Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God–and I will write upon him my new name. Rev. 3:12


The argument in defense of God’s compassion despite the existence of evil is made in John’s letter to the church in Philadelphia. In contrast to God’s mighty power, the author acknowledges the Christian community’s “limited strength” (Rev. 3:8) against the persecution and derision of their enemies. He then praises them: “You have kept my word and not denied by my name,” and rewards them with “an open door no one can shut” (Rev. 3:8). The writer assures the church members that their patience and religious observance will vindicate them in God’s eyes, while the wicked will be called to judgment and made to see their moral failings. Speaking of the heavenly temple of the New Jerusalem where the whole city and its inhabitants will comprise the temple of God, the virtuous are assured that they will become “a pillar in the temple of my God” (Rev. 3:12), a monument never to be defaced or removed.

As one of only two angels with frontal orientation, the Philadelphia angel embodies the qualities asked of the Christian community: strength, dignity and grace. The figure is cloaked in brown drapery glass that modulates between blue and red. His chest and left arm are exposed to reveal a breastplate that is adorned at the collar with yellow and opalescent chunk jewels. His armor bears a stylized version of the Maltese cross, a symbol of protection and honor. In his right hand, the angel holds a book (presumably the Book of Life) that is illustrated by red-brown striated glass and white ripple glass. The angel’s left forearm is resting on a pillar constructed of opalescent glass.

Theologian Emanuel Swedenborg says Philadelphia represents those who live in “truths from good, from the Lord.” They have relied on the Lord’s strength to fight temptation and are living in a regenerated state. In the letter to Philadelphia they are promised that “to those that overcome I will make a pillar in the temple of God and I will write upon them my new name.” This means that these people, who “sustain the Lord’s church in heaven” will be “protected and preserved.”