Make the most of it

Text Ephesians 5:15, 16 Time 07/08/10 Place Alfred Place Baptist Church Aber Conference Extratime Intro
When I was a boy long before Pop idol and Britain's Got Talent, etc, the big talent show on TV was called “Opportunity knocks”. They discovered Les Dawson, Paul Daniels and Mary Hopkin and Max Boyce from Wales among others. It was hosted by a man called Hughie Green, who turned out to be Bob Geldoff's father-in-law but that's another story. Hughie Green used to have a friend to introduce each act. He's interview them briefly to find out what it was all about and then he would introduce the act by saying something like “Tonight for The Beresford Brass band opportunity knocks”.
The phrase “opportunity knocks” is an idiom that pictures an opportunity as being like a person who knocks at your door. The implication, of course, is that you must open the door and take hold of the opportunity – not ignore the knocking or tell them to go away.
The Greeks and Romans had another way of describing it. They had this so-called god called Kairos or Fortuna and that god was quite distinct in that from the front he looked a bit like Justin Lee Collins or Russell Brand and from the back more like Larry David or Michael Stipe of REM. That is to say he had lots of hair at the front and was bald at the back. The message there is that opportunity can be grabbed from the front as it comes at you but once it has passed by there is nothing to hold on to.
Now this week of conference that lies ahead for you is a week of opportunity. This week you are going to be hearing a series of knocks – this is the first! It is opportunity knocking at your door. Or perhaps you can think of this week as a great creature all hairy at the front and bald at the back. It will fly by this week, be in no doubt. If you don't grab hold of it as it come in, you certainly won't get hold of it when it's gone.
So that's the basic message then but I know that some of you will be a little anxious at this point because we haven't opened our Bibles yet. “Where is this in the Bible?” you say to me. Well, I'm sure it's in many places.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 comes to mind - Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
Or what about Revelation 3:7, 8? These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.
I thought it best, however, to turn to Ephesians 5:15 and 16 Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. This is the practical part of Paul's letter to the Ephesians. He is setting out how to live the Christian life and he has many things to say. He talks about being imitators of God, living a life of love, avoiding any hint of sexual immorality ... impurity, or ... greed or obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking ... He talks about living as children of light finding out what pleases the Lord and so on.
Then in verses 15 and 16 we have this statement that the NIV translates Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
The AV has See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
The ESV has Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
There are some variations there then. What Paul literally says is “Look then carefully at how you walk (ie how you live) not as unwise but as wise”. He then uses a word that means to buy up or ransom or redeem and the thing he wants us to by up or redeem is time but not time in the sense of 1 o'clock 2 o'clock, etc, (Chronos) but time in the sense of season or occasion or opportunity. The past phrase is that this must be done “because the days are evil”.
So I want to say four things to you from this text
1. Take care how you live always and this week especially
Be very careful, then, how you live or more literally Look carefully then how you walk. The way we live needs to be examined. We cannot go through life thoughtlessly. Socrates famously said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I don't know exactly what he meant by that remark but we really do need to give thought to the way we live. The Bible is always urging us to it
1 Corinthians 11:28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Galatians 6:4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else.
Here it is a call to be careful how you live. There is a famous story of one of the Puritans, a man called Richard Rogers. He was always notable for his seriousness and gravity in whet ever company he found himself. He was once with a very respectable gentleman who said to him, “I like you and your company very well, only you are too precise.” He thought Rogers was a bit of a precisionist, a Puritan, a bit too careful. “Oh sir,” came the famous reply “I serve a precise God.” Being very careful about how you live can be a pain sometimes but the God we serve expects it of us. Be very careful, then, how you live he says.
Some people say "take care" when they say goodbye these days. So I want to say to you take care this week. Walk carefully, thoughtfully, precisely. It can be a temptation to think – I don't need to be so careful this week, because I'm surrounded by Christians and by opportunities to hear the Word. That would be a mistake.
So, take care how you live always and this week especially.
2. Seek to be wise not unwise
Paul goes on Be very careful, then, how you live not as unwise but as wise. Wisdom is to do with a practical use of knowledge. It's a bit like the difference between science and technology. Science is knowledge but technology is the appliance of science. As you examine your life with care then you need to think through what is wise and what is foolish and obviously you need to do what is wise not what is foolish.
So how can you be wise this week? Here are some things you might like to think about.
1. This week is designed to help me in my Christian life or if i am unconverted to help me to come to Christ. An important part of that is daily Bible intake. So what am I going to do about that? Perhaps you follow a scheme for Bible reading, dated Bible reading notes, perhaps. Because, for most of you this will be a very busy week that might get squeezed out. It often happens for Christians like that and they can feel quite guilty.
