Philadelphia - The Expanding Church

Rev 3:7-13

7 "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":

8 "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.

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.

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.

11 "Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.

12 "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. 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 out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

13 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."' (NKJ)

"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,

"The city of Philadelphia itself, known in modern times as Alasehir, is located in Lydia some twenty-eight miles southwest of Sardis and was named after a king of Pergamos, Attalus Philadelphus, who built the city. The word Philadelphia, meaning 'brotherly love,' is found six other times in the New Testament (Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9; Heb. 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7a,b). Here the word occurs for the seventh and final time, but only here is it used of the city bearing this name." Walvoord p-83.

Philadelphia was the youngest of all the cities mentioned in this letter. Dating from the second century B.C. it occupied the head of a great valley that was well suited for its production of wine. It was a missionary city. Ramsey tells us, "It was a missionary city, founded to promote a unity of spirit, customs and loyalty within the realm, the apostle of Hellenism in the Oriental land." One of the great problems that the city had was that it was built in a highly volcanic region. It was subject to many earthquakes. The one in 17 A.D. which devastated Sardis. It is said that earth tremors continued for several years. During the worst of these the people would leave the city and go to the fields with tents as they waited for the tremors to stop. It is said that during this time that parts of the walls were always needing repair. The devastation was so great that Rome not only sent vast amounts of wealth but they also ceased taxation for some time. The city is also know for the hot springs found in the area. Even today many come to bathe in their medicinal waters. Philadelphia never rose above the status of a middle size town and never came to any great importance.

'These things says He who is holy, He who is true,

See how Christ is holy and expects us to be holy also. 1 Pet 1:15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, (NKJ) Matt 5:48 "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (NKJ) Heb 12:14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: (NKJ)

"He commences with an attribute by which He declares Himself to be God. Holiness is an essential attribute of deity. In the Old Testament Jehovah refers to Himself as "the Holy One" (Isaiah 40:25). On a number of occasions He said, "I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44). Jesus quite naturally assumes it, and rightly so, for He is "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens" (Hebrews 7:26)." Strauss

Tatford remarks, "The holiness of God is repeatedly emphasized in the Old Testament and it was one of the principal characteristics by which He made Himself known to His people: virtually it was His name (e.g. Lev. 11: 44; 21: 8). Our Lord's assumption of the title was, therefore, a tacit claim to identity with God. Absolute holiness is to be found in Christ alone, and it is only by His sanctifying power that His people partake of the same character. The gods of the heathen were false idols, but here was One who was essentially the true God. The pagan deities were myths of man's imagination: He is the substance of which they were only shadows. Even in His earthly life He claimed to be the embodiment and personification of truth (John 14: 6)."

Describing the Christian age after the Reformation Tatford says, "Revolting against empty, orthodox piety and the unreality and falseness of the great ecclesiastical systems, many a Christian of that period discovered the truth and reality, for which he yearned, in the Person of Christ. That is still applicable today. People long for that which is real and true, and many reject the churches because of the unreality and insincerity which they have discovered in them. If our Lord's character is holy and true, His people should also be imitating their perfect Exemplar and their lives should be marked by the same characteristics."

"He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens":

This refers back to Isaiah 22 where because of disregard of the king's call to mourning in place of feasting, Hezekiah's treasurer, Shebna, was deposed and superseded by Eliakim, God said of the later, "The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open and one shall shut; and he shall shut and no one shall open (Isa. 22:22). Possession of the key invested the holder with the right and power of opening and closing the doors. A greater than Eliakim holds the key to the home of the Eternal and may grant us access there. Christ alone has the key to salvation. No one can come to the Father but through Him.

Vance Havner says, "He is the Keeper of the Keys. He has the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, the keys to God's presence, the keys to eternal life, the keys to the storehouse of divine truth, the keys to heaven. He has the keys to all our circumstances. Paul called himself "a prisoner of Jesus Christ." He has the keys of hell and death, as He declared at the beginning of His messages to these churches (Revelation 1:18). He has the keys to the doors of Christian service.

"I know your works.

We notice that in this letter the Lord did not find any reason for reprimand or criticism even though the church seems to have been small and weak.

See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it;

In Paul's writings, often used the phrase "open door." With him it mean an opportunity for service and missionary endeavor (1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3). Tatford says, "These words, at any rate, are notably descriptive of the movements of the last century. A wave of missionary enthusiasm swept over the people of God. . . . And with the door of opportunity wide open, the messengers of the gospel carried the evangel all over the world."

Strauss says, "Our study of church history leads me to believe that this period described by the letter to Philadelphia followed that of the Reformation. The period of the open door extended from about 1750 A.D. to 1950 A.D. During the past two hundred years God raised up men like William Carey, John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Adoniram Judson, Charles Finney, Dewight Moody, 'Billy' Sunday and many more."

