6B.   Letter To The Angel Of The Church In Philadelphia (3.7-13)

 

(3.7)           And to 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;

 

1.   The writing of five previous letters to the angels of churches has been commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the sixth letter that is written to an angel of a church in Asia . To remind you, there are three facts which need to be kept in mind to ensure understanding:

 

a.   First, an “angel,” at least in the context of Revelation chapters 1, 2, and 3, refers to a human messenger, almost certainly a church pastor.

 

b.   Second, the “church.” The word “church” means many things to many different people. But in the context of the New Testament, and struggling to maintain the meaning of the Greek word “ekklhsia,” while trying to ignore the meaning attached to the word by 20th century Christians, a “church” is a local assembly of believers in Jesus Christ who are genuinely saved and Scripturally baptized following their conversion experience.

 

c.   And third, Asia . To modern readers, Asia almost always refers to the largest of the seven continents on the surface of the earth. But in the Bible Asia is the name of a Roman province that roughly equals what is now the country of Turkey .

 

2.   And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write

 

a.   The village of Philadelphia was “located on a hillside about 30 mi. SE of Sardis, the city (modern Alashehir) was founded around 190 B. C. by Attalus II, king of Pergamos. His unusual devotion to his brother earned the city its name, “brotherly love.” The city was an important commercial stop on a major trade route called the Imperial Post Road , a first century mail route. Although scripture does not mention this church elsewhere, it was probably the fruit of Paul’s extended ministry in Ephesus (cf. Acts 19:10 ).”[1]

 

b.   You will notice as we examine this letter that the pastor of this church, along with the pastor of the church in Smyrna, holds the distinction of receiving from the Lord Jesus Christ a letter having the unusual characteristic of being almost entirely a word of praise, in sharp contrast to those letters received by the angels to the churches of Sardis and Laodicea.[2]

 

3.   Take note of the phrases which the Lord Jesus Christ uses to describe Himself to this pastor of the church of Philadelphia . He uses these phrases to highlight and emphasize those aspects of His Person and office which He wants to impress upon this man.

 

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

 

4.   These things saith he that is holy

 

a.   “Christ reminds them that He is holy – holy at His birth (Luke 1:35 ), holy at His death (Acts 2:27 ) and holy in His present priestly office (Hebrews 7:26 ).”[3]

 

b.   In Acts chapter 3, Simon Peter, after healing an impotent man on Solomon’s porch at the entrance to the Temple in Jerusalem , began to preach to the surrounding crowd of observers and onlookers. Listen to what Peter said to those witnesses, in Acts 3.11-21:

 

11   And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering.

12   And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel , why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?

13   The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.

14   But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;

15   And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

16   And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

17   And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.

18   But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.

19   Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

20   And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:

21   Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

 

c.   Simon Peter certainly knew that Jesus is “the holy One.” But you might wonder if, 60 or 70 years later, during the time of John’s revelation, the holiness of the Son of God might have been relegated to relative unimportance as a doctrinal truth. My friends, the holiness, the sinlessness, the fact that Jesus did not and could not sin, is an extremely important Bible truth.

 

5.   The verse continues “he that is true.”

 

a.   Again, a statement that speaks to the character of the Lord Jesus. Though not mentioned at all in this verse, compare the last phrase and this one to what we know of Satan. Jesus is holy, while Satan is defiled and unclean, the most foul of spirits. While Jesus is true (indeed, He is the way, the truth, and the life), Satan, by comparison, is a liar and the father of lies. Were folks who claimed to be Christians beginning to think that Jesus was not always truthful, perhaps that He was a moral relativist? No. He Who is the truth must always be true.

 

b.   “As the One who is true, Christ is the Author of truth in contrast to all error or false doctrine.”[4]

 

5.   he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth, and shutteth, and no man openeth

 

a.   In ancient times the key was the symbol of power and authority. Even today the remnant of that view is seen when someone is presented the key to the city.  And since David was the greatest of Israel ’s kings, the sweet psalmist of Israel , this reference to the key of David has prophetic significance. Remember, the promise was made to David that one of his descendants would be   Israel ’s Messiah and would preside over the Messianic kingdom.

