Our Identity

“All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of My God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of My God, and they will be citizens in the city of My God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from My God. And I will also write on them My new name. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.
Revelation‬ ‭3:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Those who are victorious are once again mentioned and honoured in this verse. As a reminder, the victorious are those who have persevered over their difficulties. Over the persecution that came from the Jews belonging to “satan’s synagogue” just down the road. The victorious were those who were holding onto their faith, obeying Jesus’ command to persevere. And as a reward Jesus said they were to become “pillars in the Temple of My God”. But we’re not talking here about a physical column of stone, propping up the roof of a building used for worship. We read in Revelation 21:22, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple“. So without a Temple in the new Jerusalem, what are the “pillars“? Surely God doesn’t need propping up?

In any building, the part of it called a pillar indicates something important, foundational, and necessary for the structural integrity of the building. And that is exactly what the Philadelphians were to become. Those that are victorious anyway. They were the people of that generation with whom Jesus was building His Church. People described as “pillars” crop up everywhere in our churches. They are the “glue” that maintains the integrity and cohesion of their fellowships. They are dependable, hardly ever missing a meeting. When something needs to be done, they volunteer, no matter how menial the task. When trouble comes their way, they persevere and overcome the difficulties. And from today’s verse, we see how Jesus views them. He will treasure them, writing on them the names of God and a new name for His Son, Jesus. They will be given a special identity.

In the new Jerusalem, the “pillars” will have a special role close to God. They are guaranteed citizenship. They will never have to leave. There will be something amazing about being in the company of these saints. What stories they will have to tell!

In our societies, we often feel our identities can be lost in the crowds. Or so we think. On our life-pilgrimages, the enemy will try and demoralise us. He will tell us that we are insignificant. That we don’t matter. He will attack our identities. At such times as these we can remind him that we already have a special identity – we are children of God. The writer of Revelation also wrote this in 1 John 3:1, “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us His children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognise that we are God’s children because they don’t know Him“. So by faith, we know we already have an identity, that is eternal and indestructible. We can’t be any more special, or significant, than being a son or daughter of God.

And to those who are not Christians, many nevertheless still strive to make themselves significant. Perhaps by committing a crime so that the authorities notice them. Or by entering politics with the hope that one day they will be up there, making the news with the rest of the politicians. Or by succeeding in business like some of our high profile company owners. Even in issues of sexuality and gender some may perhaps be trying to find a new identity, becoming, if only in their eyes, someone significant. But all these people are chasing the wind, because one day their earthly identities will die with them. In their earthly lives, they are attempting to counterfeit what God instead truly designed people to be.

Pilgrims today, as they have been in previous generations, can relax secure in their God-given identities. We have no need to try to be something else. When we look in a mirror, what do we see? Regardless of what the enemy tries to tell us, there’s a child of God looking back. Look closely – you may see a pillar in the image somewhere as well.

Dear Lord. Thank You that through Your love You have not only redeemed us, but You have elevated us to the role of being Your adopted children. Our identities are now in You and nowhere else. We are so grateful. Amen.

Second Death

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death.”
Revelation‬ ‭2:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As we read earlier in this chapter, John reminds us of the importance of listening to the Holy Spirit. Not just listening but understanding. Sometimes we will hear what someone says to us, but the mental filters that we possess will process what we hear into something with a meaning totally different to what the speaker intended. Misunderstandings can result. A classical example was in 1799, when 1200 Turkish prisoners were shot through a misunderstanding. Napoleon was asked what they should do with the prisoners, but at the end of a coughing fit he uttered the words “Ma sacrée toux,” meaning “My cursed cough”. Unfortunately for the prisoners, Napoleon’s words were heard as “Massacrez tous” meaning “kill them all”. A historical situation that has nothing to do with what Jesus was saying to the churches, but it makes the point. A more humorous example was anecdotally circulating after one of the world wars, when the radio message “Send reinforcements, we’re going to advance” was heard “Send three and fourpence, we’re going to a dance”. But more seriously, we have a duty to carefully listen to what God is saying to us and understanding the meaning behind what He says. And if we’re not sure about anything, we can check the message against God’s Word, the Bible, through prayer, and with other Christians who we trust. Sadly, there have been many who have heard the Word, interpreting it according to their “filters”, but not understanding what it meant spiritually, going off into error as a consequence.

John’s writings continue with the sentence, “Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death”. So what is this second death? I thought we could only die once. The phrase “the second death” only occurs in the Book of Revelation. The only explanation must refer to the possibility that after a physical death, there is another potential death awaiting us – the lake of fire. Later on in Revelation we read that all those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will end up there. A thought that should strike fear into anyone, I think we all agree. But Jesus made sure that His followers would not be frightened by such an event, because those who are overcomers, the victorious, will be safe. A quote from a book I read recently, “There is a vast difference between the final destination of those who know Christ and those who do not”.

To sum up this verse, the reality for us pilgrims is that as we keep close to our wonderful Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus, we have nothing to fear about what lies beyond the grave. In fact, as we read earlier, there is a crown of life awaiting us. Amazing! Surely worth discomfort today for wonder tomorrow. As is often said today, “No gain without pain”. That principle applies to the spiritual as well as the physical.

Dear Lord, we thank You for Your Word, and the encouragement You provide us for our journey towards Heaven. We need not fear the second death because You are with us. Amen.