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Revelation 3:11-13 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:59 mins 37 secs

Priests, Pillars and Privileges

Revelation 3:11-13 NASB "'I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'"

The word "Behold" in the KJV is not in the NASB because it was only in the few MSS that became a vital part of what was known as the Textus Receptus or the received text, a collection of about 8-10 fairly late Greek MSS that were used by Erasmus to form the basis for his initial critical Greek New Testament which became foundational through much of the early Reformation. It became the foundation for the KJV translation. However, we have discovered many, not older MSS since, but also many better MSS, both in terms of age and quality. It is interesting that both the Majority Text as well as the Critical Text, which operate on completely opposing theories of dealing with textual variance, recognize that this just isn't a good reading.

"I am coming quickly." The emphasis here is that when the Lord returns it is going to happen suddenly and unexpectedly. So there is the admonition, the exhortation to "hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown." The word translated "hold fast" is the Greek verb KRATEO [kratew], present active imperative, and the present imperative emphasizes something that should be an ongoing characteristic of life, a standard operating procedure, it becomes part of one's character, something that you no longer thing about but implement it on a consistent basis. This word KRATEO is used a number of times in the book of Revelation, and that gives us an idea of what the nuance is here. For example, it is used in Revelation 2:24, 25 at the end of the letter to Thyatira: "…hold fast what you have until I come." The word "hold" is used there in terms of holding to doctrine, orthodox doctrine, biblical truth. But we have to make a distinction here, that it is not just about holding to orthodox doctrine but also of having correct practice. The idea of doctrine in Scripture is not just the idea of abstract theological correctness. The biblical concept of teaching doesn't see this demarcation between teaching and practice, they are all one and the same thing. So there is a connection here between holding to orthodoxy and practice. What is it that they have in the context here? They have correct doctrine, truth; they have not compromised it with the pressure coming from the culture around them. Revelation 2:13, 14 reinforces this same idea: "… hold fast my name." That has to do with holding to a true doctrine of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. "…and did not deny my faith." Notice the contrast between holding fast on the one hand, "my name," in contrast to denying "my faith," i.e. faith in the sense of the body of truth, doctrine, teaching and application that is part of Christianity. KRATEO is used in numerous contexts to indicate holding on to a your right doctrine and holding fast to your spiritual life and spiritual growth and not being distracted. "What you have" in Revelation 3:11 is not simply abstract doctrine, it is the application of that doctrine in life. It is the idea that whatever you have done as you have grown and as you have matured, don't let anything away from that.

Then there is a purpose clause: "so that no one will take your crown." The Scriptures talk about different kinds of rewards and different kinds of future privileges and blessings. These seven letters to the seven church each have a passage that has a promise to those who overcome. There are special privileges outlined in each of these letters related to believers who are overcomers, i.e. victorious believers. There are three crowns mentioned in Scripture. These are special awards given to believers who persevere or endure.

The first of these crowns is called the crown of righteousness. This is described and attributed specifically to the believer who advances to spiritual maturity. Every believer has an opportunity to receive the crown of righteousness, according to 2 Timothy 4:7, 8; 2 Peter 3:13.

Secondly, there is the crown of life which seems to be a special capacity above and beyond others in the future kingdom. It goes to those who persevere to spiritual maturity, to persevere in trial: mentioned in James 1:12 and also in Revelation 2:10. So the crown of life seems to be specifically related to those who are martyred or under the threat of martyrdom, losing their life for their faith.

Third, we have the crown of glory which seems to go to pastors and missionaries who are faithful in the communication of the Word of God—1 Peter 5:2-4.

It is interesting and to watch and to observe historical trends on the church down through the ages of how the pastoral ministry has changed as a result of the culture around them. Over the past 100 years since the culmination of the industrial revolution and the develop of corporate America beginning in the late 19th century the church has taken on more and more of a reflection of running a local church like a local business or corporation. As a result of that now in many churches and seminaries the pastor is basically viewed as the Chief Executive Officer, the manager; it emphasises his role as a people person, taking care of all the things that go on in the life of the church, and on occasion he teaches the Bible; but because he is so busy managing and administering all of the different things that go on in the local church that he doesn't have a lot of time to study and teach. The reason God puts a pastor in a local congregation is to feed the flock. That is what Jesus told the apostle Peter in John chapter 21. The pastor feeds the sheep and he protects the sheep. How does he do that? By teaching God's Word.

