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Addresses on the Seven Churches: 8: Philadelphia Lecture 3

By G.V. Wigram


      REVELATION 3: 7-12.

      IN the very name of this church the Lord's love to His people is recalled, and there is something peculiarly sweet in this, in their time of difficulty and trial from the evil around.

      My desire in mentioning a few things is not to bring out new truths, but old truth which God may use for the good of the sheep, as they go in and out -- the manna for pilgrims passing through the wilderness.

      In the beginning of this book (Rev. 1: 3), we find a blessing connected with reading and hearing the words of this prophecy, for the servants of the Lord Jesus. In Rev. 22: 6, the Lord's coming is connected with the responsibility of keeping what was written in the book. In verse 12, the effect of the coming of the Lord is regarded in the whole place where there is light -- Christendom -- but there is general responsibility which Christ will not let slip, because the Church is precious to Christ. Then, thirdly, Christ comes as the root and the offspring of David, the bright and morning star, upon which the Bride immediately says, "Come," and He at once responds to the affection of her heart, and says, "Surely, I come quickly." First, Christ says, "Now you have a book; I have given you a book, and come to see what use you have made of it." Secondly, "I have given you light; now I come to see what use you have made of that light." Then again, as part of the Bride, are you able to say, "Come" to the Lord Himself? Is it not a remarkable thing that the book closes with this peculiar brightness, which seems to shine out in the welcome the Bride is ready to give? The book of the Apocalypse is something like a clear stream from a rock, washing through all sorts of muddy, marly, dirty soil, which turns up blacker and blacker as it goes further on, but the stream itself continues pure; and it is an uncommonly bright thing at the end to find that some are calling on the Lord to come.

      After the apostles left the scene the fathers were looked up to for authority, then succeeded a period of pitch-darkness; then at the Reformation, God began to separate some for Himself by acting on their consciences; at length, after that, there have been some who can say, "I belong to no churches, but to Christ in heaven, and I am waiting for Him to come for me." This, I say, is an uncommonly bright thing amidst all the mixture that has existed.

      We have seen how, in the first of these addresses to the churches, the endeavour is rather to get things right again. Afterwards it is rather to keep people out of the evil which is around them. In this church of Philadelphia it (the Spirit's word) is like a knife cutting down between the good and evil that are there. (Rev. 3: 11) "Hold fast that which thou hast, that no man fake thy crown." This is worthy of notice; first, because in this church faithfulness to the word has been praised: "Thou hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name," thus recognizing that the crown is theirs, as much as the truth put into their hands. While all the divine family are recognized as crowned as kings, "we shall reign with Him," and so all have the insignia of royalty alike; there is something more, there is the diadem of victory. I may be an overcomer by faith in Christ, but be without a chaplet of victory. Saved, but works burnt up, just as Lot, dragged out of Sodom, had nothing to bring out.

      There was Samson also dictating to God where he should go with the Philistines. It is a very different thing just to know that I am saved, and to have the heart of the pilgrim, rejoicing that Christ has separated me from evil, and that I can look up into His face with joy -- my works approved, not so much for the quantity of them -- but the little things done to Him are owned as faithful service to Him in His blessed presence. After His telling them, "I know thy works," He gives them that which was to act as a stimulus to them -- "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown."

      I would recall one thing here connected with the structure of these addresses. In the first three the exhortations come before the promises, and in the last four the promise is put first, and the warning afterwards. There must certainly be a spiritual meaning in it. It is not a question of whether I can say why it is, but this is very manifest, that if I went into a person's house and exhorted first, or comforted first, you would suppose I had some reason for it. Just this we can see in relation to the churches, that the lower you go down in them, the more weakness there is in them as churches; and the more there is of weakness, the more of course will consolation be felt and valued.

      Rev. 3: 12. "Him that overcometh," etc. This is said to those who ere already conquerors through faith in Christ. Who is he that overcometh but he that believeth that Jesus is the Christ? This is a most comforting word, as comforting as a bolted door to the poor weak pilgrim inside. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith," etc. Two things are to be remarked in this; first, the entire cutting asunder of the Church and the world -- that which marks the believer is victory over the world through faith in Christ. This is a word that meets the soul, however it may have fallen. I may have sunk down to where Solomon fell, or where Peter fell. Samson, again, was not much like a victor; but if even like these, I can rest in that word, "He that overcometh is he that believeth."

