By Horatius Bonar
"Behold! I am coming quickly. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name."--Revelation 3:11-12.
Again the trumpet sounds. 'Behold!' It is the trumpet of Advent. 'Behold, I come quickly!' The Master is at the door. What then? Hold fast! 'Hold fast that which you have.' As if one of the special temptations of the Church would be to let go her principles; to turn her back upon the truth which once she held; to contradict not only herself, but the truth of God. And all under that name of progress! "We are men of progress, therefore we must be tolerant! Narrow views are bigotry and narrowness; tolerance is advancement and development--large-mindedness and nobility of soul!"
Hold fast that which you have, that no man takes your crown! In letting go what we have, we lose our crown. Such stress does the Master lay upon consistent adherence to our testimony to His name.
Again the conqueror is set before us. For each of the Churches there is warfare, and victory is to be our aim. A daily battle and a daily victory! The good warfare and the glorious victory. Of this victory let us now hear the reward.
I. The conqueror is to be a temple-pillar. Not an outside, but an inside pillar. Not a door, nor a wall, nor any mere vessel or utensil; but a column, a fair and majestic column 'in temple of my God.' The interior colonnades or double rows of tall pillars in some churches and temples (such as that of St. Paul's Cathedral, outside of modern Rome), set upon marble floors, upholding marble roofs and arches, are splendid beyond description. There the pillars stand, each in itself an obelisk or a monument, beautiful in their matchless symmetry, tall as the palm, and pure as the snow. Day and night they stand there, looking down upon the temple and its worshipers, listening to its songs, and veiled in its incense. They are part of the vast fabric; not like those who minister there, going out and in, but standing immovable in their surpassing beauty.
Such is the reward of the Philadelphian conqueror. An everlasting inhabitant and ornament of that sanctuary of which we read, 'I saw no temple therein; for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple thereof.' They shall go no more out! Their home is the innermost shrine in the heaven of heavens. Like Jachin and Boaz (1 Kings 7:15, 21), there they stand forever. As the Church is here the pillar and ground of the truth, so are they hereafter. As Barnabas and Cephas are called 'pillars,' because of their noble pre-eminence in upholding the truth, so are these conquerors to be. And as pillars were used of old for affixing royal proclamations, so that from them came forth the voice of the king, so shall it be with these conquerors. Like the seven pillars which Wisdom hews out for her house (Proverbs 4:1), they stand. Witnesses for Christ they were here, with 'little strength;' witnesses for Him they shall be hereafter, when that which is sown in weakness shall be raised in power. Here they kept His word and denied not His name; there they shall stand as His faithful ones forever and forever.
II. The conqueror is to be inscribed with glorious names. It is said of Christ that He has on His vesture and on his thigh a name written, 'King of kings and Lord of lords.' It is said of the redeemed in glory that they have their Father's name written on their foreheads (ch. 14:1); so here on these Philadelphian pillars are many names to be inscribed, each of them unutterably glorious. The inscriptions ennoble the pillar; and the pillar displays aloft the inscriptions to the gaze of 'the great multitude that no man can number.' These inscriptions are written by Christ Himself--'I will write.' As He engraved Israel upon the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16), so does He engrave these names upon these temple-pillars, that they may be eternal witnesses to them in the glorious sanctuary; for throughout eternity His redeemed are to be His witnesses and His conquerors--pre-eminently so. All saved ones are to tell something of Him--His conquerors most. The inscriptions to be thus engraved are as follows:
(1.) The name of my God. This is the name which God proclaimed to Moses, the name which is the summary of His blessed character, as the God of all grace. As He made Israel's names to shine out from the twelve gems of the breastplate, so does he make His own name to shine out from these pillars; quarried, hewn, polished, set up by the Holy Spirit, and engraved by a greater than Bezaleel or Aholiab--by Christ Himself. What honor! To be the marble on which Jehovah's name is carved, and from which it shall blaze forth in the eternal temple!
(2.) The name of the city of my God. 'God is not ashamed to be called their God, because He has prepared for them a city.' And the name of this city is to be engraved on these pillars in connection with the name of its builder and maker. The city's name is New Jerusalem, and 'it comes down out of heaven from my God.' The city is theirs; and, as its citizens, they are to have its name written upon them. Other pillars set up on earth by man have the names of deities, or kings, or warriors, or cities engraved upon them. But this inscription excels all in glory. It shines out in its own brilliance, irradiating the pillar itself, and the whole temple where that pillar stands.
(3.) My new name. This is the new name given by Christ, which no man knows but he who receives it--a name, the like of which has not yet been known on earth; a name which shall embody in itself some peculiar honor and blessedness which we know not now, but which we shall know hereafter. We need not try to guess it--we would but fail. It will be made known in due time, when the battle is won and the reward is given to the conqueror.
All this is because, with but 'little strength', this Philadelphian Church had kept Christ's words, and not denied His name. The reward is to correspond with the service. For the keeping of the word, there is to be the recompense of the pillar with a divine inscription; and for the owning of the name, that inscription is to consist of the most glorious of names. Reward and service are ever made to correspond by Him who duly appreciates the service of His saints on earth, and knows the peculiar circumstances of trial or difficulty, or pain or weakness, in which the service was performed.
Small may be our strength in these last days. The tide of error, and sin, and worldliness may be running very strong. It may not be easy to confess Christ, or to hold fast His truth. But His grace is sufficient for us; and woe be to us if we give way to the errors of the age, or conform to its vanities, or seek to please its multitudes, either under the dread of public opinion, or the fear of not being reputed 'men of progress,' or the shrinking from more direct persecution and hatred! Faithfulness to Christ, and to His truth, is everything, especially in days when iniquity shall abound, and the love of many shall wax cold.
Fear not! The reward is glorious! The honor is beyond all earthly honors! The contempt and enmity are but for a day--the dignity and the blessedness are forever and ever!
What though men call you narrow-minded for cleaving to 'old truth'--now obsolete, as they say; for 'worship of a book,' or biblioatry, as they call it; for the stern refusal to lower our testimony to our glorified Lord and coming King? Let us be content to bear reproach for Him and His word. The glory to be given us at His appearing will more than compensate for all.