Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown.
I. THE CROWN spoken of here is not the symbol of royalty, but the floral wreath 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 feasters, 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 spoken about under three designations — as a crown of "life," of "righteousness," of "glory." 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. 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 of this petty 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. "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. 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 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. 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!
III. THE WAY TO SECURE THE CROWS WHICH IS OURS. "Hold fast that thou hast." 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. 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, 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.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.