You've really got two wise ways to go. Either be determined to snatch some time each day for your own reading or say it is not realistic for me to try and keep up my own readings so each day I'll make one of the public readings my reading of the day and take time to do some extra thinking about that particular passage each day. Be wise not unwise.
2. Private prayer is also important, again whether you area Christian or seeking to become one. You need to think through a way you are going to make sure opportunities for that don't disappear. Be wise not unwise.
3. Then there is the whole question of what meetings you are planning to go to. This really calls for wisdom. There are around 20 main meetings you could attend over the seven days, another, what is it, about 17 Extra-time events and not forgetting the 29 DVDs on show this week down at the Missionary Exhibition. Obviously attending all 66 of these events is impossible. So you need to decide. Perhaps it is wisest to have a general plan but be willing to adapt it as the week goes by. Be wise not unwise.
4. And that brings us to the matter of relaxation and sleep. Obviously for just one week you can perhaps get by on less sleep than usual but you will still need to sleep this week if you are not going to go completely barmy. Some need more sleep than others. John Wesley reckoned he needed six and a half hours. Mrs Thatcher could famously get by on four hours. For most of us, if we are not going to be sleeping in half the meetings we need somehow to fit in six or seven hours a night. If you go to bed after midnight on more than one evening then you are going to suffer for it – or someone else will, may be. Be wise not unwise.
3. Seek to make the most of every opportunity
Then we have this slightly difficult phrase making the most of every opportunity, redeeming the time or making the best use of the time. How can I make best use of my time this week? In the USA when they know there's a hurricane coming then they like to go out to Walmart or whatever and stock up. They buy batteries and torches (flashlights they call them) and bottled water and canned food, for example. They also like to get in beer and lots of pop tarts, apparently. Now let's be clear there's storm coming, as Jesus says, a great judgement, and now is the time to be stockpiling, buying up goods against the coming weather. And this is a good week to be buying. We need to ask ourselves, how can I make best use of my time this week? How can I make the most of this opportunity? I think there are at least three things we can say.
1. Do your best to grow in knowledge and understanding
Many of you are from good churches and so you already know a lot of good things but we all have gaps in our knowledge or we are not as clear as we should be on certain things. There are parts of the Bible we are not so familiar with, doctrines we do not know so well. Here is a great opportunity to fill some of the gap and to increase your knowledge. Make the most of this opportunity.
Knowledge has a tendency to puff you up, of course, so you need more than a mere increase in knowledge. Try and work on these two things too.
2. Do your best to draw near to God. This is the raison d'etre of the conference. A conference is literally a gathering to confer. We confer with one another but we ought to confer too with God. Here is an opportunity to tell God how much you love him as you sing the hymns and hear the messages and pray. Here is an opportunity to confess your sins and to repent. Here is an opportunity to talk to God about things that are on your heart. Don't miss this opportunity. Make the most of it.
3. Do your best to be a blessing to each other. Another part of this whole week is meeting one another – old friends, new friends, people you know but can get to know better. Give some real thought to this. How can I be a blessing to the people I am living with this week? How can I be blessing to the people I know? What about the people I don't know? In a conference this size there are always people who feel a bit out of it for one reason or another. Is there something you can do to help them? Make the most of this opportunity.
4. Remember that we live in evil days
And finally why you must make the most of this opportunity - because the days are evil. That come as a bit of a jolt when you take the text in isolation, although he has just been talking about the fruitless deeds of darkness and how it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. We do live in evil days. That is why it is important to Be very careful ... how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity. We need to keep this in mind while we are here and as we return home.
1. While we are here. We are a bit of a holy huddle here I suppose. Everyone is on their best behaviour and there is so much good going on that there isn't really much time for the other influences that are often there – from unbelieving family, from unconverted friends at school or college, the TV, the radio, the Internet, etc. It would be foolish to think, however, that we are somehow hermetically sealed off here behind a glass that is impermeable to the Devil and uninfluenced by the world. Even if that were so there is enough evil in each of our hearts to ruin the best part of a conference like this for everyone. Even here thoughtlessness, selfishness, jealousy and unkindness can creep in. Even if we don't infect others we ourselves can be so overwhelmed by sin that we hardly benefit from the good that surrounds us. So I'm saying beware. Watch out, even while you are here.
Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days including the next seven here in Aberystwyth are evil.
2. When we return home. It's when you go away from a conference like this, however, that it really hits you. Sometimes its gradual rather than all at once but it is when you're back seeing what people are doing and saying, what they';re watching on TV and the Internet and paying more attention to what is being reported on radio, TV or in the papers, etc that you remember what an evil world this is. It is because it is an evil world that we must make the most of opportunities like this one.
