Revelation Pt. 10 – Philadelphia- b
Everyone who has come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ wants to serve Him.
We are born again it seems, with an innate desire to glorify the One who saved us, and to be of use to Him in His plans and purposes in the world. To have some sort of ministry.
But what if circumstances find us in a place where we can do precious little? Poor health. Few contacts. No transportation.
What if we have little or no money to give?
No identifiable work to join ourselves to – no clear task to be a part of?
What if we are not gifted like others and don’t seem to have anything really concrete to offer? Can’t teach or preach. Physically disabled. Weak, sickly or whatever.
Can we still serve God acceptably? Can we still advance His kingdom and glorify Him?
Jesus’ letter tells the Philadelphians that indeed they can – and just how.
And it is simpler than they thought – and perhaps than you or I think.
Here, we find out just what Jesus meant in Matthew 11:28–30 when He said: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Last week we looked a bit at Philadelphia’s history, and the glorious encouragement of Jesus to them in the opening sentence of His letter.
I. Appeal to the revelation of Ch. 1: 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.
To a Church living in a place of poverty, continual upheavals due to earthquakes, victims of governmental flip-flops and mismanagement and, persecution by the local Jewish community.
Jesus reminds them – He is: The HOLY one; The TRUE one; Who has “the key of David”; And who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one will open.
That because of Who He is, they stand in a much different place than their external circumstances might make it seem.
Though they have no access to the throne of political power in Rome; are suffering due to their location, and labor under the whims of foolish and sinful leadership – their situation must be understood in far different terms than just the surface facts. No matter what things might look like on the surface, the reality is far different once the place of Christ in the whole matter is considered.
They must know that Jesus the Christ, their Lord and King – King over the Caesar, King over creation and earthquakes, sovereign over circumstances and certainly over His own people – this Jesus has the full authority of Heaven.
And above all – He opens for them a door of access to the very throne of the Living God that no one can shut for them.
II. Declaration of insight – 2 Parts: To the Church, and to their persecutors. 8 “I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
9 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 come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.
PART A: a. I know your works.
- I’ve set before you an open door
- I know you have little power
The implications are plain:
What little “work” you CAN do, I notice. Little strength is no bar to service. They are still a “working” people!
Little strength is no bar to full entrance into the Kingdom of Jesus. He has set before them an open door no one can shut.
Little strength is no hindrance to real effectiveness.
Why? How is it that being poor, having no power is no detriment to serving God well?
“I know you have kept my Word and not denied my name.”
What does it take to be a faithful servant of Christ? 2 Things He mentions here – coupled with the open door He has already referred to –
- Keeping His Word – Knowing, Cherishing, Obeying, Preserving & Proclaiming His Word.
SUM: Believing and Trusting His Word, so as to live your life by it.
- Not denying His name – Refusing to compromise on Who Jesus Christ is: His deity, humanity, substitutionary death on the Cross, ascension to power, coming Kingdom and exclusivity.
Living the Christian life AS A Christian. As publicly His. Not backing down from bearing His name.
PART B: 9 – “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 come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.”
To unpack this well, we need to be reminded that Scripture delineates 2 very different kinds of “Jew”: The “inward”, and the “outward” Jew.
Paul explains these in Romans 2:28-29 / “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”
What the New Covenant reveals to us is that there is “A” People of God – Ethnic Israel (Jews) whom God chose out of all the peoples on the earth, to be His, and the means through which He both kept ongoing communication to the World, and through whom the Messiah would come.
And while they were (or are) truly God’s people, they were also a TYPE or a picture of the FINAL and SPIRITUAL People of God. They were not all that is wrapped up in being God’s People.
So we are taught in Ephesians 2:11-22 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time 5separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
Now there is an amazing scriptural irony here. And once again, Jesus assumes the Philadelphians will make a critical Old Testament connection and do that in light of the radical transition that has taken place since Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection.”
The Church doesn’t replace Israel as so many have errantly suggested, but rather the Church is the FULFILLMENT of Israel – it is the fulness of what Israel began and typified. Israel was the root, but the Church is the full flower. THE People of God – both Jews and Gentiles, who are born again by the Spirit of Christ and are reconciled as Christ’s people to the Father by His blood.
There is a perennial problem with us taking things God has done as temporary or has put in place as types or shadows, and trying to make the final substance out of them.
A good example would be what happened in case of 2 Kings 18 and Nehushtan: He (Hezekiah) “removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan)”
The same thing happened with the ephod that Gideon made after vanquishing the Midianites. What was a memorial to God’s victory on their behalf, became an object of worship. Judges 8:27 – “And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.”
So in Jesus’ words here, the very promise originally given to Israel about her persecutors, will be fulfilled in an ironic twist by the Jews themselves, having rejected Jesus as Messiah and Lord – and finally bowing down to acknowledge the true Israel of God.
There are 3 references to this this idea in Isaiah: Isaiah 45:14; 49:23 and 60:14. The 60:14 portion is of particular interest here: “The sons of those who afflicted you shall come bending low to you, and all who despised you shall bow down at your feet; they shall call you the City of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.”