 

b.   As with so many allusions in the Revelation, the Lord Jesus Christ seems here to be hearkening back to Isaiah 22.22, where the key of authority was removed from an unfaithful steward and given to a faithful steward, a type of Jesus Christ:

 

And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

 

Thus, “The key to the house of David is His by legal right and by lineage. He is sole Heir to the throne of David, and until He comes again to reign, the Jews can have no true sovereign. The key is the symbol of His authority, and this authority was given to Him over Heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18).”[5]

 

6.   As the Lord Jesus speaks to this pastor in Philadelphia , He is reminding His servant that He is the Davidic heir. He possesses all the power and might relative to the kingdom. It will be He who opens and who shuts the entrance to the kingdom, and no one else.

 

(3.8)           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.

 

1.   I know thy works

 

a.   After reminding the man of God of His great and omnipotent power and His limitless authority, Jesus then acknowledges the man’s works. How it must have encouraged him to be reminded that the Savior knows what he is doing.

 

b.   Why would this be such an encouragement? Because the place where this man served the Savior was a very hard place. The duty there was both very difficult and potentially discouraging. Perhaps the pastor had labored without acknowledgement, had toiled without anyone noticing, or had received any expressions of appreciation from those he had guided to Christ.

 

c.   There could be any number of reasons leading up to the Savior saying to this man, “I know thy works.” I am reminded of Mark 9.41, where Jesus said, “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.” This pastor is being reminded that, at the judgment seat of Christ he will be remembered.

 

2.   I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door

 

a.   Behold   After encouraging this pastor, after lifting his spirits, the Lord Jesus grabs his attention. There is an announcement to be heeded. There is a pronouncement to be attentively received.

 

b.   I have set before thee an open door

 

i)    This is a most interesting announcement. Let us consider some background information and then draw some spiritual insights from what we learn from history.

 

ii)   John Walvoord quotes W. M. Ramsay, in The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia: “The situation of the city fully explains this saying. Philadelphia lay at the upper extremity of a long valley, which opens back from the sea. After passing Philadelphia the road along this valley ascends to the Phrygian land and the great Central Plateau, the main mass of Asia Minor . This road was the one which led from the harbour of Smyrna to the north-eastern parts of Asia Minor and the East in general, the one rival to the great route connecting Ephesus with the East, and the greatest Asian trade-route of Mediaeval times. .. . Philadelphia , therefore, was the keeper of the gateway to the plateau.[6]

 

iii)   So, what Jesus said to this pastor would be especially meaningful to those who knew the terrain surrounding the city. But this geographical insight also suggests a spiritual truth. Jesus likened Himself as the door to salvation.[7] Paul’s references to a door in his epistles were always related to evangelistic opportunities.[8] And of the two other mentions of a door in the Revelation, one of them has to do with conversion.[9] So, it is almost certain that Jesus is here promising to the pastor success in his efforts to bring the lost to saving faith.

 

iv)  But there is more to this phrase that is encouraging. The phrase “I have set” translates the perfect tense of the Greek word meaning “to give.” “The perf. tense indicates the continuing condition, i.e., ‘a door standing open.’ The metaphor of the ‘open door’ indicated the opportunity for preaching the gospel.”[10]

 

v)   Think of it! This man has just been told by the Lord Jesus Christ that he will have an open door of opportunity to bring the lost to the Savior. What more could any Christian want?

 

3.   I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it

 

It would seem quite obvious that if the Lord Jesus Christ opened a door of opportunity for this man, and indicated that the door would stay open, no one would be able to close the door.

 

4.   for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name

 

Here, it would seem, are the reasons why the Lord Jesus Christ made such promises to that preacher.

 

a.   First, because he is a man of “little strength.”

