“Be Faithful Unto Death and I Will Give You the Crown of Life” Revelation 2:8–11

Written on: May 31, 2023

Article by: Paul Birston

Part 3, Conclusion


In Part 1 we learned about the history of Smyrna, the Crown City, which helps us see the special significance of Jesus’ words and His promise to His people in Smyrna: “Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life” (https://gospelherald.org/be-faithful-unto-death-and-i-will-give-you-the-crown-of-life/).

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In Part 2 we were encouraged by Jesus’ knowledge and understanding of what His people in Smyrna were living through: “I Know Your Tribulation.” Jesus knew their opponents and exhorted them: “Do Not Fear,” “Be Faithful”


Jesus’ Second Promise

Jesus makes another promise to His people in Smyrna in Revelation 2:11, ‘“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.

Jesus uses a double emphatic negative here indicating that for those overcoming, conquering and winning victory through testing, there is absolutely no way they will be hurt by the second death.

John tells us what the second death is in Revelation 20:11–15 and 21:8, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyones name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire…. 21:8 But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Death is separation. Physical death is separation of the spirit from the body.

Spiritual death while living is separation from God. This is the spiritual death that came at the time of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. This first spiritual death is redeemable before physical death through the gospel of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Because of Jesus’ redemptive death we can be bought back from spiritual death to eternal life if we will obey God through faith, confessing the name of Jesus and our sins, being immersed in water for the forgiveness of our sins and receiving His Holy Spirit and living a faithful life of love and service with Him all the way to the end of our lives when we die physically and our souls return to God in His glory. At the resurrection our souls will be united with our resurrection bodies in the new heavens and the new earth.

The second death is also separation. It is eternal death: eternal separation from God. This death is non-redeemable. This is the death Jesus promised to protect His people from if they remain faithful to Him all the way to physical death, the temporary separation of their souls from their pre-resurrection bodies.

You will notice that in one way death frames Jesus’ letter to Smyrna in verses 8, 10 and 11.

We will also notice in verses 8 and 10, and implied in 11, that Jesus and John hold life, death’s opposite, right at the centre of this short letter. Jesus rose to continue His eternal life. Jesus promises His faithful ones protection from the second death and the crown of life with God in eternity.


Jesus’ letter encourages the assembly of His people in Smyrna to persevere through what He knows is coming. The assembly in Smyrna lived, as we do here, in a culture hostile to Jesus and His Gospel.

Jesus encourages us to endure through whatever is happening and whatever may come. He knows our tribulation and suffering. Suffering has limits. Eternal glory and joy with Him, His Father, His Spirit, and the host of His people have no limits.

As love is a key for God’s people assembled in Ephesus, faithfulness is a key for God’s holy ones in Smyrna:

  • The focus of our faithfulness is God and His Risen Son.
  • The quality of faithfulness is to permeate all realms of our lives: worship, home, work, the wider world.
  • The duration of faithfulness is 100% of our lives to the very end.
  • The results and reward of faithfulness are eternal, the crown of life.
  • Jesus’ death and resurrection lead to eternal life.
  • Faithfulness leads to eternal life.

As He so frequently does, God takes familiar things and makes them communicate eternal truths as He does here in Smyrna: the crown, faithful loyalty, death, resurrection and life. God gives something better, something greater.

Lift up your eyes and look high above Mount Pagos in Smyrna, or whatever earthly alluring crowns you may see in your life today, look up and see Jesus holding the crown of life, ready to place it upon your head.

“‘Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.’”

Waterloo, Ontario