The Philadelphian Church V
The Overcoming Church
3:12-13 “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. 13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
“… my God.” ～ Four times in v12 Christ refers to the Father as “my God.” The Greek phrase is, “tou Theou mou;” literally, “The God of me.” This phrase appears only one other place in Scripture, i.e. John 20:17. One might think it strange for the One who declares Himself to be the “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,” and is declared (at best by Himself, and at worst by John) to be “the Almighty” (1:8), the One who introduces Himself to Smyrna as the “first and last” (2:8), and to Sardis as the One “that had the seven Spirits of God” (i.e. the Sevenfold Spirit of God, 3:1), the One who will introduce Himself to Laodicea as the “Amen” (lit. the God of the Amen, see Is 65:16)—one might think it strange for such a One, indeed, to refer to anyone as HIS God. However, Jesus does just that here in this verse: not once, but four times. As we have said, it is not totally unprecedented; one other time Jesus employ the phrase—when addressing Mary Magdalene outside of the tomb on Resurrection morning; He said to her,
“...Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (John 20:17)
The phrase here is “Theou mou.” Lit. “God of me.” This rare Jesus-statement, indicating that He, too, had a God, presents a challenge to Christology, because the Bible is amply clear in it’s teaching that Jesus is God (see Is 9:6; John 1:1-3, 14; 14:7-9; 10:30; Acts 20:26; Col 2:8-9; 1 Tim 3:16; etc.). However, just as clear is the Bible’s teaching that Jesus is a human being (see Is 9:6; Gal 4:4; 1 Tim 2:5; see His prayers: Matt 27:46; Luke 22:42; 23:34, 46 etc.; see John 14:28 where we are told that the Father is greater than the Son; see Mark 13:32 where we are told that the Son does not know what the Father knows).
The postulation of Scripture of the dual nature of Jesus is taken as a given, and is here illustrated. (The mystery of the incarnation is that Jesus has existence on two planes: i.e. divine and human.) By example: the only other occasion of Jesus using the phrase “Theou mou” (“God of me”) is in the context of the act of redemption (John 20:17). He had just risen from the dead and had not yet ascended to the Father. In this instance, Jesus was in His role as high priest who could not be touched (by Mary) until he had applied His blood at the mercy seat in Heaven (John 20:17 cf. Lev 16:17 & Heb 9:12, 22). Just seven days later, after He had ascended to the Father, he invited Thomas to touch him (John 20:27). The point is: Jesus was speaking as “the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). That is—from His human nature. This is adequately illustrated by Jesus’ use of the phrase “adelphous mou” or “my brethren” in v17. In the same statement he speaks of both His “brethren” and his “God;” showing, contextually, that He is speaking from His humanity. Thus, the same is true of our verse here. Four times in this v12 Jesus speaks of His “God.” He is addressing the church of Philadelphia as the son of David (see v7), not as the God of David. Therefore, here, as in John 20:17 Jesus is speaking from His human nature. As the human Jesus, He is the Son of David, He is the “elder brother” (Rom 8:29) of both the disciples in John 20, and the Philadelphian Christians here. It naturally follows, then, that in His commonality with them as brothers, that their God would be his God as well.
Having faced this Christological challenge and spoken honestly to it we may now proceed to the proposition of this v12.
Pillar In The Temple Of God
Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God.” ～ The one being victorious is promised to be made a “pillar in the temple of my God.” This is an interesting metaphor for Christ to employ in His affirmation of the faithful at Philadelphia. In all likelihood Christ uses this figure because of the cities frequent earthquakes. Fixity and stability was a highly prized and desired after condition, but proved impossible for their infrastructure. Jesus touches on a nerve of this natural state to illustrate the universal principle: i.e. the spiritual realm can satisfy the hoped-for achievement of the natural world. The stability the native Philadelphians longed for in their physical city can be realized in their spiritual house.
