Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: To get into God’s kingdom, you don’t need to fight red tape or fill out stacks of paperwork. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth points out you just need to know the right Person.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Jesus says, “I’m giving you a passport, a visa, with full access to the kingdom of God; you’ll be a citizen of the New Jerusalem."

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Wednesday, October 18, 2017.

Does it ever feel like you don’t have access to the political operatives and CEOs who make decisions that affect your life? In reality, you’re invited to talk directly with the most powerful Person in the universe. Nancy will explain how, continuing in the series, "Letters to the Churches in Revelation, Part 7: Encouragement to Persevere."

Nancy: I think in many of our hearts at times there’s a tendency to wonder, even if we wouldn’t say it out loud, “Okay, if I obey the Lord, if I’m faithful to Him, if I don’t give into my flesh, but I go the way of the cross, what am I going to get out of this? What’s in it for me?” That certainly should not be any driving or primary motivation in our lives. We ought to just love the Lord enough that we want to do what He says, even if there’s nothing in it for us. But God is merciful and gracious and kind, and He does promise many blessings to those who are faithful to Him. He doesn’t promise an easy life, but He does promise rewards.

The whole teaching of rewards in Scripture is something maybe we’ll do a whole series on some time on Revive Our Hearts, but as we come to these letters to the churches in Revelation, at the end of each one, Jesus says to the church, “To the one who overcomes"—or the one who conquers, the one who stays steadfast, the one who is faithful all the way to the finish line—here’s what he can expect.”

The promise is given to the church in Philadelphia that we’ve been looking at over the past several days are magnificent in their beauty and in their breadth. So, as we close this part of this longer series, that’s what we want to look at today.

Now, just to reset us, because I took a detour here for the last several days on the Second Coming of Christ—we made three programs out of those four words, “I am coming soon,” but I think it was worth it just to remind us of what is a theme all through Scripture—but I want to take us back to Revelation chapter 3 to the letter to the church in Philadelphia.

Let me just read again that whole letter so you get the entire context, and then we’ll focus on the last verses that are the promised reward.

To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: "These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts no one opens.

I know your works [Jesus says]. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down at your feet and they will learn that I have loved you.

Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown" (vv. 7–11).

Now we come to verse 12, and here’s where we see this magnificent reward that is promised, and this is what I want to focus on during our time today. Verse 12: “The one who conquers"—the one who keeps my word about patient endurance; the one who holds fast to my word and does not deny my name; the one who holds fast to what he has, that person who conquers,

I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (vv. 12–13).

Now, when you first hear that, it sounds a little bit like gobbledegook, like, “What is he speaking in, code, or what?” I have the same thoughts the first time I read passages like this. I think, What in the world is that talking about? Who wants to be a pillar? Well, after we get through with this session, everybody’s going to want to be a pillar. These are precious promises.

You say, “How do you get this stuff out of it?” There are no shortcuts. You get into the Word; you meditate on it; you dig in; you learn something about the background and the history and the situation there in Philadelphia with helps of other people who are smarter and have studied this more than I have. Commentaries can be very helpful; other passages in Scripture that are cross references. I find that over a period of days and weeks and months, as I saturate myself in these passages, the Lord gives light and understanding and insight—not perfect. But He opens up my heart to see, “Yes, this really is a wonderful promise.”

So I’m hoping that my study of the Word doesn’t just lead you to let me spoon feed you but that it motivates you to get into the Word for yourself and be finding there are whole bunches of Scripture that I haven’t even started to tap into. I feel like I have just scratched the surface of even these passages. As you have the Holy Spirit in you and you study, He will make these passages come alive to you.

“To the one who conquers,” just a comment about that concept of conquering or overcoming. Some of your translations say, the verb tense that is used there is a present, continuous process that will have a termination. So it’s something we’re doing now, this conquering, overcoming. It’s something we have to continue to do for a long time or until Jesus comes, whenever that is, but it’s something that we won’t have to do forever. There will come a termination to it.

So when we feel like we’re having to hold fast to what we have and it’s hard doing it in this broken, fallen, prodigal planet, remember you won’t have to do that forever. There will be the time when we see Him, we’re with Him, and we won’t have all the baggage to weigh us down. But we do have to be doing it between now and then. It’s a present, continuous process of overcoming. You don’t get to the place where you have overcome until you see Jesus. There’s no time short of that.

I’ve heard these people, older people talk about dealing with issues with their flesh and with sin and temptation in their eighties, and I’m thinking, “Oh, I thought I would get to my eighties, and this would kind of be easier.” It can get harder.

Now, if you’re eighteen, that may not encourage you to realize that it does get harder because there are different battles we have to face. But God is preparing us for heaven, and He will give us the grace to overcome each step of the way and to keep overcoming.

This final promise given to overcomers in Philadelphia, and for all believers, I believe, gives us different aspects of the same promise related to our fellowship with Christ at the end of time, in eternity, our identification with Him. These are different aspects of the fellowship we will enjoy with Him in eternity, and of the intimate eternal presence of God and the Lord Jesus with His people. This is a matter of our intimacy with Him, what we can look forward to and enjoy for all of eternity in heaven.

So let’s just break down these promises, or this promise that has different parts.

Jesus says, “I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, never shall he go out of it.”

In this letter there have been three key images.

Remember, the first one was the key of David, which we said was a symbol of Christ’s authority. He holds the key. He has the right to say who gets in and out, to open up doors of salvation and doors of service and opportunity. It’s Christ’s authority. So we had the key was one picture.

The second picture was an open door, and that’s a symbol of the church’s opportunity. Christ’s authority—the church’s opportunity—the key and the door.

And now we have this third picture of a pillar in God’s temple, which I think is a symbol of the overcomer’s security—the overcomer’s security.

We said earlier in this series that Philadelphia was located on a geological fault, and it was often shaken by earthquakes. The pillars in the temples in Philadelphia were subject to the effects of frequent earthquakes. They were strong, but they could fall, and most of them did fall. But the contrast there, and the believers there in Philadelphia in the first century would have caught this picture. In contrast to those pillars that could be shaken by earthquakes, the Christian’s future position in heaven is secure and immovable. There’s nothing that can shake it, nothing can shake our relationship with Christ.

Another thing that this description might have brought to mind to those early listeners was that those who were Jews knew about the temple, Solomon’s temple. It had two massive bronze pillars at the entrance to the temple. They were topped with ornate capitold—large pieces on top of those pillars. The total pillar along with the capitol stood forty feet high and eighteen feet around. They were huge pillars. They were even given names in the Old Testament. They were massive. 

No doubt the Jews have heard this, “I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God,” and maybe his mind would have gone to those stories that he’d heard, the stories that he’d heard of those two great pillars in Solomon’s temple.

It’s kind of interesting that Jesus would talk about the temple of His God because when we get to the end of Revelation, we find that in the eternal city, the New Jerusalem, there is no temple except for God and the Lamb who are the temple. So, really, the temple speaks of God’s throne room in heaven. The whole city becomes one great temple. God’s presence is the temple, the place where He lives, the place where He dwells, and what Jesus is saying here is that those who follow Him and who persevere through tribulation are rewarded with the presence of God, the presence of Christ in that eternal temple, His eternal dwelling place.

When we talk about somebody being a pillar of the church, you think of a pillar as a support. A pillar of the church is probably somebody who’s well known, has been there a long time, has had an active, vital role in the church, is prominent, and is reliable. A pillar can be used for support. Now sometimes in the pagan temples, pillars would be load-bearing pillars. Sometimes they would be free standing, just for beauty. Sometimes they were functional; sometimes they were ornamental or decorative.

Either way, they are a symbol of strength, of stability, of permanence, steadfastness, perseverance—all the things that Jesus calls His followers to be—to be steadfast, to persevere. He’s saying, “If you hold to my Word, if you hold fast to what I’ve given you; I’m holding fast to you. I’m giving you persevering faith, and you will one day be a pillar in my temple that is going to be immovable, steadfast, permanent, stable, and strong.”

He’s saying this to those of whom He said here on earth, “I know that you have but little strength.” But the promise is, “You will have more strength. You will be a symbol of strength and stability.”

The saints of Jesus Christ will be pillars, immovably firm, fixed, stable, beautiful, a symbol of dignity,. And as those pillars in the temple of God, we will be forever on display as evidence of the redeeming, transforming, sustaining work of God’s grace.

I don't know about you, but I'm prone to meltdowns here on this earth. I had one earlier this week. I was being emotional about everything. I wasn't mad; I wasn't upset. I was just emotional. The smallest things were throwing me off-kilter.

I was on the phone with one of our staff by 10:00 in the morning just in tears. Nothing was wrong; I was just being emotional. I was not feeling stable. I was feeling very unstable. I was feeling weak-kneed. I was feeling, "How are we going to get through this recording?" Then yesterday, coming into this day of recordings, I got hit with this stomach bug and was in bed almost all day holding on to my tummy and feeling weaker than I had the previous day when I had my emotional meltdown—emotionally, physically.

We are weak! We are a mess! Maybe you aren't. Maybe you are a strong person. I was thinking about some other women I know who are Christian leaders, and I thought, I bet they don't ever do this. But you know what? They probably do. I don't know if they do or don't. But I do know we are all made of flesh; we are so human and so weak.

A phrase I lean on hard is, “We are weak, but He is strong.” I find myself in this ministry, no matter what you may think, those of you who read my books, you listen to my radio programs, and you think, Oh, she’s just so strong and stable spiritually. Listen, you don’t live with me. You don’t know what weakness I feel and sometimes feel overwhelmed by in the very things God has called me to do.

You experience that. As a mom you love, I hope, being a wife and a mother. There are good days, but there are also days when, with the best of families, you feel like, “I am such a failure. I cannot do this. This two-year-old, for whom no textbook was ever written, will we survive until he turns three?” Or the teenager who’s acting like a two-year-old . . . it’s life. It’s life in the work place; it’s life in the home; it’s life in this fallen planet. We don’t feel strong.

"I am woman; hear me roar." Whoever wrote that hasn't lived! "I am woman; hear me cry." I don't mean that woman are the only ones who cry, or that women only cry. I hope that doesn't sound derogatory toward women, but women and men . . . we're weak. We’re frail. We’re flesh. We’re like grass. It’s here today, grows up today; it’s gone tomorrow.

To have the promise that one day we will be a pillar in the temple of God forever on display as a symbol that God has redeemed us, He’s sustained us, and He’s kept us, and He’s preserved us, and He’s transformed us by His grace. It’s a beautiful promise, and it gives me hope to press on today, to keep persevering.

He says, “I’ll make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it.”

I love that part of this promise.

There are a couple of reasons that it would have been very precious to those Christians there in Philadelphia in the first century.

First of all, the Jews had cast them out of the synagogue. Remember that? But God’s claiming them as His own. He says, “I’ll never cast you out.” To say, “Never shall he go out of it”—never shall we be removed from that temple means that we will be forever free from the possibility of falling away. Praise God! I look forward to that day.

The people in Philadelphia knew that in 17 A.D.—I referenced this earlier in this series—there was this massive earthquake that devastated Philadelphia, Sardis, and ten other cities in that region, and Philadelphia experienced frequent aftershocks in the following years. So they lived an unsettled life in that city. There were constant earth tremors, and they would have to run out of the city until it was quiet again. They were always having to flee the city and then returning back to their homes to make sure everything was okay.

One writer said, “This frightened rhythm of flight and return had become part of their lives.”

Many people had been forced to leave their homes in 17 A.D. to go find a safer place. So when Jesus said, “I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God, never shall you go out of it”—you never have to run again, never have to flee—it’s a promise of safety. It’s a promise of security. It’s a promise of permanence, eternally secure in the presence of God. No fear of being lost. No fear of not being saved or being sent away from heaven or sent away from the presence of God. If we belong to Him, we are secure eternally because of His keeping power.

“I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, then I will write on him”—three names, a three-fold inscription. Now, it’s not clear whether the name is written on the overcomer or on the pillar because sometimes pillars do have inscriptions of people’s names on them, but it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t significantly affect the “so what” is of this passage.

It was the custom of the Roman world of that era that when a man had served the state well, the city might give him a memorial or erect a pillar in one of the temples with his name inscribed on the pillar so that those who came to worship in that temple would see this pillar, and they would remember this faithful citizen. The believers in Philadelphia knew about that custom.

So Jesus is saying, “Yes, somebody may die. He’s a famous citizen; he served the state well. He’ll get a pillar in the pagan temple, and he’ll get his name written on it. But if you’re faithful to Me, I’ll make you a pillar in the temple of my God, and I’ll write a name on that pillar.” But it’s not our name that’s written on that pillar. It’s His name because He’s the one who has been faithful.

