To the church in Smyrna, the suffering church, the Lord introduces Himself as the First and the Last, who became dead and lived again (Rev. 2:8); the key to victory over persecution, suffering, and death is realizing who the Lord is, being under His care, and experiencing Him as our life and everything.
The church in Smyrna was, on the one hand, a real local church in the city of Smyrna, and the persecution and tribulation the Lord spoke happened in history; on the other hand, the church in Smyrna represents a stage in the church’s history, the stage of persecution, suffering, and death under the Roman Empire.
Furthermore, the epistle to the church in Smyrna can be applied to us today, since we are members of the Body of Christ who seek to be one with Christ in suffering for His Body; we today are the continuation of the suffering Christ for the producing and building up of the church as the Body of Christ.
If we live in a developed country we may not be outwardly persecuted and hated because of loving the Lord and being a Christian, but there’s a measure of suffering for the Lord and for the church that is allotted to each one of us.
We need to be like the Apostle Paul, seeking to fill the lack in the Body of the sufferings of Christ – not by seeking to suffer for the Lord but by being willing to suffer for His sake and for the sake of the church, so that the Body may be built up.
Actually, if we simply abide in the Lord as the vine, enjoy the rich supply coming from Him, and bear fruit corporately for the expression of Christ, we will be hated and persecuted by religious people in the degraded Christianity.
All genuine seekers of the Lord will be persecuted – not merely by the people in the world who are instigated by Satan, but by religious people in today’s degraded Christianity.
However, tribulation is precious to the church – it may not be welcomed or desired, but it becomes precious to the church because it tests and brings forth the life of the church. The Lord allows the church to suffer tribulation so that His resurrection life may be manifested in overcoming death, and so that we all may enjoy the riches of His life. Oh, may we know His resurrection life!
The Lord Jesus is the First and the Last, and all things are under His Control
In speaking to the church in Smyrna, the Lord said that He is the First and the Last, who became dead and lived again (Rev. 2:8). The suffering church needs to know that the Lord is the first and He is the last; He is the ever-existing and unchanging One.
We may be in situations of sufferings and persecutions, and we may even think that such situations will never end; but everything ends except the Lord Himself. Christ outlasts everything, and everything in our life is measured out by Him.
The trials always end: the Lord is the Last! The pain, heartache, suffering, and trial will end – they are not the last; Christ, the resurrected and living One, is the Last. Whatever the persecuting environment may be, the Lord remains the same; nothing can preceed Him, nor can anything exist after Him.
All the things that happen to us and to the church are within the limits of God’s control. We therefore need to come to the Lord and enjoy His fresh and present comfort, so that we may also be able to comfort others with the comfort that the Lord comforted us with.
There should not be a situation among us where there’s no comfort for the saints, for our God is the God of all comfort. If we can’t handle a certain situation, we need to be humble enough to open to the Body of Christ and allow the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ flow in the Body and supply the suffering saints (Phil. 1:19-21).
The Lord never allows us to pass through suffering without comforting us, for it matters to Him concerning us; anything that matters to us matters to the Lord. He may not pluck us out of the suffering situation, but He will supply us, and all things are within the limits of His control.
The fact that the Lord declared that He is the First, the Last, He died, and now lives again implies the creation (He’s the First), His incarnation, human living, and crucifixion (He died), and His resurrection (He lives again). This is a declaration to strengthen the suffering church in Smyrna, which was experiencing and suffering martyrdom.
Today some believers suffer martyrdom, while others may not be outwardly persecuted; there’s a measure of affliction of a different nature that the Lord apportions to each one of us.
Wherever we are, we have a Christ who knows, supplies us, comforts us, and assures us that we will outlast this because He is the end, the last, the omega. It is the lie of the enemy that this situation of suffering will never end: everything ends, but the Lord is the last!
The only thing that can support the saints in their martyrdom is seeing the One who created and will complete the entire universe, and who was incarnated, lived on earth, was crucified, and resurrection; such a vision sustains the martyrs to stand in their sufferings.
We may never be in a physical prison or confinement, but the Lord allots to us a certain portion of suffering and affliction for the sake of the church.