      But there is something more. A man walking with Christ is in all things more than conqueror through Him that loved him, How far are we overcomers in this sense? I could not say of myself, that the Holy Ghost sees me in every detail of daily life more than conqueror. I desire in everything to be a victor, first for my own sake, for there is no joy in being borne down. If I am not conqueror, I am disappointed in everything I touch. God is present at all times; but if a person does not walk with God, God must walk against him, and must break him down. Another thing why I should desire to overcome is, for God's glory. Has He sent His Son into the world to die? Has He given His Spirit to dwell in me? and am I to have no spirit becoming a son? no devotedness of heart and affection? For God's sake, then, I desire to be more than conqueror, I desire in everything to be a victor. An overcomer in Christ should be an overcomer in his walk as regards everything. The promise here given to the overcomer lets out in the details who Christ is. Is it said, "How do you know that Christ is the Son of God?" There are many things which I could not give as evidences to others, but which are very sweet to myself, as showing His right, and the power attaching to Him as Son of God. Who but He could have a right to say, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest"? It seems to me that this must either be the expression of a maniac, or of One who has infinite power to do what He promised. So here, "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, he shall go no more out," etc. He has power to make what He pleases; power to keep, and power to give away. "I will;" the acting of our blessed Lord in Matt. 11, where, like a nail in a sure place, in spite of all the failure around Him, He says, "Come unto Me," is similar to the words to these poor Philadelphians, waiting in patience in the midst of evil. In all this, we do not get a disquisition only of what was done more than eighteen hundred years ago, but it is addressed to our hearts for our daily experience. He is dealing it out to me by means of this little book as One who has an actual part in it. Has not the living Christ, who has been speaking amongst men, has not He spoken to me, and given me rest? May we judge ourselves in the light of that experience. Is not this Christ the same now He was then? And is not His promise the same to me it was to those to whom He spake then?

      With Philadelphia, we see running right to the end of this string of precious pearls for His people a trait of moral glory. Christ is acting with the heart of a Brother (for He is not ashamed to call us brethren), and when He wants to express His delight in a thing, and to give His approval, He does not rest on the thing to be blessed, but brings out some of the expression of the love He has received from His Father. He says, "I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God," as though He said, "God has given me a place in the government and worship, and I shall not have it alone. I must have kings and priests with Me. I shall make you sharers with Me in it." "My God." Thus He would give you something connected with Him who is most precious to Himself. What a word that is, "Pillar in the temple of my God." The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. There is not only the thought of stability in it, but it is the memorial or record of a certain victory. The overcomer is there as the trophy of Christ's conquest. Let us pause here. It is something so different to think of glory as that for which we are struggling ourselves, from having it before us as that which Christ gives. We ought to work because of what He has done for us, and because we have such a Master. There is a big bit of selfishness in us all -- I, I, I -- when, as regards every end or rest, it is all Christ's. Works that please Him are not ours, but Christ's. The end to have in view is not our gain, but Christ's. The rest not ours, but Christ's.

      A young Christian says a great deal of "I the good," or "I the bad;" but an old Christian says nothing at all about it; but God knows altogether what I am. He has the true measure of me, and He has measured Christ against me. "He shall go no more out;" as none can open the door, and none can bring in but Himself, so none can keep it but Him. God's delight in Christ is so great that He will bring the Church into this heavenly paradise, so far beyond what Adam ever had. He could be turned out of that, but none shall go out from this.

      "I will write upon him the name of my God." There is something in this like the manna that was for the people's food, and some of it put in the ark for God. There is the communication of the character of God upon the child of God. Our thoughts run upon our being there. I shall see Christ; sit down with Him; see all that great multitude round about Him. But there is another thing, "I shall be like Him, for I shall see Him as He is." Then will be fully realized "grace for grace," spoken of in John. It will be perfected in us according to Cor. 3, "beholding with unveiled face." When I see Him face to face, when I stand before Him in glory, I shall have it all; it will be mine for Him to behold. Present this to the world, and they could not understand it. A poor sinner can understand the blessings of salvation -- but as a Christian learns communion with Christ, he rejoices in this, that he will be like Him. Another thing connected with the blessing is, "I will write upon him the name of the city of my God." If God ever and anon formed the garden of Eden the tabernacle in Israel, the temple of Jerusalem, in which He appeared, they were but beggarly elements to show forth that higher, better thing to be taken possession of by God. Poor sinners saved by grace, and God Himself making them His dwelling-place. Rough stones as we are, from the quarry of nature, there can be no mistake as to the origin of our being in that scene above. Nothing but redemptive love could give you and me a place there.