The implication of Revelation 3:11 is that a believer can lose his crown one he has gained it. There is that potential that having grown to spiritual maturity and having qualified for certain rewards that he may become disqualified. We have studied in the past the fact that when we walk by means of the Spirit and the Holy Spirit is working in and through us we produce the fruit/production of the Spirit, and we produce that which we call divine good to distinguish it from human good. Anybody can do good work in the power of the flesh but it doesn't count at all for eternity because it has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit and has no eternal value whatsoever. Anything that we do in life that is done in the power of the Holy Spirit will always last. It will be some of that gold, silver, and precious stones that survives at the judgment seat of Christ. We are rewarded on the basis but there are serious warnings to believers that of they advance to a certain stage and then regress there are indeed consequences for that regression. 2 John 1:8 NASB "Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward." The implication is there if we advance to a certain level of spiritual growth and maturity and then backslide, that even the amount of divine good produced remains the same—in spiritual regression we lose capacity for serving God, capacity for righteousness and capacity for wisdom— then we also forfeit whatever rewards we might have gained, whatever privileges and responsibilities we might have been given for the eternal kingdom because of subsequent failures. This is what Paul is referring to in 1 Corinthians 9:24ff NASB "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but {only} one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win…Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." Revelation 3:11 isn't saying someone can steal your crown, this is an idiom indicating that the are circumstances, people, situations in life that can distract us from the goal. So He is speaking idiomatically here and saying not to let anything interfere in our pursuit of spiritual growth and maturity. The principle here is that we should consistently live today in light of eternity. That is our motivation.

This is where verse 12 comes in. "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." The word there for overcomer is the Greek verb NIKAO [nikao], based on the noun NIKE [nikh] for the goddess of victory, and it means to be victorious, to prevail, to win in the face of obstacles. If refers to the victorious believer, to be a believer who at the judgment seat of Christ has rewardable gold, silver and precious stones as opposed to having all of his work burned up as wood, hay, and straw. There is clearly a distinction in the Bible between two types of believers: those who are carnal and fleshly and who never advance spiritually, and therefore have no future ruling or reigning responsibilities with the Lord, and this who do, those who are victorious in the Christian life, who grow and mature and have a rewardable life.

One of the incentives here is, "I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God." The word translated "pillar" is the Greek STULOS [stuloj] and it is used figuratively in the Scripture of any firm support. It is used for persons who have authority and influence in the church. We use that idiom the same way today. The idea is that this is someone who has stability, strength, and who is a contributing force in the community or church or some organization. This was an idiom that was popular in both Greek and Latin culture. It refers to people like Paul and Peter and others as pillars in the church. They are those who are of influence, those who are in authority, those who have special responsibilities. That fits the whole context of what is going on in Revelation. The next key word is "temple," the Greek word NAOS [naoj], referring to the specific inner holy of holies, the inner sanctum, the dwelling place of God. Remember, that our destiny, according to Revelation 21 and other passages, is to be priests and rulers in the Millennial kingdom. Where do priests function? In the temple. And that is all this is saying, that in the temple of God in the Millennial kingdom there are believers who are overcomers in this age who are going to have a special privilege and place and responsibility in terms of serving the Lord and functioning within that area throughout the Millennial kingdom and in eternity. "…and he will not go out from it anymore" means that this is not something he is going to be able to lose. It is just the flip side of you can not hold fast and you can lose and you can regress; but that won't happen in the Millennial kingdom. Once we have our resurrection bodies we are locked into positive volition and there won't be the option of failure anymore. So we will have a permanent position of service in the temple, those who are overcomers.  

In addition to this He says, "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." So we are told that the victorious has inscribed in him three things. It is interesting to see how these all fit together with what we have seen. The overcomer is going to be a foundational leader, responsible ruler, with roles of responsibility in the temple. So the first phrase says he gets the special name of God inscribed upon him. This is a metaphor in Scripture for both divine ownership and the dedication of the one who is so inscribed to God. This is very likely an allusion to Exodus 28:36-38. It is at that point we have the dress of the high priest described. ""You shall also make a plate of pure gold and shall engrave on it, like the engravings of a seal, 'Holy to the LORD.'" This was put on the head dress of the high priest indicating that he was dedicated to God. This is the imagery that we have here, that on the overcomer is inscribed the name of God. This indicates that he is specifically dedicated to the service of God, it fits the whole priestly imagery that we have of the church age believer's service in the Millennial kingdom.  "You shall fasten it on a blue cord, and it shall be on the turban; it shall be at the front of the turban. "It shall be on Aaron's forehead, and Aaron shall take away the iniquity of the holy things which the sons of Israel consecrate, with regard to all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD." So it signified the ownership of God of the priest and his dedication to God.

