Smyrna is the church which suffered persecution. If we all return to our first love for the Lord, surely the persecution will come. During the first, second, and third centuries the church suffered much persecution. Satan used the Roman Empire to persecute the church and to kill many believers. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs tells how that many of these early Christians were persecuted and martyred for the sake of the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus promised those persecuted ones that if they would overcome, they would receive the crown of life and not suffer the second death. To be hurt of the second death does not mean to be lost, but it means to suffer something. Any kind of suffering will not be pleasant. Do not be concerned about the details concerning the second death. Simply take the warning from the Lord. The Lord Jesus does not give us the details because He does not expect us to be there. He expects that we all would receive the crown of life. Of course, the crown of life is not given today, but is given during the time of the millennium. Regardless of how much you may suffer for the Lord Jesus today, you will not receive a crown in this age. Even the Apostle Paul does not yet have his crown. He is still waiting for the time of the millennium to receive his crown. At that time all the overcomers will be the co-kings with Christ and receive a crown.
Satan’s persecution of the church was not successful. The more he persecuted the church, the stronger the Christians became. So he used a more subtle attack. At the beginning of the fourth century, during the time of Constantine, Satan changed his tactics. He turned from persecuting to welcoming the church. This is signified by the church at Pergamos. Pergamos literally means marriage and symbolically means a high tower. This signifies the church having a kind of evil marriage with the world and becoming something great. Constantine brought the world into the church and took the church back into the world. This became an evil and illegal marriage. The church was married to the world. Because the church was married to the world, it became something great as a high tower.
This was the beginning of the great tree mentioned in Matthew 13. Within Pergamos, there were the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans (2:14, 15). These teachings were a kind of evil leaven within the church. The Lord Jesus came in to call out the overcomers and to promise them two things: the hidden manna and a white stone. The stone is for building, and the white color indicates that it is approved and pleasant to the Lord. Upon the white stone there is a new name which none besides yourself can know. Many times we should have some special experiences with the Lord that others cannot understand. Sometimes even our family cannot understand our experiences of the Lord. We experience something new and fresh that others cannot understand. The new name indicates fresh and new experiences of the Lord.
If we enjoy the Lord in a hidden way, He will become the hidden manna to us, and we will become a justified, approved stone which is so pleasant to the Lord for His building. We will enjoy the experiences that others cannot understand. This is the overcoming life for the kingdom. It may be that many dear ones in the local churches have become a white stone with a new name and are enjoying the real and rich experiences of the Lord. If so, they will enjoy the right and privilege to experience the Lord Jesus, not as the open manna in the wilderness, but as the hidden manna in the Holy of Holies. Within the Holy of Holies there was the ark, and within the ark there was the golden pot with the manna. The manna here is something very hidden and very close to God’s presence. Because the overcomers are one with the Lord and so near to Him, they enjoy Him as the hidden manna. This enjoyment is for the kingdom.
(The Kingdom, Chapter 46, by Witness Lee)