LOVE LETTERS SERIES
NUMBER TWO – THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA
BY: JACKIE CAPORASO
MESSAGE NO. 180
THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA
UNDERSTANDING GOD’S JUDGMENTS
POSSESS YOUR SOUL
THE SECOND DEATH – which is the Lake of Fire
THE PRECIOUS DEATH
THE TWO WITNESSES
THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA
We continue to examine the letters that the resurrected Lord sent to the churches of that day, keeping in mind that they are meant for His entire church throughout the centuries.
I called them “love letters” because we know that the church is the bride that Jesus is grooming and preparing to present to Himself. Paul wrote to the Ephesians that “He (Jesus) might sanctify and cleanse it (the church) with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:26-27)
So it was to that purpose that the Lord sent these letters to the church. The church at Smyrna was situated among many enemies; this has always been the case for His true church. This is why He said that in this world we would have tribulation, yet He has given us His overcoming Spirit to deal with that.
Smyrna was an industrious center and the little group of saints there were roughly treated and persecuted. They often suffered the loss of their jobs and property because of their stand for the faith. Among them, Polycarp, a ninety-year-old beloved brother in the Lord was martyred and killed when the Jewish community incited the pagans against him.
The word “Smyrna” actually means “Myrrh.” It was with “myrrh” that Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus for His death. Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the world and put the old creation man to death forever, but by the Spirit of holiness (Holy Spirit) that dwelled in Him, He overcame death, and for the first time, we witnessed the splendor of resurrection power.
The church at Smyrna was given unction unto death, but along with it, she received the amazing promise of resurrection. In fact, the Lord introduced Himself to this church as, “The First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life.” (Rev. 1:8b) He appeared among them to lead them in this experience. They would drink of the cup that He drank and they would also share in His joy.
UNDERSTANDING GOD’S JUDGMENTS
Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life?” (I Cor. 6:2a, 3)
Paul was speaking to them about matters that pertained to their every day lives, but he made the point concerning a revelation that he had about the judgment of this world. Jesus was not only sent into this world to show forth the holiness of the Father, He was also sent to bring judgment upon the prince of this world. As He spoke of His death on the cross, Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” (Jn. 12:31) The ruler of this world was judged when the Son of God laid His life on the cross.
The ruler of this world is the haughty spirit that rules through the carnal minds of men and keeps this world in darkness and death. It manifests itself in many ways, but its highest manifestation is through governments and its crowning glory is the power that he holds over men through “religious systems.”
It is through the mob force of “passionate” and “fanatical” “religions” that the prince of darkness plans to completely take over the world. But it is through the power of death and resurrection that our Lord is leading His people to victory over the foe. For a season, God’s anointed will lay down their lives while the prince of this world leads his followers into bloody confrontations.
The church at Smyrna was anointed to lay down her life and believe that by the power of resurrection, the prince of darkness will be destroyed. This is the example that Jesus laid out for us, and it is the message that the church at Smyrna conveys to us.
We read about the souls of those who have been slain for the word of God and who are waiting under the altar. “When He opened the sixth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:9-10)
Spiritually speaking, these saints were not called to fight. God did not give them weapons to fight the powers that had banded against them. They were called to lay down their lives and believe that God would raise them up in resurrection power and avenge them.
Just as God sent Ezekiel and the prophets of old to face those who would reject the word and kill the messenger, God purposely sends His elect to those whom He knows will reject them and perhaps even kill them. But God will avenge the blood of all who have been killed for His word. This is how the saints judge the world. This is the way that God’s judgments work in the earth. He sends those who will stand for the truth to those who will kill them or kill their Christian reputation.
“And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7-8)
God sent His word to the leaders of His people through His prophets. Then when the time came, God sent them His Son. After His Son delivered His word and showed them the Father, He also stood defenseless in the face of His accusers until they crucified Him.
From that time on, God has sent whom He chooses (His elect) with His Word, to stand defenseless in the face of their accusers (religious leaders). They were scorned, ridiculed and crucified spiritually and mentally as well.
This is why the blood of Abel, along with the blood of all who have been sent with His Word and ostracized in some way, cry out from the ground or from under the altar. When Jesus rose from the dead, the power of His resurrection opened the door for God’s judgment upon the world.
