In this post, we will continue our look at Jesus’ letter to the church at Philadelphia. I have found this letter interesting and very deep.
I shouldn’t be surprised, should I? Oh Lord, that we may slow down and study Your Word. My goodness, how I fail to pay attention!
Jesus told the believers at Philadelphia, “I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8b). What kind of power was Jesus referring to? Spiritual power? Influence in the city? I am going to take the position that Jesus meant earthly power and influence, because these Philadelphians did possess spiritual power, as the last half of the sentence indicates: “…and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” Let’s think about this for a moment. It’s one thing not to deny the name of Jesus when you possess earthly power but quite another when you don’t. Let’s look at a man who is currently running for the office of president in the United States. This is not a political statement, nor is it an ad hominem attack. I’m just using this person as an example of earthly power. This man is a billionaire. He doesn’t much care what people think about what he says. What can they do to him? Fire him? Criticize him? He won’t lose his job. And even if people stop doing business with him, he can retire and live on his great wealth. In contrast, however, one who has little earthly power may find that he may be tempted to compromise in order to avoid offending or angering people and thus perhaps lose his friends, family, and job—without a billion dollars to fall back on. The Christians at Philadelphia apparently were not intimated by such earthly powerlessness but were strong indeed. They were willing to pay the price; thus, they won Jesus’ approbation.
Because the Philadelphians had not denied Jesus’ name, He told then that He would make those of the synagogue of Satan—the Judaizers—come and bow before their feet (Revelation 3:9). We are not told when this was to happen. Did it occur in the life of the church at that time? Or was Jesus announcing that would occur when all are brought to be judged on that Day? We are not told. However, those of the synagogue of Satan also will also “learn that I have loved you” (verse 9). The Judaizers were convinced that those who were truly godly would follow religious law and thus earn the favor and love of God. Perhaps they told the Philadelphian believers that the reason they had “little power” was because the Lord was angry with them or had abandoned them for their “disobedience” or “lack of spirituality.”
Jesus then wrote, “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10). Again, a puzzling statement. What hour of trial is this? How would Jesus keep them from that trying time? We are not told. However, it is significant for us that Jesus promised this because they had kept His word about patient endurance. I assume that He is referring back to the Philadelphian believers not denying His name in spite of their diminished status. What can we learn here? To Jesus, not denying His name and enduring is hugely significant.
Next, Jesus told them, “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Revelation 3:11). This verse stunned me. And I’m not happy to tell you that it had never stunned me before. What is stunning? That someone may seize a Christian’s crown.
Concerning crowns that will be given to Christians, the crown of life is mentioned three times in the New Testament. A crown of glory is present once, and a crown of righteousness once. All of these crowns must be attributed to the salvific work of Jesus. Only He has glory. Only He has life. Only He is righteous. Therefore, I am sure that all Christians will cast their crowns at Jesus’ feet one day.
How can a Christian’s crown be seized from them? Great question. What did the Philadelphian believers possess? We can assume they had the knowledge of salvation, but that knowledge was all tied into the endurance they displayed when they wouldn’t deny Jesus’ name and give in to death-dealing legalism when they were religiously, culturally, and hierarchically disempowered. We may be Christians, but it is possible for our crown may be seized if we don’t “hold fast” to what we have. What kind of crown may we lose? We are not told, but all of them are given by Jesus. It is an interesting thought that we could lose it.
Christians, find you strength in God, not in money, culture, church, or pastor. Do not compromise when you are threatened. Do not deny His name. Do not lose your crown.
All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.