Revelation 3:11
Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) Behold, I come.—Omit “Behold.” Better, I am coming quickly; hold fast; continue your race as those who are striving for a garland (1Corinthians 9:24).

Revelation

‘THY CROWN’

Revelation 3:11.

The Philadelphian Church, to which these stirring words are addressed, is the only church of the seven in which there was nothing that Christ rebuked. It had no faults, or at least no recorded faults, either of morals or of doctrine. It had had no great storm of persecution beating upon it, although one was threatened. But yet, although thus free from blame and occasion for censure, it was not beyond the need of stimulating exhortation, not beyond the need of wholesome warning, not beyond the reach of danger and possible loss. ‘That no man take thy crown’ - as long as Christian men are here, so long have they to watch against the tendency of received truth to escape their hold because of its very familiarity; of things that are taken for granted to become impotent and to slip, and so for the crown to fall from the head, which is all unconscious of its discrowned shame.

We have here, then, three things: ‘thy crown’; the possibility of losing it; the way to secure it.

I. Now, as to the first.

It contributes to the understanding of the meaning of the metaphor to remember that the crown spoken of here is not the symbol of royalty, not the golden or other circlet which kings and emperors wore, but the floral wreath or garland which in ancient social life played many parts: was laid on the temples of the victors in the games, was wreathed around the locks of the conquering general, was placed upon the anointed heads of brides and of f casters, was the emblem of victory, of festivity, of joy. And it is this crown, not the symbol of dominion, but the symbol of a race accomplished and a conquest won, an outward and visible sign of a festal day, with all its abundance and ease and abandonment to delight, which the apocalyptic vision holds out before the Christian man.

The crown is a common figure all through the New Testament, and it may help us to grasp the fullness of the meaning of the metaphor if we just recall in a sentence or two the various instances of its occurrence. It is spoken about under three designations, as a crown of ‘life,’ of righteousness,’ of ‘glory’; the first and last designating it in reference to that of which it may be supposed to consist, namely, life and glory; the centre one designating it rather in reference to that of which it is the reward. The righteousness of earth is crowned by the more abundant life and the more radiant glory of the future. The roses that were wreathed round the flushed temples of the revelers withered and faded, and their petals drooped in the hot atmosphere of the banqueting hall, laden with fumes of wine. The parsley wreath, that was twined round the locks of the young athlete who had been victorious in the games, was withered to-morrow and cast into the dust heap. ‘But,’ says one of the New Testament writers, ‘the crown of glory fadeth not away.’ And the other wreaths, intrinsically worthless, were only symbols of victory and honour, but this itself is full of preciousness and of substance and of power.

So the crown is the reward of righteousness, and consists of life so full that our present experience contrasted with it may almost be called an experience of death; of glory so flashing and wonderful that, if our natures were not strengthened, it would be an ‘exceeding weight of glory’ that would crush them down, and upon all the life and all the glory is stamped the solemn signature of eternity, and they are for ever. Now, says my text to each Christian, all this, the consequence and reward of gore toil, faithfully done, and of effort that strains every muscle in the race - the festal participation in life and glory for evermore - is ‘thy crown’; not because thou hast it now, but because, as sure as God is God and righteousness is righteousness, nothing can prevent the man who, holding by Jesus Christ, has become possessor of the righteousness, which is of God by faith, from receiving that great reward. It is his already in the Divine destination; his by the immutable laws of proprietorship in God’s kingdom; his upon the simple condition of his continuing to be what he is. Like Peter’s saying about the inheritance ‘reserved in heaven for you,’ this representation treats the perfect future blessedness of us who are toiling and struggling here as already in existence and waiting for us, beyond the dust of the wrestling-ground, and the fury of the battlefield. Of course that is not meant to be taken in prosaic literality. The place ‘may indeed be’ prepared ‘in which that blessedness is to be realized, but the blessedness itself can have no existence apart from those who possess it. The purpose of the representations is to put in the strongest possible way the absolute certainty of the heads that now are pressed by the helmet being then encircled with the crown, and of the strangers scattered abroad reaching and resting for ever in the Promised Land to which they journey. The reward is as sure as if each man’s crown, with his name engraved upon it, lay safely guarded in the treasure-house of God.

