The Lord told the church in Smyrna not to fear the things which she was about to suffer (prison, persecution, tribulation, and even death), because He knows their tribulation and poverty, and to those who are faithful, He will give the crown of life (see Rev. 2:8-11).
The church in Smyrna was a suffering church; they were the continuation of the suffering Christ, taking part in His sufferings for the producing and building up of the church.
The Lord’s afflictions are of two categories: those for accomplishing redemption (accomplished by Christ – we can’t participate in this suffering) and those for producing and building the church (these need to be filled up by all the believers).
When death and suffering operate in us, life operates in many other members of the Body; we need to be willing to be one with the Lord and complete the afflictions of Christ for His Body, which is the church (Col. 1:24). We should not seek to have suffering or inflict suffering on ourselves, but we should be willing and open to the Lord to suffer together with Him for His Body.
The church in Smyrna suffered especially from those who were from the Jewish religion, the Judaizers; these slandered the church by evilly criticizing her, and they stubbornly insisted on keeping their Judaistic system. But the church under the new covenant in God’s economy has no part in any religious practice, so the genuine church all throughout the ages has suffered much persecution, tribulation, and even death at the hands of the religious people instigated by Satan.
If we genuinely love the Lord and follow Him in spirit, in life, according to the Bible, and not caring for any religious system, we will be slandered, persecuted, and evil spoken of by religion and religious people. Religious people think they do God a service by persecuting the genuine believers in Christ, just as Saul (before he became Paul) did.
The enemy is scared not of big numbers of Christians getting together and listening to one man speaking; he is afraid of the small number of genuine seekers of the Lord who follow Him in spirit and in life and outside of religion.
The Satanic Religion and Devilish Politics Oppose Christ and the Church (the Vine and the Branches)
If you read the gospel of John you will first be impressed with the wonderful, mysterious, glorious, life-giving, and God-expressing person of the Lord Jesus, and then you will be shocked at how much the religious people in His time criticized Him, hated Him, persecuted Him, and desired to kill Him.
If they were for God so much, why did they hate and even put to death the Lord of life, God incarnated to be a man?
And the Lord warned us, His genuine disciples and believers, that just as the religious world at His time hated Him, so will the religious world in our time hate us and persecute us.
In John 15, a wonderful chapter speaking of Christ as the vine tree and we as the branches, the Lord said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).
The Lord did many works among the people of Israel, and they have seen God expressed and manifested through Him, yet they did not believe in Him but rather persecuted Him. The religious system in the Lord’s time was the Jewish religion, and they hated the Lord and His disciples; as the Lord’s slaves we are just like Him, and just as they persecuted Him so will they persecute us (v. 20).
Today Christianity is the religious world in this age, the religious system that opposes not only Christ, the true vine, but also the church, the branches of the vine (Gal. 1:4).
The persecution suffered by the church began from the religious synagogue of the Jews instigated by Satan, the adversary, and it was consummated by the Roman Empire used by the devil, the slanderer; the persecution of the suffering church was a cooperation of the satanic religion and the devilish politics.
In the Lord’s time, the Jews couldn’t just kill the Lord, so they instigated the Roman governor to put Him to death; later, the Jewish people because of their hate for the Lord’s followers, instigated the authorities to put the believers into prison and even kill them.
Today Christianity as a fallen and degraded system hates Christ and the genuine church, and they persecute Christ and His genuine followers. The more we abide in the Lord – as branches in the vine – to bear fruit as the expression of Christ, the more we will be hated by the religious world of today.
We need to be recovered back to God’s word, staying in His word and enjoying His rich life supply flowing in us, so that we may bear fruit to express Christ; however, we need to not be surprised if persecution and hatred comes – and not just from the world but from our fellow Christians who are in a religious system.
We need to realize that the genuine church life today is in opposition to religion and any religious system, and the genuine expression of Christ in purity in the church life today is hated by the fallen Christianity today.
