“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.
Up until last week, we looked at the church in Ephesus among the seven churches. The fact is that there are many churches that are like the church in Ephesus today.
The church opens and at first the people strive working hard in their toil and perseverance to accomplish God’s will until a point that they become comfortable and satisfied with their accomplishments.
They haven’t tolerated the evil men, and they’ve hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans that deceive its members.
Even though I said just ‘the Nicolaitans,’ you must not think of only the Nicolaitans that held to unorthodox teachings in the days of the early churches.
All the deeds that deceive believers to commit sin by craftily distorting the will of God and the truth; these are the deeds of the ‘Nicolaitans’.
Anyway, until the churches become stable, they had things to be praised for by the Lord just like the church in Ephesus.
But after the churches become stable and are recognized by others, chances are that they lose their first deeds.
And sometimes they may become arrogant, and start to judge and condemn other churches that are not like them.
It’s because they have such arrogance as they themselves become acknowledged and recognized by other others around them.
As they go further, they come to judge and condemn other churches or servants of God; they commit terrible sins by saying “They are wrong. They are a heretical sect.”
God truly says many times not to judge, not to condemn, not to gossip, and not to measure.
Just because their ways are not the same as others, are all the others wrong and also all sects? The standard should be only the Bible, the Word of God.
The reason that the Lord commended the church in Ephesus for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans was because the deeds of the Nicolaitans were clearly wrongful deeds according to the Word of God.
The Nicolaitans said, “The spirit is clean, sinless, and sanctified. The reason human beings commit sins is that sin is in the flesh, so the spirit in the body has nothing to do with sin. And when God calls his spirit, the flesh drenched in sin goes back to the earth. Therefore no matter how much the flesh commits sin, it is irrelevant to salvation. Once he believed in the Lord, his spirit becomes cleansed so that it doesn’t matter what kind of sin the flesh commits.”
Now then, is what they proclaim really true according to the Word of God?
God says ‘never to commit sin.’ He says that the Holy Spirit can be quenched if you commit sin even though you accepted the Lord as your savior. He says that you won’t be able to repent at all if you commit the sin of repeatedly crucifying the Lord.
Therefore, it is clear that the idea and the deeds of the Nicolaitans are of a sect that absolutely stands against the Word of God.
Now, here is a church that teaches only to live by the word of God; it teaches its members with tears to live in greater goodness and to be more sanctified. It proclaims with proofs only that the Bible is true, Jesus Christ is the only savior, and God the Creator is alive. But if there are people who say the church is wrong and a sect, on what basis can they say that, other than by the Word of God?
The works of God that transcends time and space, the works through aprons and handkerchiefs that contain the power of God, and the other wondrous and miraculous works; these are all written in the Bible, and we have been proving that such works are all true.
In the Bible, it is written that people saw the spiritual realm with their spiritual eyes, and that they communicated with God along with others who were able to communicate with God.
But, if we say that the things written in the bible are taking place and experienced, why do they criticize that it is wrong?
Such people who criticize and judge must realize on what basis they are doing so.
You must discern things according to the truth; if there is something that God detests and hates, you must surely hate it and put it away. But you must not blind yourselves with arrogance. Also you must you must not judge or condemn a church or a servant of God that God loves based on conclusions derived from a faulty foundation
You must not hinder them from accomplishing God’s work. Furthermore, you must not commit the sin of causing your people to judge or condemn others because of faulty and misleading teachings by the servants of God.
Just as the Lord says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches, may you listen to what the Holy Spirit says, and realize what the truth is, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray!
Dear brothers and sisters.
You must bear in mind why the church in Ephesus had to listen to a furious reproach of the Lord saying, “I will remove your lampstand.”
It’s because they lost the first love for the Lord and left the first deeds.
But here, the reason the Lord reproached the church in Ephesus was not because He wanted them to go in fear on the path to destruction
But He wanted them to repent and turn back, and wants them to be together with Him in the kingdom of God.
Still, if there are churches like the church in Ephesus, the Lord wants them to repent and turn back quickly, and to press on with new strength and new hope.
If you cooled down the passion and the fullness of first love without your realizing it while managing a believing life for years or even decades, please take this opportunity to challenge yourself and make a new determination while listening to the word given to the church in Ephesus.
You must remember that you don’t have any more time to put it off.
If you have run in fullness of first love without changing, please,while listening to the word given to the church in Ephesus, take this opportunity to once again make a resolution saying, “I will keep my first love and first deeds, and I love the Lord all the more”.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
Jesus Christ our Lord, who is the same yesterday, today and for all eternity, loves the children of God with His unchanging love.
It is human beings that forsake the love of the Lord because of their selfish desires, their personal benefits, their attributes of changing flesh, and other things of this world.
As time passes by, their first love changes.
But, even if their hearts were changed, if they repent and turn back, and recover their first love and first deeds, our God of love never neglects them, nor holds their past sins against them.
He waits for you with unchanging love and embraces you when you come back to Him.
His heart is that of a father who had his prodigal son put on the best robe and a ring, and held a feast by killing a fattened calf.
