Verse 12:"He who overcomes, him I will make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall by no means go out anymore, and I will write upon him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which descends out of heaven from My God, and My new name."
"He who overcomes." Does one still need to overcome in Philadelphia? What does this overcoming mean? What are they to overcome? We know that in these few letters, all the overcoming refers to the overcoming of things within the church. In Ephesus it was the failure of the first love. In Pergamos it was the living in the world. In Thyatira it was the teaching and work of Jezebel. In Sardis it was the infection of deadness and coldness. In Laodicea it was the lukewarmness. Smyrna was, of course, slightly different. There the believers did not have to overcome the sin within the church; they only needed to overcome the persecutions of death from without. But Philadelphia is fully approved by the Lord. It does not have as severe a persecution as Smyrna had. What then does it have to overcome? If everything it has is commended by the Lord, what more does it have to overcome?
We know that this letter has no words of rebuke; there are only words of praise. Still, there are words of warning. This warning speaks of danger. Before we see the Lord, danger is unavoidable. When we see the danger, we will know the things that they have to overcome. The danger is the losing of one’s Philadelphian nature. This danger is real and urgent; it demands the greatest attention from the believers because all their blessing hangs on this line. This is the danger here. They do not have to oppose any sin; they do not have to do any more work. Their overcoming lies in their holding fast.
Hence, even in Philadelphia, there are still overcomers. No matter what a church’s nature is, the matter of overcoming is still a personal thing. Overcoming requires individual power and spiritual love. It is, of course, a wonderful thing to meet and to fellowship with those saints who have a true Philadelphian nature. But we have to remember that this is an individual matter. No matter how spiritual and perfect the man with whom we have fellowship is, we can only please the Lord and receive His reward based on our being overcomers ourselves. To be together with spiritual saints will not make us spiritual persons. It is only when individual overcomers link together that we have a true Philadelphia. Philadelphia is the church of the overcomers, but only those who continue to be Philadelphians can be the true overcomers. This is the teaching given here.
Philadelphia speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit in saving the believers from the world. Of course, human organizations and associations, due to the fact that they exalt man’s name rather than the teaching of the Lord’s word, are also excluded. When believers receive the Lord’s word as the standard of their living, God’s word penetrates the believers’ life and causes all that is natural and of the self to fall before God. When the Lord’s name is exalted, it becomes the captain to lead us to victory over the enemy. By the Lord’s word and His name, the believers will overcome those of the synagogue of Satan. They will meet around the Lord’s name. They will keep His word of endurance and will be willing to be despised together with the Lord in this world. They will endure through the Lord’s endurance. At the same time, their brothers who accompany them on the way will bear the Lord’s ordained love. This is the true nature of the church. It is a general description of Philadelphia.
But herein also lies the danger. Many times, the distinction is clear at the beginning. The spiritual power is great, all the works are simple, and Christ is the Head of everything. Soon after, however, a new organization comes in, and one will not be holding fast to the initial Philadelphian nature but will instead be holding fast to one’s organization. This is the cause of the loss of freshness. This is true both in the case of a church as well as in the case of an individual’s history. The only warning that the Lord gives us is to hold fast. We should not follow the conduct of the past defeated ones. Although the present environment is harsher and the temptations greater, they will make our victories more glorious.
"He who overcomes, him I will make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall by no means go out anymore." Here the Lord Jesus mentions "My God" four times. In this book, He maintains this relationship with God. This expression means that He is standing in the position of an anointed and glorified Man. It means that "God is the head of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:3). However, it means more than that. The expression "My God" also speaks of His union with us. In His resurrection, when He put His brothers on the same standing that He is on, He said: "I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God" (John 20:17). The apostle quotes the Lord’s word: "I will trust in Him" as a proof that "He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of One, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brothers" (Heb. 2:11). Hence, when Paul tried to make the believers understand the power that raised them up together with Christ, he called upon "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 1:17). The emphasis of "My God" here shows that the Lord Himself is the glorified Man, and that He is the Man who is joined to those who believe in Him.
God promised David that his son would build Jehovah a temple. In a simple sense, this was fulfilled in Solomon. But strictly speaking, the complete fulfillment of this will be accomplished by the Lord Jesus in the future. The apostle considered that one part of this promise of God (2 Sam. 7:14) refers to the Lord Jesus (Heb. 1:5). That being the case, it is apparent that the entire context refers also to the Lord Jesus. When Solomon built the temple, there were two pillars. One was called Jachin, and the other was called Boaz (1 Kings 7:15, 21). They served as the most wonderful and powerful decorations of the temple of that day. But when the One greater than Solomon builds the better temple in the future, the overcomers will be the more splendid pillars there. Jachin, meaning "He will build," and Boaz, meaning "with strength within," will both have their fulfillment in the overcomers at the time of the resurrection. A pillar is used firstly for supporting a house and secondly for decoration and for beauty. The Philadelphian believers were weak, but now the Lord has made them the most powerful ones. They were formerly despised, but now the Lord has made them glorious and desirable. How difficult it is to be content with weakness! What suffering it is to humble oneself willingly! But if we are content with the Lord’s love and His promise today, we will see the Lord uplift us in the future.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 05: The Christian (3), Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)