“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.'”Revelation 2:8-11
We live in times where one can possibly be imprisoned for remaining faithful to the Lord. There is always some Christian baker somewhere whose civil freedom is at risk for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding according to his or her religious conscience. The world does not understand that people can have deep religious beliefs about gender, marriage, and sexuality, just as their own beliefs are quite religious. They can say “no” to our beliefs, but we cannot say “no” to theirs. It is not “equality” and “tolerance” they want, but totalitarian control. In 2021-2022, Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland was almost imprisoned for publishing a pamphlet teaching the Church’s orthodox doctrine on marriage and sexuality about a decade earlier. He was charged for “hate speech,” but thankfully, he was fully acquitted in March 2022.
Still, it is not entirely impossible that we could enter times (again) where one is imprisoned (and even killed) for confessing Christ and His commandments. This is a trial all Christians should be willing to face. If not, perhaps ponder why you are a Christian at all if you are not willing to risk your freedom—or even your life—for Christ who died and rose for you. For He says, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (v. 10). If the fear of death—and even imprisonment—causes you to renounce Christ, you will not be crowned with life; for how can you fear death or something as insignificant as prison when Christ has the keys of Death and Hades (1:18)? Of what significance is your civil freedom when you have freedom from sin and death in Christ? They might imprison you for proclaiming the Gospel, so proclaim it behind bars! They might kill you for being Christian, but so what? Christ shall raise you from the dead and crown you with eternal life!
For that is how we conquer—though we die, Christ raises us victorious from the dead and crowns us with the glory of eternal life, just as He Himself rose victoriously from the grave and lives forever.