We are continuing our study through the book of Revelation with the second division within the book, the things which are. This section, covered in chapters 2 and 3, contains the letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Again, these were literal congregations with very literal issues within them. Some of these churches were suffering very real persecution. The admonition, teaching, and correction Jesus has for these congregations addresses situations that were quite relevant to them at the time of writing. However, by a miracle of divine inspiration, these seven were also selected to represent the entire Church Age, right up until the time of the catching away, or rapture of the Church.
Today we come to the letter to the church in Philadelphia. To this group of saints Jesus said, “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.” [Rev. 3:7 – 13 NKJV]
First, notice to whom each of these letters is addressed, “to the angel of the church in…”. “Angel” is the Greek word, angelos., and simply means a messenger. It literally means a messenger sent forth to deliver a message. It can mean a human messenger, angelic, or demonic. In the case of the letters to the churches, I submit to you that it refers to the Pastors of these churches. Notice he did not address Himself to the board of elders or deacons, or the congregational committee. No, He addressed Himself to the angel, God’s anointed and appointed messenger within that Church. Correction and instruction within a local congregation should always flow forth from the pulpit, from the man of God whom God has called to stand up and speak forth a word from Heaven. Those who “have ears to hear” then are to take that message and respond accordingly to it.
Please note the fact that the church in Philadelphia is only one of two of the seven churches Jesus had no correction for. He only spoke praise and comfort to this church. There are reasons for this, which we will address. Philadelphia is from the Greek root word, phileo, which means “brotherly love.” Hence, this was the city of brotherly love. Brotherly love seems to be the chief characteristic of this church. The city was founded by King Attalus II, King of Pergamos, in honor of his brother, and therefore bore the title, “brotherly love.”
Notice the titles the Lord chose to describe Himself to this church. He says, These things says He who is holy, He who is true. This is a common description of Jesus in this book. Christ shares the holy, sinless, pure nature of His Father. That is, He is absolutely pure and separate from sin. “True” here can refer both to one who speaks truth, and is genuine or authentic as opposed to fake.
Jesus here declares that He has the, “key of David.” This is one of the many allusions to the Old Testament found in Revelation. It refers back to Isaiah 22:22, The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; So he shall open, and no one shall shut; And he shall shut, and no one shall open. [Isa. 22:22 NKJV] Christ has the sovereign authority to control entrance into the kingdom. He is pictured earlier in this book holding the keys to death and hell, here the keys to salvation and blessing.
The Lord set before this church an, “open door”. Since He has, as we just saw, the “key of David”; this can refer to entrance into the kingdom, or an opportunity for service. [See 1 Cor. 16:9, 2 Cor. 2:12, Col. 4:3] I submit to you that the Lord’s meaning was the latter. A great door of opportunity for service in taking the gospel was given to this church. Some have referred to this church as the faithful church, and that is certainly fitting. However, I believe it would be much more appropriate to call this the missionary church. It corresponds to the period of Church history beginning in the 1800s and continuing until the present hour. In the 1800s the Holy Spirit stirred and awakened the Church to her responsibility to take the gospel to all of the nations of the world. The United States of America it seems became the catalyst of this great move of God’s Spirit, and she began to send missionaries to the nations. There was a stirring in dead denominationalism that had strayed from the simplicity of the gospel.
In the late 1700s a young cobbler by the name of William Carey was reading two books, a well-worn Bible and Captain Cook’s Journal. As the days went by, the cobbler found himself losing interest in working on the soles of shoes, and caring more about the souls of people in far regions. So deep was the passion that stirred within him that on May 31, 1793, he walked into the little Protestant church he attended and said, “Could I please share?” Allowed to speak a word, he read Isaiah 54:2, 3.Enlarge the place of your tent, And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Do not spare; Lengthen your cords, And strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, And your descendants will inherit the nations, And make the desolate cities inhabited. He preached passionately, “We must include others who have never heard. I want to go, send me to India.” Naturally, this stunned the congregation since it had been one thousand years since anyone had launched a foreign missionary endeavor.
Carey went to India, and in his first ten years, he became fluent in twelve languages. One of his works, the Bible he translated in Sanskrit, is still used to this day. William Carey goes down in history as the father of the modern missionary movement, as suddenly the church awoke from her lethargy, Carey set the example that one doesn’t have to be skilled, gifted, or special to be used in the kingdom. God is simply looking for men who are willing to go. The church at Philadelphia speaks of this age of church history beginning in the 1800s, for it was through men like Carey in India and Hudson Taylor in China, D.L. Moody in America and C.H. Spurgeon in London that evangelism was taking place and missionaries were being sent out. This certainly was and is the time of the “open door” for taking the gospel to the farthest regions of the world.
Notice that this church had, “little strength.” This does not speak of spiritual infirmity or inferiority, but rather they were few in number. The Laodicean church looks at a Philadelphia church with disdain. Why? Because much of the modern church measures success in terms of numbers. If a church is large, they must be successful. I am certainly not opposed to a church having large numbers. However, what is being preached in some of the largest churches today? Is it the pure gospel? In most cases, no. Rather, people are being fed a steady diet of, “40 Days of Purpose”, “How To Have Your Best Life Now”, “Seeker Sensitive”, “G12”, etc.