This is the spiritual love that never changes.
If you lost the first love, then I hope that you can deeply feel such love of the Lord so that you will be blessed to recover your lost tears of the first love.
When you were so thankful in the beginning for the grace and love of the Lord who saved you, you made a determination that you would be faithful to press on to the point of sacrificing your life. May your determination never change from now until you meet the Lord again, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray!
Let’s take a look at the words that the Lord gave to the church in Smyrna, the second church among the seven churches.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
The church in Smyrna is the only church that heard neither commendation nor rebuke, but a word of advice.
But the word given to the church in Smyrna contains very important meanings.
It contains answers to such questions as “Why did trials and tribulations come upon them?”, “What is the synagogue of Satan?” and “To whom is the crown of life given?”. This is the ‘must-know’ information you need for your lives as believers.
The words given are directly related to one of great missions that has been assigned to this church.
The verse 8 says, “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 already explained that the angel of the church in Smyrna was the servant of God who was in charge of the church.
And it says that the Lord ‘who was dead and has come to life’ is the first and the last. I already explained what ‘the Lord’s being the first’ means. It is that the Lord is the First Fruit of the Resurrection.
Romans says in 5:12, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” all the people who have been born of Adam after Adam’s sin;
they have no choice in the end but to go on the path to death according to the spiritual law since the wage of sin is death.
But Jesus died for us on the cross to redeem us from our all sins.
And a way to the salvation was open for human beings.
Therefore Romans 5:18-19 says, “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”
And then, the Lord who opened a way to the salvation for us came back to life three days later after He died, and became the first fruit of the resurrection.
That’s why we say the Lord is ‘the First.’
And now, the reason we call the Lord ‘the Last’ is that the cultivation of human beings will come to an end when the Lord returns in the air.
All the dead who believed in the Lord, and all the people who will meet the Lord alive will become the fruits of the resurrection when the Lord comes back in the air.
Well, there will be ‘a gleaning salvation,’ but it is far from the providence of salvation through human cultivation. Therefore (the process of) true salvation will come to an end with the second advent of the Lord in the air.
And the day of the Lord’s Second Advent will be ‘the last’ and the end to the harvest to gain ‘the last’ fruit of the resurrection.
Like this, the Lord, who is the last, surely died and came to life.
The fact that the Lord died and came back to life is so important in our believing life.
Romans 10:9 says, “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
It says that you will be saved when you believe the resurrection of the Lord in your heart.
But today, we can find many people who just go back and forth to church without firm belief in the resurrection of the Lord.
Since they don’t have such a firm belief in the resurrection, they don’t have hope for the resurrection, and they don’t have faith to live by the Word of God as well.
Then, how can you and I believe in the fact that the Lord died and came back to life?
As an example, we can see how the disciples of the Lord changed between the period just before the Lord’s resurrection and the period of time after the Lord’s resurrection.
While Jesus was with His disciples for 3 years, He manifested numerous miracles and signs so that His disciples could believe that He came from God and that He is the son of God.
And He also told them that He was to die on the cross and that on the third day after His death, He would shatter the authority of death and resurrect.
Yet, when Jesus was actually arrested and crucified on the cross, His disciples fled from Him and scattered out of fear.
Peter, the first of the Lord’s disciples, denied Jesus 3 times even though he once said, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”
Of course, other disciples said the same thing, but they also left Jesus and ran away.
You may say, “How could they have done that?” but unless you have entered into the level of the Spirit, your actions may be the same.
And, since they were not in the position to have received the Holy Spirit yet, they weren’t able to believe Jesus’ words of being dead and coming to life again. That’s why they behaved as they did.
Then, there was a wondrous event through which the disciples changed at once.
They used to run away out of fear, but now some of them became prey to lions while testifying to the Lord, and some of them were beheaded.
Some of them were sawed to death, while Apostle Peter died on the cross upside-down.
Despite the suffering as martyrs, they testified to the Lord to the point of death.
All these (sacrifices) were possible because they themselves met the resurrected Lord face to face.
When they saw the Lord who died and came back to life with their own eyes, they came to have firm belief in the resurrection, and they became full of hope for heaven.
And then, they were freed from the fear of death, and they became able to sacrifice their lives for the Lord.
Such demonstrations occurred not only to the disciples of Jesus, but also to many members of the early church who witnessed His resurrection and ascension into heaven.
Christianity was able to become wide spread all over the world so rapidly because the early Christians sacrificed their lives in firm faith in the resurrection and with hope for the resurrection despite severe persecution.
If they had not had seen the Lord’s ascension nor believed in the resurrection, how could they have kept their faith and endured such pain and persecution till the end.
Dear brothers and sisters.
The disciples, who witnessed the resurrection of the Lord, courageously spread the gospel, however, they didn’t do it only with their lips.
Just as Mark 16:20 says, “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.”People could believe what the Lord’s disciples and apostles said because of the signs that followed them.
The same applies even today.
When we testify to the resurrection of the Lord with a firm belief in our heart, the Lord confirms the word by the signs that follow.