The reference to “the temple of my God” is only metaphorical; for when John describes the new Jerusalem he states,
“And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” (21:22)
There is no actual temple in the New Jerusalem, because the New Jerusalem is, in fact, the church of the Living God. This is seen in the following passages: Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 22: 22; 21:2; 21:9-10; 22:14-15. Bear with me in this: There is no temple in the New Jerusalem, i.e. the church, because the church IS the temple of God. Paul writes,
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor 3:16)
It is the church in view here. Paul does not mean that each Christian at Corinth is a temple of the Holy Spirit. He says “Ye (plural) are God’s temple (singular).” Of course the body of Christ, i.e. the Church (1 Cor 12:12-27), is the temple of God by virtue of God’s residency in His church, i.e. his body. Because of this union Paul could write that the Church is the temple of God (1 Cor 3-16), and John also could write that “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of” the New Jerusalem (21:22). The equation looks something like this: Lord God Almighty = Temple = Church = New Jerusalem; Revelation 21:22; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Revelation 21:9-10 respectively. This is not to be thought strange in the spiritual paradigm were all things are of, to, and through Him (Rom 11:36).
The saints of God, together, make up the temple of God. In this spiritual building (where each believer is a “lively stone” collective, making “up a spiritual house,” and “a holy priesthood,” to offer up “spiritual sacrifices” that are “acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” [1 Pet 2:5]) the overcoming believer is to be made a “pillar.” The sense of present tense pervades this promise as it does all the promises to those overcoming in all of the seven churches. The clause “Him that overcometh (is overcoming – present tense) will I make (even while he continues to overcome) a pillar…” (Parentheses mine.)
The Church is the mystical body of Christ and is the spiritual temple of the Holy Spirit in the earth, as we have seen. Here, we meet with the metaphor of “pillar of the temple” for a disciple who is proving himself faithful.
The word “stulos” is an old word for “column.” The language used here is consistent with that used by the Holy Spirit throughout Scripture for those who, by faithful perseverance, have become succorers to the Church. Paul speaks of “James (the Lord’s brother), Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars” (Gal 2:9) in the church. He also writes to his spiritual son, Timothy, of the whole church which he calls “the pillar and ground (foundation) of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). The church is a building (temple) made up of many “pillars” each providing stability and fixity to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ lets the faithful of Philadelphia know that one may obtain this honored status while yet in the physical world; which will only be enhanced upon being translated into the heavenly realm, where believers realize more fully the role of ruling and reigning with Christ. To this end Jesus said to His apostles,
“Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matt 19:28)
“And I will write upon him the name of my God.” ～ The event of assigning names to the pillars, i.e. believers, of God’s temple, most likely has 2 Chronicles 3:17 (cf. 1 Kgs 7:21) in view. Solomon placed two pillars at the door of the temple of God. The Bible says,
“And he reared up the pillars before the temple, one on the right hand, and the other on the left; and called the name of that on the right hand Jachin, and the name of that on the left Boaz.” (2 Chr 3:17)
Names are of consequence, in that they reveal character. In the case of Solomon’s temple the name Jachin means “he establishes” and Boaz means “in him is strength.” Therefore, the name of the pillars before the temple gave testimony to the majesty of Yahweh. And so it is in the Revelation. The epithet given to the one overcoming is threefold: the name of God, the city of God, and Christ’s new name. The triplet name may be employed for a number of reasons (and each reason equally valid at its own level). Among them would be the obvious purpose of confirmation which requires two or three witnesses (Deut 19:15); another reason may be related to the threefold description of the glorified Christ related in v7. In such a paralleling “the name of my God” would parallel “he that is holy;” the “name of the city of my God” (The pillar and ground of the truth [1 Tim 3:15]) would parallel “he that is true;” and “my new name” would parallel “he that hath the key of David.” This view provides perfect symmetry to the Philadelphian letter and is in harmony with the Hebraic character of the Apocalypse.
