Jesus told the church in Philadelphia that he is coming quickly, and they needed to ‘hold fast’ to what they had, so no man could take or remove their crown (Revelation 3:11). When Jesus said he was coming “quickly” (tachu – G5035), I believe, if we truly take audience relevance into consideration, we would have to say that he meant he was coming very soon, i.e. in the expected lifetimes of his readers (viz. Matthew 16:27-28). The same Greek word was used in Matthew 5:25 for the need of an accused to settle with his adversary quickly, before he had to appear before the judge. It was used of the women fleeing Jesus’ gravesite, after the angels told them to tell the disciples of his resurrection (Mark 16:7-8). Again, it was used of Mary quickly running to Jesus upon learning of his presence at Lazarus’ tomb (John 11:29).
Therefore, it doesn’t seem one could draw this word out for nearly 2000 years. Quickly means exactly what it appears to mean. However, many have interpreted Jesus’ words to mean he would come “suddenly” or “once begun will swiftly occur.” In other words, Jesus’ coming could take place anytime in the future. If so, such an understanding would take away the very meaning of the word quickly. The constant cry of “Wolf, wolf…” comes to mind in such a case. After awhile and after so many disappointments due to the many self-proclaimed prophets throughout Christian history, one has to wonder why anyone would believe Jesus is “about to” return.
Jesus told the church to hold fast what it had (Revelation 3:11), which begs the question: “What did the church at Philadelphia have that it could lose?” According to Revelation 3:8, the church had kept Jesus’ word, which means the church hadn’t compromised the word of God, especially Jesus’ prophecy that he would be coming in their generation (cf. Matthew 16:28-29; 23:35-36; 24:29-34). They guarded Jesus’ clarity of speech and endured the consequences of the scoffers (cf. 2Peter 3:1-3), and in doing these things, they hadn’t denied Jesus’ name. Therefore, the church needed to hold fast to that which they had been doing up until the time of Jesus’ letter.
The crown (stephanos – G4735) to which Jesus refers was the victor’s crown. It was a wreath of pine or parsley, a crown given to victors in the great games of Greece. Paul also alluded to such a crown in his letters to the Corinthians and to Timothy at Ephesus (1Corinthians 9:25; 2Timothy 2:5).
In Revelation 3:12 Jesus promised to make the overcomer a pillar in the Temple of God. A pillar (G4769) means a post of support. I believe what Jesus meant was: overcomers would become leaders in the same sense that James, Peter and John were leaders of the church in Jerusalem (viz. Galatians 2:9). The same Greek word for pillar is used there. The whole church in Philadelphia, as well as each individual, as he becomes an active witness, is a pillar or support for the truth (cf. 1Timothy 3:15). Therefore, if the church continues to guard the word of Jesus and preaches it no matter what the consequences, that would be supporting the truth, and Jesus promised to make that one (the church and the individual) a permanent pillar within the Temple of God—which is the church of Christ (1Corinthians 3:16-17).
Moreover, Jesus promises to write three names upon those who would overcome, which are the name of God, the name of the city of God, new Jerusalem, and Jesus’ new name. To bear one’s name signifies ownership of some kind. Just as our last name tells the world we are the children of the man who bore our name, so if we bear the name of God we are his children, and the world would identify us as such. The high priest bore the names of God upon his forehead (Exodus 28:36-38), and it was in this manner that both he and the people of Israel were accepted by God.
To say one bears the name of a city would indicate he is a citizen of that city. Paul was called Saul of Tarsus, indicating not only the city of his birth, but the city which held his citizenship in their records. In like manner, if overcomers bore the name of new Jerusalem, it indicated they were citizens of the city of God.
Finally, Jesus promised to write his new name upon those who gained the victory and endured to the end. It is a name that no one knows, except for he who receives it (Revelation 2:17; 19:12, 16). This new name was promised long ago by the prophet Isaiah who prophesied of the gentiles and kings seeing the righteousness of God’s new people, and they would be called by a new name (Isaiah 62:2), a different name than that of the Jews (Isaiah 65:15).
As is the case in each of his seven letters, Jesus concluded his letter by addressing his true disciples (Revelation 3:13). Folks may join themselves to the church without submitting themselves to Jesus. Jesus knows who his people are, and he addresses them as “he who has an ear to hear…” That is, only his people have the spirit of understanding, and are able to know and understand what he is saying. Others will either stumble over his words or consider them foolish (1Corinthians 1:23).