“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”
I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation!
A promise of the Lord to the Church in Philadelphia, one of the seven churches of Asia Minor to whom the seer of Patmos is ordered by the Lord in a vision to write a letter. But a promise, too, to the church of Christ throughout this present dispensation! For the Church in Philadelphia along with the other six is envisioned here a symbolically picturing the church in all ages, whileper se all seven were historical churches situated geographically in the western area of Asia Minor at the time that the Apostle John received the vision.
Actually the Lord, Who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks and holding the seven stars in His hand, gives three promises to the Church in Philadelphia. The Lord Who holds the key of David and Who openeth and no man shutteth; and shutteth and no man openeth, Who is holy and true, will set before this church an open door. He will bless her faithful preaching so that it bears fruit. So that those who had always opposed the gospel will be converted and brought into the church. This is the first promise. The Lord also promises to those who overcome to make them pillars in the temple of God and to write upon them the name of His God and of the city of His God, the new Jerusalem. Then in our text He promises those who have kept the word of His patience that they shall be kept from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world.
Promise to the Church in Philadelphia!
Which, along with the Church in Smyrna, distinguishes herself in being most faithful, and meriting no rebuke of the Lord. The Lord, Who always observes minutely the conduct of His church in the world, and Who judges inherently the true worth of that church, has only commendation for the Church in Philadelphia. This church had little strength, that is, she was numerically small, and had no great material wealth wherein to boast; and therefore, according to the standard of the world, she was not much to admire and with little physical power to attract those who set their hope on an arm of flesh. Nevertheless, by the grace of Christ, she is found faithful by the Lord. She had kept the word of Christ both in doctrine and in walk, even when there was much temptation to deny it. For this church had suffered much at the hands of those whom the Lord calls “the synagogue of Satan”—anti-Christian Judaism. She had kept the word of Christ’s patience, which is the whole Word of God as it requires patience to keep it, which can only mean that while there was much temptation to deny it because of intense persecution, she nevertheless continued faithfully to confess it.
This church shall be kept!
From the hour of temptation!
The temptation concerning which the Lord speaks has reference no doubt to the trial and tribulation which the church may expect shall be imposed upon her by the world because she is faithfully keeping Christ’s word of patience. No doubt, too, this had immediate significance for the Church in Philadelphia. For this church, as well as for all the faithful in Christ throughout the world, the clouds of tribulation and persecution were beginning to gather which presently would burst in a torrent of trouble and affliction for the saints of God. But, undoubtedly too, this prediction of the Lord has reference to tribulation and trial associated with the coming and establishment of the kingdom of Antichrist toward the end of this dispensation. Then, according to Scripture, the tribulation will become so intense that, had not the Lord shortened the days, the very elect of God would be tempted to forsake the word of Christ’s patience, leave the path of obedience, and go lost.
That the Lord says He will keep His church from the hour of temptation, cannot mean that she will not be in it. This is, indeed, the false and dangerous philosophy of some who maintain that the Lord will whisk away the faithful in the so-called rapture before the days of tribulation come. This doctrine is false because it denies the general teaching of Christ and the Word of God that “in the world ye shall have tribulation.” It is dangerous doctrine because it relaxes the Christian to the point where he is not prepared for tribulation. He will not be putting on the whole armor of God so that he can stand in the evil day.
Nay, rather, the church must expect this hour of temptation which she shall be required to endure. That the trial and tribulation is spoken of in terms of temptation is due to the fact that the trial will be so severe and the tribulation so intense that unless the church is kept by the Lord she would be tempted to forsake her faithfulness to the Lord. But here is exactly her consolation that according to the promise of the Lord He will not allow her to succumb and to be overcome,—He will bring her out of it. Consolation there is, too, in the fact that it is “the hour of temptation”; which can only mean that the period of trial and tribulation, and therefore of temptation will not be long. It endures only for an hour. Like the three friends of Daniel, therefore, the church must expect to enter the burning, fiery furnace; but also like them, the Lord promises to bring His church out of that furnace.
I will keep thee!
None other is He that promises than the Lord Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first begotten from the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. He Who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood! Who testifies that He liveth, and was dead, and, behold, He is alive forever more! Who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the Lord which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty! Who is coming with clouds, and every eye shall see Him, they also who pierced Him, and because of Whom all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. He it is Who has the keys of hell and of death. He it is Who is holy and true, and therefore cannot fail to keep His promise.
