Forewarned and Prepared by the Spirit of GodNovember 7, 2017
Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison….
— Revelation 2:10
God loves you so much that if you will listen to His Spirit, He will forewarn and prepare you for things to come — whatever it is that you are to face. A perfect example of this forewarning and preparing is found in Revelation 2:10, where Jesus said, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried.…”
At the time that Jesus spoke these words, He was speaking to the church at Smyrna, who was suffering great persecution. He was forewarning them so they would be prepared by knowing that some of them are going to be put into prison and tried. Rather than let this event take them by surprise, Christ wanted them to know in advance, so He lovingly informed them of what the future held.
Being put in prison is a harrowing ordeal under any circumstance. But to be thrown into a Roman prison was a horrid prospect to contemplate. Thus, with great love, Christ forewarned the church of Smyrna that the devil was going to use this experience to test the commitment and steadfastness of their faith.
The word “tried” is the Greek word peiradzo, which describes a calculated test deliberately designed to expose any deficiency. By using this word, Jesus made it clear that the hardships these Christians would endure were intended to test them to see if their faith was genuine. They had confessed Jesus as Lord, and soon Satan would “try” them to discover if their commitment to Christ’s Lordship was truly sincere. Just as the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13), the enemy was now preparing to tempt these believers with persecutions beyond anything they had ever endured or imagined.
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Believers throughout the Roman Empire were undergoing persecution as well. When the apostle Peter wrote to the believers in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, he referred to the fiery trials that were testing their faith: “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).
Both Scripture and experience confirm that a faith declaration often triggers a devilish attack. Satan’s purpose was to test the sincerity of these believers’ faith to see if they would break under pressure. Therefore, Christ warned the church that these present and imminent attacks would verify whether or not they were really committed to the faith they had publicly declared. If there was any deficiency in their faith, those fiery trials would expose it, for the devil would design this calculated test to break them. Some would succumb to his attacks and recant their faith — but the majority of those who were to be “tried” would endure and prove themselves faithful, even unto death.
Jesus had more to say about what was to come: “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation…” (Revelation 2:10).
The word “tribulation” reveals how intense these fires of testing would be. It is the Greek word thlipsis. The word thlipsis conveys the idea of a burden that is crushing, debilitating, or overpowering. Most often, the word thlipsis was used in connection with displays of extreme hostility or torture. Christ used the word to forecast a time of distress, oppression, pressure, and stress. This word “tribulation” may be understood as a clarification of the word “tried.” The tests the church of Smyrna was about to endure would be crushing, debilitating, and overpowering, resulting in great distress, oppression, pressure, and stress.
It is interesting that although Christ told these believers, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer…,” He didn’t hesitate to tell them that very difficult times awaited them. Jesus knew that Satan was about to unleash a horrendous onslaught against these believers to attack their faith — but He also knew they could endure this test because their faith was indeed genuine.
Jesus then went on to promise that this time of tribulation would last only for a limited period of time. He said, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days…” (Revelation 2:10).
Jesus knew that the intense, impending bombardment would seem unending to the congregation. So when He asserted, “…Ye shall have tribulation ten days….” The phrase “ten days” was meant to give encouragement and hope to the suffering church — letting these believers know that their hardships wouldn’t endure forever. Theologian Albert Barnes noted that the reference to “ten days” refers to “a short time; a brief period; a few days.”12 Bible scholar Henry Alford suggested, “The expression is probably used to signify a short and limited time.”13 Christ is so kind and merciful that He forewarned the believers in Smyrna of this time of persecution so they wouldn’t be taken by surprise. And as He promised, that time of tribulation did come to an end!
Hard times are inescapable in this life, but God’s power always has and always will continue to sustain those who are determined to be faithful to Him. Even if the fires of adversity rage and it seems as if they will never cease, those trials are temporary and will eventually come to an end. Almost 2,000 years of Church history have proven that the persecuted Church always comes forth purer than gold and mightier in the Spirit. The spiritual darkness may seem overpowering at times as Satan fiercely attempts to blot out the light of truth. But as John 1:5 promises, the light cannot be held perpetually under the domain of darkness. Victory belongs to those who endure to the end (see Matthew 10:22).
History bears witness that the Spirit of God always warns His people in advance when difficult times are coming. There are abundant historical records spanning the centuries that relate accounts of believers and missionaries in hostile nations throughout the world who were forewarned by the Holy Spirit of future hardships. Such divine warnings are intended to prepare believers to face the impending challenges, if they will hear and heed the voice of the Spirit.
Jesus lovingly prepared His people for the turbulent times that awaited them. It is imperative that in your time, you keep your heart open so that you can hear what the Spirit of God is saying to you about your future. There is one thing for sure: His goal is always to cause you to triumph (see 2 Corinthians 2:14). If you’ll keep your ear tuned to Him, He will be faithful by His Spirit to forewarn you and prepare you for the times to come — and then He will empower you to walk through every single situation as more than a conqueror in Him (see Romans 8:37)!
12 Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible (Blackie & Son, London, 1884-85; Reprinted by Baker Books, 1996), Revelation 2:10.
13 Henry Alford, Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary (Boston: Lee & Shepard, 1878), Volume IV.
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I thank You that Your love for the Church is so strong that You forewarn and prepare us for the days ahead. Please forgive me for the times when You tried to warn me but I didn’t listen — and help me open my heart to hear what You are saying to me now about the times to come. Regardless of what the future holds, I know that You are Lord of all and that You made me to be an overcomer. I pray for a flood of the Holy Spirit’s power to be unleashed in my life in these last days so that I will have everything I need to brave any storm and emerge victorious on the other side!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that my spiritual ears are open and I am attuned to what the Holy Spirit is telling me about the present and the days ahead. The future will not take me by surprise, because I am listening to the Holy Spirit, and He reveals to me what I need to know. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would show us things to come, and I declare that my spirit is wide-awake and alert to hear the Spirit’s forecast about the future. I am filled with the Holy Spirit; therefore, He gives me all the strength and energy I need to outlast any storm the devil ever tries to send my way. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I will come out on the other side of any difficulty as an overcomer!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Are you aware of any times in history when the Holy Spirit warned people in advance that difficult times were coming? Can you think of other examples in the Old or New Testament when the Spirit of God forewarned and prepared people for coming difficult times?
- What is the Holy Spirit saying to you about your future? What does the Bible prophesy about believers living in the last days?
- If the Holy Spirit and the Word of God speak directly about the life before you, what steps should you take to prepare for those times? What steps can be taken right now to be sure you ride through any storm victoriously?