In that moment, the prince of this world was judged, but the final blow will take place when the new creation of God in Christ brings deliverance. Then corruption and death will be swallowed up of life. This is what all of creation so earnestly desires.
The letter to the Smyrna church explains, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10)
A crown speaks of the supreme authority of a king. The crown of life is the supreme authority of resurrection life. It is only when one attains to resurrection life that death no longer has power over them. This crown is total power over death.
POSSESS YOUR SOUL
When God formed Adam’s body from the ground, He blew the breath of life (Spirit) into man’s nostrils and man became a “living being or living soul.” When God gave life to Adam, He did not call him a living “body,” he called him a “living soul.” God gave this body something very special. A soul is a man’s unique identity. It can never be duplicated.
The entire Adam race shares the same kind of blood and organs, but each individual has a certain DNA tree that gives it a specific and unique identity. Amazingly, there are no two persons exactly alike. Only through “cloning” could two persons be born exactly alike but such attempt would entail disastrous consequences.
The body that God formed for Adam was designed to house and make known God’s unsearchable and unlimited glory. Each man is created in Christ to manifest a distinct aspect of God’s glory; this is the calling of each soul. This is why Paul compared the function of the Body of Christ to the different parts of a natural body.
Through its lies, the cunning serpent usurped the place that belonged to Christ and began to manifest its nature through man’s soul. This separated man from God and plunged man into the darkness of death. This was the first death. Man whose soul is not restored to Christ is in the place of first death.
Through Israel’s journey in the wilderness, we learn lessons for our spiritual walk. “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come.” (I Cor. 10:11)
We know that the children of Israel were delivered out of the bondage of Egypt so that they could worship their God, and go possess the land that He had given them. It took Israel forty years to reach the borders of that land. God knew that the serpent had planted its seed in their minds and hearts, and He took them through this long, arduous walk to reveal their hearts. “And you shall remember that the Lord God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” (Deut. 8:2)
The entire walk of Israel through the wilderness demonstrates the dealings of God with us on our spiritual wilderness walk. Through the difficulties that they had to overcome, we learn what we have to overcome in the Spirit. Our situations are also geared to reveal our hearts and to build our faith so that we may possess our souls (land).
Just as God had given Israel a land where giants dwelled, so Jesus has redeemed our souls and given us our land, but to possess it, we still must defeat our giants.
In Christian teachings, there are many interpretations of what that “land” really represents. Because we receive revelation only in part, it is possible that those interpretations were valid at the time. But when Jesus declared, “In your patience possess your souls.” (Luke 21:19) He was certainly speaking of our need to possess a land within, free of deception and fear – our soul filled with God’s peace and ready to manifest His glory.
When Israel came to the borders of their land, they found that it was occupied by giants that were stronger and mightier than they were. Certainly, man’s knowledge and traditions that the serpent has planted in man’s souls cannot be defeated with human strategies. They have been at home in our minds and hearts since the beginning of time.
Because God’s ways are not our ways, the true teachings of Jesus are definitely opposite to the ways of man’s systems. Some have tried to come against the establishment through “hippy” type movements or new “religious” moves, but these are not the ways of God either.
Our soul is the land that the thief has stolen. It is the land that Jesus redeemed. Through His Holy Spirit, we are given the power to fight the giants that have been at home in our minds and hearts. These giants are the deceptive, formidable spirits that rule over our emotions and our minds by intimidation, fear, doubts, anxieties and all the imaginations that keep the peace of God out of our hearts.
To better understand this, we need to see the difference between spirit and soul. Spirit gives life to the soul. All spirits return to God who is the Father of spirits. But if a soul is not redeemed or saved, it is lost. A lost soul cannot fulfill its purpose to manifest God’s glory in the world.
Soul is the identity of each individual. Our redeemed soul is the land that we need to possess, and we can only do this as we follow Christ. We know our identity in Adam, but that identity leads to the grave. The land that we must take away from the enemy is our eternal identity in Christ.
