“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:
 ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
 ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until 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 will not be hurt by the second death.’
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
Whether people believe in God or not, everyone experiences afflictions of one kind or another while going through life.
As a general rule, once they believe in God, even though they once had to undergo many tribulations, all the tribulations must stop and leave them since God is protecting them.
In reality though, we can see that there are many among those who believe in the Lord who still suffer from tribulation.
But the tribulations that they suffer from are different from the tribulations that worldly people suffer
They may appear similar, but when the believers overcome the tribulations by faith, their spirit and soul will be prosperous and their rewards will be piled up in heaven.
As I explained in the last lecture, there are two kinds of tribulation that believers suffer.
First, it is the tribulation that you suffer because you believe in God.
There are tribulations that you may suffer in order only to live by the word of God who is the Light itself in this world of darkness.
For example, they may suffer tribulation from their non-believing family or neighbors. When they try to live by the truth, they may also suffer tribulation or persecution from non-believers in a school or a business.
In this case, all the tribulation and persecution will become a great reward and blessing.
The apostles believed this fact, and they were grateful for the suffering the tribulations that were for the sake of the name of the Lord.
In Acts Ch. 5, the apostles suffered many afflictions such as being lashed and imprisoned for the sake of the name of the Lord. And the verse 41 says, “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
As you may see, the apostles didn’t feel burdened or ashamed when they suffered tribulations for the Lord’s name; they were rather glad, joyful, and thankful.
Dear brothers and sisters.
In some cases, however, you actually bring the unnecessary tribulations or persecutions on yourself because you do not act wisely enough. But instead of realizing it you still tell yourself that you suffer because of your belief in the Lord.
If a wife acts unwisely and husband is a non-believer, he may become envious or jealous of her going to church.
When you don’t exercise self control, when you are vague and when you don’t discern what you should and should not say, you may cause your church and a servant of God to be subjected to a verbal abuse.
Or you may cause your non-believing family members to be repulsed by what you say and do.
These are not the tribulations that you suffer because you believe in the Lord. These are the kind of tribulations that you can avoid if you are wise and show the deeds of goodness.
But unlike these cases, there are situations of tribulations and persecutions that believers suffer by people who are managed and influenced by the enemy devil and Satan.
These are the tribulations and the persecutions that the forefathers of faith in both the Old and New Testament times suffered to accomplish the will and the providence of God.
How many people nowadays do you think will courageously spread the gospel of the Lord if they know they will suffer such tribulations and persecutions?
But this church has a duty to spread the gospel in spite of such tribulations and persecutions when the time comes.
Well, of course this church has suffered countless tribulations and persecutions to spread the gospel.
But, this church has also made great achievement in the providence of world mission even under such tribulations and persecutions.
Within the providences of God, this church has been given the important mission of evangelizing North Korea.
We will surely receive various tribulations and persecutions for the Lord’s name when we attempt to accomplish our mission in North Korea.
Therefore, among the words given to the church in Smyrna, there are words that we must bear in mind to accomplish the North Korea Mission
Our members who are preparing for their individual roles in the North Korea Mission must specially realize that the situations you will encounter are hidden in the words given to the church of Smyrna. So please listen to the words and make bread out of them.
When this church is actually doing the ministry in North Korea, we may face the situations where we will suffer not only tribulations and persecutions but also martyrdom.
But if you suffer such things, the rewards that will be given to you will be very great.
And just as Romans 12:14 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse,” if you don’t hate or curse those who persecute you, but bless them and pray for them, what a good heart you have!
Apostle Paul had such a heart, and he took all the tribulations and persecutions he suffered for the Lord with joy and thanksgiving. That’s why he is now in such a high position in heaven.
For those who will do accomplish the mission in North Korea; if those servants of God and members can have such a heart and overcome any tribulation and persecution with joy and thanksgiving, the glory and commendation of heaven will be so great.
Therefore, no matter what tribulation you suffer in the name of the Lord in order to walk in the truth, please rejoice and be glad from the depth of your heart.
May God give abundant blessing to such people not only in heaven but also on this earth, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray!
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ!
Unlike the tribulation that you may suffer for the Lord’s name, there are tribulations that you may suffer because Satan accuses you of not living in the truth.
Of course, people suffer various tribulations and persecutions at the hand of the enemy devil and Satan before they believe in the Lord.
They become the prey of the enemy devil and Satan without knowing why they suffer such affliction
But the tribulation and persecution that you suffer after you accept the Lord and become the children of God are different from those that you suffer for being in the world.
How different are they, then?
Just as Philippians 3:20 says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” when we accept Jesus Christ as your savior and become children of God, you become citizens of heaven.
And from this time on, you must obey the law of heaven as citizens of heaven.
But when you violate this law, the enemy devil and Satan can bring accusations against you for it.
In the position of the enemy devil and Satan, you were once in the sins of the world and children of Satan. But Satan lost her children when they became children of God. So, Satan then frantically looks for a way to get you back.