Lord Jesus, keep us abiding in You so that we may bear fruit as the expression of Christ. Strengthen us into our inner man, Lord, so that we may endure and stand against any opposition or persecution from the religious system of Christianity as they see the genuine expression of Christ in and among us. Lord, we want to be Your genuine followers, true disciples, who love You, abide in You, receive Your abundant supply, are built together in spirit, and express You corporately, so that You may have a manifestation and expression on earth today!
The Church Suffers Tribulation to Testify the Resurrection Life and Enjoy the Riches of Christ’s Life
To the suffering church in Smyrna the Lord Jesus tenderly said, “I know your tribulation” (Rev. 2:9). This word is so simple, yet so sweet; the Lord seemed to be saying,
I am fully aware of what’s happening to you. I am caring and praying for you. I’m not delivering you out of this tribulation just yet, but I know it’s a time of tribulation. I am touched with the feelings of your infirmity in My humanity, and in My divinity I am interceding for you.
For the Lord to tell us that He knows and understands what we’re going through is a great cherishing to our heart. He knows how it feels like to be where we are, and He’s touched with our feelings; at the same time, He as the resurrection life empowers us inwardly to conquer any death subjectively and objectively.
Satan – the adversary – is God’s enemy without, and the devil – the accuser, the slanderer – is the enemy of God within. The persecution suffered by the church began from the religious synagogue of Jews instigated by Satan, the adversary, and it was consummated by the Roman government used by the devil, the slanderer, to put the saints into prison.
The devilish politics cooperated with the Satanic religion to persecute the genuine church and true followers of the Lord Jesus.
To the church, tribulation is a test of life. The extent to which the church experiences and enjoys the resurrection life of Christ can only be tested by tribulation. Moreover, tribulation also brings in the riches of the resurrection life of Christ. The Lord’s purpose in allowing the church to suffer tribulation is not only to testify that His resurrection life overcomes death, but also to enable the church to enter into the riches of His life. Hence, tribulation is precious to the church. (Life-study of Revelation, p. 131)
How wonderful! To the people in the world going through sufferings is something to avoid, refuse, or complain about, but to the church – an entity completely in resurrection – suffering is precious because it is here that resurrection life is manifested.
Death cannot hold the resurrection life; the more entered, the more opposed, the more criticized, and the more persecuted, the more the resurrection life within us is manifested. The Lord’s purpose in allowing us to suffer tribulation is not only to testify of His resurrection life (which overcomes death every single time), but also to enable us to enjoy the riches of His life (see John 11:25; Rev. 1:18; Eph. 3:8).
On our side we need to pray, Lord, deepen my experience of the riches of Your life! And on His side, the Lord will give us the experiences we need (which may not be the experiences we want or prefer!) so that His life with its riches may be richly enjoyed and experienced by us.
We may go through all kinds of difficult situations, but it is in these that the Lord is answering our prayer – He allows us to pass through things which make the riches of Christ’s life real and enjoyable to us.
However, it is sad to see brothers and sisters going through hardships and emerging even stronger in themselves as before….May the Lord give us the experiences we need and may we cooperate with Him in all humility so that the wealth of His being in resurrection would be wrought into our being for His glory and expression!
Thank You Lord, You know our tribulation, our suffering, and all the things we go through. You are fully aware of what is happening to us, and You care for us and pray for us. Lord, thank You for being the Spirit as the reality of resurrection, constantly imparting the resurrection life into our being even in the midst of the death situations we’re in. Amen, Lord, deepen our experience of the riches of Your life. Cause Your resurrection life to fill us and be expressed through us, no matter what death situations we’re in!
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 Witness Lee, 1970, vol. 1, pp. 79-81, 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:
# Death cannot hold the resurrection life, / The more interred, the more it multiplies; / All kinds of suff’ring only help it grow / And fruits of life abundant realize. (Hymns #639)
# Lord, by Your mercy You consume me. / It’s all according to God’s plan. / By resurrection life renew me, / Day by day, my inner man. (Song on experiencing resurrection)
# The living vine, a reality / Of God and man, one organically / Mutual abode, organism sweet. / Expression full, mingling complete. / When we abide, there’s a flow within. / As branches we—are expressing Him. / Our God needs us, we depend on Him. / To bear much fruit, to bring others in. (Song on abiding in the vine)
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