When He shed His blood on the cross, Jesus delivered us from Egypt (the powers that this world holds over us). We were baptized in His name and crossed our Red Sea. But then we enter a journey where we are being tested. As we continue to follow the Spirit, we possess our land day by day until we fully possess our new identity in Christ and manifest the glory of our God. We have experienced the “first death” in Adam. We will possess our souls and will not be hurt of the second death.
THE SECOND DEATH – which is the Lake of Fire
The Lord’s letter to Smyrna continues, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death.” (Vs.11)
If there is a second death, there has to be a first death. How do we define death? “Death is separation from life.” Our God is Life, so death is separation from God. God is a Spirit; death is separation from the Spirit. In this realm of darkness we are separated from the realm of God.
We experience the first death in Adam. We were born totally unaware that there is a spiritual realm and a kingdom of God. We could not even see that there is an invisible world of Spirit all around us.
There was a time when man was not aware of a world so minuscule that it cannot be seen with the naked eye. It is a world filled with bacteria and germs and it was not until the discovery of the microscope that man became aware of such a world. So it is with the realm of Spirit. Because we cannot see it with the naked eye, we do not know it exists. Because they cannot see it, some people cannot believe in God. The world of Spirit cannot be seen by just learning about it. It is one thing to know about it and another to see it. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again, or born from above to see the kingdom.” Then one must go a step farther and enter into the kingdom.
As we follow God’s Holy Spirit, we begin to experience our re-birth. We begin to see the kingdom of God and the realm of Spirit that we had not been aware existed. We find that there is much more to life than this materialistic existence, and we begin a spiritual walk that leads to spiritual maturity in Christ.
We are well acquainted with the realm of the first death. We know that from the time of our birth this is a painful place. It is a place of struggle against sin, sorrow, pain, diseases and against a second death.
The verse we read tells us that this second death “hurts.” It hurts because it is also called the “lake of fire.” Although this is not the place where anyone goes when leaving this earth, the second death is still a threat. It is only when we die in Christ that there is no death and no danger. When we are in Christ, nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul said this, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39)
This is where the love of God dwells – in Christ. It is in Christ that we escape the wrath of God. He is our Savior, our Redeemer and our Shelter through the storms.
We read, “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:6)
When the thousand years are expired, the great white throne (power of true righteousness) comes into view. “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades (hell) delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his work.” (Rev. 20:13)
This verse enumerates for us the different places where souls who are not found in Christ are sent after they leave this earth. Then comes the final judgment of all souls. “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:12, 14–15)
The Bible defines the second death as the lake of fire. This portion of the word teaches something very clearly, yet because of traditional teachings of the church, it has been misunderstood. The Roman Catholic Church has founded their doctrine of “purgatory” from this verse, but let us keep our minds and hearts opened to the Holy Spirit and take another look.
Jesus made it very clear that there is no death for all who are IN CHRIST. But when a soul, not found in Christ, leaves this tabernacle, it is directed to one of these other places where they are groomed for the final judgment. Then at the second resurrection, those who have died come out of one of these places to be judged according to their works.
We are told that after the white throne judgment, these places will no longer exist. “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:14-15)
I am glad that these places will no longer be needed, but there is another place even more frightening than those are. Note that the verse speaks of “Anyone” not found in the Book of Life, this means that there could still be someone in that situation, the question is, who?
“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Rev. 21:8) This is a strong word. The lake burns with “brimstone.”
Brimstone is sulfur; it is used to make the fire even hotter so that it will burn the hardest materials. The fire of Hell is evidently hot enough to burn off much dross, but now there are some who cannot be purged through that fire. It will take the fire of the lake that burns with brimstone to burn out what the first fire could not do. This is called the second death.
Some believe that this is a redemptive fire and they fail to teach the horror and hurt of this second death. They make it sound like it is not a big deal because in the end, all shall be saved. The Bible does not give such guarantee, and many verses lead to the contrary.
Throughout the years, many well meaning brethren have handed me lists of verses used to prove the doctrine of ultimate reconciliation, but I have found as many verses that disprove such teachings. The Holy Spirit is our true witness, and we should not ignore the terrible hurt of the second death which is the lake of fire.