This must also no doubt remind us of the days of Noah. The door of the ark was open to all. All were welcomed. All were given space to repent. But one day God shut the door and no one could open it. That is why we encourage to lost to enter the door today.

Tatford says, "From a prophetic point of view, it has been suggested that the church foreshadowed the Puritan and Quaker movements, the Methodist revival, the Brethren awakening and a verity of other evangelical movements of the same period. The early nineteenth century saw a fairly widespread revival of Christian love and unity, of Bible study and missionary enthusiasm, even though spiritual strength and power were limited."

for you have a little strength,

"I do not read that our Lord's followers were ever in the numerical majority. Abraham had but three hundred and eighteen men when he defeated the armies of four kings (Genesis 14:14- 16). Gideon and his band of three hundred put to rout a whole army of Midianites (Judges 7:19-23). Elijah on God's side was more than a match for the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:21-40). Jesus referred to His disciples as a "little flock" (Luke 12:32)." Strauss

have kept My word,

On this Strauss remarks, "These people were true to the gospel. They were loyal to the Word of Christ. They did not yield to the majority who raised doubts and speculations about His Word. We live in a time when to doubt the Bible is looked upon as a mark of intellectual cleverness. Recently (February 13, 1961) a leader in the Episcopal Church spoke of 'the myth of the Garden of Eden.' He said, ' I do not know a single member of the Anglican Communion-bishop, presbyter, deacon, or layman-who believes this story literally.' The newspaper reported that, 'He (speaking of the bishop) described the virgin birth as a myth which churchmen should be free to accept or reject.' Then the bishop concluded his tirade by saying, 'Our church has long left room for differing degrees of acceptance as to the details of the narrative late inserted by humans into the gospel accounts.'"

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,

He says further: "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." He will make their enemies sit at their feet eventually. What a word of encouragement to faithful preachers! Sometimes, when we are mistreated, when adversaries conspire against us, we feel like taking a hand. But the battle is the Lord's and vengeance is His; He will repay. "Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and he shall save thee." I heard a fine Negro preacher say, "The greatest friend of truth is time." Error is always in a hurry, but God's man can afford to await the vindication of time. And if he is not vindicated in his own lifetime, eternity will settle the score. But more than one prophet who has been excommunicated and reviled has lived long enough to see his enemies sit at his feet. Vance Havner

I also will keep you

What is meant by being kept from that terrible "hour"?

(a) It cannot mean merely, preserved in and through it: for the remnant of Israel, God's earthly people, will have that preservation (Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 12:1), whereas this is a promise given by a heavenly Christ to His heavenly saints.

(b) It is from a peculiar hour, or season, not merely from trial, but from the hour and scene of the trial, Christ's faithful are to be kept.

(c) It is as direct a reward to His saints for their "keeping the word of his patience," as was Christ's own exaltation because of His patiently doing His Father's will (Philippians 2:6-11). The word "keep" used in this promise is the same word our Lord applies to "keeping the word of his patience," which His faithful saints had done. It is, as we have said, beautifully reciprocal; but notice that Christ's "keeping" in His action toward them, was to protect them from something.

(d) He says, "I will keep thee out of" or "away from" that dread hour. This hour, we read, is "about to come." "While those ignorant of it are painting vain pictures of the happiness of earth, close at hand, to appear under the ordinary operation of the causes and agencies now at work, the student of prophecy knows that this expectation will never be realized; nay, that evil is about to expand itself to prodigious and overwhelming magnitude. The Lord, in vengeance for His truth rejected, is about to send on the earth an energy of delusion which seals all who receive it to utter damnation." Newell

from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

Because they had been faithful, Jesus promises to be faithful in keeping them from the great tribulation period. This passage is one reason that I believe that the Bible teaches that God's people will not go through this time. It needs to be also noted that He does not say that He will be with them through this period as though they might have to go through it. But rather He says that He will keep them from that hour. As we have noted, all four of the last churches have reference in them to the tribulation period. Some are threatened with it while others are promised deliverance from it. Campbell Morgan remarks, "While that promise may have had its partial fulfillment in the escape of the church at Philadelphia from some wave of persecution that swept over the district, the final fulfillment, will undoubtedly be realized by those who, loyal to His Word and not denying His name, shall be gathered out of the world at His Second Coming, before the judgment that must usher in the setting up of His kingdom upon the earth." Thiessen says in his Lectures in Systematic Theology, "The promise is not merely to be kept from the trial, but from the hour of the trial, i.e. it holds out exemption from the period of trial, not only from the trial in that period." They would not pass through it, but would have complete immunity from it. The wide geographical extent of the trial--it was to come upon the whole world (epi teo oikoumenes holes, i.e. upon all mankind)--makes it clear that what was in view was the "great tribulation" which is to precede our Lord's return to earth to establish His millennial kingdom (Matt. 24: 21; Rev. 7: 14; 19: 11-16).