Just as John says in 4:48, “So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe,”” in most cases, people come to have faith only after they see signs and wonders.
But how many signs, wonders, and proofs of the power have you seen so far?
I urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to march on in firm belief in the resurrection and the hope for the resurrection.
Now, the Lord who is the first and the last, who died and has come to life’ says in the verse 9, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich).”
Why did the church in Smyrna experience such tribulations and the poverty?
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
Even though you lived under tribulation and poverty before you believed in the Lord, when you accept the Lord and live a faithful believing life, it only makes sense that we should not be left to suffer afflictions and need as you’re protected and guided by God.
But, chances are that there are many believers who suffer as a result ordeals in their lives and financial difficulties.
Then, why do believers in God experience such tribulation and poverty?
There are two major reasons for experiencing tribulation.
First, one may suffer tribulation for the sake of the Lord’s name. Second, one may suffer tribulation because of the accusations by Satan for not living according to the truth, which is the word of God, even though they profess they believe.
Yet even among believers, some confuse these two reasons.
Especially, some say that they experience tribulation for the sake of the name of the Lord, even though they actually suffer tribulation because they don’t live by the word of God.
Sometimes, because they are not wise enough or they haven’t received the more wisdom of goodness, some suffer tribulation or persecution that they may have been able to avoid
Yet, since they think they experience the persecution because of the Lord, they cannot look back on themselves to reflect on the real cause of the affliction in their lives.
Also, they take it for granted to suffer tribulation or persecution for the sake of the name of the Lord. But it only applies to the tribulation or persecution that they suffer for the kingdom of God.
The individual tribulation or persecution for the Lord’s sake will disappear as soon as you enter into the spirit.
Persecutions from your husband, your wife, or your family; all these will disappear.
I hope that you can clearly understand and discern these cases.
First, the tribulation you suffer for believing in the Lord is for righteousness. Because you come to believe in the Lord, you suffer the persecution or tribulation that you didn’t have when you didn’t believe in the Lord.
Let’s say, your husband persecutes you simply because you go to church.
Sometimes, your mother-in-law, your parents, brothers and sisters, friends, or even your own children may persecute you.
But all these persecutions will disappear when you come into the spirit.
Since the darkness fades away before the light, when you come into the spirit and dwell in the light, spiritual authority will be given to you, and naturally the darkness that used to persecute you will disappear.
But, despite the fact that you have managed 5, 10, or a 20 year long life as a believer, if such persecutions haven’t disappeared yet, you must look back on your believing life.
“Whether you give out the fragrance of the Lord Christ,” “whether you give glory to God with your good deeds,” or “whether you truly live by the word of God and walk in the light;” you must check and see why the persecutions of the darkness don’t fade away from you yet.
Now, there is some tribulation you suffer even after you come into the spirit.
It is the tribulation you suffer to accomplish God’s kingdom and to save the souls.
Many prophets in the Old Testament times such as Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, and apostles in the New Testament times such as Paul, Peter, and John experienced such tribulation and persecution.
Even though they loved God so much, and they were greatly loved by God, they willingly endured all the tribulations and persecutions for God, for the Lord, and for the kingdom of God and the souls.
For this, Jesus says in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
If you truly believe this word in your heart, even if you have to endure unbearable persecutions or tribulations, you can rejoice and be glad since great is your reward in heaven.
Now, when you suffered this persecution or that tribulation for the sake of the name of the Lord, what did you think?
If you rejoiced and were glad, then you should be grateful. If you didn’t, but had grudges or complaints on your lips, then you must repent thoroughly, and from now on become a person who can rejoice, and be glad and thankful from your heart.
Only then, will Father God will reward you greatly in heaven as well as He will bless you on this earth for the tribulation and persecution you suffered.
We will continue to look into the tribulation that you suffer for the sake of the Lord’s name in the next session.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
If you truly suffer tribulation because of the Lord, then you surely have true spiritual faith, and you have hope for heaven, not for this world.
You march on not for the life in this world that will vanish like fog, but for the eternal life in heaven.
But, in order to achieve a goal in this world, we must toil and endure with perseverance.
For example, to enter a college or to get a job, how hard do you make an effort?
But you toil and endure with patience only because you look for the prize that you will get.
In order to get something in this world, you toil and persevere. Likewise, or moreover, if you look up to the eternal reward of heaven that cannot be compared with anything in this world, don’t you think you must rejoice and be glad in any given situation?
Don’t you have to be even more enthusiastic and eager when you face such tribulation or persecution?
Since our fathers of faith had such faith and hope, they could walk the narrow path with joy and thanksgiving.
Apostle suffered the persecution and the tribulation for the Lord as severe as he confessed in 1 Corinthians 4:11-13, “To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.”
Therefore, you and I must become blessed people who can accomplish what we hope for under any tribulation for the sake of the name of the Lord, just as Romans 5:3-4 says, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.”
May all of you become beautiful fruit of the resurrection on the day our Lord comes back for us, just like the Lord who is the First Fruit of the Resurrection. And may all of you enjoy the true happiness and the joy of peace in the eternal heaven forever and evermore, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray!