Monday, October 7, 2013

Revelation 3:7-13 : A Letter From Christ to the Church at Philadelphia

Text : Revelation  3: 7-13
Title : A  Letter  from Christ  to the Church in Philadelphia
Date:  06/10/2013 

Philadelphia, less than 5o kilometres  SE of Sardis  is  now   known  as  Alaşehir  in modern  Turkey. She was established in 189 BC by King Eumenes II  of Pergamum (197-160 BC) who named  the city for the love of his brother and successor Attalus II (159-138 BC).  ("Philadelphos", literally means "one who loves his brother).  In terms of history  this  city  was the youngest of the seven churches, and it was mainly founded  to expand the Greek culture and language to  the regions  of Lydia and Phrygia.

This church represents   two of  the seven churches  (the other being Smyrna) that   receive no rebuke, but only  encouragement  from the Lord. There appears to be  a  spiritual similarity between the two congregations.   Both  are  very vulnerable and both are exposed to  the synagogue of Satanthose who say that they are Jews, but who are not.   The greatest difference  between the two  seems to be that  the church of Smyrna   spends   her  spiritual energy in the bearing of the cross for Christ's sake, while the church in Philadelphia in spite of little power   still has  an open door for the gospel.   

V.7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. As is the case for all the other churches, the message  is addressed to  the ‘angel’ or the messenger of the church.  These words are said to be of Him who  is the holy one and the true one.  Holiness (the idea of being set apart)  is an attribute of God.  God is  holy. In Him there is no sin  and He can stand no sin.  He  is  different and separate from all (German: “Der ganz Andere”) and Jesus  shares this  attribute because He bears  the essential nature of God.  Truth  is another of  God’s  attributes. He is all truth,  and in the same way  Jesus is the Way , the Truth and the Life. (Jn. 14:6).    
This church  was holding on to Jesus and on to His truth.   This church had  remained faithful to the  gospel in spite  of strong pressure.  She held on to Jesus – she  confessed His name.  The Lord says of her: "(you) have not denied  my name."  (v.8)   Furthermore  in  v.  10 she is commended by the Lord,  “you have  kept  my word about patient endurance.” This indicates  that  the church had patiently  borne her cross under very challenging circumstances  in the  little physical strength that she had.
This word comes to her  from “ the Holy One, the True One, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” 
The phrase ,  "the key of David" is derived from Isaiah  22:22. Isaiah here pronounces judgment upon Shebna,  king  Hezekiah’s  treasurer.  Isaiah   prophesies  that this high   office shall be taken away from Shebna, and  that it shall be given to Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, who was found to be more worthy than Shebna.  It  is in this connection that Isaiah uses this  expression "key of David." Holding a key means  holding a place of great authority . A key means power of access. The analogy is clear. Christ  holds the key  to all God’s riches and  He holds the key of access into God’s presence.  He has the authority to open and shut the door of the Father's kingdom. He alone  determines who shall enter into that kingdom and who shall remain outside.  He   adds to the church, and this church with little strength  must not be discouraged on account of the little success  that she  currently has .   There is a great promise  given to her :

The Promise Of An Open Door
V.8 Jesus  says to this congregation: “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”   The promise of an open door  reminds us of   Paul and Barnabas  in Acts  14:27 , when they returned from their missionary   journey, reporting to the church  “all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”  So too in 1 Corinthians  16:9 we find Paul reporting that  “ a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” So too Paul found that a  door had been opened for him to preach the gospel in Troas ( 2 Cor. 2:12). Paul also asks  the Colossians  to pray for him  that a door might be  opened for him to preach the gospel   (Col 4:3).
The  open door speaks  in each case of  gospel opportunities, and here the Lord Jesus promises  that He  would create   such an  open door, a gospel opportunity  for the  church at Philadelphia.  This is so encouraging  for it teaches  us  that God is not hindered by our  little strength.  God is  not limited by  little resources.  The great  issue is patient endurance – faithfulness – believing in a great God  who has all the resources waiting for us!   The  greatest  issue is desire . Does our church desire  to glorify God  in seeing   people converted in this city, country and continent? If so, the Lord tells us: Trust in me! I  will fulfill my purposes  through your little strength  and the comparatively few resources that you have .    Then put these requests before God  and trust Him to supply your needs. He is after all the missionary God who has given us a missionary mandate, and if this   is His will   He will also provide the funds,  the organization and the people. Remember,  that at the  beginning and the end of the missionary calling there is the One who holds  the keys to  heaven, and what He opens no man can shut , and what He shuts no man can open.
The Lord promises   the church  at Philadelphia, having faithfully struggled  against the odds  for a long time,   that she  shall see fruit upon her labours:  “I have set before you an open door …”. They would  see that the attitude of the enemies of the gospel  would  change.  Now they would be listened to.  The Lord is opening the hearts , minds ears and eyes  of the  people  ( just as He can also  shut the eyes , ears hearts – cf. Isaiah 6:9-10).