Thiessen says, "The word dwell in not the ordinary oikeo, but the strengthened form of the word, katoikeo, meaning those who have settled down upon the earth, who identified themselves with it."

"As far as the Philadelphian church was concerned, the rapture of the church was presented to them as an imminent hope. ... By contrast, those sealed out of the twelve tribes of Israel in 7:4 clearly go through the time of trouble. This implies the rapture of the church before the time of trouble referred to as the great tribulation. Such a promise of deliverance to them would seemingly have been impossible if the rapture of the church were delayed until the end of the tribulation prior to the second coming of Christ and the establishment of the kingdom.

This passage therefore provides some support for the hope that Christ will come for His church before the time of trial and trouble described in Revelation 6 to 19. This time of tribulation will overtake the entire world, as God inflicts His wrath upon unbelieving Gentiles as well as upon Christ-rejecting Jews. The Philadelphian church is therefore promised deliverance from the time of trouble which will overtake the world but will not overtake them. By so much they are encouraged to bear their present suffering and to continue their faithfulness and patience as they bear witness for the Lord Jesus." Walvoord p-87.

"Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.

Tatford tells us, "The words are especially appropriate to Philadelphia, not only as regards her history up to that point but even regarding her future course. When other cities fell to the Turks, she stood firm. To quote Ramsay again, 'During the 14th century it stood practically alone against the entire Turkish power as a free, self-governing Christian city amid a Turkish land. Twice it was besieged by great Turkish armies and its people reduced to the verge of starvation, but they had learned to defend themselves and to trust no king or external government, and they resisted successfully to the end.'"

Paul uses similar language in Col. 2:18 and 1 Cor. 9:24 to warn Christians that they could loose rewards by unfaithfulness. Even the Old Testament teaches us that if we fail, we can be replaced as was Moses by Joshua and Elijah by Elisha. It is still possible that our failure may result in another taking our place, and there is a constant necessity to listen to the Divine injunction. It is so easy to let things slip, and the devil is ever waiting to ensnare the careless and unwatchful.

"Thy crown." All instructed believers know that the several crowns spoken of in the New Testament represent rewards for service, and not eternal life, which is a gift. Revelation 2:10; James 1:12; II Timothy 4:8; I Thessalonians 2:19; I Peter 5:4. Newell

"The devil would steal the treasure we hold in earthen vessels and men would take it from us too so we ever need to ". . . hold fast that which is good" (I Thessalonians 5:21); "Hold fast the form of sound words . . . (II Timothy 1:13); ". . . hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Hebrews 3:6); ". . . hold fast our profession" (Hebrews 4:14); hold the traditions (II Thessalonians 2:15). hold fast that which thou hast. . . Why? ". . . that no man take thy crown." The crown is not eternal life nor our righteousness in Christ: neither man nor the devil can steal these for no man can pluck us out of the hand of the Father or the hand of the Son. We are saved by faith but rewarded according to works and men can cheat us of our reward. They can cause us to drop some things we are to hold fast, they can rob us of time and steal the joy of our salvation and quench the Spirit within us, and unless we watch and pray and hold fast what we have, we shall most assuredly lose our crowns." Vance Havner

"He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.

Tatford tells us, "In the porch of Solomon's temple stood two mighty pillars (1 Kings 7:21), which were called Jachin (i.e. established) and Boas (i.e. strength), and there is a patent allusion to these in the promise to the Philadelphian overcomer. The church had little strength, but the overcomer was to be established in strength as a pillar in the temple of God. It was the custom in Philadelphia and some other cities to note the worthiness of a priest or of a distinguished citizen by erecting a pillar in the temple of his god, duly inscribed with his name and details of his actions or of his illustrious life. The Christian overcomer was to have his pillar in the temple also-but not in the temple of some pagan deity but of the eternal God."

Walvoord says, "This is of course a figure of speech. The entire heavenly city is considered a temple. In keeping with the symbolism, the Philadelphian Christians will be permanent like a pillar in the temple and, speaking figuratively, they will stand when all else has fallen. This perhaps had peculiar significance to those who were in Philadelphia because of their historic experiences with earthquakes which frequently had ruined their buildings and left only the pillars standing. They are assured of continuance throughout eternity because of their faith in Christ as the One who enables them to overcome the world." "He shall go no more out." This seems to mean that they will no longer be exposed to the temptations and trials of this present life and will have their permanent residence in the very presence of God." p-88, 89

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 out of heaven from My God.

And I will write on him My new name.