Whenever possible, Satan tries to accuse you and brings trials of tribulation and persecution against you that force you to experience difficulties and suffer from them.
There are some people who mistakenly believe that God causes them to face such difficulties, even though they suffer such difficulties because of their own faults.
You should never misunderstand like this.
Our God doesn’t tempt anyone.
Just as James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone,” God doesn’t bring any tribulation or persecution to us.
The reason trials and difficult times come on you is because you are tempted by your own greed, just as James 1:14 says, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.”
In short, since you are tempted by your own lust, you violate the law of God and commit sin.
Even in this world, it is illegal to break the laws of the world, and if you do and are caught, then you’re punished. Likewise when you violate the law of God, you have to pay the price.
Our God wants to give only the good things to His children, but when the children commit sin before God, they are accused by Satan.
Since God is the God of Justice, God cannot protect the children who commit sin. And the enemy devil and Satan bring the children as much trouble and afflictions as the sins they commit.
However, you must understand that all this is the love of God.
James 1:15 says, “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death,” and Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.”
The result of sin is eventually death.
What if the children are left alone and they commit sin and go to the way to death?
Is leaving such children alone really true love?
God of love cannot sit still and disregard the children who commit sin and go to the way of death. That’s why God allows the enemy devil and Satan to bring trials and afflictions against them, according to the accusations against them, so that His children can repent and turn back by the means of punishment.
The book of Hebrews records this love of God in 12:5-6, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.”
Therefore, when you encounter any tribulation or persecution, you must first check yourself, and discern whether it is resulted from believing in the Lord or from committing sin.
If the trials are your own fault, you must quickly figure out what is wrong, repent of it, and turn back so that you can come back into the blessing of the Lord.
Since the word of God is absolute, as long as you live by God’s law which is the truth, no wicked man can even touch you.
And all the tribulations and persecutions will leave you and everything will be prosperous.
Therefore, when tribulations or persecutions come upon you, it is an opportunity for you to reflect upon yourself, make necessary changes and then to even receive blessing. That’s why you can be glad and thankful all the time.
Now, in the latter part of the verse 9, the Lord says that He also knows ‘your poverty,’ not only ‘your tribulation.’ Then, why does poverty come?
You should receive financial blessing since everything must be prosperous just as your spirit and soul are prosperous when you believe in God, and abide in the Lord.
But chances are that you may experience poverty after you abide in the Lord.
Despite working more fervently and more diligently than when you didn’t believe in the Lord, you may suffer trial, or experience unfair treat.
Sometimes people quit their or change their job in order to keep the Lord’s Day holy, since you couldn’t keep it with the previous job.
In this way, you may experience financial difficulty or even poverty.
But it’s temporary. How in the world would the Lord let you suffer poverty for any length of time when your suffering is because you believe in and follow the Lord?
No matter how severely your colleagues persecute you at your work, if you continue to treat them with goodness and light, they will eventually give in and lower their heads before you.
Many members of Light & Salt Mission, and those who work for a company that works on the Sabbath have experienced this case.
Eventually, they come to receive blessing from the Lord instead of poverty.
Besides this situation however, there might be poverty that one chooses for oneself.
In my case, I spend nothing on things for myself throughout the whole year.
Whatever financial blessing I get, I collect all and give to God or for charitable work. During the entire year, I don’t even buy a pair of socks.
I don’t go out for lunch just to save money. I may go and eat out once or twice a year at most.
In this church, there are many members who spend nothing on themselves but give what they have to God in the love for the temple of God, even though they are in a position where they can enjoy and take pleasure in what ever they may desire.
This is the case that they put themselves in poverty in gratitude because they love the Lord.
Just who is this God of ours?
Do you think our God would dilly sit back and not bother with those who demonstrate their love for God and His church like that?
Of course, God will reward them greatly in heaven, but also on this earth, God provides them with what they needs whenever it might be. He gives them the blessing of their spirit and soul being prosperous, and makes them prosper and be in good health.
That’s why the Lord says, “But you are rich.”
Dear brothers and sisters.
2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”
Jesus is the son of God the Creator, and the most rich of all. But despite this fact, He was born in a barn, and was laid in a bed that was a trough for feeding animals. While living on this earth, He suffered from hunger and slept in the wilderness. It was in this way that He took our poverty so that we could be freed from its curse.
Therefore, as believers we cannot be poor, and we must give glory to God through our richness.
However, being a child of God of itself doesn’t guarantee that we will be without need.
In Deuteronomy Ch. 28 God promises us that when we listen to the word of God and abide by it He will give the blessing when we come in or go out, the blessing of becoming the head not the tail, and the blessing of lending to many not borrowing.
But, if you experience poverty or suffer tribulation or persecution, please check whether you abide by the word of God.
Especially, if you commit a sin that God hates and build the barrier of sin between you and God, you cannot be prosperous no matter how hard you may try unless you break down the barrier.
But at the same time, you should realize that not being prosperous is blessing itself since it makes you look back, repent and turn back.
