Indeed I will make [those] of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie--indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And [I will write on him] My new name. Revelation 3:9-12 NKJV
We looked last week at what Jesus had to say to the church at Philadelphia, the only church of the seven Jesus had no issues with. We examined what they were doing right in Gods' eyes, and considered how we might imitate those things in our own lives. Jesus' letter to Philadelphia consists of two parts, however, the first telling them what they were doing right and the second telling them what rewards they could expect. It is those rewards that I want to focus our attention on this morning, especially as they relate to the time in which we find ourselves today. Here Jesus tells us of three rewards that we can expect to receive if we follow the example of the believers at Philadelphia.
"I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you"
One of the subjects we have spent time examining in the past has to do with the struggle we as believers face today in a world that seems to be increasingly hostile towards the message of God's love. Many find themselves the object of not only rejection, but often scorn, derision, and even physical abuse. The phrase "synagogue of Satan" is used to describe those who claimed to be "spiritual" descendants of Abraham but in reality were only "physical" ones. Their attitude towards the truth of the message of Jesus was openly hostile. In today's world we often find many who claim to have a "belief" in God, but reject the truth found in the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Yet Jesus tells us that if we persevere, the time will come where even those who have persecuted us will come to the point where they acknowledge that the message of Jesus was true, and His blessings were upon us.
Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
Now this promise is one every believer should get exited about, and certainly be used as great motivation to try and live out the example of the Philadelphia church. The only "hour of trial" that is promised to "the whole world" is obviously the tribulation period referred to by Jesus in Matthew 24. In that passage Jesus tells us the this time will be like no other in all of the earth's history, and unless He chose to "shorten" the time, "no flesh", that is nobody would survive. Can you even imagine a time when the situation on earth became so bad that all human life on earth would end? Yet Jesus says without question that this time will indeed come, and only by divine intervention will the human race survive. Yet His promise to us is that we get to miss it! The Greek word translated here as "from" is "ek", which really means "out of", or "away from". This verse is His promise to us of the rapture of the church, and the taking away of believers into Heaven so as to escape the coming judgment of this unbelieving world.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 NKJV
What a comfort it is to know we will be spared the trials of the tribulation.
Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.
Jesus finishes with a word of encouragement to us by not only telling us He is coming soon, but what we can expect if we hold on until He does. The "overcomers" not only receive a crown, but are made a "pillar" in Gods' new temple. A pillar is the main support for a building, and as such, a building cannot stand without it. They exhibit strength and permanence, and here Jesus is saying that believers who overcome will reflect the strength and permanence of the promise of God throughout eternity. In ancient times, it was common to inscribe names on pillars as a way of bestowing honor. In Heaven, those who have overcome will be honored in exactly the same way, but we will receive the names of God the Father, the New city, and Jesus in place of our own.
The word "overcomer" is especially appropriate considering the days in which we live. Social, political, and economic unrest along with wars and rumors of wars and even earthquakes are signalling the approaching return of Christ for His church. In these days it has become increasingly difficult to keep His word and not deny His name. Yet the promises to those who "overcome" are there for all to see. Now more than ever, as we approach the finish line, take heart in the promises of God. His strength will see us through if we but ask Him for the help we need, and be faithful to give Him the glory.