Blessed are we if we are not stumbled by what the Lord does not do – He may do certain things with others but not with us; His ways are mysterious, and whether He does it or He doesn’t do it, He is our Lord, we worship Him, we worship His ways, we humble ourselves under His hand, and we know that what He has begun He will also complete!
Amen, all the local churches need to believe that the Lord Jesus is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, and He will accomplish what He has begun in His recovery (Rev. 22:13)!
Thank You Lord for being the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End – You will accomplish what You have begun in us and in Your recovery! Amen, Lord, no matter how hard the suffering and tribulation may be, remind us that You are the same: nothing can preceed You, nothing can outlast You, and all things are within the limits of Your control. Lord, we look away unto You: all things are under Your control, and You are our hope, our supply, and our life. You can sustain us, comfort us, supply us, and take us through.
Jesus Suffered Death and Lived again: He is Living Forever, He is Resurrection Life!
Hallelujah, Jesus Christ became dead and lived again – He is the living One (Rev. 2:8; 1:18). The Lord Jesus suffered death and lived again: He entered into death, but death could not hold Him because He is not just life – He is resurrection life (Acts 2:24; John 11:25). Hallelujah, what a Christ!
Resurrection life is a life that passes through death and still remains living. If something passes through death and remains in death, it is not resurrection life. The Lord charged John to write to the messenger of the church in Smyrna and say that He “became dead and lived again” (Rev. 2:8). The church in Smyrna suffered for the Lord and was faithful unto death. Therefore, the Lord comforted it with such a word. Just as the gate of Hades could not prevail against the Lord, the gate of Hades cannot prevail against the church. If a church realizes resurrection, it can withstand trials and sufferings. Resurrection life is a life that outlasts death; it is a life that passes through death and rises up again. Hallelujah! Our Lord became dead, but He is living again! Death has nothing to do with Him! Watchman Nee
It was impossible for the Lord to be held by death. We need to personally and corporately know Christ as the One who cannot be held by any death. There are many kinds of death coming to us, but no death can hold the Christ who is resurrection life in us; He emerges victorious from within our being every single time!
We need to know the Lord as resurrection life, and in every kind of death may His resurrection life be outpoured. The attack of death will not stop until the last enemy, death, will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14), but the gates of Hades (the many forms and types of death) cannot prevail against the church!
Christ became dead, and behold, He is living forever and ever (Rev. 1:18)! He is not just life: He is resurrection life, the life that passes through death and still remains living. As such a One He is now in us – Christ is the resurrection life in us!
Christ’s resurrection is the lengthening of His days; He will exist forever and ever in His resurrection, and we as His continuation have Him as resurrection life in us to be enjoyed, lived out, and experienced by us.
We need to maintain the Lord’s testimony no matter what the outward circumstances may be; He as resurrection life is in us to be experienced and enjoyed by us even in the midst of suffering, persecution, trials, and tribulation.
Until we meet the Lord, we maintain and keep His testimony, and we stand on His promise that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against the built-up church!
Lord Jesus, we praise You and we enjoy You as the One who became dead and who lives forever and ever! Hallelujah, death could not hold Christ because He is resurrection life, and as such a One He is in us today! Praise the Lord, the life that passed through death and still remains living is now in us! Lord, may we know this resurrection life, and in every kind of death may its power be outpoured! Amen, Lord, we do not believe what we can see in the environment: we believe You, the ever-living One, who is resurrection life in us!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by brother Ron K. for this week, and, Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 34, pp. 176-181, as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, Returning to the Orthodoxy of the Church (2016 fall ITERO), msg. 2 (week 2), The Church in Smyrna.
- Hymns on this topic:
# O Lord, Thou art the Alpha / And the Omega too; / Thou art the First, before all, / And art the Last so true. / Thou art the sole Beginning, / The only End of all; / In Thee all is included, / Creations great and small. (Hymns #202)
# Pressure, persecutions, and wounds Just bring resurrection life into bloom; / Though we suffer light trans’ient pain, The eternal weight of glory’s gained! (Song on treasure in earthen vessels)
# Oh, may I know this resurrection life, / In every kind of death its pow’r outpoured, / In my experience ever realize / This life is nought but Christ my living Lord. (Hymns #639)
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