He it is Who will preserve His church in the hour of temptation. Not, as the above translation of the text has it, will He keep from the tribulation, and as the Chiliast would have us believe; but as the original text expresses it—He will keep His church out of the hour of temptation. What comes out of something must first have been in it. The meaning is that He will attend to carefully, and thus guard and keep His church in such a way that she will be preserved and guided out of the tribulation which shall come upon the whole inhabited world for to try all those dwelling upon the earth. Here the Lord connects up the trial of His Church in Philadelphia with the tribulation of His church in all the world. So that there is a unity of the church also in suffering. So that also whether that tribulation was a period of persecution at the time, or whether it refers to tribulation throughout this dispensation and culminating in the “great tribulation” under Antichrist at the end of time, the suffering church of which the Church in Philadelphia was a type, shall be preserved.
Given by the faithful Lord!
Given to the faithful church!
As a reward for faithfulness!
O, indeed, the Lord observes the walk and conduct of His church in the world. In no uncertain terms He informs His church: I know thy works!
Never is it so that Christ’s church in the world goes unnoticed, unobserved by Him. Though the suffering church in the world may sinfully conclude that the heavens are of copper, and her cries cannot penetrate to the ears of Her Advocate; though often it may seem to her that her Lord is so highly exalted above her that His omniscient eye cannot behold her sorrowful condition,—He informs her that He hears, and He sees. Moreover, He not only hears and sees, but also judges her every deed. When the church loses her first love, when she follows after the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitanes, when she becomes mystical and not spiritual, when she becomes lax in discipline, or when she becomes lukewarm,—He observes this too. And He is quick to warn His church of her deficiencies and call her to repentance. But the opposite is also true. When the church is faithful, when she fights the good fight of faith, when her garments become stained with blood in the midst of tribulation because she faithfully preaches the Word and lives according to the doctrines of the Scriptures, and opposes the vain philosophy of the men of the world,—then He observes this too. And such was the case with the Church in Philadelphia.
Because thou hast kept the word of My patience!
I also will keep thee!
This is the rule in the kingdom of heaven!
The faithful church receives reward for her faithfulness! She had kept the word of Christ’s patience. That is, she had kept the word of Christ which requires patience. And patience is that grace of God communicated by Christ to His church whereby she is enabled to stand up under the severest trial and oppression without giving up. It is that grace of endurance which refuses to capitulate to the enemy when under the threat of death he would seek to force you by brute strength to acquiesce to his will. Patience is that grace of God in us that remains standing when all the din and the smoke of the battle has dissipated.
Though God in the Scriptures is said to possess the attributes of longsuffering and forbearance, you never read of God’s patience. But this is a grace He gives to His people. Unto this patience we are constantly exhorted in His Word. That the text speaks of the word of Christ’s patience also refers to the truth which Christ drilled into His disciples, namely, that in the world they would be required to suffer and in that suffering they must endure, and in the way of this endurance they shall obtain the crown.
This word of Christ the Church in Philadelphia had obeyed. In the midst of all her tribulation she clung fast to it. The very word of Christ stirred up the grace of patience which was in them into action. Never did this church bemoan the fact that she was small and powerless; nor did she throw up her hands in defeat because the oppression of the enemy was too great; nor did the faithful criticize the Lord for allowing the opposers of His truth to inflict on them reproach and shame, and suffering. They could even glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope—the hope that maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts. (Romans 5:3-5). They knew also that the trying of their faith worketh patience, and were willing to let patience have her perfect work, that they might be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:3, 4). In one word, they lived out of the doctrine of Christ, that they who patiently endure shall receive the crown of life that fadeth not away.
The church was concerned with keeping Christ’s word! She was not concerned with outward growth, though, no doubt, she desired to see the fruit on her preaching. She was not concerned with carnal ease, though, no doubt, she often sighed in the midst of her tribulation. But she made it her principle for existence to keep the word of Christ’s patience. She lived consciously out of the grace of patience while constantly she was beset on every side and pressed down with sorrow and pain.
And the Lord says to her, because you have done this, and have proved yourself to be faithful, I shall also reward you with preservation and deliverance.
The reward also of grace!
Incentive to the church of all ages to be faithful!