      The heavenly city is interesting to us by way of contrast with the earthlies. If God has to do with the earth, it begins in time; if it is in blessing in the heavenlies, it begins in the counsels of God. Everything centres in Christ the eternal Son of God; all hangs upon and grows out of one root -- God's delight in His Son., and redeeming love is the means of bringing it out. There is a great comfort in knowing this, and in Christ's giving us a special place in that divine glory. "I will write upon him my new name." It was the custom, as we have before spoken of, to give a new name which others did not know. These names often had great meaning, and were connected with character. The name of "Israel" was given to that shuffling character that was always planning for himself and supplanting others, and after all was always in straits and difficulties. See him, for example, not knowing how to get over the brook Jabbok. When God had got him down to the right place, He says, "Now, if you as the creature draw from me as the Creator, I can do what I will with you, and give you the power of God." "Israel" is the new name. There are heights and depths in this new name of the Lord Jesus full of deep blessing. His person none can penetrate. One can only bow down and shelter oneself under the word, "None knoweth the Son but the Father." But as to character, not Person, we see how He puts it upon us, and makes us sharers of it. God displays His grace in different ways at different times. When Christ was down here in the position of the humbled One who had emptied Himself, the Servant going down step by step to the cross, He seemed without any glory in the eyes of men, and yet there was really nowhere that His name, His character, His glory shone out more than on the cross; but it was all between Himself and God then.

      Then He rose up from the dead, ascended up on high, sat down, and there He is patiently waiting, the Church down here in patience too. It is in a most anomalous position for the Son of God to be on the throne of the Father, but He will not always be there. There is redemption glory to be manifested in. Christ, and this new name is the redemption name to be given Him, not now, but when He who was the Servant, and in Whom always was all the power, will be manifested in glory. The time is coming when He will lead the praise for the Church and for Israel. The new name is always in Scripture connected with character, not only of moral worth, but also of position. The Lord will take a new position altogether, and then He says He will put it upon us. There are two things peculiarly sweet to me -- the unselfishness of heart this would lead us into, and then the joy of the Lord in. being able to look up to His God in the thoroughly unselfish joy of His heart in having us there. Think of Him looking on all around, and looking up to God to see His joy in the many sons He has brought to glory!

      "He that hath an ear, let him hear." Faith is the heart having to do with God Himself, and Christ gives the challenge to the heart where He has a place. It is not so much respecting service; that may be closing, but the ear; and are there not some that have an ear? I know there are some who are thankful to have not only the ears "digged," but "bored," and thankful to have such a Master.

      There is one word to add in the use of these expressions to the churches. Our using them to profit depends on our rightly dividing the word of God, not taking all the promises without the warnings, nor the warnings without the promises; they are closely connected in the mouth of the Lord Jesus. What is the hope set before us? We shall not only see, but shall bear the glory; "the name of my God," the full display of the glory of God, into which we are to be ushered, as bearing that which will distinguish us from all the other spheres of glory which will exist in that day.

      There is evidently a peculiar force in the word "writing." The Church is the epistle of Christ, and you ought to be able to say, that those around you have read a little bit of Christ in you (or Christ says it for you), that they have marked that you are not like other people. But Christ is not content with that, but will have the name of His God indelibly engraven on you. You may be very little in yourself, but the glory would not be perfect without you, as the most beautiful sculpture would be marred if the smallest fragment were knocked off. When will this glory come? Will next year find us marshalled in the glory with God's name written on us? "My new name." Christ is called to patience now, to wait, and so are we; the Man of sorrows was His name then, but He will come forth as the Man of joy; this will be His new name, which will be written on His people. "If so be we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." It is the false heart of unbelief that clouds that vision of glory which God presents before our souls. It is a little while, a very little while, and only horrid unbelief of heart sends it to a distance, instead of seeing it even at the very door.

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See Also:
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: Introduction
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 1: Ephesus
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 2: Smyrna
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 3: Pergamos
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 4: Thyatira
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 5: Sardis
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 6: Philadelphia Lecture 1
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 7: Philadelphia Lecture 2
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 8: Philadelphia Lecture 3
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 9: Laodicea

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