 

i)    I can think of no greater guarantor of success in the Gospel ministry than this qualification. So many young men shudder at the thought that God might call them into the ministry because they think themselves incompetent, weak, ill-suited. But remember the exchange between Paul and the Lord Jesus in Second Corinthians 12.7-10:

 

7     And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

8     For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

9     And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

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.

 

Notice how Paul’s posture changed once he realized that Christ’s “strength is made perfect in weakness.” Suddenly, his own inadequacies became insignificant beside his Savior’s adequacies.

 

ii)   As well, does this not fit in with what Paul had already written to the Corinthians, in 1.27-29?

 

27   But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28   And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29   That no flesh should glory in his presence.

 

iii)   This is the great paradox of the Christian faith. Strength from weakness. Ability from inability. Success despite personal failings. How is this possible? Galatians 2.20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

 

b.   The next reason he is promised success: “and hast kept my word.

 

i)    Look back to verse 3. Do you see the two words, “hold fast”? They translate the same word that is here translated “hast kept.” What the Lord Jesus wanted the pastor in Sardis to do the pastor in Philadelphia has done. He did keep, he did watch, he did guard. He was a vigilant shepherd over the flock the Holy Spirit assigned him to care for.

 

ii)   My friends, is it any wonder that a pastor who is faithful to keep Christ’s word will be promised success? It is no surprise to me. But success should not be thought of in terms of worldly measures of success, such as great riches or great crowds or popular acclaim. Billy Graham has erroneously mistaken the praise of men for spiritual success. Jerry Falwell mistakes great numbers for spiritual success. And we need to recognize that none of us is immune from the great error of mistaking something other than faithfulness to God as success. Success has always been and can only be defined as pleasing the Master.

 

iii)   This man kept His Word. What praise from the Master!

 

c.   The final reason we are given for our Lord’s promise of success to this pastor: “for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name

 

i)    Something happened to this man, something that greatly tested him. However, through the experience, he remained loyal to Jesus Christ, he was steadfast, and he persevered.

 

ii)   Paul once urged the Corinthians to “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”[11] This man had apparently done that. He was not loyal to a cause, or an issue, or a doctrine, but he was loyal to Jesus Christ. Because he had been loyal in the past, he would be rewarded with a door of opportunity in the future. It was a door that Jesus would open and no one would be able to close.

 

(3.9)           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.

 

1.   Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie

 

a.   John refers to unbelieving Jews when he mentions the synagogue of Satan. This brings a news event to mind. Remember when the president of the Southern Baptist Convention was in hot water, some years ago, for stating that Jewish people would go to Hell unless they became Christians? When the press jumped on him he backed off what he had said. We must remember that anyone who is without Christ, whether he is a Jew or a Gentile, is Hell-bound.

 

b.   Too many Christians fail to realize that Judaism is not of God and is in direct opposition to God’s purposes. It bears only superficial resemblance to God’s rule of His Own through the Law of Moses.

 

c.   Let me repeat what I basically said in my comments from Revelation 2.9 on this issue of “the synagogue of Satan.”

 

The opposition to the cause of Christ was, no doubt, great in the city of Philadelphia . The Jewish people who lived there led the opposition. The Lord Jesus indicates that they are Jews, but that they really are not. This might serve as a reminder of what Paul wrote in Romans 2.17-29:

 

17   Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,

18   And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;

19   And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,

20    An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.

21   Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?

22   Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?

23   Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?

24   For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.

25   For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

26   Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

27   And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

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.

 

While being very religious, these physical descendants of Abraham were actually serving Satan in his opposition to God, and God’s man, and God’s children.

 

d.   Jewish people have been among the strongest opponents of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for almost 2000 years. Even now in the state of Israel the only grounds for denying citizenship to an ethnic Jew is a profession of Christ. You can be an atheist, a Buddhist, or a communist and still be recognized as a Jew by Israel . However, if you claim to be a born again Christian it is maintained that you have denied your Jewish heritage.

