Lesson Book, Level 5: The Church—The Vision and Building Up of the Church, by Witness Lee

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[The church in Ephesus depicts the end of the stage of the initial church during the last part of the first century. “Ephesus’’ in Greek means desirable. This signifies that the initial church at its end was still desirable to the Lord; the Lord still had much expectation in her.]

A. The Condition of the Church at This Stage

[The crucial words in the Lord’s epistle to the church in Ephesus are love, life, and light. The basic requirement for having the church life is our love toward the Lord. There is no problem, of course, with the Lord’s love toward us. He has loved us and He continues to love us. The problem is with our love toward Him. Although we have loved Him in the past and may love Him now, there is the danger that our love for the Lord Jesus might fade. The epistle to the church in Ephesus warns us of this. This epistle also gives us a clear revelation of the source of the degradation of the church life—the fading of the first love. Love gives us the position, the ground, the right, and the privilege to eat of the tree of life. Love gives us the supply of life. If we love the Lord, we shall have the full right to enjoy Him as the tree of life, as our life supply. Light always follows life, issuing out of the abundant supply of life. Life, therefore, gives us light. It is vitally important that we love the Lord. If we have love, then we shall have the life symbolized by the tree of life and the light signified by the lampstand.]

B. The Lord’s Promise to the Overcomers of This Stage

[In Revelation 2:7 the Lord says that to him who overcomes He will give to eat of the tree of life. For the proper church life and the recovery of the church life, that is, for the proper growth in the Christian life, what we need is not merely the mental apprehension of teachings but the eating in our spirit of the Lord as the bread of life (John 6:57). Even the words of the Scripture should not be considered merely doctrines to teach our mind but food to nourish our spirit (Matt. 4:4; Heb. 5:12-14).]

[The matter of eating the tree of life brings us back to the beginning, because at the beginning there was the tree of life (Gen. 2:9, 16). The tree of life always brings us back to the beginning where there is nothing but God Himself. In the church life, again and again we need to be brought back to the beginning, forgetting all other things and enjoying Christ Himself as the tree of life.]

[But to enjoy Christ requires us to love Him with the first love. We must love Him above all things, above our work for Him and whatever we have for Him. By simply loving Him we shall be brought back to the beginning where we care for nothing except the Triune God Himself as our life supply in the tree of life. This is the proper way to maintain the church life and to be kept in the church life.]


[In Greek Smyrna means “myrrh,” 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.]

A. The Condition of the Church at This Stage

The church suffered the slander of the Jews. [In Revelation 2:9 the Lord Jesus said that He knew “the slander of those who call themselves Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.’’ This indicates that 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 church also suffered the persecution of the Roman Empire. [In 2:10 the Lord speaks of the church in Smyrna having tribulation “ten days.’’ As a sign, these ten days indicate prophetically the ten periods of persecution which the church suffered under the Roman Emperors.]

(Lesson Book, Level 5: The Church—The Vision and Building Up of the Church, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)