To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty‒yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 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. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
We might say that Peter was one of those people who was all over the place. His faith called him to jump in both feet first, but he did not always understand to what he was committing. This was especially the case when he promised to follow the Lord even if it meant his death. Jesus let him know right away that, although his heart desired to exercise that kind of faith, he did not have the spiritual will for it. He had not yet reached that point of faith or faithfulness, and his multiple denials of knowing Jesus were evidence of that. He may have felt like that evening was a failure for him, but what would occur over the next several days would be his lesson. In fact, he ultimately would walk in the promise of being faithful even unto death.
God certainly asks a lot of us, and some things are easier to sacrifice than others. Human perspective would tell us that life, for us, is the totality of all. It is one thing to let go of pieces or parts of this life, but it is another thing entirely to let go of it all. This warning to the church in Smyrna is actually a promise of blessing similar to that spoken over Philadelphia. God has a requirement of them to be faithful even to the point of death, and He knows they will be brought to that point. Yet, that is not the end of it. For those who have that kind of faithfulness, a great reward awaits them. The exchange of their earthly lives for that promise is completely inequitable. They will receive infinitely more than they sacrificed, and they will come to realize that they have lost nothing at all.
What makes the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia stand out from the other churches addressed in Revelation is their trust in God which allows them to walk faithfully in the face of great opposition. These are the churches against whom God holds nothing; He is pleased by them. That is the place where the Church today needs to arrive. We can grow like Peter from desiring this heart of the martyr to actually carrying it and walking out such great faithfulness. We might be displeasing God in this moment, but that sacrificial heart is available for us corporately, and we must come to the point at which we desire it. We cannot taste victory without it. Father, complete our faithfulness that your Church would carry the sacrificial heart of the martyr.