Ezekeil 48:35 NASB ""{The city shall be} 18,000 {cubits} round about; and the name of the city from {that} day {shall be,} 'The LORD is there.'" This relates to the second part of our verse: "and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem." Jesus Christ will dwell on the earth in the earthly Jerusalem and then we are told that there is this new Jerusalem. New Jerusalem is only mention here and in Revelation chapter 21. The word "new" is KAINOS [kainoj] meaning it is a qualitatively new place, not new in time or recent. It indicates a new Jerusalem, not the earthly Jerusalem. We need to distinguish between the Millennial Jerusalem which is earthly and this new Jerusalem that is heavenly.

 Isaiah mentions this. We have some indications of the new Jerusalem in the Old Testament.

1)  New Jerusalem only appears three times in Revelation: 3:12; 21:2; 21:10.

2)  It is distinct from the Millennial Jerusalem which is the earthly city of Jerusalem.

3)  The new Jerusalem was implied, if not specifically discussed, by Old Testament prophets, e.g. Isaiah 65:16; 66:20-22 NASB "Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem," says the LORD, "just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. I will also take some of them for priests {and} for Levites," says the LORD. For just as the new heavens and the new earth Which I make will endure before Me," declares the LORD, "So your offspring and your name will endure."

What we see here is that during the period of the new heavens and the new earth not a lot is said but there is the new Jerusalem and there is the function of a priesthood. It is interesting that when we get into Revelation 21 there is no temple in the new Jerusalem, but the Lord dwells there and His presence provides, light. There is no moon, no sun; it is going to be a very different universe. We also see the new Jerusalem descend from heaven, it is a heavenly city. The description of the new Jerusalem is in Revelation 21:10-22:5. It seems to be in the shape of a cube and is actually 1500 miles square and 1500 miles high. It is the abode of the church. When we go through Revelation 21 John indicates that it is like a jewelled lamp which illuminates the city.

In summary, what we have is the theme that Jesus is coming and then He is going to be crowned King. This is reflected in many hymns: Crown Him with Many Crowns, there is a reference to the crowning of Jesus in When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name; these are hymns that speak of the coming of Jesus when He is crowned as King. Matthew 25:31 states NASB "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne." He is not sitting on the throne of His glory now while He is in heaven. At the end of the Tribulation the Antichrist will be destroyed by Jesus who is the perfect King. Revelation 14:1 NASB "Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb {was} standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads." This is when Jesus returns and establishes His reign on the earth. At that times He establishes His dwelling place on the earth in the Millennial temple of Jerusalem which is raised up on a mountain. This is the earthly Jerusalem. Zechariah 8:3 NASB "Thus says the LORD, 'I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts {will be called} the Holy Mountain.'" Verse 13, "'It will come about that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing. Do not fear; let your hands be strong.'" The earthly, Millennial Jerusalem becomes the center for world wide spirituality in the Millennial kingdom. Zecharoah 13:1, 2 "In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity. It will come about in that day," declares the LORD of hosts, "that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land." Ezekiel 43:12 NASB "This is the law of the house: its entire area on the top of the mountain all around {shall be} most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house." Zechariah 14:20 NASB "In that day there will {be inscribed} on the bells of the horses, "HOLY TO THE LORD." And the cooking pots in the LORD'S house will be like the bowls before the altar."

The worship is centred on the Messiah and on the Millennial temple. Zechariah 14:9 NASB "And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be {the only} one, and His name {the only} one." Verse 16, "Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths." Isaiah 2:2-4 NASB "Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths." For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war."

All of this lies behind that imagery that Jesus used when He said: "I will make the overcomer a pillar in the temple of my God," indicating that we will have a specific role of responsibility in the temple in the Millennial kingdom. Then He says, "and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God," which is an entry pass to the new Jerusalem for the overcomer believer, "and My new name." The giving of a new name was the indication in Scripture of a new position, a new role, a new responsibility. The Lord Jesus Christ gets that new name when He returns at the end of the Millennial kingdom because He has a new role as the Davidic King, ruling and reigning from Jerusalem and establishing His kingdom there.

Then the final statement in verse 13 which is directed to everyone who reads this: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." This is, if you are positive pay attention to what you have just heard. This is a significant warning and this is a significant incentive to stay with it and not to give up in the Christian life. It is not directed to just one congregation but to "the churches." The message ultimately applies to one and all.