V.9 One  more specific promise is given :  "Behold, I will make those  of the synagogue of Satan who  say that they are Jews, and  are not, but  lie -  behold, I will make them to come and bow down  before your  feet, and  they will learn that I have loved you."   There was in Philadelphia, like in Smyrna, a  synagogue of the Jews which was  bitterly  opposed  to  the Christian church in their midst  , but the church  had  patiently persevered  against the odds.  But now  the Lord would finally  open the door  to their hearts  and  some of these Jews  would be converted. On their knees they would plead for forgiveness, and they would acknowledge that God has loved this little church. 
Now this  is not uncommon  in the history of the church. Our   work may appear to be fruitless and without results, and all of a sudden in response to patient endurance and faithful prayer,  the Lord opens the floodgates of heaven  for a season.  Does this make you hopeful?  Does this not encourage you to patiently persevere in prayer  and in keeping  on  working  for the gospel?

The Promise Of Being Kept From The Hour Of Temptation
V.10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.
Here  is another  promise.  Difficult  times were lying ahead  for the church, but the Lord promises them  that on account of their  faithful endurance   they would be kept in the  hour of trial. The hour of trial refers  in the first place, to a wave of persecution which swept over the church of Christ at that time. In all likelihood  it was the  same persecution which Smyrna would have to endure.   This is  of course true for the church in every age.  How much the church has suffered in those parts  under so many invasions , as new  brooms swept clean! The last  time  that happened in this region  was  during the Greco- Turkish war (1919-1922)  when the Muslim Turks  conducted ethnic cleansings of the  very large Greek  Christian population. Greeks have lived in Asia Minor since antiquity and before the outbreak of the First World War, up to 2.5 million Greeks lived in the Ottoman Empire.[1] The church  has endured so much, and yet has survived  against the odds , and it will be so  until the end  in the  time of the  Antichrist, when  there  will  be days so terrible for the church that even the elect would not endure if they were not  cut short. (Matt  24:22)   
The promise to the faithful  church  at Philadelphia and also to the faithful  church of the present time is that she will be kept from the hour of temptation that shall come upon the whole world. This does not mean that the church will be raptured out of the world before this happens (as some maintain) , but it means that the  true church  will be kept by her Lord in such times.  His grace will be sufficient  in such times.
This interpretation is in harmony with the admonition which immediately follows this announcement:  

V.11  “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.
The church  is called to hold on  in the midst of tribulation. Again, this points  to the fact that  the church of Philadelphia, and the true church of all ages  may expect suffering and trial. To endure means that she  must keep the Lord may always be before her,  the faithful and true One, who holds the keys of David,  and  who gives the church the assurance that she need not be afraid, for His grace will be sufficient to keep His faithful ones  in  the  hour of temptation, so that no one shall take their crown.

The Promise Of Future Blessing
V.12  But the Lord has still more promises for this church.  He does not only come with promises for the present time, but also with promises of glorious blessings for the future.  " 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.
This promise  is given in general to  those that overcome- it is for you who  patiently  endure.  The glory of the heaven is preceded by the suffering of this present time. And the rule remains without exception that we must suffer with Christ in order to be glorified together. Christ and His people are inseparably united.  If they have hated Him, they shall also hate us. And if they have persecuted Him, they shall also persecute those that are His. Hence, only for those   that patiently endure  this this a  future promise.

It is  necessary to mention in this connection that this  is no reference here to a literal temple.  If temple is taken literally, pillars (you) must also be taken in the same sense.  This is biblical symbolism. The temple  of God is symbolic  of the intimate dwelling of God with man. But in the NT  God’s   temple is His people (1 Peter 2)  and He and they shall live in intimate communion and union with Himself , and there they are kept  - “ never shall he  go out of it..” .
The Lord further makes mention of a three-fold name which  those who conquer will bear :  They shall bear the name of God; they shall bear the name of the city of God; and they shall bear the new name of Jesus.
They shall bear the name of God ! No, we shall not be God; but the highest possible relationship  conceivable  shall exist between God and His people. And in that relation they shall see Him face to face, and He shall speak to them as a friend with his friends.
They shall bear the name of the city of God.  This   represents the society of the elect in glory, the body of Christ, the complete assembly of all the saints. 
They shall bear  His own new name. It is the name which was given  to Jesus  at His exaltation at the right hand of God, a name of glory and power and strength and majesty.

V.13  Hear what the Spirit says to the  churches!  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” 

1.    The church  of little strength  does not need  to fear. In Christ she has all the resources  she needs to work and to witness  even in difficult  times .
2.    Her Lord is faithful and powerful. He has the key of David. He opens, and no one shuts; He shuts, and no one opens. No one shall pluck us out of His hand or displace us  from His  kingdom. And in all our work in the kingdom of  God, our reliance should be on Him alone.
3.       Trials  will  come, but in the midst of  suffering for Christ's sake, the vision of the mighty King of kings must  always be before us!  With our eyes on Him we may be sure of the victory!
4.   That victory   provides us with rich hope . It shall be the victory of eternal glory in the new Jerusalem, in the temple of God and His tabernacle with men, where we shall see Him face to face and love Him forever, as He has loved us! Amen




[1] Wikipedia 

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