The light of that great certainty should ever draw our weary eyes, weary of false glitter and vulgar gauds. The assurance of that joy unspeakable makes the best joy here. Future blessedness, apprehended by the long arm of faith, brings present blessedness. The gladness and the power of the Christian life largely depend on the habitual beholding, with yearning and hope, of ‘the King in His beauty and of the land that is very far off,’ and yet so near, and of our own proper portion of the inheritance of the saints in light.’ Christian men, it much concerns the vigour of your Christianity that you should take time and pains to cultivate the habit of looking forward through all the mists and darkness of this petty and unsubstantial present, and of thinking of that future as a certainty more certain than the contingencies of earth and as a present possession, more real by far than any of the fleeting shadows which we proudly and falsely call our own. They pass from hand to hand. They are mine to-day, another’s tomorrow. I have no real possession of them while they were called mine. We truly possess but two possessions - God and ourselves. We possess both by the same way of giving ourselves to God in love and obedience; and of such surrender and possession the crown is the perfecting and the reward. ‘Thy crown’ will fit no temples but thine. It is part of thy perfected self, and certain to be thine, if thou hold fast the beginning of thy confidence firm unto the end.

II. Note next the grim possibility of losing the crown.

‘That no man take’ it. Of course we are not to misunderstand the contingency shadowed here, as if it meant that some other person could filch away and put on his own head the crown which once was destined for us, which is a sheer impossibility and absurdity. No man would think to win heaven by stealing another’s right of entrance there. No man could, if he were to try. The results of character cannot be transferred. Nor are we to suppose reference to the machinations of tempters, either human or diabolic, who deliberately and consciously try to rob Christians of their religion here and thereby of their reward hereafter. But it is only too possible that men and things round about us may upset this certainty that we have been considering, and that though the crown be ‘thine.’ it may never come to be thy actual possession in the future, nor ever be worn upon thine own happy head in the festival of the skies.

That is the solemn side of the Christian life, that it is to be conceived of as lived amidst a multitude of men and things that are always trying to make us unfit to receive that crown of righteousness. They cannot work directly upon it. It has no existence except as the efflorescence of our own character crowned by God’s approbation. It is an ideal thing; but they can work upon us, and if they stain our heads with foul dust, then they make them unfit for our crown. So here are we, Christian men and women! in a world all full of things that tend and may be regarded as desiring to rob us of our crowns. This is not the way in which we usually think of the temptations that assail us. For instance, there comes some sly and whispering one to us and suggests pleasant hours, bought at a very small sacrifice of principle; delights for sense or for ambition, or for one or other of the passions of our nature, and all looks very innocent, and the harm seems to be comparatively small. Ah! let us look a little bit deeper. That temptation that seems to threaten so little and to promise so much is really trying to rob us of the crown. If we would walk through life with this thought in our minds, how it would strip off the masks of all these temptations that buzz about us! If once we saw their purpose and understood the true aim of the flattering lies which they tell us, should we not see over the lies, and would not they lose their power to deceive us? Be sure - and oh! let us hold fast by the illuminating conviction when the temptations come - be sure that, with all their glozing words and false harlot kisses, their meaning is this, to rob us of the bright and precious thing that is most truly ours; and so let us put away the temptations, and say to them, ‘Ah I you come as a friend, but I know your meaning; and forewarned is forearmed.’

III. Lastly, note the way to secure the crown which is ours.

‘Hold fast that thou hast.’ For if you do not hold it fast, it will slip. The metaphor is a plain one - if a man has got something very precious, he grips it with a very tight hand. The slack hand will very soon be an empty hand. Anybody walking through the midst of a crowd of thieves with a bag of gold in charge would not hold it dangling from a finger-tip, but he would put all five round it, and wrap the strings about his wrist.

The first shape which we may give to this exhortation is - hold fast by what God has given in His gospel; hold fast His Son, His truth. His grace. Use honestly and diligently your intellect to fathom and to keep firm hold of the great truths and principles of the gospel. Use your best efforts to keep your wandering hearts and mobile wills fixed and true to the revealed love of the great Lover of souls, which has been given to you in Christ, and to obey Him. You have got a Christ that is worth keeping, see to it that you keep Him, and do not let Him slip away out of your fingers. When the storms come a wise captain lashes all the light articles, and then they are safe. You and I have to struggle through many a storm, and all the loose stuff on deck will be washed off or blown away long before we get into calm water. Lash it by meditation, by faithful obedience, and by constant communion, and hold fast the Christian gospel, and, in the Christ whom the gospel reveals, the spiritual life that you possess.

