the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is
holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no
man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; 8 I know thy works:
behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou
hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
9 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. 10 Because thou hast
kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation,
which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take
thy crown. 12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of
my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my
God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh
down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. 13
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."
situation of the church in Philadelphia was, as the city's name suggest, a
church of brotherly love. Love was the theme of the church and its members.
There didn't appear to really be anything wrong with the church. There were
those outside the church in the synagogue of Satan who declared themselves to be
Jews, but they were not being truthful. The love of God never leads us into
error or into sin. Rather it leads us away from sinful practices and false
doctrine. Through the love of God we desire to keep proper church order and to
treat our brothers and sisters with brotherly love and to live our lives out in
the world to the praise, honor, and glory of God.
"These things saith he
that is holy." The Lord addressed
this church on the basis of his holiness. The Lord teaches us, "be ye holy, for
I am holy." As God is holy, or separate from all evil and all false idols, we
are to be holy in our walk and in our conduct in and out of the church. God has
made us holy or set apart through election, effectual calling, and justification
by his blood. On the basis that we are made holy and that the Lord is our
example of a holy life, we are to be holy or set apart to the teaching of his
words while we live.
"He that is true."
God is true. According to the
scriptures, "thy word is truth." So much about us today is a lie or based on
lies, but God is true and his word is truth. We have a solid foundation on
which we can build our lives. Jesus said, "Therefore whosoever heareth these
sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built
his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the
winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a
rock." It appears that the church in Philadelphia had built their lives on
this solid foundation.
"He that hath the key of
David." A key is for unlocking and
locking doors. The reference to David is to the throne of David which means the
kingdom of God. The Lord locks and unlocks
the kingdom to our understanding. The Lord said, "Seek and ye shall find." If
a person is not seeking the kingdom, then the kingdom is locked to him. If a
person is seeking the kingdom, then the Lord has promised to unlock the kingdom
to his understanding that he may find it.
"He that openeth, and no
man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth." The Lord is the door
opener and the Lord is the door closer. Some have thought that knowledge of the
kingdom of God is strictly by education and
if someone will just study and learn, then he can unlock the mysteries of the
kingdom of heaven. However, when the Lord shuts the door, no man can open the
door. Or when the Lord opens the door, then no man can open the door. I used
to think that I could convince people of the truth and get them to see the
kingdom of God by my efforts. My
experience has shown me that God is sovereign. There are many people that I
chose to try to convince of the truth in the past and not one of them ever came
to understand the truth. In contrast I have had people who the Lord has
directed come to me and to the church and have seen them receive the truth
readily. The difference was that the Lord in his sovereignty led some to seek
the truth and they were prepared to receive it. The others, I desired for them
to know the truth, but the Lord had not prepared them to receive it. Now I and
the church I pastor pray that the Lord will open doors of utterance that the
word of truth may go out to those that he has prepared to receive it. There are
several examples where the Lord opened doors for the preaching of the gospel to
which it was readily received:
1. Acts 14:27 "And
when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all
that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the
2. 1 Cor. 16:9 "For
a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries."
3. 2 Cor. 2:12 "Furthermore,
when I came to Troas to preach
Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord."
4. Col. 4:3 "Withal
praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak
the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:"
5. Acts 16:6 "Now
when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were
forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, 7 After they were
come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them
not. 8 And they passing by
Mysia came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of
Macedonia, and prayed him, saying,
Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
10 And after he had seen the vision,
immediately we endeavoured to go into
Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had
called us for to preach the gospel unto them."
"I know thy works:
behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it." When the Lord sets before a church an open door, then that church will
grow spiritually and in truth, and several will be added to the church. As we
have already noted that open door is the Lord's doing and not man's. Man can
neither open the door nor shut it. The Lord was pleased with the church in
Philadelphia and had set before them an
open door. No doubt this church prospered in their labors for the Lord caused
her to prosper. We are so dependent on the Lord and we must acknowledge that he
is sovereign in his actions and works. The Lord said, "Without me ye can do
nothing." He led Paul to write, "I can do all things thru Christ, which
strengheneth me." Paul was concerned with the gospel timely salvation of
those elect Israelites, "Brethren, my hearts desire and prayer to God for
Israel is that they might be saved."
Our duties towards them that are outside the church and going about to try to
establish their own righteousness is to pray that God would open a door of
utterance and lead whom he pleases unto the truth.
"For thou hast a little
strength." Paul said in 2 Cor. 12:10 "Therefore I take pleasure in
infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for
Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." Also we read in Eph.
