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What are the ten days of tribulation in Revelation 2:10?

ten days of tribulation

Revelation 2:10 is part of Jesus’ letter to the church of Smyrna. Part of His message is, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (ESV). An interesting detail of the prophecy is that the Smyrnan church would endure a time of testing “for ten days.”

The church of Smyrna was a small, poverty-stricken church that was already enduring trials. They were slandered by “a synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9) and, most likely, also persecuted by the Romans. Jesus predicted that they would face more troubles from the devil but assured them that the upcoming tribulation would have a set time, and all the faithful ones would be rewarded. It’s important to note that the church of Smyrna did not receive any rebuke from Jesus, which was a testament to their spiritual strength. Jesus encouraged them to “be faithful, even to the point of death” (verse 10).

What do the ten days of tribulation represent? Like many other concepts in the book of Revelation, interpretation may be difficult and lead to different perspectives. Some take a literal view where the ten days are understood as an actual period of ten days of intense persecution. Others see it as symbolic, referring to a particular period of time when persecution will be rampant.

Considering the historical context, the symbolic view suggests that the ten days of tribulation refer to ten persecutions that began with Emperor Nero and ended with Diocletian in the third century. Some scholars exclude Nero and count from Domitian to Julian. The symbolic view sees the churches as representing eras of history, with the church of Smyrna representing an era when these persecutions took place. An alternative symbolic view sees the ten days of tribulation as ten years under Diocletian.

Given the complexity of the book of Revelation, any study on the ten days of tribulation should be approached with grace, humility, and tact. We should also not lose sight of the important message in the letter, as well as the book of Revelation as a whole. Far from being a book for eschatological debates, Revelation serves as an encouragement to all believers that Jesus is the Victor. The book is especially heartening to persecuted Christians, providing a confident hope that God will one day reward their faithfulness and restore paradise (Revelation 22:1–5). This message is just as important as getting the details right.

Revelation 2:10 reveals several significant points about Christian living. First, the devil is responsible for the persecution of Christians. From the early church to modern times in places like China, the devil has launched attacks on anyone who remains faithful to Christ (Revelation 12:17). From a spiritual perspective, this explains the constant shift in our culture away from Christian values and the increasing animosity toward biblical Christianity.

Second, Jesus is aware of any tribulation that we may encounter as Christians. The sovereignty of God is displayed in Revelation 2:10, showing that, even in suffering, God reigns supreme. Persecution is a difficult reality for any Christian to accept, but it is a part of living a godly life (2 Timothy 3:12). God’s sovereignty offers more hope that, even if we lose our lives here, we are safe in His hands. We also have the grace to endure any form of hardship in this lifetime.

Finally, no trial we face on earth is in vain. Jesus assures the believers in Smyrna of a “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10, ESV). The promise of rewards is also found in other parts of Scripture, such as 1 Corinthians 3:14; Colossians 3:23–24; and 2 Timothy 4:7–8.

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What are the ten days of tribulation in Revelation 2:10?
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This page last updated: May 2, 2024