But there is another aspect of the same commandment which applies not so much to that which is given us in the objective revelation and manifestation of God in Christ, as to our own subjective degrees of progress in the appropriation of Christ, and in likeness to Him. And possibly that is what my text more especially means, for just a little before, the Lord has said to that Church, ‘Thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name.’ ‘Thou hast a little strength . . . hold fast that which thou hast.’ See to it that thy present attainment in the Christian life, though it may be but rudimentary and incomplete, is at least kept. Cast not away your confidence, hold fast the beginning of your confidence firm, with a tightened hand, unto the end. For if we keep what we have, it will grow. Progress is certain, if there be persistence. If we do not let it go, it will increase and multiply in our possession. In all branches of study and intellectual pursuit, and in all branches of daily life, to hold fast what we have, and truly to possess what we possess, is the certain means to make our wealth greater. And so it is in the Christian life. Be true to the present knowledge, and use it, as it is meant to be used, and it will daily increase. ‘Hold fast that thou hast.’ Thou hast the ‘strength’; thou hast not yet the crown. Keep what God has committed to you, and God will keep what He has reserved for you.

And so the sure way to get the crown is to keep the faith; and then the life and the glory, which are but the outcome and the fruit of the faithful, persistent life here, are as sure as the cycles of the heavens, or as the throne and the will of God. Men and things and devils may try to take your crown from you, but nobody can deprive you of it but yourself. Hold fast the present possession, and make it really your own, and the future crown which God has promised to all who love and thereby possess Him will, in due time, be twined around your head. He who has and holds fast Christ here cannot fail of the crown yonder. Revelation 3:11-12. Behold, I come quickly — To put an end to those trials which for the present are so painful; hold that fast which thou hast — With resolute fidelity; that no man take thy crown — That no person or thing may prevent thy receiving that crown of everlasting glory which will be the gracious reward of thy continued fidelity. Him that overcometh — All opposing power by faith and patience; will I make a pillar in the temple of my God — I will fix him immoveable in God’s heavenly temple, where he shall be as a pillar of distinguished ornament and beauty; and he shall go no more out — But shall be holy and happy for ever: and I will write upon him the name of my God — So that the nature and image of God shall appear visibly upon him. And the name of the city of my God — Giving him a title to dwell in the New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God — And shall soon be represented to thee, O John, in a most glorious vision. And I will write upon him my new name — I will give him a share in that joy which I entered into after overcoming all my enemies. “Few texts,” says Doddridge,” in the whole New Testament, are more illustrated by antiquity than this. Great numbers of inscriptions are yet remaining, brought from the Grecian cities of Europe and Asia, and some from islands in the neighbourhood of Patmos, in which the victories of eminent persons are commemorated. And, as some of these were placed near the temples of their deities, others were in those temples, to signify their being put under the particular protection of those deities; whose names therefore were inscribed upon them, and the names of the conquerors and of the cities to which they belonged; as also the names of the generals by whose conduct the victory was gained.”3:7-13 The same Lord Jesus has the key of government and authority in and over the church. He opens a door of opportunity to his churches; he opens a door of utterance to his ministers; he opens a door of entrance, opens the heart. He shuts the door of heaven against the foolish, who sleep away their day of grace; and against the workers of iniquity, how vain and confident soever they may be. The church in Philadelphia is commended; yet with a gentle reproof. Although Christ accepts a little strength, yet believers must not rest satisfied in a little, but strive to grow in grace, to be strong in faith, giving glory to God. Christ can discover this his favour to his people, so that their enemies shall be forced to acknowledge it. This, by the grace of Christ, will soften their enemies, and make them desire to be admitted into communion with his people. Christ promises preserving grace in the most trying times, as the reward of past faithfulness; To him that hath shall be given. Those who keep the gospel in a time of peace, shall be kept by Christ in an hour of temptation; and the same Divine grace that has made them fruitful in times of peace, will make them faithful in times of persecution. Christ promises a glorious reward to the victorious believer. He shall be a monumental pillar in the temple of God; a monument of the free and powerful grace of God; a monument that shall never be defaced or removed. On this pillar shall be written the new name of Christ; by this will appear, under whom the believer fought the good fight, and came off victorious.Behold, I come quickly - That is, in the trials referred to. Compare the notes on Revelation 1:1, Revelation 1:11, Revelation 1:16.