So, I say to you "This week my friends opportunity knocks!". Or, here comes an opportunity running by, be determined to grab it with both hands. It will soon be gone.
Be very careful ... how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

A suffering church

Text Revelation 2:8-11 Time 18/07/10 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
We began to look last week at the seven churches of Revelation. As many of you know, these are the seven churches to whom the Book of Revelation was originally addressed. All seven were in what was then called Asia Minor, the part of the world that we know now as Turkey or Anatolia.
Revelation has quite a long introduction but it reveals that it was written down by the Apostle John. He tells us (1:9-11) that he was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. He was banished in exile there. He says that On the Lord's Day he was in the Spirit, and he heard behind him a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
The initial encounter is found in Revelation 1:12-19. John hears a voice first then he says I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man". He then describes the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, before whom he falls as though dead.
The whole book is 22 chapters long but in Chapters 2 and 3 we have the specific letters to the seven churches. The order is not immediately clear but a messenger carrying the messages from Patmos would travel 60 miles across the sea to get to the nearest of the churches – Ephesus (the one we looked at last week). If he stuck to the main road it would then be logical to travel north to Smyrna, the church we want to look at next.
Smyrna is the only church that receives totally unmixed praise just as it is only the church in Laodicea that receives only condemnation. The rest, like Ephesus, receive a mixture of praise and blame, Philadelphia being much more praised than blamed and Sardis being more blamed than praised.
Again, as we look at the suffering church Smyrna, we want to compare it with this church here and see how we measure up. So (8) we read To the angel of the church in Smyrna write.
Smyrna is know today as Izmir and is a large Turkish city. It is about 35 miles north of Ephesus, more or less due north. It was a splendid city and considered itself “the pride of Asia”. With a fine natural harbour and an excellent road into the interior it flourished economically and was “one of the most prosperous cities in Asia Minor” (R H Charles). The Apostle Paul may have planted the church as tradition suggests but we do not know anything from the Bible about its beginnings. The letter to the church at Smyrna follows the same pattern as the one to the church in Ephesus, beginning These are the words of him who is ... then an I know or two and ending with He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes ....
1. Consider the character of Christ and his eternity and power over death
Jesus begins These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. This description again draws on what has already been said back in the description of Jesus in Chapter 1. When John falls before him he puts his hand on him and says Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. That in itself echoes what God the Father says back in 1:8 I am the Alpha and the Omega. It is a reminder too of the amazing fact that though Jesus was crucified yet he also rose again on the third day.
The eternity of Christ is a particularly comforting doctrine when we come to the matter of suffering, as we do in this letter. Earthly suffering, even death itself, is in itself temporary and is to be distinguished from eternity, which is to come. The fact that Jesus died but then came to life again is also full of encouragement for all who belong to him. The one who overcame death can sustain us in suffering and even if we have to die for him then he can raise us up.
As we look at this mattering of suffering then, let's not forget who is speaking – it is the one who is the First and the Last, the one who who died but who came to life.
2. Consider a New Testament church and the troubles it knew
Are we prepared to suffer? The distinctive thing about the church at Smyrna was that it was a suffering church. We are not told in any detail why they suffered as they did but we can make an educated guess. We are familiar with the spectacle of cities competing to host the Olympic Games or the World Cup. Well, around about the year 25 many Asian cities were competing to see who would have the privilege of erecting a Temple to the Emperor Tiberius. In the end the privilege, if that is what it was, was given exclusively to Smyrna. This betrays a deep patriotism towards Rome and specifically to the Emperor and to the whole cult of Emperor worship as it had become by this time. We know that 200 years before they had had a Temple built to Roma, the supposed goddess of Rome.
Obviously that was not an easy climate for the Christians who came along some little while after this. When they were asked to offer incense to the genius of the Emperor, they refused such idolatry. How could they acknowledge Caesar as Lord when Christ was their only Lord? This didn't go down well with others. The Jews, of course, in the Roman Empire were exempt from such requirements and we can imagine that they did not make things easy for the Christians, especially Gentile Christians. The story of their opposition to the gospel is well documented and it is evident that they carried on in their usual way in Smyrna too.
We can pick out four sorts of trouble that had come or was going to come to the members of the church in Smyrna. In this church our sufferings are relatively non-existent and so it is hard for us to identify with such a church. We do know churches in different parts of the world that are facing these very same things at the present time, however. It ought to stir us to pray for them and serves also as a reminder of what may be around the corner for anyone of us who seek to serve the Lord today.
