Many modern-day movies, especially those with an implied moral aspect, have biblical elements from the most unlikely characters. In the “Hunger Games 2012,” President Snow, the main antagonist, whose demeanor hides a sadistic and psychopathic mind, and claims he only kills for a purpose, promises Katniss he will always tell her the truth. He says to her, “Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear.” But then he goes on to add: “A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.” (1) While the first part of his statement may be right, about hope overcoming fear (especially regarding our hope in Christ), the rest is garbage. For Christians, having a lot of hope in Christ is our assurance of salvation and the ability to persevere for a lifetime on earth. God’s promise of our acquittal from final judgment stimulates our hope. It reminds us that with his help, we will persevere faithfully and patiently until Christ’s return or our death because of Christ’s propitiation and the Spirit’s power. So let’s consider Revelation 3:10-11 today for our encouragement. “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.” The key idea is the Philadelphia church’s ability to keep God’s commands and God’s preserving them to gain their crown. When we think of a crown, we might consult these three other NT passages: 2 Timothy 4:8—the crown of righteousness; James 1:12—the crown of life; and 1 Peter 5:4—the unfading crown of glory. All speak of the glorious future we have with Christ after persevering this life, on the other side of physical death. “The Hunger Games” and other secular, futuristic stories are usually the fruit of a deceived mind. We do well to avoid ingesting their rubbish and turn to the true, hopeful, encouraging Word of God to stimulate our faithful perseverance.
“[Our] patience…bears a resemblance to [Christ’s], in enduring afflictions, reproaches, persecutions, desertions, and temptations, and in waiting for his kingdom and glory…professors of the word have need of patience, and should exercise it in like manner as Christ did…and will believe the promise of Christ’s personal coming, and patiently wait for it.” (2) When the Bible speaks of “waiting” for the return of Christ, God never intends that we become lazy, like the church in Sardis, described as being dead and is exhorted to “wake up” (Revelation 3:1-3). But our gracious, kind-hearted, omniscient God doesn’t want us to treat his commands like dutiful rules. He wants us to love him so much that his advice takes root deep in our souls, resulting in affectionate, covenantal devotion. Before giving the Philadelphia believers an exhortation, the Spirit through John provides a primary reason why they will persevere. “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” (Rev. 3:10b-11a). Most commentators that I consult view this hour of trial for Philadelphia as their last struggle against the Roman empire, which Daniel also mentions. Of course, as with all prophecy, there is also a future “hour of trial.” It will come for all people when Christ returns, linking verse 10 with verse 11. “Christ will now have his fan in his hand, and purge his floor of all his formal professors and hypocrites; and it will be known who are his true churches, and pure members; and these he will keep close to himself, and preserve safe amidst all the distress and confusion the world will be in.” (3) The ESV Study Bible notes, “Jesus does not promise to spare believers from suffering or martyrdom but to shield them from his wrath and to transform martyrdom into triumph (Rev. 6:10–11; 12:11).” (4) Nothing in this world, no philosophies, ideas, or charismatic movie characters can transform suffering into triumph. But God’s Word and his specific promise of acquittal from the final judgment can stimulate our spiritual perseverance in trials.
Unfortunately, we often hold onto ideas, mindsets, and false beliefs without even realizing it. We have traditions and superstitions that are deeply rooted in our subconscious from our upbringing or cultural influences. I admit that I have a weakness for movies, especially those with a theme of good vs. evil, where the good wins. It has taken me decades to train myself to resist popular movies that include so much other ungodly dialogue, scenes, or plots. The Spirit tells us and the Philadelphia believers, “Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (v. 11b). What they had, to hold fast to, was “either her grace in the exercise of it, as her faith, patience, &c. or rather the doctrines of the Gospel, and the ordinances of it, which she had received, as delivered by Christ and his apostles: and which she had held in the truth and purity of them, and is now exhorted to hold them fast, since this hour of temptation would be a trying time to her faith, patience, integrity, and constancy.” (5) “One way in which Christ would empower the gospel in the midst of rebellion and judgment is by keeping his faithful people safe…Notice that it is Christ who keeps his people safe, and that this safety takes place through a living and persevering faith. Christians are kept eternally secure by God’s sovereign will and power, yet this security is experienced by an active, striving faith by which Christ’s people conquer in this world (see 1 Peter 1:4-5).” (6)
Oswald Chambers describes the enduring faith of the Philadelphians and all Christians. “Perseverance means more than endurance— more than simply holding on until the end. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, but our Lord continues to stretch and strain, and every once in a while the saint says, ‘I can’t take any more.’ Yet God pays no attention; He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, and then He lets the arrow fly. Entrust yourself to God’s hands. Is there something in your life for which you need perseverance right now? Maintain your intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the perseverance of faith. Proclaim as Job did, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him’ (Job 13:15)…There are areas in our lives where that faith has not worked in us as yet— places still untouched by the life of God.” (7)
In Job 13:15, some believe Job expects to die very soon and wants to argue his case rather than die (“yet I will argue my ways to his face”). Others interpret it to mean that Job will trust in God, live, and have his day in court with the Lord to justify himself, as if God is accusing him of sin. But we know that God is testing Job as a righteous man. Yet, he needs to widen and deepen his knowledge and perception of God. (See Job 38:1-40:2.) I venture to say that Job’s faith and hope will increase as his view of God becomes more accurate. We also become impatient and should take the advice of Matthew Henry, commenting on the verse. “We should be well pleased with God as a Friend, even when he seems against us as an enemy. We must believe that all shall work for good to us, even when all seems to make against us. We must cleave to God, yea, though we cannot for the present find comfort in him. In a dying hour, we must derive from him living comforts; and this is to trust in him, though he slay us.” (8) Perhaps, like Job later declares, we should also say, “If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come. You would call, and I would answer you; you would long for the work of your hands” (Job 14:14-15). Did Job’s hope of acquittal from final judgment stimulate his perseverance? I would think so. May we also persevere faithfully and patiently until Christ’s return or our death. “Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star.” (Revelation 2:25-28)
Related Scripture Passages: Genesis 26:4-5; Joshua 22:1-6; 2 Samuel 22:21-25; 2 Kings 18:1-8; Job 14:14-15; 38:1-40:2; Psalm 66:8-9; John 17:12; 2 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:4; 5:4; 2 Peter 2:9-10; Revelation 2:10; 6:10; 7:14; 8:13; 13:7-8; 22:7; 12, 19-20
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Revelation 3:10, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/revelation-3.html
- Gill, Ibid.
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Revelation 3:10, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Gill, Ibid (Rev. 3:11)
- Phillips, Richard D., Revelation—Reformed Expository Commentary, Revelation 3:11, P & R Publishing, 2017.
- Chambers, Oswald, “The Faith to Persevere,” My Utmost for His Highest, https://utmost.org/the-faith-to-persevere/
- Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Job 13:15, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/job-13.html
October 23, 2020