Tatford notes on this,."Just as the priests of the false idols bore the name of their god upon their brow, so upon the brow of the overcomer would be written the name of the true God. He would be manifestly marked as one who belonged to God (cf. Rev. 7: 3; 9: 4; 14: 1; 22: 4). Upon the mitre of Israel's high priest was a golden plate, upon which were inscribed the words, "Holiness unto Jehovah" (Exod. 28:36-38). So also the overcomer was to be sanctified unto his God.

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'

 

Philadelphia - The Expanding Church

Rev 3:7-13

7 "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":

8 "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.

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.

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.

11 "Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.

12 "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. 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 out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

13 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."' (NKJ)

When we come to the church at Philadelphia in our study, it is like a breath of fresh air. Coming from the deadness of Sardis and then looking on Philadelphia is like going from the wondering among the tombs to picking up a little child.

Philadelphia is the youngest of the seven cities and the smallest of them all. It was not much different religiously for it too had all the pagan worship. It too had that element of Jews who were opposed to this small weak Christian witness.

It like Sardis had experienced a great earthquake in 17 a.d. that had devastated the city and brought many of the inhabitants to poverty. As a matter of fact the earthquakes had continued sporadically over the next 20 years so that for long periods of time the people would live in tents outside their city.

The church hear had little strength but had managed to remain faithful. There are no words of condemnation to this church, only admonitions to remain faithful to hold on.

Most authors agree that this church period began about 1750 but they disagree as to when it ended. I agree with those who contend that we are now living in this church age. I used to not see it that way but I have come to understand it that way now. If that is correct it would be good for us to pay special attention to the words of this letter for they apply more to us than any of the others. Let us see what the Spirit has to say to the church at Philadelphia.

  1. Notice how He appears to them. He who is, ",
    1. Holy
    2. True
    3. He who has the key of David He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens":
  2. Notice for what He commends them.
    1. I know your works
      1. It doesn't seem that they had the great success that the gospel had know in other places.
      2. There quantity of works was not what the Lord is looking at but the quality of their works.
    2. You have a little strength
      1. They were few and they had converted the pagan world but they had a little strength.
    3. Have kept My word
      1. They had remained true to the gospel.
      2. They had held true to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles and had not fallen in with those that denied the faith.
      3. Today it is considered intellectually correct to question everything we find in the Word of God.
      4. But we need to understand that it will be His word that judges us and not the other way around.
    4. Have not denied My name
      1. Some deny Him by forgetting Him. Prov 30:9 Lest I be full and deny You, and say, "Who is the LORD?" Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God. (NKJ)
      2. Others deny Him by denying who He was; both God and man; I Jn 2:22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. (NKJ)
    5. You have kept My command to persevere
      1. They were not setting any records but they were persevering.
      2. When someone asked Judson the reason for his success he responded, I can plod.
  3. Notice the promises He makes to them.
    1. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it
      1. I believe this is a door of opportunity.
      2. But as with any door that is open, it is of no use unless we go through it.
    2. He is going to bring those who persecute them into submission to them.
      1. 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.
      2. God knows the truth and we wait on Him.
      3. As God's people we must be patient, knowing that God will vindicate His own in time.
    3. 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
      1. I believe this hour of trial refers to the great tribulation that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24.
      2. It is a period of seven years that will bring God's judgment on an unrepentant world.
      3. We do not want to get into this because we are going to devote a couple of messages to this next month.
      4. But suffice it to say that the church will not go through those times.
    4. He who overcomes
      1. I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God
        1. Some of the pagan temples had in them pillars with names of people inscribed on them as sort of a memorial.
        2. But God's people are pillars in a living temple today and will in the new Jerusalem find a continued existence.
      2. He shall go out no more
        1. This seems to mean that they will no longer be exposed to the temptations and trials of this present life and will have their permanent residence in the very presence of God.
        2. What blessings God has in store for His people.
      3. 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 out of heaven from My God
        1. To have the name of our God on us means ownership.
        2. It means allegiance
        3. Just as the pagan priests had the names of their God written on their foreheads so shall God claim us as His own.
      4. And I will write on him My new name
  4. Notice how He warns them.
    1. Behold, I am coming quickly!
      1. This is the message throughout the book.
      2. We do not know when He will come but we know that He will.
      3. We know not the hour or the day but we know it will be suddenly and without warning.
    2. Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.
      1. He cautions them to hold fast.
      2. This is what we have seen in several places in the past.
      3. Though they do not have great strength He calls on them to hold fast.
      4. Throughout the Pauline epistles Paul cautions people to not loose their crown.
        1. The crown is a symbol of faithful service.
        2. Pick up the notes to read more about this.
        3. But we need to understand that it is possible to loose your crown although it is not possible to loose your rewards.
    3. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

 

This message was preached at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at http://toulonbaptist.com  
 
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