1. Christ knows when his people are poor
In verse 9 Jesus says I know your afflictions and your poverty - yet you are rich! As we have said, Smyrna was a prosperous city. The Christians, however, were generally poor. This was partly, perhaps, because the membership was drawn mostly from the lower ranks of society. May be their generosity left some out of pocket. The coupling of poverty with afflictions suggests, however, that the problem was chiefly something that arose from persecution. Jews and pagans worked together to shut the Christian out economically. Further, their unwillingness to engage in the corrupt business practices of the day would have told against them financially too.
There are parts of the world today where Christians are in real economic poverty. Last Christmas The Barnabas Fund which exists particularly to help persecuted Christians, reported that in the previous 12 months they had provided food for over 85,000 Christians! Some of it was to support Christians in need where famine had struck, places like Burundi and Ethiopia. They also gave aid to help needy Christians who cannot afford to feed their families due to high prices (such as in Zimbabwe) or extreme poverty, as experienced in Pakistan, Egypt and the Middle East. But they also gave food parcels to vulnerable families who had fled their homes following anti-Christian violence, such as displaced Iraqi Christians in their own country now living as refugees in Jordan and Syria. Poverty is a way of life for some Christians. We should be thankful that is not our situation and we should pray for those for whom it is.
Christ knows when his people are poor. He sees.
2. Christ knows when his people are slandered
The letter goes on with Jesus saying I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. To slander someone is to say something that will damage their reputation. It could possibly be true but much more often it is not. We have mentioned the Jews in Smyrna and clearly they were having a very damaging effect on the Christians by what they were doing. Things are so bad that Jesus says they are not Jews really but a synagogue of Satan. The word Satan, of course, means slander and one of the things that he does is to slander believers before God and, if he can, in their own ears. He has been a liar from the beginning. As the Jews are doing Satan's work they are said to be a synagogue of Satan. The Jews blasphemed Jesus and now they were slandering his servants. When they hurled their insults at him, Peter tells us he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. Like him they no doubt did the same – as we must, if we are slandered.
There are parts of the world today where Christians are slandered. In 2008 in Zimbabwe "many" church ministers were beaten, arrested and falsely accused of organizing anti-government rallies. In Pakistan, yet again, a 40-year-old Christian, Gulshare Masih, and his 19-year-old daughter from Gojra near Faisalabad were taken into police custody after an enraged Muslim mob falsely accused them of desecrating the Qur’an. About 500 Muslims, including students from a local madrassa, gathered around Gulshare's house, throwing stones and bricks and breaking windows and the front door. Then they apparently decided to set fire to the whole Christian area so that no Christian would be left to desecrate the Qur’an.
In that same year a prominent Hindu leader was murdered in Orissa, India. Although Maoist extremists claimed responsibility, Christians got the blame, and subsequent protests rapidly escalated into horrific anti-Christian aggression. Christians there often fear that Hindu nationalists will stir up violence against them once again on the basis of a false accusation.
Some Christians are regularly slandered. We should be thankful that is not our situation and we should pray for those for whom it is.
Christ knows when his people are falsely accused. He knows the truth.
3.Christ knows when his people are in prison
Already the Christians in Smyrna had experienced suffering then – poverty and slander were common. However, things were about to get worse not better.
Jesus goes on (10) Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days.
From the gospel's earliest days being put in prison has been part and parcel of being a Christian. That's what happened to John the Baptist and to Peter and to Paul and to others. So it continued after the New Testament period. It was what was about to happen to some of the Christians in Smyrna.
Now as Baptists we have a good tradition of this sort of thing. There is not only John Bunyan (1628-1688) who wrote Pilgrim's Progress in prison but others like Benjamin Keach (1640-1704). He is another who was imprisoned and was also pilloried in the stocks. In America Obadiah Holmes (1606-1682) was not only put in prison but mercilessly whipped for his faith. I noticed that a book came out in 2007 called No armor for the back: Baptist prison writings 1600s-1700s by Ketih Durso. Besides the more well known men, he deals with other forgotten men such as Francis Bampfield, Hercules Collins, Thomas Delaune, Thomas Grantham, Thomas Hardcastle, Abraham Cheare, Vavasor Powell and John Murton.
Some Christians, of course, are in prison today. Rev Wilson Issavi was released on bail on Sunday March 28 this year after being held in prison for 54 days in Iran. He was arrested on February 2, accused by the Iranian government of "converting Muslims". Others are in prison in North Korea and China and some of the former Soviet Republics. We should be thankful that is not our situation and we should pray for those for whom it is that God will keep them and soon release them. The writer to the Hebrews says (13:3) Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Christ knows when his people are likely to put in prison.