Contrast this with the church in Philadelphia. They had, according to Jesus, “Kept My Word, and have not denied my Name.” The Last Days Church that God uses will be a church that has returned to the Word, has a desire for the Word, and studies the Word constantly. It will also be a church that has not denied His “Name” or His deity. The last days church God uses will be the church that recognizes Jesus for who He claims to be, not just an interesting teacher, not a model of how to live successfully, of how to have prosperity, or of how to be happy. He is the Christ.
Look at verse 9, 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. the end-times church there is a synagogue of Satan, those who say they are Jews and are not. Who are these people? In John’s day, the reference would have been to the Jews who persecuted believers. In our day, I think it could refer to either the Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM), or to the growing number of believers who have bought the lie that is “Replacement Theology.” This teaching basically says, “Because God is through with the Jew, weare Israel.” This teaching comes in several forms, and is worded slightly differently, but is just as insidious regardless the packaging. How dangerous is this doctrine?
In The Road To The Holocaust, Hal Lindsey proves that the deaths of six million Jews did not begin with the Third Reich. They began one hundred years earlier, when Bible teachers began to teach that God is through with the Jews. Antisemitism is always the mark of a people who fail to read their Bibles, for in Romans 9 – 11God declares He is not through with Israel. We will neverhave our end-time doctrine straight unless we understand that there are three categories, or groups of people in the Bible: Jews, Gentiles (the Nations), and the Church. Who makes up the Church? Former Jews and former Gentiles. It is essential that we understand this because we need to realize that the primary purpose of the future Great Tribulation is God’s dealing with Israel to bring them back to Him.
Even though many do not like it, it is still true that the Second Coming of Christ is oneevent that will be revealed in twophases. In the Rapture or resurrection the Lord comes to get us, at the Revelation Jesus comes back to rescue Israel. May God help us to never lose our understanding of Israel’s importance in the great plan of God.
Look at verse 10, 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. What is the word of His patience? 2 Thessalonians 3:5 gives us understanding as to what this is. Paul writes, Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. This lets us know that God is establishing us in the patience of waiting for Christ. This is important because the Philadelphia church is the church interested in Bible prophecy. Although in the first two centuries of the Church, the topics of Jesus’ Second Coming and the Rapture of the Church were central themes of preaching and writing, Bible prophecy was lost as an interest in the Church until the 1830s, this is when the Holy Spirit restored prophetic preaching and teaching to the Body of Christ. Prior to this time people began to say, “It is impossible for a nation to be restored in a day, and to come back from the dead. Its unthinkable that the Jewish people could have a national identity again. It must be an allegory. Why would the Middle East be the focal point of a battle? Who cares about the Middle East?” We now know why this part of the world is so strategic: Oil, economics, militarily, politically, the attention of the whole world is constantly focused on the Middle East; and God said it would be thousands of years ago!
Notice the next part of verse 10. I also will keep you from the hour of trial… The Greek word translated “from” is the word, ek, which means “out of.” The thought is, “You at Philadelphia, you of little strength, you have kept my Word and you haven’t denied My Name. You have gone through the open door, and you have been patiently awaiting my Coming. Because of this, I will take you out of the time period of temptation yet to come.
He continues, which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.I firmly believe that the Church is the group of people who will be taken out of the hour of temptation that shall come upon all the world. This is not simply local persecution in Philadelphia, but a time of difficulty that encompasses the entire globe. And there is only one event that fits this description: The Great Tribulation.
We read in verse 11a, Behold, I am coming quickly! “Quickly” is the Greek, tachu, and actually means, “Suddenly.” Thus, the Lord could come at any moment. Only those of us who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture can say, “It may be today.” 11bsays, Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.This is very intriguing. Jesus says, “I’m Coming suddenly, so hold fast in order that you don’t lose your crown.” Crown? What crown? We don’t have a crown yet, so how could we lose it? It appears that the answer is in 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20, For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy. identifies the “crown” as people. People with whom we have shared, people for whom we have prayed. “Stay with them.” Says Jesus. “Keep praying for them. Don’t give up on them.”
Verse 12 reads, He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.“Hold fast to your crown, look for my Coming, and you will be planted firmly as a pillar in my kingdom,” Says Jesus. Also, I will write on him the name of My God.This pictures the Lord imprinting His character on us and identifying us as belonging to Him. He states further, the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. The believer here is promised eternal citizenship. Lastly, And I will write on him My new name. that glorious moment when we see Jesus, whatever we may have called Him and understood by that Name will pale in the reality of what we see. And He will give us a new, eternal name by which we will know Him. What glorious promises to the overcomer! By way of reminder, who exactly arethe overcomers? For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?[1 John 5:4, 5NKJV] If you are a believer, and are trusting exclusively in the finished work of Christ on the Cross, you are an overcomer!
More next time as we pick up with the letter to the church at Laodicea, and identify where I believe the vast majority of the modern Church is.