We find in the words of the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega, who died and who came to life, (Revelation 2:8) “You are about to enter into persecution. You are about to enter into a Roman prison. Some of you may lose your life.” These are the words of the First and the Last, the one who died, and the one who came. At the end we are told, “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.”
This is fully intended for the Christians at Smyrna. In the middle, we find this crown of life, this martyr’s crown that is reserved for those whom God had as His calling for their life, to give their very life as a witness. And of course, the Christians gave the meaning to the word martyr – “a witness,” which literally means, a testimony. Their death is a testimony to Christ. Those who will persevere, who will overcome, who will conquer, the second death – which is far more to be feared than death at the hands of the Imperial Guard – will not hurt them.
We can persevere not because we have the example of Polycarp, but because we have the example of our Lord and Savior — He who conquered sin and death, all of our enemies in one fell swoop. In him we not only have the encouragement, in him we have the ability to persevere and overcome.
“We are either in, or moving into a post-Christian America,” Dr. Nichols observed. “As we think about our bigger picture culturally, we know that we just have our own issues in our personal life. We know that the Puritans call them ‘our own besetting sins.’ They’re different. Some of us are tempted by some things and some of us are tempted by others. But all of us have those areas in our lives that are particularly difficult for us to conquer, to persevere. So we need to be encouraged, don’t we? We need to be encouraged by the testimony of an 86-year-old man who could look back over 86 years and say, ‘At every moment on this journey of my life, Jesus Christ, my King, was faithful.'”
There’s a final peace for this man, standing in the arena for his final test, and he knew his Savior would be faithful for that task, as well: “To the one who conquers, he will not be hurt by the second death.”
“Polycarp was arrested by Herod when Philip was high priest during the proconsulship of Saccheas Cogratus, while Jesus Christ was reigning as King forever.”