The Philadelphian Church IV
Revelation 3:11 Behold I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
“Behold I come quickly.” ～ The declaration of His coming is prefaced with the exclamation “Behold!” or “Look!” “Lo!” “See!” It is an imperative, a command. The exclamation requires its object to be present. Therefore the “coming,” in view here, which the Philadelphians are commanded to “behold” must be a present reality to them. This is also demonstrated by the word “erchomai” (St’s #G2064) used for “come.” This word and concept has been visible in the commentary on 1:7, so we will speak on it but lightly here.
“Erchomai” is used only in the present and imperfect tense (Strong). Here it is in the present tense, which means: now coming and continuing to come. By the use of “erchomai” and not “parousia” it is not a physical appearance of Christ in view but an invisible coming (though Christ in truth) in and for some purpose other then the parousia, such as in blessings, anointing, comforting, or judgement. The context of this “coming” (also seen in the Ephesian church ch 2:5) is one of judging the congregation. There is a real sense in which the Lord has been in a state of continual coming since the Day of Pentecost A.D. 30. Paul saw this and wrote about it to the church at Philippi when he said to them,
“Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Phil 4:5)
James, also, was aware of the “erchomai” (present and continual coming) of the Lord as judge over His church, giving to everyone according to their work (Matt 16:27). When he wrote,
“Grunge not one against another, brother, least ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.” (James 5:9)
“Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” ～ The context of judgment on Philadelphia (more of an evaluation) is clear in the remainder of the verse: the “hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” The Lord had warned the Ephesus church of removing their “lampstand out of his place.” That “place” was undoubtedly its position among the seven churches. Here, at Philadelphia, the same principle and application applies. They had won a crown (metaphor for their spiritual anointing) that may be forfeited if they did not maintain a firm grip on the little strength remaining (v8).
The disciple must always be made aware that tenure in the kingdom is not guaranteed. This fact is illustrated by two witnesses of Scripture:
- The parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-22);
- The mystery of the olive tree (Rom ch 11).
In the parable of the talents, Jesus taught that a man, before “traveling into a far country,” delivered “his goods” to three of his servants: to the first he gave five talents, to the second two, and to the third one. During their master’s absence the first two servants invested their talents and doubled that portion of their master’s estate entrusted unto them. The third servant, on the other hand, was afraid of investing and hid the one talent given him until his master returned. Upon the master’s return the first two presented the talents given, plus the ones earned by their faithful service. The third servant presented the one talent given to him in the beginning. The master was not pleased with the third servant and took from him the talent he had and gave it to the one who had ten. The unprofitable servant was then discharged from the master’s service. In this parable, Jesus establishes the spiritual principle of possible forfeiture of goods and position as a result of poor or no profitable service. Not only was the talent lost—it was given to another. Jesus told the church of Philadelphia to take heed, “that no man take thy crown.” Actually, there is no Grk word for man here; it is the word mēdeis—“no one.” The Christian should be aware that not only can one’s goods and position be given to another in the kingdom, but Satan is also at work trying to claim each believer as a trophy for the souvenir walls of hell.
There is yet the second witness of which we spoke that establishes the principle of forfeiture of crowns. Paul wrote of the mystery of the Olive Tree in Romans ch 11. In this teaching the apostle uses an Olive Tree as an allegory for the Kingdom of God. Paul writes of a “natural” (cultivated) Olive Tree which represents the Jewish people. Some Jews believed in Christ and accepted Him as their Messiah; others did not believe. Paul’s point is: They all started in the same privileged position, i.e. in the tree; but, the unbelieving branches were “broken off” (Rom 11:17) and in their places were grafted in branches from “a wild olive tree,”—the Gentile believers. In this first stage of the allegory is demonstrated forfeiture of a blessing that is, itself, given to another. However, Paul continues with the application by warning those who have been given the privilege which belonged to others before them:
“Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. 19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.” (Rom 11:18-21)
The principle of forfeited prerogatives claimed by others is clearly taught here by Paul. Jesus instructed the Philadelphian church to take heed that “no man (one) take that crown.”
Within the scope of creative preaching there is a sense in which “that no man take thy crown” can go beyond the realm of human possibilities and include either sin or the devil himself. There is no word for “man” in the phrase “hina mēdeis labē tov stephanon sou.” The word mēdeis (St’s #G3367 literally means: “not even one (man, woman, thing,).” Since the term “stephanon” (crown) is but a metaphor for reward, blessing, anointing, etc. it could be easily preached/taught that those at Philadelphia who named the name of Christ should be watchful that the enemy, i.e. sin or the devil through sin, does not take the victory-crown that belongs to them and mount it upon his trophy wall for defeated Christians. Metaphorically speaking, there are many crowns which belong on the brows of fallen “should have been victors” mounted in Satan’s trophy room. Dear disciple, let not yours be one.
☩ Jerry Hayes