The book of Revelation was written by the apostle John to the seven churches of Asia in order to reassure them as they faced persecution from the Roman Empire. Although this book is full of symbolic language that defies our ability to understand it, the basic message is a simple one. It is that the Lamb, Jesus Christ, will be victorious over the evil one. It is a message of hope and encouragement that sustained these early churches in troubling times. It is a message that continues to sustain Christians today because nothing has changed. The Lord will still be victorious in the end, and those who stand with Him will be victorious as well.
In Rev. 2-3 the Lord spoke directly to each of the seven churches of Asia. In each message He exhorted these churches to live up to their calling as Christians, and He challenged them in the specific areas of faith and conduct in which they were lacking. In Rev. 2:10, as the Lord spoke to the church in the city of Smyrna, He gave them an exhortation that is universal in its application. He said, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
The Lord’s exhortation to Smyrna was that they must remain faithful to Him until death in order to receive the promised reward at the end of time. In their case, being faithful until death might mean being martyred for their faith. Even at that time, however, martyrdom was a rare circumstance. The more common situation, even then, was for a Christian to live until he or she naturally passed from life. This is actually the greater challenge, and is what makes the Lord’s exhortation timeless.
When one obeys the gospel, he commits himself to live for the Lord from that day forward. It is a lifetime commitment that requires our very best, as any worthwhile endeavor does. The Lord, having washed our sins away, expects us to remain faithful to Him until our walk on earth is done. This is certainly what the imagery of Mt. 7:13, 14 suggests when the Lord said to enter the narrow gate that leads to life. One does not enter a gate and then stop. Having entered the gate, we must continue on the way until we reach the goal.
A common adage in our time is, “Quitters never win, and winners never quit.” Whether we know it or not, this is the biblical principle of being faithful until death. Those who win with the Lord at the end of time are those who never quit their faithful walk as children of God. Among those who lose at the end of time are those who did not remain faithful to their commitment to Christ.
In ancient Judah, King Asa is an example of one who began well, but did not remain faithful until death. It is a tragic story that illustrates the folly of giving up one’s commitment to the Lord. Early on in his reign, Asa fully depended on the Lord, placing his destiny and that of Judah in God’s hands. His trust in the Lord was rewarded with great victories over his enemies and favor from His God. Near the end of his reign, however, Asa turned away from God. He suffered for doing so, and is today remembered as an unfaithful king.
Being faithful until death is the greater challenge, but we draw strength to remain faithful from the words the seer Hanani spoke to Asa long ago. In 2 Chr. 16:9 Hanani said, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” The Lord wants us to remain faithful until death, and He will empower us in this endeavor if our hearts are fully committed to Him.