The people in Philadelphia knew about getting a new name. After the earthquake in 17 A.D., the Emperor Tiberius remitted taxes for a period of time and gave substantial aid to help rebuild the city. Out of gratitude for his help, the city of Philadelphia actually, for a period of time, changed its name to Neo-Caesarea, the new town of Caesar. Now they didn’t keep that name. They went back to the name of Philadelphia, but they knew about a city getting a new name. That all comes to mind as we look at this three-fold inscription on the pillar.

“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 from my God out of heaven and my own new name.”

Let’s just take a quick look at those three.

“The name of my God,” a symbol of ownership and identification. To write a name on something is a figurative expression in the Hebrew culture to denote taking possession of that thing, making it completely your own. God’s saying, “You are Mine.”

Just the thought pops up here. It used to be when you take your little ones to the nursery and they would put a tape on their back and write their name or your name on it to identify this child. Now they have all sophisticated ways to do this. But identifying this little one as belonging to me. That's what God does with us. He identifies us as belonging to Him.

Oh that wonderful promise in Revelation 22: “His servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”

His name written on us, branded with the name, the likeness, the character of God Himself. Those who overcome, that’s what they will get—ownership, identification.

Then Jesus says, “I will write on him the name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven.”

Not just ownership but citizenship. Citizens of this new city. Jesus says, “I’m giving you a passport, a visa, with full access to the kingdom of God. You’ll be a citizen of the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city.”

Then He says, “I’ll write on you my own new name.” The name of my God, the name of the city of my God, and my own new name—co-heirs with Christ, of whom it is said in Revelation 19: “He has a name written that no one knows but Himself” (v. 12).

The most intimate aspects of who He is will be written on us, and we will have available that intimate communication and oneness and union and communion with Him for all eternity.

Jesus is saying to these early believers, “You’ve been willing to risk your name for Mine in this world. I’ll give you My name in the next world.”

Whatever price you pay here, He’s going to give you more—ten thousand times more—in the kingdom to come.

It’s a promise that when Christ makes us completely His own, by writing His own new name on us, He’ll admit us into His full glory, which at present is incomprehensible to us. There are aspects of who He is that we cannot fathom now.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (13:12).

The parts of Christ that now are shrouded in mystery to us, that we can’t see—we wish we could, we wish we could know Him. We will know Him. His name, His new name will be written on us.

So we have a picture here of the victorious, overcoming Christian who will belong completely to God—ownership, identification, a member of His family who will be given full citizenship in the New Jerusalem and will enter into the glory of Christ.

So Jesus says to this church in Philadelphia, “I know you’ve only got a little strength. I know you’re going through some rough times right now, but you’ve been faithful. As a result, I’ve opened to you doors that no one can keep you from going through. Don’t let anybody stop you; no one can shut them. Your enemies will one day submit themselves to you and to My name. They will come and bow before your feet. You’ll be delivered. You’ll come out like those three Hebrew young men came out of that furnace. You will have been through the fire perhaps, through fires, but you’ll come out unscathed, and then there will be that eternal crown and reward.”

What He said to the church in Philadelphia, Jesus says to us, wherever you live today: “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have.”

You say, “How long do I have to hold on?”

Until He comes.

“How long is that?”

Not long—not when you think about it in light of eternity. He’s coming soon. Hold on just a little longer.

You say, “I don’t know if I can hold on through the day.”

Listen, He will hold on to you. Cling to Him. Hold fast to Him. He will get you through this day. He will get you through tomorrow. He’ll get you through whatever is coming up next week that you don’t even know about yet. He will get you through it. You’re not holding on just to survive. The promise is you will thrive. There’s a crown; there’s a prize; there’s a reward, and it will be yours if you overcome in His name.

Leslie: Whatever thing is looming in your future, you can still move forward in great hope. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing you why.

If you missed any of today’s program, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com. You can read the transcript or listen to the audio, or share it with a friend.

When you visit ReviveOurHearts.com, make sure to get more information about book Nancy wrote that will help you prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday in a new way. It's called Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.

Do you think of gratitude as an essential part of the Christian life? Most people don’t think much about it, but when you walk through Scripture on this subject with Nancy, you’ll see why this is such an important topic. During this Thanksgiving season, you can get a copy of Choosing Gratitude and let your heart maintain a thankful spirit all year long.

We’ll send Choosing Gratitude to you when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for Choosing Gratitude when you call with your donation. The number is 1–800–569–5959.

Do you find yourself thinking of the Second Coming of Christ as a mysterious event far off into the future? Continue to understand why His return has highly practical applications for you each day, next time on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.