Hold that fast which thou hast - That is, whatever of truth and piety you now possess. See the notes on Revelation 3:3.

That no man take thy crown - The crown of life appointed for all who are true believers. See the notes on 2 Timothy 4:8. The truth which is taught bore is, that by negligence or unfaithfulness in duty we may be deprived of the glory which we might have obtained if we had been faithful to our God and Saviour. We need to be on our constant guard, that, in a world of temptation, where the enemies of truth abound, we may not be robbed of the crown that we might have worn forever. Compare notes on 2 John 1:8.

11. Behold—omitted by the three oldest manuscripts and most ancient versions.

I come quickly—the great incentive to persevering faithfulness, and the consolation under present trials.

that … which thou hast—"The word of my patience," or "endurance" (Re 3:10), which He had just commended them for keeping, and which involved with it the attaining of the kingdom; this they would lose if they yielded to the temptation of exchanging consistency and suffering for compromise and ease.

that no man take thy crown—which otherwise thou wouldst receive: that no tempter cause thee to lose it: not that the tempter would thus secure it for himself (Col 2:18).

Behold, I come quickly; tacu, which certainly is the same with en tacei; and it might be as well concluded, that the day of judgment should come by that time Rome pagan should cease, as that all things written in this book had their accomplishment in that time, because Christ told John they should come to pass en tacei, Revelation 1:1 22:6. No other coming of Christ, but his coming to the last judgment, can be here meant.

Hold that fast which thou hast; kratei, hold with a strong hand the doctrine of faith, which thou yet hast, pure, and thy pure worship, and discipline, and a pure conscience.

That no man take thy crown; that thou mayest not lose that reward which shall be the portion of those that persevere to the end, and of those only. Behold, I come quickly,.... To bring on this hour of temptation on the reformed churches, which will be at the beginning of this period; to help and deliver, save and preserve the truly godly among them; to destroy antichrist, and introduce the latter day glory:

hold that fast which thou hast; 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:

that no man take thy crown; not eternal happiness, called a crown of life, glory, and righteousness, and which was prepared for her, and promised to her, and would be certainly given her; nor was there any danger of another's taking it from her; not but that exhortations of this kind to the saints are necessary, with respect to that, to excite to diligence, care, and watchfulness; and are no ways contrary to their final perseverance, and certain salvation, but are means thereof: but either her honour for her faith and faithfulness, for her integrity, sincerity, and purity, is here meant; or the glorious things which were spoken of this church state, and to be accomplished in it, Psalm 87:3; see Isaiah 60:1.

Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 3:11. ἔρχομαι ταχύ. The message resounding throughout the entire Revelation,[1486] which proclaims judgment against enemies and the impenitent,[1487] serves faithful believers[1488] as a consolation and encouragement,[1489] and here is made especially prominent by the more explicit admonition to receive the crown[1490] from the hand of the coming Lord: κράτει ὃ ἐχεις, κ.τ.λ. What the church has, must be that because of which it is to receive the crown, if it hold the same fast.[1491] Thus, e.g., the church at Ephesus “has” this, that it hates the works of the Nicolaitans.[1492] What the church at Phila. has, is to be discerned from Revelation 3:8-10; viz., this, that in trouble they had patiently kept the word of the Lord, and had not denied his name. Holding fast is by perseverance unto the end;[1493] but the victor’s crown of eternal life—the hope laid up[1494]—would be taken away,[1495] if the church would not hold fast to what it had, but in the impending temptation would waver and apostatize. Hence the Lord who pledges his gracious preservation (Revelation 3:10) admonishes to faithful holding fast. Inconsistent with the context is the definition of the Ὃ ἜΧΕΙς by N. de Lyra as “grace given thee;” and by Ew.,[1496] “the ornament of thy virtues.” Better, C. a Lap.:[1497] “faith and patience.”