However, by looking a level deeper we may find truths to which the others are only portals. Namely, in the threefold name one finds credentials of 1. Ownership, 2. Citizenship, and 3. Kingship. First, the name of God (YHWH, the tetragrammaton) placed on one announces the Lordship of the one named over the one receiving the name. For this reason, the invoked name of Jesus is so important at water baptism. Vines Dictionary of the Bible states: “The phrase—baptize them “into” the name (Acts 8:16; Matt 28:19) would indicate that the baptized person was closely bound to, or became the property of the one into whose name he was baptized.” Therefore, the receiving of the name of God establishes the ownership of God over that one. Paul writes,
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” (1 Cor 6:19-20)
There are privileges with being the property of the Lord God. The least of which is not protection. God will care for and protect those that are His. The 144,000 (ch 7:3 cf. 14:1) are sealed in their foreheads with the name of the Lamb’s Father (see ch 22:4 where we are made to know that God and the Lamb have but one name).
“And I will write upon him the name ... of the city of God, which is new Jerusalem.” Secondly, on the pillar (which is the overcoming believer) is written “the name of the city of God, which is new Jerusalem. (The esoteric nature of the Apocalypse is seen in the Holy Spirit’s use, through John, of the word “hierousalēm” [St’s #G2419] as opposed to “herosoluma [St’s #G2414]. The former is Greek and is the civil name for Jerusalem, the latter is Hebrew pronunciation. By this usage it is demonstrated that the Jerusalem [“hierousalēm,” St’s #G2419] viewed in the Apocalypse is of nobler station than the physical city where Christ was crucified. In fact the physical city is not ever referred to as Jerusalem in the Revelation. The one time the earthly city is referenced by name it is called Sodom and Egypt [11:8]).
This inscription speaks of citizenship. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews heartens the faithful by assuring them that they have “come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem ...” (Heb 12:22). The Psalmist sang of the privilege of citizenship in Zion (Sion) when he wrote,
“And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her. 6 The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah. (Ps 87:5-6)
The Lord has listed, in His Royal Registery all those who are native born citizens of His royal city, having all the privileges and enjoying all the benefits and security of such citizenship. According to Jesus (22:14-15), citizenship is granted to all those who “do his commandments.” They “may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murders, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” Citizens of the New Jerusalem understand the blessedness of their citizenship and would not venture beyond its gates because of the sons of Zeruiah who await them in the shadow of its walls.
To prefer its precincts above all metropolises of men is the happy state of all true disciples. Even the words of the Psalmist, when he writes, “If I forget they, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, Let my tongue cleve to the roof of my mouth; If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Ps 137:5-6), pale in the face of our city’s glory. We acknowledge the blush of dignity one experiences when presented to those beyond the perimeters of the city by the words, “This one was born there” (Ps 87:6).
Third, the “new name” of Christ given to the one overcoming speaks to kingdom prerogatives associated with Christ in the perfect age, described in chapters 21 and 22 of the Revelation. The name “Jesus” identifies the deity’s relationship with the work of redemption, e.g. the name means: Yahweh (YHWH) Saves. Just as the name “Jesus” identifies Christ with His redemptive work at Calvary, even so will His new name accommodate the New Age of creation. The names God has chosen are self revelation to His people of some aspect of Himself that is germane to the present need. In the perfect New Age of the new Heaven and new Earth, when sin has been overcome, death defeated, and Satan judged and executed, the name of Christ will reflect the completeness of God’s kingdom on earth. It would be an exercise in futility to presuppose such a name—the new name must await the new creation!
"However, whatever form the new name takes, by its placement upon the overcoming disciple it designates the believer as partaker of its prerogatives. This is what is meant by “joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17). Therefore, the conclusion of the matter is far from concluded!
What we may know, however, is that the overcoming Christian may rest assured in the Lordship of God Yahweh; he may function with full citizenship in the city of God, the New Jerusalem; and, look to inheriting complete kingdom prerogatives with the Son of David on the throne of David—for ever and ever!
☩ Jerry Hayes