4. Christ knows when his people are at the point of death
Jesus goes on Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. This seems to be intimating that for some of them it will be worse again. Some of them will actually die.
Once again we have to recognise that although we feel no immediate danger of death here, down the years Christians have actually died for their faith and even today there are cases where people even lose their lives simply because they believe the things we teach here Sunday by Sunday. In the 1550s a man called John Foxe endeavoured to bring together a collection of stories of all the various deaths that had taken place up until his time. Even with his limited research there were hundreds. The first edition of Foxe's Book of Martyrs appeared in 1563 and was the largest publishing project undertaken in Britain up to that time. It went through many, many editions and became extremely popular.
As for today, let me give you just an example. This is from Iraq, from the northern city of Mosul, where, last February, anti-Christian violence resulted in the murder of eight Christians in the space of just 10 days. On Sunday March 14 Rayan Salem Elias was killed outside his home by armed assailants, and the next day a Christian greengrocer, Fatukhi Munir, was gunned down in his shop in a drive-by shooting. Then on Tuesday 16 two Christian students, Zia Toma (21) and Ramsin Shmael (22), were on their way to the local university when gunmen opened fire on them. Zia was killed and Ramsin wounded. They had already been displaced from their homes in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, by the instability there.
On Wednesday 17 Wissam George (20), another student, went missing on his way to the institute where he was studying to be a teacher. His body was found in the street that afternoon, riddled with bullets. On Friday 19 Sabah Yacob Dahan was found murdered, having been abducted from his shop five days earlier. And on Wednesday 24 Aiechoa Metoka and his two sons, Mukhlos and Basem, were killed in their home by three gunmen. They were the father and brothers of a prominent Christian leader, who was himself kidnapped (and later released) two years ago.
The Apostle Paul once said For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. Christ knows when his children come home.
Are we prepared to suffer? Are we prepared to die? We should at least be willing.
3. Consider what a suffering church must do
With the warnings to the believers in Smyrna about what is about to come, Jesus has some words of encouragement and instruction for them too. In verse 10 he says Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer ... Be faithful, even to the point of death, .... You can imagine how the natural reaction to this letter in Smyrna would have been one of fear. If we were told the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days then we would certainly be tempted to fear. But no, Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer ... says Jesus. Rather concentrate on being faithful – even if it is to the point of death. That is all that is required of us. We simply need to look to him. You do sometimes wonder how martyrs could face death in the way they did. The answer is surely that they were simply looking to be faithful. They did not know for certain whether they would die for the stand they took. That is not the way they thought, though. It wasn't “What will happen if I do this?” but “I must be faithful to my Lord”. If we seek to be faithful, by God's grace all will be well.
4. Consider the comforts that a suffering church can be encouraged by
To encourage us to faithfulness, we must not miss the comforts that are strewn through this letter. We have already noted the opening words of Jesus - These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. We have also reminded ourselves that what ever we suffer Christ knows all about it - I know your afflictions and your poverty he says, I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not. If we are laughed at or mocked. If people say ludicrous things about our God and our religion and go apparently unrebuked, we need to remind ourselves that God knows.
Notice too how when he says I know your afflictions and your poverty he adds - yet you are rich! Whatever a Christian may miss out on in this life, he is still a child of God, he still has a glorious home in heaven. Christian, this morning, whatever you lack in this world's terms - you are rich! We have already read this morning Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Remember how Paul describes himself once (2 Corinthians 6:9, 10) dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. That is how we should seek to live.
Then what about that the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days? I don't think we should take the phrase 10 days literally, rather it means a short time (but not too short), a time that has already been set. It is important to remember that any period of persecution can only go on for as long as Christ allows it. He limits the length of time. Once the time of testing is over (and that is what it is) then the suffering will end. Even if a person suffered all his life it would still come to an end when Christ had decided it would. One reason why we panic in the face of suffering is that we feel everything is out of control. That is not the case.
Finally, remember that after we have suffered then comes glory. Be faithful, he says even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. We read about eating from the tree of life in verse 7. Here a different picture is used and it is the crown of life that is promised. The idea is now of the continuous glory that belongs to the faithful in heaven. What a prospect! We must keep it before us.
5. Consider the call to hear the Spirit and the promise here for those who overcome
Finally, we have the call to hear as before (11) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. This message is from God's Spirit, not just for the church in Smyrna but for all who are able and willing to listen. He who overcomes it says will not be hurt at all by the second death. The second death is, of course, hell and it is everlasting. We tend to think often enough about the first death but nowhere near enough about the second death. We need not fear the first death if we are sure that we are safe from the second death. That can only be the case if we trust in Jesus Christ. We must.