Life-Study of Revelationby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The Lord was sovereign in selecting the churches to fulfill His purpose. He chose seven cities in Asia Minor:
Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. According to the Greek, the name of each city is very meaningful, exactly matching its spiritual significance. As we have pointed out, Ephesus means desirable, indicating that the church in Ephesus was precious to the Lord and desirable in His eyes. In Greek Smyrna means myrrh. Myrrh is a sweet spice which, in figure, signifies suffering. In typology, myrrh signifies the sweet suffering of Christ. Thus, the church in Smyrna was a suffering church, prefiguring the church under the persecution of the Roman Empire from the latter part of the first century to the early part of the fourth century. This persecuted church suffered in the sweetness and fragrance of Christ. In other words, this church was in the tribulation of Jesus and in the fellowship of His sufferings. The church in Smyrna suffered as Christ Himself did, having become a continuation of His suffering. In Colossians 1:24 Paul said that he filled up “that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His Body, which is the church.” Paul was completing the sufferings of Christ. Although no one can continue Christ’s redemption, His sufferings must be completed by all His followers both individually and collectively. In the church in Smyrna we see the collective continuation of the sufferings of Jesus. Because this church was a continuation of Jesus’ suffering, it was truly the testimony of Jesus.
Let us now consider the speaker to the church in Smyrna. In verse 8 the Lord says, “These things says the First and the Last, who became dead, and lived again.” The Lord told this suffering church that He was the First and the Last. This means that no matter how great were the sufferings through which He passed, those sufferings could not terminate or damage Him. He was the First and eventually He was also the Last. In suffering, the church must know that the Lord is the First and the Last, the ever-existing, unchanging One. Whatever the environment may be, He remains the same. Nothing can precede Him, nor can anything exist after Him. All things are within the limit of His control.
When the Lord told the church in Smyrna that He was the First and the Last, He was indicating that the church had to be victorious. The church should not be frustrated by any type of suffering. She must pass through all the sufferings and come to the end, because the Lord, who is the life and Head of the church, is the First and Last.
In this verse the Lord also said that He is the One “who became dead, and lived again.” “Lived again” means resurrection. The Lord suffered death and lived again. He entered into death, but death could not hold Him (Acts 2:24) because He is the resurrection (John 11:25). The suffering church also needs to know Him as such a One that she may endure all kinds of suffering. However severe the persecution may be, the church will still be alive, for the resurrection life of Christ within her can endure death. The most suffering or persecution can do is kill us. Following the death from persecution, there is resurrection. Therefore, the Lord seemed to be telling the suffering church, “You must realize that I am the One who was persecuted to death. But that death was not the end—it was the gateway into resurrection. When I entered into death, I came into the threshold of resurrection. Do not be frightened by persecution, nor terrified at the prospect of being killed. You must welcome death and be happy, for once you have passed into death you also will be on the threshold of resurrection. Remember, I am the One who became dead and lived again.” Whatever we need, the Lord is. His qualifications exactly match our need. To the suffering church, the Lord is not only the First and the beginning but also the Last and the end. Whenever you are undergoing persecution, you must rise up and declare, “Hallelujah, I am going to the end, to the last. I am about to enter into the gateway of resurrection.”
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