arrow from a nearby soldier and shot the arrow at the broken statue. "Curse you!" the warlord screamed to his fallen god. "I spent millions to build you! Couldn't you even look after your own temple?!"
The people of Philadelphia knew what it was like to be shaken by an earthquake. As we discussed at the beginning of this chapter, the city had been leveled by a massive quake in A.D. 17, and the rubble continued to be shaken by severe aftershocks for years afterward. Every time one of these massive aftershocks struck, the people were forced to flee the city and run into the countryside.
But in verse 12, Jesus promises the Philadelphian believers a temple which will not be shaken and from which they will never have to flee. "Him who overcomes," says the Lord, "I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it."
A pillar is a symbol of strength and permanence. For example, the great temple of Jerusalem which was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 had two great pillars set in the front of the building. One of those pillars was called Jachin, meaning "established" or "permanent," and the other was called Boaz, meaning "strength." Visit the ruins of an ancient temple in Greece, Italy, or Turkey, and you will notice that often all that remains standing are the pillars. Our Lord promises those who overcome, those who hold on to what they have, a position of strength and permanence in the life to come. They will be pillars of strength in the imperishable, unshakeable temple of God.
This is not the first time Christians have been called "pillars." In Galatians, the apostle Paul refers to fellow apostles Peter, James, and John as "pillars" of the church. The church rested on them, and they supported the church, imparting guidance and knowledge to the early church through the apostolic gift that was given them by the Holy Spirit. In His letter to the believers at Philadelphia, the Lord applied this same symbolism to ordinary believers like you and me. Imagine, Jesus promises that we can become pillars in the everlasting temple of God!
This must have been a profoundly reassuring promise to the believers in Philadelphia, who remembered the terror of earthquake tremors. "When you labor for me," Jesus said in effect, "you will be planted firmly in a stable place, the dwelling place of God, and you will never have to flee from that place." What a picture of security, serenity, and strength!
Unlike the enraged warlord who could only rave and moan over the rubble of his impotent god, we serve a God who lives, who can never be shaken, and who draws us into partnership, fellowship, and intimate communion with Him!
Finally, Jesus promises, "I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God . . . and I will also write on him my new name." The overcomer will receive the imprint of three new names!
The first is "the name of my God." This is a promise that believers will be made godlike. How does that statement sound to you? Perhaps you are thinking, "How could I ever be godlike?" The average person, hearing the word godlike, probably pictures a man with superhuman power, able to hurl thunderbolts, create planets, or reverse the flow of time. But that is not what godlikeness is about at all. That is a description of what it would be like to be Superman, not God.
The Bible instructs us to be godly, and godliness is merely a shortened form of the word godlikeness. The purpose of the Spirit in our lives is to make us godly or godlike — not in terms of God's power, but in terms of His character. If you are growing and maturing as a Christian, each passing year ought to bring more evidence that you have become a little more like Jesus Christ — a little more patient, compassionate, understanding, and sound in judgment. You should become more godlike, more Christlike.
That is the Lord's promise to the Philadelphian Christians, and to you and me: the name of God, which symbolizes His character, will be written upon our lives. We will be godlike in our spirit and attributes.
Second, Jesus says, "I will write on him . . . the name of the city of my God." We will see a striking description of this fabulous city when we come to the last two chapters of Revelation. It is the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven "as a bride adorned for her husband." Think back to every wedding you have ever been to and that one magical moment when everyone stands and turns to catch the first glimpse of the bride making her appearance, glorious in her adornment, invoking a collective murmur of wonder throughout the people as she steps down the aisle. That kind of admiring, awestruck wonder is what the New Jerusalem will inspire at its appearance.
The image of the bride also captures the sense of loving sweetness, affection, longing, and intimacy that surrounds a bride and groom. The earth is just a waystation on the road to our real home in this beautiful city of God, and we long to be there, in the presence of God, just as a husband longs to be home in the presence of his beautiful bride.
Finally, says Jesus, "I will also write on him my new name." What name is that? The book of Revelation does not tell us. This verse refers to Revelation 19:12, where we are told that when Jesus appears He will have that new name written upon Him, but it is a name that no man knows. However, we do know that when the Lord gives a new name, it is a descriptive name, a name which befits the character of the object that is named.
Before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, an angel appeared to Joseph and told him that Mary would bring forth a son, "and you are to give him the name Jesus." Why? "Because he will save his people from their sins." Jesus is a name which speaks of the Lord's redemptive ministry. It means "Yahweh [the Lord] saves."
At the end of time, when the work of redemption is finished, when we are all home in glory with Him and God's work of saving and redeeming us has been accomplished, Jesus will be given a new work to do. No one knows what it is. No one knows what His new name will be. But whatever this new role, whatever this new name, the church is promised a share in those vast new labors! In the new heaven and the new earth, human redemption will be accomplished — but a new adventure awaits the Lord Jesus and all those who have placed their trust in Him.
The Lord concludes this letter as He concludes all seven letters to the seven churches of Asia. He impresses upon us the fact that these letters spell out our future destiny:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
The Philadelphia church was a little church with a little power, a little church that tried, a church against which the Lord had no complaint. Do we hear what the Spirit says to this church? Are we heeding its example? Are we holding on to what we have, obeying the Word of God, remaining faithful to the name of Jesus, guarding our eternal crown?
May it be said of your life and mine that we, like the believers in Philadelphia, are Christians who truly delight our Lord!