“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death.”
Revelation 2:11 NLT
As we read earlier in this chapter, John reminds us of the importance of listening to the Holy Spirit. Not just listening but understanding. Sometimes we will hear what someone says to us, but the mental filters that we possess will process what we hear into something with a meaning totally different to what the speaker intended. Misunderstandings can result. A classical example was in 1799, when 1200 Turkish prisoners were shot through a misunderstanding. Napoleon was asked what they should do with the prisoners, but at the end of a coughing fit he uttered the words “Ma sacrée toux,” meaning “My cursed cough”. Unfortunately for the prisoners, Napoleon’s words were heard as “Massacrez tous” meaning “kill them all”. A historical situation that has nothing to do with what Jesus was saying to the churches, but it makes the point. A more humorous example was anecdotally circulating after one of the world wars, when the radio message “Send reinforcements, we’re going to advance” was heard “Send three and fourpence, we’re going to a dance”. But more seriously, we have a duty to carefully listen to what God is saying to us and understanding the meaning behind what He says. And if we’re not sure about anything, we can check the message against God’s Word, the Bible, through prayer, and with other Christians who we trust. Sadly, there have been many who have heard the Word, interpreting it according to their “filters”, but not understanding what it meant spiritually, going off into error as a consequence.
John’s writings continue with the sentence, “Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death”. So what is this second death? I thought we could only die once. The phrase “the second death” only occurs in the Book of Revelation. The only explanation must refer to the possibility that after a physical death, there is another potential death awaiting us – the lake of fire. Later on in Revelation we read that all those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will end up there. A thought that should strike fear into anyone, I think we all agree. But Jesus made sure that His followers would not be frightened by such an event, because those who are overcomers, the victorious, will be safe. A quote from a book I read recently, “There is a vast difference between the final destination of those who know Christ and those who do not”.
To sum up this verse, the reality for us pilgrims is that as we keep close to our wonderful Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus, we have nothing to fear about what lies beyond the grave. In fact, as we read earlier, there is a crown of life awaiting us. Amazing! Surely worth discomfort today for wonder tomorrow. As is often said today, “No gain without pain”. That principle applies to the spiritual as well as the physical.
Dear Lord, we thank You for Your Word, and the encouragement You provide us for our journey towards Heaven. We need not fear the second death because You are with us. Amen.