Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown.
It is not improbable that this bishop was no other than the Demetrius who is mentioned in St. John's third Epistle as having a "good report of all men and of the truth itself," and if this is the case we have before us a holy man who, probably, was not a very resolute one, and was placed in a position of much difficulty. "Behold, I come quickly." If our Lord's words are understood of His second coming, it is obvious to reflect that the good Bishop of Philadelphia died without witnessing their fulfilment. Nay, he has been in his grave something like eighteen centuries, and our Lord has not yet come to judgment. Man sees only a little distance, and he is impatient, because his outlook is so limited; to him it seems that an event will never arrive, if it has been delayed for some centuries, and so the judgment long apprehended, and also, perhaps, through a series of years long delayed, will not really take place at all, but may at once be classed among the phantoms of a morbid and disordered brain. With God it is altogether otherwise, long and short periods of time do not mean to Him what they mean to us. We see this truth more clearly if we reflect that to us men the passage of time seems slow or rapid, its periods seem long or short according to our varying moods and tempers. When we are suffering acute pain of body or very great anxiety of mind time hangs heavily. We seem to extend the duration of time by the suffering that we compress into its constituent moments. And on the other hand, when we are experiencing great pleasure, whether of mind or body, we become almost or entirely insensible to the flight of time, and from this we may understand how one being, who is the fountain of all goodness, because He is in Himself infinitely blessed, blessed in contemplating His own perfections, blessed in surveying the works which His hands have made, would be, as such, insensible to the impression of time. "Behold, I come quickly." The Bishop of Philadelphia, Demetrius, probably felt that, as far as he was concerned, these words received their fulfilment when, his pastoral labours being completed, he laid himself down to die. In death our Lord comes to each of us, He comes in mercy or in judgment to bring the present state of existence to an end, to open out upon us another. There are two things about death which are full of meaning, and which do not admit of any sort of contradiction. The first is the certainty that it will come to each of us some day, and the second is the utter uncertainty of the day at which it will come. "Behold, I come quickly." The expected coming of Christ throws a flood of light on the various aspects of existence. We are struck, perhaps, with the insignificance of life. Even when man is in possession of all his faculties of mind and body he is often obliged to pass his life in occupations which are at once exacting and mechanical — occupations which make scarcely any demand upon the mind beyond that of attention to the movement of the feet or of the fingers; occupations which might almost or altogether be discharged by machinery, and which, taken by themselves, appear unworthy of a being capable of comprehending truth, capable of growing in the comprehension of it, capable of enjoying a happiness proportionate to his vast desires. "Behold, I come quickly." If Christ's coming means anything, it will be no sorrow nor crying; it means the exercise of man's higher powers to that fullest extent of their capacity — the beginning of an existence in which thought and heart and will will rest in perfectly ecstatic satisfaction on their one true object, and an existence which will last for ever.
Parallel VersesKJV: Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.