With the death toll approaching 300 in Eastern Turkey, a headline from MSNBC says, “Turkish quake survivors plead for tents.” It is easy to locate photos of tent cities set up in the area of the earthquakes. Such is often true even for those whose houses were not destroyed. The fear of after shocks cause people to leave their houses.
One of the first questions we should ask in Bible study is “What did this text mean to the original readers?” Until we know the answer to that question we should not try making applications of our own. Sometimes we fail to understand a text because we do not understand the customs and conditions of the time in which the text was written.
The letters to the Seven Churches of Revelation are especially filled with local allusions to things common in that time and place. The saints at Philadelphia were told that the one who overcomes (conquers) would be made a pillar in the temple of God. Notice the next phrase: “Never shall he go out of it.”
The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. (Revelation 3:12 ESV)
Philadelphia was especially noted for volcanoes and earthquakes. We discussed this earlier here. Pillars crumble during earthquakes and people leave their houses to live in tents. The promise in this text is that the one who overcomes will become a pillar in the temple of God and “never shall he go out of it.” This was a wonderful promise to those saints who had suffered from earthquakes on several occasions.
The photo below illustrates the effect of an earthquake on the pillars of temples and other buildings. It was made at Bethshan (Beth-shean) where an earthquake hit the city in 749 A.D.