From the general mode of expression ἻΝΑ ΜΗΔΕῚς ΛΆΒῌ, the idea must not be pressed that another could retain for himself the crown snatched from the church.[1498] This possibly would have been expressed by ἌΛΛΟς[1499] But the idea itself is impossible.[1500]

[1486] Revelation 22:7; Revelation 22:12; Revelation 22:20. Cf. Revelation 1:1; Revelation 1:3.

[1487] Cf., e.g., Revelation 2:5; Revelation 2:16.

[1488] Cf. Revelation 2:25.

[1489] De Wette.

[1490] Cf. Revelation 2:10.

[1491] Cf. Revelation 2:1; Revelation 2:25.

[1492] Revelation 2:6.

[1493] Cf. Matthew 24:13.

[1494] 2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:8.

[1495] λάβῃ. Cf. Revelation 6:4; De Wette.

[1496] Cf. Vitr., Wolf, etc.

[1497] Cf. Grot., etc.

[1498] Grot., Züll.

[1499] De Wette.

[1500] Cf. already Calov.Revelation 3:11. “You have not long to wait and suffer now”; a fresh motive for tenacity of purpose. Compare with what follows the tradition of R. Simon (in Tract. Shabb. bab. 88 a) that on the occasion of Exodus 24:7, the Israelites were each crowned with two crowns by 600,000 angels—one when they said we will do, the other when they said we will be obedient; but on the occasion of Exodus 33:6 these crowns were snatched off by 1,200,000 devils. In the last day, at the messianic age, God restores these crowns (according to Isaiah 35:10). The sense is not altered if ἵνασου (like Luke 12:20) is taken as a vivid form of the passive “lest thou be deprived of thy crown” (cf. Colossians 2:18 with 2 Timothy 4:8), forfeiting it through misconduct.11. hold that fast which thou hast] See on Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:25.

that no man take thy crown] i.e. rob thee of it: the image of a race or other contest for a prize does not seem in harmony with the context, nor with the style of this book.Verse 11. - I come quickly. Contrast μαι σοι (Revelation 2:5, 16), which is a threat, with ἔρχομαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς (John 14:28; comp. Revelation 16:7; Revelation 17:11, 13) and ἔρχομαι used absolutely (Revelation 3:11; Revelation 22:7, 11, 29), which is a promise. Here the declaration is one of encouragement to the Church - her trial will be short; her reward is near at hand (see notes on Revelation 1:1). Hold fast. The same verb (κρατεῖν with the accusative) as in Revelation 2:1, 13, 14, 15, 25. The epistle of Ignatius shows that this warning was needed. Owing to the stubborn Judaism of some in the Philadelphian Church, the central truths of the gospel were in danger. Take thy crown. Not merely "take away" (α{ρῃ) from thee (1 John 3:5), but "receive" (λάβῃ) for himself (Matthew 5:40). Such seems the natural, though perhaps not the necessary, meaning of the word, and so Jerome renders it accipiat, not auferat. Thus Jacob received Esau's crown, and Matthias Judas's, and the Gentiles that of the Jews. But the matter is not of much moment; the prominent thought is the loss to the loser, not the gain to any one else. Behold

Omit.

That no one take thy crown (ἵνα μηδεὶς λάβῃ τὸν στέφανον)

Take it away. The idea is not that of one believer stepping into the place which was designed for another, but of an enemy taking away from another the reward which he himself has forfeited. The expression is explained by Colossians 2:18. It is related by Mahomet that, after having attempted, in vain, to convert one Abdallah to the faith, and having been told by him to go about his business and to preach only to those who should come to him - he went, downcast, to a friend's house. His friend, perceiving that he was sad, asked him the reason; and on being told of Abdallah's insult, said, "Treat him gently; for I swear that when God sent thee to us, we had already strung pearls to crown him, and he seeth that thou hast snatched the kingdom out of his grasp." For crown, see on Revelation 2:10. Thy crown is not the crown which thou hast, but the crown which thou shalt have if thou shalt prove faithful.

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