The words of the “First and the Last” to Christians in the city of Smyrna in Asia Minor recorded in Revelation 2:10 are words that we can all profit from. The message doubtless had specific application to its original readers, but its core is one which applies to us all. We see this truth in the words that directly follow the statement not to fear and to be faithful: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches…” (Revelation 2:11).
So how does the message apply to us today? Jesus does not just say “Don’t fear and I’ll give you the crown of life” and he doesn’t just say “Be faithful and I’ll give you the crown of life” – he says both. These dual commands are based on the fact that fear and faithfulness are opposites that cannot coexist. If we are faithful in our behavior, we gain spiritual confidence that banishes inner fear. On the other hand, if we live in fear, we often end up compromising our beliefs and being unfaithful in some way.
This is easier to understand when we realize that “do not fear” is just another way of saying “have faith.” So “Do not fear … Be faithful…” is simply saying “Have faith and be faithful.” Faith and faithfulness together make up the sum total of Christian responsibility of inward belief and outward behavior. But the two qualities are not independent of each other in our lives. Faith leads to faithfulness and faithfulness leads to faith.
The apostle John reiterates the necessity of both faith and faithfulness later in the book of Revelation when he writes: “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus (Revelation 14:12, emphasis added).
We must remember that we are saved through faith, not faithfulness, but the book of Revelation makes it clear that faithfulness is involved in our reward – in the crown of life we are offered, and in the identity of the saints of God who will not only be saved, but also crowned.