What a fulfillment of this prophecy! And how it is transformed in the age of the New Covenant.
These Jews who were persecuting the Church – precisely how we do not know, but perhaps by saying that the Christians have no part in the promises and Kingdom of God because these belong only to the ethnic “Jews” – these are now styled “the synagogue of Satan.” And by their attempt to close the door of salvation to any but themselves – find themselves fulfilling this prophecy, but on the wrong end! They are the ones who in time will have to come and bow down before these Christians and acknowledge that THEY are the “City of the Lord.” So in vs. 12 – Jesus actually says He will write on them “the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem.” Believers – Jews and Gentiles are the citizenry of that new city. NOT mere ethnic Jews.
III. The Call: 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. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 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.
Promise of”keeping”. “I will keep you from the hour.”
Some have interpreted this as implying that those who hold fast to Jesus’ name and Word will be raptured and kept from the Great Tribulation. I cannot go into that topic now, will tackle it later – but what it DOES state is that regardless of what faithful Christians might have to endure, they will be KEPT by God.
Perhaps this is more in keeping with the type of Noah. How he and his family were kept THROUGH the flood, not FROM the flood. So when God causes His judgment to come on the earth in a final tribulation, He will keep His own safe and secure. The only other place in the NT where this same construction is used is in John 17:15 “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”
Promise of His soon coming. So keep looking forward to the promise, rather than seeing the here and now as the final word. The idea of soon here is not so much in terms of how His return is related to their particular point in time – but that there is no delay going on. All is going according to schedule and nothing will delay it.
Hold fast to retain your crown. Stephanon not diadema. The crown awarded those who finish a race.
In a marathon, there is only one winner, but all that finish are recognized. It isn’t about those who started, but those who FINISH! And this is the way it is in the Christian life. Christ has WON the race, but all who go on to finish, receive recognition as having finished the course.
So Jesus mentions the faithfulness of “keeping His Word” and of “patient endurance.”
Since Philadelphia was also the site of many early contests and Olympic like games – this would have really resonated with them.
What does it take to hold fast? To “conquer” in their situation?
Holding on to what they had: His Word, and Upholding His Name. And entering in through the open door He has provided.
This is Jesus’ easy yoke and light burden. And for those who do finish by keeping His Word and Upholding His name – He gives a 3-Fold Promise:
In direct contrast to the literally shaky ground on which they live in this earthquake ravaged region: they will be Made a “pillar” – Not going “out” any more – No more earthquakes.
What did one do when an earthquake struck in their day? Run outside so as not to be buried in the rubble. And what will they receive in Christ? Absolute – never ending SECURITY! Freedom from all upheaval. Eternal, absolute stability.
Bearing the name of God – Christ’s name. Once again, it would appear that Jesus is making allusions to a repeated Old Testament motif and how God often promises to put His name on His people.
But there is one place in my estimation which outstrips them all – Isaiah 9:6–7 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”
His “name” shall be called – not His nameS – plural. One, glorious, hyphenated NAME: Pele-joez-el gibbor-abiad-sar-shalom. Wonderful, counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. A name above all other names. Ultimate supreme authority and power in ruling and reigning over all.
We will be known as those bearing His name – Not Rochesterians, or Philadelphians, or even Americans but Pelejoeselgibborabiadsarshalomians!
Bearing the name of the City of God – The NEW Jerusalem, not the old one.
IV. The Reminder: 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Once again Beloved – maybe you have agonized over whether or not you can really serve God effectively or with lasting impact given your situation and or lack of resources, opportunity or ability.
YES! A thousand times yes!
Hold fast His Word.
Uphold His name in a world that rejects His person, work and exclusivity.
And take advantage of the open door that no one can shut. Become a man or woman of prayer. Seek His face on behalf of others – His Church, this nation, the needs of the saints around you – and plead for the return of Christ to consummate His Kingdom in its fulness.
The weakest, most poorly equipped, poorest, and least able Christian can enter into the Throne Room of the Living God and have His ear. And NO ONE NO ONE can keep you out, or render your prayers ineffective.
John Flavel: Prayers; the best office one Christian can do to another.
Spurgeon: Prayer is the never-failing resort of the Christian in any case, in every plight. When you cannot use your sword you may take to the weapon of all-prayer. Your powder may be damp, your bow-string may be relaxed, but the weapon of all-prayer need never be out of order. Leviathan laughs at the javelin, but he trembles at prayer. Sword and spear need furbishing, but prayer never rusts, and when we think it most blunt it cuts the best. Prayer is an open door which none can shut. Devils may surround you on all sides, but the way upward is always open, and as long as that road is unobstructed, you will not fall into the enemy’s hand…Prayer is never out of season: in summer and in winter its merchandise is precious. Prayer gains audience with heaven in the dead of night, in the midst of business, in the heat of noonday, in the shades of evening. In every condition, whether of poverty, or sickness, or obscurity, or slander, or doubt, your covenant God will welcome your prayer and answer it from his holy place. Nor is prayer ever futile…You may not always get what you ask, but you shall always have your real wants supplied. When God does not answer his children according to the letter, he does so according to the spirit.
- H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).