6:10 "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his
might." We have no strength of our own, but our strength rests in the Lord
and in the power of his might. When we recognize and feel our weakness then we
trust in the Lord for our deliverance. Our little strength rests in our
reliance upon and trust in the Lord. Some have concerned themselves with the
word, "little," in this verse, as though those that only have a little strength
need to get stronger. A little strength is all we need. Just as a little faith
is all we need, as the Lord said, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard
seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it
shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." Having a little
keeps us trusting in the Lord. He gives us just what we need when we need it.
If we were real strong, then we would start relying upon our strength and stop
relying upon the Lord.
"And hast kept my word."
Sampson was a Nazarite from birth. The Lord gave Sampson great strength. No
razor was to come upon his head. Some have said that Sampson lost his strength
when his hair was cut. They suppose that his strength resided in his hair. The
truth is that his strength relied in keeping the word of the Lord. His failure
to keep the word of the Lord led to his loss of strength. When Israel kept the
word of the Lord in the Old Testament, their enemies could not stand before
them. One would chase a thousand. They defeated mighty armies who far
outnumbered them and had greater natural armor. There strength, however,
resided in their keeping the word of the Lord and in their trust in him. David
slew Goliath because he kept the word of the Lord. This was a great mismatch,
though the world had it backwards. The world thinks that Goliath was
overwhelmingly a greater and stronger warrior than David. The truth is that
Goliath never had a chance, because the Lord was with David. It is extremely
important that we strive to keep the word of the Lord.
"And hast not denied my
name." It is easy not to deny the
name of the Lord when everything is going right for us in our lives. However,
when persecution, or distress, or outside influences, or earthly gain is
threatened then it is much harder not to deny the name of the Lord. We can
openly deny the name of the Lord, or we can deny the name of the Lord by our
actions or inactions. The church in Philadelphia was commended of the Lord in
that they had not denied the name of the Lord. Thus we should strive in our
lives to keep ourselves from denying the name of the Lord, whether things or
going well or we are faced with persecutions, distresses, outside influences, or
the temptations of earthly gain.
"Behold, I will make them
of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie."
The word, "synagogue," means an assemblage of persons. The word, "church,"
means an assembly. Thus the word, synagogue, and the word, church, mean nearly
the same thing. The word, synagogue, was associated with the assembly of Jews
who worshipped or attempted to worship under the old law service. The word,
church, is associated with the assembly of God's people who worship in the new
testament order of worship. If those two words were applied today, then the
word synagogue would apply to the assembly of those who attempt to worship under
a works system of obtaining eternal salvation. The word, church, would apply
only to those who worship under the doctrine and gospel of salvation by grace.
There are literally two types of Jews taught in the scriptures. There are the
natural Jews who are the descendents of Judah, one of the twelve tribes of
Israel. Ultimately the name Jew became associated with the descendents of all
twelve tribes of Israel. The second type of Jew is described in Rom. Chapter 2
thusly: 28 "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that
circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is
one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in
the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." This latter type of
Jew is a spiritual Jew and embraces all that have been born of the Spirit of God
and thus have had their heart circumcised by the Spirit in the circumcision made
without hands. There are multitudes today who claim to be spiritual Jews who
attempt to worship in assemblies (synagogues; they call them churches) under a
works system. They make the claim that they do many wonderful works, that they
cast out devils, and that they prophesy in Christ name. The Lord said
concerning them: Matt. 7:21 "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord,
shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father
which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have
we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy
name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I
never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
These assemblies are called
the synagogue of Satan because they teach the same doctrine that Satan taught in
the garden of Eden. That doctrine was that man through an act of the creature
could attain to Godhood. It is a works system of salvation. This system was
illustrated in the offering of Cain, who offered the fruit of that which God had
cursed (the ground) as an offering unto God. God rejected that offering then
and He rejects it now. All who attempt to offer the works of the flesh (which
God has cursed) as an offering to be accepted by the Lord are offering in vain.
Their worship is vain.
"Behold, I will make them
to come and worship before thy feet."
The amazing thing about this is that almost all that worship God in Spirit and
in truth in the Lord's church, started out in the synagogue of Satan believing
that through their works or system of belief that they by an act of their own
will could attain to eternal life. Yet, it is the Lord who has made us to see
the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the total depravity of our own flesh nature
and to see that our salvation from sin was by grace through the shed blood of
Jesus on the cross. He also causes us to realize that the spiritual birth was
of the Lord alone at his appointed time and not ours. He brings us to humble
ourselves before the church and to acknowledge that He is our all and all and
that salvation is by grace.
