Christís Speaking to the Local Churches in Revelation


To Smyrna

Smyrna, the second local church, is characterized by suffering. She was under intense persecution. Witness Lee observes regarding this local church that she was participating in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ.

In Revelation 2:8-11 the Lord Jesus speaks a comforting word to the suffering local church in Smyrna:

And to the messenger of the church in Smyrna write: These things says the First and the Last, who became dead and lived again: I know your tribulation and poverty (but you are rich) and the slander from those who call themselves Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear the things that you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison that you may be tried, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall by no means be hurt of the second death.

In his discussion of the significance of this portion of the Word, Witness Lee explains that Smyrna typifies the suffering, persecuted church among the seven representative local churches. The Lord's speaking to this local church was simply to encourage her to be faithful to Him in love unto death.

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.

(Witness Lee, LS of Revelation, 129)

Witness Lee further writes of the persecution evident in the local church in Smyrna:

In the second epistle, the one to Smyrna, the Lord speaks of persecution….The more we love the Lord Jesus, the more we will be persecuted. And the persecution does not come from the Gentile, heathen world, but from the synagogues. A synagogue is a place where people worship God. The persecution to the lovers of Jesus is not from the heathen world, but from the religious people….
From this epistle, we can see that the second requirement of for the local churches is that under persecution they be faithful unto death. If we are faithful to the Lord as a pure lover of Jesus alone we must be ready to suffer persecution….Under this kind of persecution, the Lord requires us to be faithful unto death….

(Witness Lee, Stream, 701-702)

Commenting on the Lord’s promise to reward His overcoming believers with a crown of life, Witness Lee writes:

A crown in New Testament usage always denotes a prize that is in addition to salvation. The crown of life, as a prize to those who are faithful unto death in overcoming persecution, denotes the overcoming strength that is the power of the resurrection life (Phil. 3:10); it also denotes that these overcomers have attained to the out-resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:11), i.e., the outstanding resurrection.

(Witness Lee, Footnotes, 1247)

The local church in Smyrna represents the continuation of the Lord Jesus' sufferings. He encouraged this persecuted church to remain faithful to Him unto death. Among the seven local churches in Revelation, as Witness Lee points out, the local church in Smyrna was the shining testimony of Jesus during a particularly dark time in church history.

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Ephesus

 

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