THE PRECIOUS DEATH
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Ps. 116:15) We know that death is an enemy; it is the last enemy that will be overcome. But there is a death that is precious in the sight of the Lord. That is the death of His saints.
According to the Bible, a “saint” is one who has been sanctified and separated from the world unto the Lord. Some saints are anointed for this “precious death” and the saints at Smyrna were among these. It takes a special anointing to go through this death; Jesus was anointed with myrrh for this death. When He said that some of His disciples would also drink the same cup, He was speaking of this death.
By the same token, the Smyrna church was anointed to follow Jesus in the same death. They were among those who are called to lay down their lives for the Word. Paul knew this, and speaking about his death he said that “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (II Cor. 5:8)
Not long after the Lord gave me the first dream concerning my calling in the Body of Christ, my husband and I joined ourselves to a group of like-minded believers. The years we spent among them were times of wonderful fellowship and of intense training in the Word.
Both my husband and I, along with others from this group and similar groups around the country, found that the Lord spoke abundantly through dreams and visions. These dreams were not ordinary; they were very specific and clear, confirming the directions that the groups were to follow. They were words from the Lord and were given vocally during the services or written and handed out to the overseers of the group (apostles and elders). These ministries would then interpret the words themselves.
This seemed to be the right order at the time. It would have been chaos if those who received the words had taken it into their own hands to “run the show” with the words they received. It was good that the overseers of the flock used God’s wisdom to lead the people. However, there arose a problem and God revealed the source in a dream.
At the time, my husband and I lived in South Florida. Our back yard was enclosed by a chain-link fence and beyond was the wooded area of a couple of empty lots.
In the dream, “I was standing right outside the back gate looking at the wooded area. My husband was by my side. I see a good looking youth standing in the area. I also see the fattest, longest and most hideous rattlesnake that one can ever see. It is coiled and its many rattles are straight up, shaking with fiery animosity. It seems that this huge snake was just waiting to seize the right moment to strike.
Suddenly and very swiftly, it happened. The powerful serpent sunk its fangs into the boy and injected its deadly venom. The lad was visibly in great pain. I called to him and urged him to lie down very still in order to slow down the effect of the venom through his body.
I then bent down over him and marveled at what I saw. He had unusual but beautiful blue hair to match the deep blue of his eyes. About that time, the rattlesnake slithered away. I was told that this was that “Old Serpent the Devil” which had been from the beginning.” (End of dream)
It took a long time for us to realize the full meaning of this dream. Such a word was inconceivable in our minds and hearts, but as it came to pass, we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was a word from the Lord.
The beautiful young lad with the blue eyes and hair to match represented the wonderful prophetic ministry that our Lord had raised up for that hour. Blue represents “truth.” This ministry was new (young boy). And it was given a special anointing (blue hair) to see the truth (blue eyes).
I am standing “outside the gate.” The writer of Hebrews notes, “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” (Heb. 13:12) This refers to the “gate of the temple.” Anyone who speaks the truth stands outside the gate (of the temple or the congregation), meaning that they are no longer welcome in the congregation of those who are now led by leaders with their own agenda.
The truth that must be faced is that the same serpent spirit that was the head of the religious system at the time of Jesus is often at the head of our churches and assemblies today. God’s prophets today are facing the very same forces that sent Jesus to the cross.
When the pure word that came through the prophetic ministries in dreams and visions did not suit the leaders’ purposes for the people, the old serpent raised its ugly head. The moment that the word revealed that the plans they were making for the lives of their people were questionable, they aggressively attacked the beautiful prophetic ministry that God had raised among them. That serpent of old did not hesitate to sink its deadly fangs into all who had the courage to stand by what they saw and heard from God. I know this first hand, because I was one of them.
A word of revelation continues to flow among these groups, but because the prophetic word among them was quenched and suppressed, their people and their children have paid a terrible price in sweat and blood.
Over the years, they have faced much harsher conditions than the Lord had purposed for them. In order to justify this, they have taught their people that this kind of hardship is the sacrifice that is needed to achieve perfection in Christ. Indeed, all who live godly will suffer, but the kind of suffering should only be chosen for us by the Lord.
