Christís Speaking to the Local Churches in Revelation


Additional Quotes about the Local Church by Witness Lee and Watchman Nee

The following passage from Witness Lee’s Life-Study of Revelation focuses on the Lord’s speaking to the church in Smyrna:

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.”
In verse 9 the Lord said to the church in Smyrna, “I know your tribulation.” The content of this epistle is nothing but tribulation, suffering, and persecution. 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.
The Lord said, “I know your tribulation and poverty, but you are rich.” The Lord did appraise this suffering church. The suffering church was poor in material things, but rich in the Lord with the riches of His life. Thus, the Lord seemed to be saying, “You are suffering tribulation and poverty. yet you are rich. You are poor physically, but 132 you are rich spiritually. You are poor in earthly things, but you are rich in heavenly things.” Suffering persecution is the means to bring us into the riches of Christ. The more we are persecuted and suffer poverty, the richer we are in Christ.
In verse 9 the Lord also said that He knew “the slander of those who call themselves Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” According to this epistle, the persecution came from religion, from the unbelieving Jews of the synagogue of Satan. The slander of the Judaizers toward the suffering church was their evil criticism of her. The Judaizers were Jews in flesh, but not Jews in spirit (Rom. 2:28-29). Merely being the seed of Abraham in the flesh did not constitute them true Jews. “Those who are the children of the flesh are not the children of God” (Rom. 9:7-8). Therefore, the Lord said that they “call themselves Jews and are not.” These Judaizers stubbornly insisted upon keeping their Judaistic system consisting of the Levitical priesthood, the sacrificial rituals, and the material temple, which were all types now fulfilled and replaced by Christ. Since the Church under the new covenant in God’s economy had no part in their religious practice, the Judaizers slanderously criticized her….

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