Revelation Lesson 10: Little Strength, Big Job, Bigger God
Chapter 3: 7-13
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens:
“I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. 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 out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Last week we looked at the church in Sardis. We saw a picture of a church that had some issues, a lot of them to be honest, and that was warned by Jesus to “stand fast and repent.” Well, obviously some of them did, and the Lord’s churches continue to exist until the churches we have today. The Lord is able to preserve His people. And as we look at the church at Philadelphia, we will find that the command to “stand fast” given to the Sardis church has resulted in strong, obedient and vibrant churches about whom our Lord has nothing bad to say.
What a turnaround; what a testimony to the Lord’s judgment and grace; what courage in the people of the Sardis church to first of all “stand fast,” and then to repent of their misdeeds and to allow the Lord to right their ship, so to speak! For all of us it is imperative that we seek repentance all the time and that we listen to the correction of the Lord. The book of Hebrews tells us that the Lord corrects the ones He loves:
Hebrews 12: 5-7 “And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, or lose heart when He rebukes you. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises everyone He receives as a son.’ Endure suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?”
God’s chastening, meaning to discipline or punish, is designed for our purity and to help us to grow in Christ. It is also a sign of ownership. God owns us; we are His children. And as His children He is required to chasten us to show His genuine love and care. Let that sink in.
We live in a time where the world says that if you love someone then let them be, even if they are wrong and doing harm to themselves, but true love must call out wrong actions and call for a change to what is right. This not popular today, ‘live and let live’ is not a Biblical rule for living. We are called to “stand fast” for the truth and to repent ourselves first, then call the world around us to repent.
Today we will look at the church at Philadelphia. This is a unique church in a unique city, given a unique promise from Jesus that he will keep them from the “hour of trial.” Let us look together and learn from the Lord.
Philadelphia, verse 7
Most of us in North America are familiar with the name Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love. The city in our lesson today was named after its founder Attalus the Second, who was nicknamed Philadephos. The city was a prosperous city that sat on the main highway from Europe to the East. It was an important city; it was originally founded to be a ‘missionary city’ for the Greek language, culture and Hellenist culture of ancient Greece. The city housed many temples and was the gateway to the East. It had frequent earthquakes and was often evacuated according to historical scholars. It was here that this church found its home.
Jesus has the keys of David, verse 7
Once we have met Philadelphia, we can now meet Jesus. He describes himself here as “He who is holy, he who is true.” These qualities are necessary for the Lord to reveal to us so that we can discern who we are listening to. Holiness and Truth do not describe Jesus’ activities but the very essence of who He is, and as such clearly declares that he is Yahweh, since only Yahweh is Holy.
In a city that was filled with idols and ‘religious’ worship, it was very important for the church there to be sure about whom they were listening to: from whom they took instruction and for whom they were working. This is still such a necessity today. There are so many ‘religions,’ many even that name the name of Jesus. But when we look at the Bible, the Jesus they worship is not the Yahweh of the Bible.
Some say he is a god, but not Yahweh. They are wrong; Jesus is Yahweh. Islam says he is a prophet, but Moses said He would be a Prophet, but he is first Yahweh. Some say he is Satan’s brother. No, He made Satan since he is the Creator Yahweh, and one day Satan will be eternally destroyed. The Pharisees accused him of being Satan; but no, He is Yahweh. In fact, to be saved one must come to the realization that Jesus is God, Yahweh and the holy Living God. There can be no salvation without this realization.
Then we see Him describe himself as “He who has the keys of David.” So, not only is Jesus Yahweh in the true sense, He is in complete control.
David was the king of Israel for 40 years; as such he was the absolute authority. He could bind and loose, he could spare a life or take a life without fear of judgment, and he did not require a vote to act. In the most perfect sense, Jesus is the Sovereign Ruler of the earth, the universe and each local church. He can do as He pleases, and no one has the right or the power to question Him. He goes on to say that He opens doors that no one can shut and shuts doors that no one can open. I am reminded of the Great Flood in Noah’s day:
Genesis 7:1-3, 16b “Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth. For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made…’ And the Lord shut him in.”
God told Noah and his family to enter the ark, then He left the door open for 7 more days. And at the end of the seven days, the Lord shut him in. No one could have closed the open door and no one could have opened the closed door. I cannot imagine what it was like to hear the cries of his neighbors clawing at the door, and there was nothing he could do. I shiver just thinking about it. How long did it take before things went silent outside and people stopped banging on the door?