Over the years, it has been my great desire to forget all about this, but somehow the Lord keeps bringing it back to me as I write. Perhaps these writings are now the platform that God has chosen to give me to let some of them know the truth that was hidden for many years.
This death is the precious death chosen for some. It was the anointing of Smyrna. The reward is great; it is the “crown of life.”
THE TWO WITNESSES
God has always had His witnesses in the earth. In the Old Testament, they were Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets. They suffered humiliation, torture and even death for their word. Then God sent His Son, the Word made flesh whose ministry lasted one thousand two hundred and sixty days- the equivalent of three and a half years. “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Rev. 11: 3)
Jesus put upon Himself the body of sackcloth to proclaim the true Word for three and a half years. He was the Word made flesh, and the Spirit within Him gave witness to that Word. Jesus declared that He spoke only that which He heard His Father speak and did only that which He saw His Father do. The Father and the Son, or the Spirit and the Word were the two witnesses who walked the earth in spirit and in truth. Jesus and the Father witnessed the truth to the world.
These witnesses came with great power to raise the dead and devour their enemies. The account continues, “Now when they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit, will make war against them, overcome them and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” (Rev. 11:7-8)
Not long after the disciples and Paul left the scene, the word of truth lay as dead in the streets of the religious world (the city). But truth was marching on under cover through the few that God chose in each generation.
This is the period that we are in now. It looks as though the two witnesses are no longer a threat to the beastly system. The churches are powerless and the serpent has injected its venom in all who dared hold on to the word of truth. The Gospel has been changed and the flock is taught to look for a God that will give them a better, longer and more prosperous life in this world.
Little by little, the serpent mindset has attacked all that is decent and righteous. Everything immoral is now normal. Children no longer respect authority and marriage is just a game. If one does not comply with that kind of thinking they are narrow minded and old fashioned; they have become the villains.
The serpent now rules all organized religions. The best of them try to teach good behavior, but none teaches about overcoming sin and death in these earthly bodies, and none is able to see the corruption in their very own structure.
Jesus suffered death, then His disciples were persecuted and sometimes brutally murdered and every true disciple since has been silenced in some way. Jesus said, “If they have done it to Me, they will do it to you.” It is God’s perfect plan.
After the time is fulfilled, “Now after the three and a half days the breath of life from God, entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.” (Rev. 11:11-12)
This must be interpreted by the Spirit or it loses its true meaning. The ascending into a cloud speaks of being lifted up into the realm of the Spirit above that which we have known before – It is a place of Spirit, where we know God and see Him as He is – It is a place where the foe can no longer reach to hurt or kill the two witnesses. It is a place in the heavenlies (Spirit realm) where the Word is spoken with power.
The natural heavens dominate over the earth. With all its technology, man has never found a way to harness the heavens. There are no ways of stopping hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms and the like. There is no way of making rain in times of drought; the powers of the heavens are higher than that of earthly men.
Spiritually speaking, the heavens are higher than the earth too. Those who ascend into the heavens are given spiritual powers over the earth. They ascend in a cloud. A cloud speaks of those who have received their heavenly covering. The writer of Hebrews describes those who have gone before us as the “cloud of witnesses.”
When all the witnesses have ascended into heaven (caught up into Christ), “In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell.” This was the beginning of the end of this age. Then the last trump or the seventh trumpet blows and “The temple of God was opened in heaven…” (Rev. 11:19a)
There are not two last trumpets. This is the same last trumpet that Paul wrote about, “Behold I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (I Cor. 15:51-52)
The witnesses have been caught up in a cloud with Jesus ever since that time. But at the last trump, the witnesses that have been killed by the system will arise with power and be joined to the witnesses behind the veil to be raised incorruptible and bring deliverance to the world.
Beloved, we know that we are approaching that day. We know it because of the Word that God has been speaking to our hearts and because of the things that we see and interpret by the Spirit. Hallelujah!
“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Rev. 11:17-18)
This is the prayer of the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones. This is the prayer we hear at the last trumpet! This is the prayer of our hearts today.
Because of His love,
LOVE LETTER SERIES NO. 2 – MESSAGE No. 180 [Jackie Caporaso] 1