Tuesday, August 27, 2013

P3 Jesus wants a S.T.A.Y faithful church

Revelation 3:12-13 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

What ingredients in Revelation 3:7-13 does Jesus give for Christians to S.T.A.Y faithful?
As we noted yesterday, there are four ingredients of faithfulness found in Revelation 3:7-13 by way of the acronym "S.T.A.Y".

Strength of Jesus Christ.      Revelation 3:7-8

True power of the Gospel.    Revelation 3:9

Application of the scripture.  Revelation 3:10

Yearn to run for Jesus.        Revelation 3:11-13

We noted yesterday that faithfulness could be defined as repeated, moment by moment loyalty to Jesus Christ exercised by faith. A s.t.a.y faithful church is what Jesus is commending in this letter to Philadelphia and the trait he desires for Christians and the church today. So far we have considered the strength of Jesus Christ and the true Gospel as foundations for staying faithful.  In today's post we want to close out our examination of the letter to Philadelphia by noting two other ingredients necessary for staying faithful: namely application of scripture and yearning to run for Jesus. 

Application of the scripture.  Revelation 3:10
Revelation 3:10 states - "Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth."  To "keep" the word of God is another way of saying that you guard its words in your mind and heart by way of application. Passages such as Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 119:11 remind you of the importance of scripture memory, while other passages such as John 14:21 and James 2:22 emphasize the need to apply what you memorize.  Application of God's word will ensure the maximum amount of staying power to remain faithful to Christ both now and for the future of God's people. 

Jesus' words about keeping the saints "from the hour of testing coming upon the whole world" cannot be missed in this passage due to His promise of preservation. First, the phrase "keeping from" has caused many commentators to debate over whether the church will be preserved through or kept out of the coming great tribulation.  This writer personally doesn't think one can build a conclusive case for either from this passage, and that other texts need to be included to construct the Bible's teaching of the timing of the Lord's snatching away of His church - i.e the rapture.1  Secondly, "hour of testing" is closely related to the time period called in scripture "the great tribulation" (see Matthew 24:21) which is coming upon this world and will be unfolded in detail by John in Revelation 6-19.  Thirdly, a quick study of the phrase "whole world" in the original language reveals four places where it speaks of the entirety of all the unbelieving inhabitants of planet earth and its kingdoms. (Luke 4:5; Romans 10:18; Revelation 3:10, 16:14) These remarks serve to show the preserving power of scripture.  The words of God need to be applied in order to elicit a greater desire on God's people to persevere both now and if need be, in future times of increasing persecution.  And so to stay faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ, we need the strength of Christ, true power of the Gospel, application of the scripture and a fourth ingredient, namely.....

Yearn to run for Jesus.        Revelation 3:11-13
Two key words in Revelation 3:11-13 signal to us the reasons as to why we must yearn to run for Jesus. First Jesus tells the Philadelphians to hold fast so that no one will take their "crown". So note the word "crown".  Then secondly, Jesus speaks on three occasions of the Philadelphians having a "name".  Whenever you see that word "crown", it speaks of the prize that was given to runners in the ancient world.  Passages such as Philippians 3:13-14 and Hebrews 12:1-2 urge Christians to run so as to win while fixing their eyes on Jesus.  The idea of crowns speaks of the motivation, the yearning that every Christian should have to stay faithful for Jesus. In scripture we see five such motivational crowns promised to Christians: the imperishable crown for all Christians (1 Corinthians 9:25); rejoicing crown for soul winners (1 Thess. 2:19); crown of righteousness for those eager for His return (2 Timothy 4:8); crown of glory for pastors (Philippians 4:1; 1 Peter 5:2-4) and crown of life for Christian martyrs (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10).3  So whenever you see the word "crown" in the Bible, think of yearning.  In the instance of Revelation 2:10, we see the yearning to run for Jesus so-strong that if need be, these faithful Christians may end up dying for their faith.

Then the second term in these verses that points the way to yearning for Christ is the three-fold repetition of the word "name". In ancient times the pagans would inscribe the "name" of their false deities on pillars in their temples.  Undoubtedly with the left over pillars of such a temple standing in their earthquake ravaged city, the Philadelphians would be reminded of the fact that as a church, they were owned by their Lord, the only true God, in human flesh - Jesus Christ.  2 Timothy 2:19 reminds us: "Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.”  The faithful church that Jesus desires is His temple.  Despite the tremors of unbelieving culture and the increasing trials of history, as well as the future tribulation whereby the Lord has promised to protect His church from God's wrath, the church militant must stand as a pillar among the ruins of humanity.  May you and I believer rely on Christ's strength, the truth of the Gospel's power, apply the scripture and yearn to run for Him so that we may be His "stay faithful" church.  

1. The issue to which I am referring to involves the ongoing intramural debate between Pre-millenialists who wrestle over whether the church will be raptured before the tribulation (i.e pre-tribulationalism), in the middle (i.e mid-tribulationalism) or near the end of the tribulation (i.e post-tribulationalism). I have read many good arguments on both sides on the matter of the meaning of the word translated "out of" ("ek" in the Greek) and have my own opinion. However any attempt to build a conclusive ("conclusive" is the key word here) for pre-tribulationalism, mid-tribulationalism or post-tribulationalism from the word "ek" (out of) in this one passage is not a good exercise in Biblical interpretation.  Other passages in scripture, such as John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and 2 Thessalonians 2 must be included if attempting to discern the nature and timing of the rapture of the church.  The chief issue in this text of Revelation 3:10 has to do with Jesus' preservation of His people by His word. For the sake of today's post, the point of the text is that Jesus is going to preserve His people by means of His word and grace, regardless of whether they have to endure persecution both now and in the future or whether He chooses to take them out of the way completely.   The issues of the rapture and its timing, as well as my own personal viewpoint on the meaning of "ek" in this text will be taken up in later posts. 

2. Some have taken John's words to meaning the immediate readers undergoing severe trial under Roman persecution, however the remaining chapters of Revelation suggest that John is pointing to the final great tribulation that will occur prior to Jesus' return.  

3. It is worthy to note that nearly twenty verses in the New Testament have this word "crown".  The first mention of the word occurs in Matthew 27:29 in reference to Jesus' crown of thorns.  The final mention is found in Revelation 14:14 wherein we find Jesus wearing a "golden crown".  How fitting that His crown of thorns and crown of gold flanks the crowns of believers in the in-between passages we just considered.

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