"And to know that I have
loved thee." We who once the
synagogue of Satan, but now a part of the Lord's true church do come to know
that God does love the church he set up and those who worship therein. We know
that he loved us even before we were lovable. He loved us when we were dead in
trespasses and sins, and he loved us when we were dwelling in ignorance, and he
loved us when we humbled ourselves and repented and he loved us when we became
his disciples, and he will continue to love us in eternity. Nothing can
separate us from the love of God.
"Because thou hast kept
the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation,
which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."
The church in Philadelphia had patiently endured the trials and persecutions and
suffering of life and kept his word in the process. They surely had many tests
that they were brought thru. The word, "temptation," means testing. God's
people undergo much testing in their lives. Abraham was tested concerning his
son Isaac when he was told to offer him as a sacrifice on the mount. 1 Pet. 1:6
"Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in
heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith,
being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with
fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus
Christ." Thus many tests are good for us and it strengthens and purifies
our faith. However, the testing in our text is referring to something that many
would be tested with but those in the church at Philadelphia would not be tested
with. There are some things that those who are outside the church are tested
with that those within the church are not tested with. For instance, when a
loved one dies, those outside the church sorrow as those who have no hope,
whereas those in the church sorrow, but as those whose hope is in the Lord and
his finished work and his covenant promise. Likewise, there are those today who
are looking for and being tested with a false belief in a future thousand year
reign of Christ on earth and whether or not they will be a part of that reign.
Those who know the truth know that Christ is reigning in his kingdom now.
Furthermore, there are those outside the church who are constantly worrying
about whether they have done enough to get eternal life or if they will die in
hell. Those in the church know that their eternal life is secure in the Lord
and his finished work.
"Behold, I come quickly:
hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." The Lord's coming quickly did not apply to the end of time, but rather
the Lord coming to reward the faithful service of his faithful servants. 1 Cor.
15:58 "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always
abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not
in vain in the Lord." Also, Heb. 6:10 "For God is not unrighteous to forget
your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye
have ministered to the saints, and do minister." To hold fast means to
retain with strength.
There were several things
that the church in Philadelphia had and that they needed to hold fast. They had
the true worship and service of God. They had the truth of salvation by grace.
They had the true order of worship and church government. They had the
spiritual gifts that God had given them. They had the love of God being
manifest in their midst. They had the Lord's blessing of service. They had the
true gospel to feed and strengthen them. They had an open door of utterance.
They had God's providential blessings. Churches can have all these and many
more blessings and still ultimately lose them. It is necessary to hold fast the
things that God has given to us and shown us.
There are several crowns
that are taught in the new testament. Some of them we can lose here in time and
some cannot be lost such as a crown of righteousness and a crown of glory.
However, the crown under consideration in the text and that could be lost is the
crown of discipleship. If we depart the faith that was once delivered to the
saints and begin to live after the world, then we are going to lose that crown
of discipleship. Now this won't cause us to miss the glory world, but it will
result in many timely blessings lost here in this time world.
"Him that overcometh will
I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out."
A pillar is designed to hold something up. The church is said to be the pillar
and ground of the truth. While the truth is the support and ground for the
church, the church is also upholds (pillar) and is the foundation (ground) of
the truth. Also we read in Gal. 2:9 "And when James, Cephas, and John, who
seemed to be pillars." The men mentioned above were all pillars in the
temple of God (church). Their works
were among them that upheld the early church and which the church of today is
founded upon. Thus we can by our faithfulness and patient continuance in good
works become a pillar or upholding stone in the church of our membership.
Furthermore, when we overcome we do not lose our crown of discipleship and we go
no more out of the temple of our God (church). That is we remain faithful
members of the church until death.
"And I will write upon
him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new
Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon
him my new name." The Lord said of
those who overcome that they would have three names written upon them:
1. The name of my
2. The name of
the city of my God.
3. My new name.
Names are used for
identification. My last name identifies me as being a part of the family known
as Johnson. The name Lee identified me as being the son of my father Lee
Johnson. The name Vernon identifies me specifically as opposed to my brother
having the name Cecil. Having the name of God identifies a person as being one
of God's children and belonging to his family. Having the name of the city of
my God identifies a person as belonging to the Lord's church and being a part of
the body or bride of Christ. Having the Lord's new name identifies us
specifically as being a disciple of the Lord.
We will write about the
term, "New Jerusalem," when we get to Revelations Chapter 21.