We like to think that this current age of grace will go on and on forever and mankind can keep on denying and defying God and that God will take it. He is patient, NOT dead. One day the door on this age of grace will be closed, and no one else will be able to come into the New Testament church. The work of salvation will revert to the nation of Israel, and the billions of Gentiles will fall for the delusions of the Anti-Christ and his minions. Jesus is an Absolute God; He does not need counsel to make decisions, and he is never wrong. He is Holy and Truth.
A little strength, verse 8
David killed Goliath. Actually, God killed Goliath, but He allowed a young man to be used in His plan. As I was driving in today, I heard a song entitled “Dream Small” by Josh Wilson. It caught my attention as most of the time you hear about dreaming big, but the premise of the song is that the small things in God’s hand made big differences. A small stone in God’s hand killed a giant. This church in Philadelphia only had a little strength, but with that little strength they had ‘kept His word and not denied His name.’
Wow! What if this could be said about all of us? That we kept the Lord’s word, we obeyed and we did not deny Him in word or action. God is our power, and all we have is little strength, but we should use it for the Lord. Give all we have. Let us get to heaven spent for the obedience to the Lord and in standing fast for His name.
They had been persecuted by the Synagogue of Satan, a group who say that they are Jews but are not Jews at all. This is important to know that even Satan has ‘churches,’ places where people gather to worship him. These can often appear to be true churches; they have the pomp, use the Bible or a Bible, they sing the same songs we sing, and look very true but they are not. They are the enemies of the Lord’s churches. They deny Jesus; they have no spiritual connection to Abraham and are not true Jews.
One cannot love Jesus and hate Jews. In the same manner, a truly converted Jew cannot hate the Lord’s churches. One day these pretenders will come to worship Jesus; they will bow before the Lord’s people, not to worship them, but the Lord that we represent.
“I will keep you from the hour of trial” (verse 10). This is a prophetic look at the Tribulation that is coming on those that dwell on the earth. This church will be kept from that trial. This is also a reminder that the church age is coming to an end. None of the other churches had to be warned about the coming Tribulation. But this one was warned as we come closer to the end of time and the signs of the end begin to converge.
Like it was in the days of Noah, Jesus warns us, the people of the earth were “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” right up until the flood hit. No amount of preaching, not even the sight of the ark being built could sway them. Just Noah and his band of 8 were saved.
The Lord’s churches have been through some ‘baptisms by fire’ down through the ages; they have been killed, persecuted, cheated, chased and imprisoned for the last 2,000 years. These treatments continue unabated even today in areas all around the world. But THE TRIBULATION is not for the Gentile church; it is for the people of the world and then at the end for the nation of Israel. But there is more to come about this as we move ahead. Just to restate, the church will be kept from the hour of trial that is coming.
An open door, verses 8-11
Jesus tells this church to “hold fast.” He tells them they have an open door that no one can shut. The city of Philadelphia was originally built to be a ‘mission work’ for the Greek language, Greek culture and the Greek Hellenist lifestyle. They were supposed to expand the influence of Greece into Asia Minor, but Jesus had other plans. This very conduit of paganism was going to be used by God to funnel the Gospel from Europe into Asia and beyond.
I am blessed to work with a group of churches that takes missionary work very seriously, as do other groups. The Biblical church associations, through the collective work of our churches, have missionaries in many of towns, cities, countries and continents. Next week, I have a friend who is going to South America with his brother to do some mission work. They will drive from Indiana to Toronto to fly from here to their destination. All they needed was a place to safely park a car, and we were able to help. Even that bit of help relieves one stressor so that he is free to work.
Do what you can, and let God do the rest; Dream Small.
You see, mission work is the lifeblood of the New Testament church. God has given us many open doors in this world: some to our neighbors and some to countries near and far. But they are open doors and no one can close them; however, we are required to do the work. The call to be ‘fishers of men’ will continue long after the church is raptured. After that, Jewish men—some 144,000, will become ‘fishers of men’ to the lost Jews all around the world.
God is always on the hunt to save men (women too). Two of the many things to overcome in our present age are fear and apathy – fear of reaching out and being rejected, and worse, just plain apathy, no longer caring that people are going to Hell. We stop preaching that sin is real, death is near and Hell is hot. For many of us that has become the problem; the door is open, salvation is free, and we are simply not interested in being ‘fishers of men.’
This church in Philadelphia was interested. Jesus had nothing bad to say about them.
Finally, we are challenged to hear what Jesus is saying—hearing, not for the sake of hearing, but to be obedient and right before our Holy God.
There is a lot more that we can explore about this church and any of the churches in these letters, but suffice it to say that this church had come out of a bad situation. The previous church age was fraught with false doctrine and compromise, but they had come out of it and left a legacy that was almost perfect for the final church age to follow. We will look at that next time.