowns that we'll look at and study, but it's the victor's crown. I want to challenge you to live the victorious life, live the overcoming life. There are two challenges right here, one is to be fearless, and the other's to be faithful.

Matt Stokes: 39:22 So let me say this as we close, I'm going to be very brief. We all want revival, revival, revival. I just pray there's revival. I'm going to revival meeting, there's revival meetings, did you know there's revival meetings at that church? They're having seven nights of revival? Like everyone wants revival, but okay, so do I, but what if revival comes through the vehicle of persecution? Hey, do you still want revival? Because you know, we all hang on revival. Like the key verse for revival real fast, the key verse for revival is like Second Chronicles 7:14. It's like, "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways. God says, this is what I'll do, I will hear from heaven, I will forgive their sins, and I will heal their land." Oh, Lord heal our land, heal our land. Okay, what if God chooses to heal the land through your suffering, for the gospel, through your persecution. Because I can tell you this, where the gospel...And I've read this book all the way from cover to cover, to where I'm sitting right now. I can tell you throughout history, when the message of the gospel is thriving, and when God is getting ahold of people, they're usually suffering. They're usually going through affliction, pain, persecution, whatever type of testing that it might involve for you. You want revival, do you really want revival. Okay, do you want to suffer? Because in the scriptures, these two concepts seem to be very much integrated. And I want to say that to you, to challenge you, but also the comfort you. To challenge you to be fearless and faithful, and comfort you that God knows your situation, no matter what it is, and he's in complete control.

Matt Stokes: 41:25 I'm going to pray, and then after I conclude in prayer, you can be dismissed. Why don't you stand with me please? Father, as we look at this church, Smyrna, and look at the crushing that's happening to the believers, the crushing that's happening to the Christians. We pray Lord that you would in the midst of the crushing, in the midst of the pressing, that happens in our lives, we pray in Jesus' name that the sweet aroma of Christ would come forth from our lives. We pray Lord that we would just really believe to the core of our being that we are rich, when we are rich in you, that in you are contained and held all the treasures, the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. May we have intimacy with you that makes us richer than any lost person in this world, and may the loss look at us and long for the riches that we have in Christ. We pray Lord for these three gatherings, and everyone coming through here, that as we go forth from this place, we would go forth confident in you, fearless and faithful in Jesus' name. Amen.

Recorded in Ocean City, New Jersey.
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