In the second letter – that directed to the Church at Smyrna – we should lose the charm of the presentation of the Lord if we looked at the portrait drawn for us against any other background than the darkening cloud of persecution with its deep patches of poverty and even death itself.
In such a picture He appears as “the first and the last” and at once through the gloom of the background there springs a ray of light. This surely is a Divine title for Jehovah claims it three times in Isaiah and it tells the suffering heart of One Who because He is “First” is above all – supreme in all His majesty, and before all – reaching back to the timeless, shoreless Ocean of Eternity – the eternal Word Who was God and with God. And because He is also the “Last” will remain what He is as age follows age – unaffected by the passages of time or circumstance. Thank God there is yet further light for, wonder of all wonders, this One is none other than He Who “became dead.” He Who is First and Last, higher than human thought can reach, stooped so low “that the earth with her bars was over Him and He went down, down to the bottom of the mountains – the weeds were wrapped about His head,” or in New Testament language, “even the death of the Cross.” Ah! dear suffering reader, He Who was rich – so very rich – became so very poor and speaking down the ages can say, “I know thy poverty,” thus changing the bitter water of suffering into the choice wine of fellowship with Him.
“And is alive”! Praise God. The weeping of the night will give place to the joy that cometh in the morning. Death is disarmed – the bonds of the grave are broken – and the radiant light of resurrection breaks through all the dark clouds of suffering and sorrow.