If you truly live by the word of God and walk in the light, you will not suffer tribulation, persecution, or poverty. Even if you suffer it for the Lord’s name temporarily, it will eventually go away, and you will receive even greater blessing.
But above all else, the eternal heaven is prepared for the saved children of God, and just as their spirit and soul may prosper, everything will be prosperous in this world as well. How rich they are!
May you enjoy this abundant blessing of richness, in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, I pray!
In the latter part of the verse 9, He says, “(I know) the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”
‘Jews’ originally refers to God-chosen people; in other words, they are of the chosen nation.
So, today all the people who believe in the Lord are “Jews” in a spiritual sense.
But the verse mentions ‘those who say they are Jews;’ those who call themselves Jews.
Jews were supposed to be the God-chosen people, and God-believing people. In the days of Jesus, those who called themselves Jews didn’t recognize Jesus as the son of God. Instead of recognizing Him, they persecuted Him, disobeyed Him, and eventually crucified Him on the cross.
The same still happens today. Among those who believe in the Lord and go to church, there are people who slander the works of God.
There are people who judge, condemn and hate, or are envious and jealous of others only because they are not in accord with them.
How on earth will our God acknowledge such people as God-chosen children?
They are those who call themselves Jews. The Lord says that He knows such people who are the ones who slander the works of God, and that they are in no way, “Jews”.
In other words, they cannot be children of God.
Dear brothers and sisters.
No matter how great faith you or others think you have, and no matter how righteous or good you appear to be, it is all useless unless God acknowledges you.
Jesus says in Matthew 13:49-50, “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Even though they call themselves children of God, if their words and deeds are not those of the children of God, then they are ‘those who call themselves Jews,’ and it will be revealed on the Final Day of Judgment.
Well before the Final Day of Judgment, the fruit of those who call themselves Jews will already have been revealed in their lives.
If they were men of God, they would yield the fruit of the Holy Spirit. They would in the truth, love each other, be in peace with others, and bear the fruit of good words and deeds.
But if they produce envy, jealousy, judgment, condemnation, hatred, and discord, whose work is it going to be?
Of course, it’s the work of Satan.
Thus, when more than two people who follow the work of Satan gather, it is called ‘the synagogue of Satan.
Today, many churches are suffering difficulties and afflictions.
We will look into more details about the synagogue of Satan in the next lecture.
Dear brothers and sisters.
Long ago Father God had already assigned the North Korean Mission to this church.
About 50 years have passed since the Korean War and the division of Korean Peninsula, but still there are many people who have their parents, brothers and sisters, or relatives in North Korea.
They are share the same blood with us.
Apostle Paul had a longing heart for the salvation of his own people, just as he said in Romans 9:3, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”
That’s because Paul not only knew God’s earnest love for His chosen people, but he personally had a fervent love and enthusiasm for his own people.
In the same way I have an earnest love for the people in North Korea, our kinsmen.
Of course, I put 6.5 billion people of the world in my heart and pray for them. But the mission in North Korea is one of the special providence in these last days, so that I always put it in my heart and pray for that.
God chose this church, and He is using this church for His providence in the last days. God is giving this country, its people, and this church to which we belong, a chance.
It is just the same as God enduring ’till the last and showing the providence of salvation to the Israelites, who crucified Jesus on the cross and who haven’t yet accepted Him as their savior, a chance.
When the time comes, in the will and providence of God, a gate for North Korean Mission will open, and the servants of God and church workers will enter North Korea. But they will encounter many difficulties in reality.
All the environment and economic situation in reality cannot be compared with here; they will be much poorer.
Also, the more days that go by, the more severe the persecution and tribulation will be. The workers will stand at the crossroads of choice; “Do I have to stay here or do I have to go back to Manmin Church?”
And the choice is up to their own free will.
But, no matter what the situation it may be, if your heart is rich, the surrounding situation and condition will not matter.
When I say, ‘the heart is rich,’ it means that your heart is full of hope for heaven, and that you don’t lose your faith and the fullness of the Holy Spirit looking at the reward that will be given to you.
On the other hand, “the rich in spirit, which is in the opposite against “the poor in spirit” mentioned in Matthew 5:3, is the one whose heart is full of greed, lust, and pride of the world.
So, when I said ‘the heart is rich,’ it is not the opposite meaning to ‘the poor in spirit;’ what I mean is being rich in heart with spiritual attributes such hope for heaven, faith, and love.
2 Corinthians mentions about those people in 6:10; “As sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.”
No tribulation, persecution, or poverty can make such people who are rich in heart weak.
The North Korean Mission can be completely accomplished in the will and providence of Father God when the heart is rich like this.
This applies to every one of you here.
Please make your heart rich with the spiritual things that Father God gives you.
Then no matter what sort of difficulty or suffering you may encounter, they cannot be an obstacle in your way.
You should not be the chaff that looks good outwardly but is filled with nothing inside.
I hope that you will be full of spiritual fruit so that you can be praised by the Lord who will say, “But, you are rich.”
Therefore, may your richness be revealed outwardly and yield abundant and beautiful fruit, in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, I pray!