7 To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. ~ Revelation 3:7-10
Today, we come to the sixth message from the Lord Jesus to the sixth church in Revelation 3. The recipient of the sixth letter was the church at Philadelphia which was located about twenty-eight miles southeast of the city of Sardis. It was the youngest of the seven cities whose churches are addressed in these chapters.
Philadelphia was destroyed by an earthquake in 17 A.D. Most of the cities in that area recovered rather quickly from the disaster, but the after-shocks continued in Philadelphia for quite a number of years, with the result that the people had to flee the city repeatedly. Tiberius Caesar helped to rebuild it, and out of gratitude the city changed its name to Neocaesarea which means New Caesar.
The church in Philadelphia is unique among the seven churches because it, along with the church at Smyrna, is the only church the Lord registers no complaint against.
In v.7 we read, "To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open."
In His address to all of the other six churches, the Lord uses symbols to describe Himself that come from the vision that the Apostle John had of Him in Revelation 1. In this message to Philadelphia, however, the Lord Jesus uses other titles to describe Himself. He tells them plainly who He is and what He is doing.
He said, "These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David." The Lord Jesus is holy and He lacks nothing. Therefore, His character is without flaw. And, He is genuine reality. He is the one behind all that really exists. That is who He is.
He also "holds the key of David." That is a reference to an Old Testament prophecy that predicts the Lord Jesus will not be opposed. It is He who governs the events of history on earth. He opens doors and He closes others. What He opens no one can shut, what He shuts, no one can open.
In v.8 we read, "I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no man can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name."
It is obvious that there is no such thing as a perfect church, for the obvious reason that there is no such thing as a perfect Christian. A church is a collection of imperfect Christians and, therefore, it is in itself imperfect. Having said that, it is still possible to be faithful and to be obedient to the Lord. This describes the church at Philadelphia.
The Lord Jesus gives the reasons why He opened a door of ministry for them in v.8 which reads, "I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut because you have a little power and have kept my word and not denied my name."
Doors are opened by the Lord when we fulfill the conditions that will allow us to move through that door once it has been opened. Most importantly among those conditions is our willingness to follow the leading and the power of the Holy Spirit who renders a power which is obtained by faith. When we expect God to act, it is then that He opens doors. When we look for an opportunity, and when we respond, a door opens for continued ministry in the lives of others.
Without closed doors, we do not see the open doors. We never enter because we never see the need. And, when things don’t go as planned, we realize we need more than our resources. We need more than our wisdom. We need a Savior to intervene.
It is at this point that His power moves into our context. When we first trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Spirit came to live within us. But the power of the Spirit is given only to those who learn to keep His word and to not deny His name!
The Word of God must be central to all that we do in this world. We must study it, we much preach it, and we must teach it. The Bible is the most amazing book the world has ever known. It is the self disclosure of God to man. It conveys insights into life that we find in no other place. Corrie Ten Boom once said, "Voltaire expected that within fifty years of his lifetime there would not be one Bible in the world. His house is now a distribution center for Bibles in many languages."
In v.9 we read, "I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars -- I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you."
To those who are responsive and ready to be used of the Lord, He will use his power to make our enemies respect us and openly acknowledge God's blessing upon us.
This phrase, "the synagogue of Satan," was used also in the letter to the church at Smyrna. It referred to certain Jews in that city who claimed to be spiritual descendants of Abraham but in actuality they were only his physical descendants; their attitude toward the truth of God was far removed from Abraham's faith.
These enemies will acknowledge God's blessing upon us because we have responded to their hostility toward us with love which they do not possess. The Lord Jesus said while He walked this earth, "You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.'"
In v.10 we read, "Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth."
The context of this verse is a reference to the seventieth seven of Daniel 9:27. It will be a time of distress that will come upon the whole world, the likes of which has never been known before in human history. This will be the worst time of distress and bloodshed that the world has ever seen. And it will be particularly sent "to test those who live upon the earth." This is a reference to those who live as though this life is all there is, to those who live upon the earth, for the earth, and for the things of earth.
The promise given here to the church is specifically that it will be delivered from that hour of trial. Actually the word is not "from," but "out of." We, at any moment now, are to be delivered out of, not just the trial but out of the very time of the trial! This is one of the clearest promises in the Bible of the catching away of the church before the great tribulation begins. I trust you are ready for that next big event. I know that I sure am!