Poor but Rich

David Bast

READ : Revelation 2:8-11

I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. (v. 9)

Though the city of Smyrna was rich and flourishing, the Christians there were miserably poor. All their faith seemed to have gotten them was discrimination and harassment. But the Lord reverses the world’s judgment. In his eyes, the Smyrnan believers were really rich—rich in faith, hope, and love. His word to them was to remain faithful, even through testing.

“I know” is Christ’s word to the church living under the cross. He knows all his people must endure, and he also knows the quality of their costly devotion. Nothing is lost on him. So he encourages them. Even though the devil may be behind their tribulation, the Lord is sovereign over it, and it will not exceed the limit he has set for it (v. 10).

Fifty years after this letter was written, Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna (who as a young man had known John), was arrested and threatened with execution. A sympathetic official urged Polycarp to acknowledge Caesar as Lord, and save his life. But the old man refused: “For 86 years now I have served [Christ], and he has never done me wrong; how could I blaspheme my king who has saved me?” Thus Polycarp followed his Lord’s instructions to the letter. He was faithful unto death, and so received the crown of life.


Pray for all the “Smyrna churches” in our world today.