 

2.   behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

 

a.   One day, when Jesus comes in great glory to reclaim this old world, the Jewish people who remain will bow to Him and confess Him as Lord. In Hosea 5.15, we have the prophecy which indicates what will provoke the second coming of Christ:

 

I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.”

 

b.   In addition, in Romans 11.25-26 see the second coming of Christ from Paul’s perspective:

 

25    For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

26   And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

 

c.   The Lord Jesus Christ’s pronouncement that the Jewish adversaries who so greatly opposed this pastor’s efforts would worship before his feet expresses a convert’s willingness to take the very lowest place in the church, doing servile honor to those they once persecuted, rather than dwell with the ungodly. So the Philippian jailer before Paul.[12]

 

d.   In case you did not notice it, does not this last half of the verse establish once and for all that God turns the hearts of men to fulfill His purposes?[13] “God can at any time humble the most bitter persecutors of his people, and make them their cordial friends, or utterly destroy them.”[14]

 

3.   By the way, this is the fourth of the seven churches that are said to have problems with Satan. The others are the church in Smyrna (Revelation 2.9), Pergamos (Revelation 2.13), and Thyatira (Revelation 2.24). The churches in Ephesus , Sardis and Laodicea are not linked to Satanic opposition. The church in Ephesus may have been too strong for Satan, resisting him until he fled, whereas the churches in Sardis and Laodicea may have been too pathetic to merit his attention.

 

(3.10)         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.

 

1.   What a promise this verse contains! This verse is usually interpreted as a promise that strongly asserts that Christians will not be present during the time when the Lord Jesus Christ “tries” the entire human race.

 

a.         See the word “from”? It translates a Greek word, “ek,” which means “out of.” This is said by many to be yet another piece of evidence that suggests that Christians will be out of this world when the trial comes which Christ is referring to. We will be kept “out of” the hour of temptation. This is understood to mean that believers will not be present when the “hour of temptation,” when that period of extreme tempting, occurs.

 

b.   That is consistent with the rapture occurring before the seven years of tribulation, the 70th week of Daniel. However, let us be reminded yet again that this comment by the Lord Jesus Christ is not addressed to the entire congregation, at least not obviously. Neither is this comment addressed to all Christians.

 

c.   This is a wonderful verse, that seems to support the view that the rapture of Church Age believers will occur to the seven years of tribulation, which view I hold. I would love to use this verse to support the position that I hold, except this verse seems to be addressed to a single man, not to all Christians.

 

2.   Let us examine the verse, as is our usual fashion, one phrase at a time:

 

a.   Because thou hast kept the word of my patience

 

This pastor was commended in verse 8 for keeping Christ’s word. Now this same man, the angel of the church in Philadelphia , is about to receive a promise from the Lord Jesus Christ. This reward is based upon what he was commended for in verse 8. This man has kept Christ’s word, here referred to as “the word of my patience,” because keeping Christ’s word, obeying Christ’s word, requires patience.

 

b.   I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation

 

i.    The word “kept” in the previous phrase translates the same Greek word as the word “keep” in this phrase. Notice the correspondence. Jesus is saying, “You kept my word, so I will keep you.” The Lord Jesus Christ likes it when His man keeps His Word, and He intends to reward him for his faithfulness under fire.

 

ii.    But what is “the hour of temptation”? Theologians who believe in a pretribulation rapture seem to be pretty much agreed that this is a reference to the seven years of tribulation that is otherwise known as Daniel’s 70th week.

 

iii.   Listen to the note on this verse found in the MacArthur Study Bible:

 

3:10 keep you from the hour of trial. Christ’s description—an event still future that for a short time severely tests the whole world—must refer to the time of tribulation, the 7-year period before Christ’s earthly kingdom is consummated, featuring the unleashing of divine wrath in judgments expressed as seals, trumpets, and bowls. This period is described in detail throughout chaps. 6—19. The latter half is called “the Great Tribulation” ( 7:14 ; Matt. 24:21) and is identified as to time in 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5. The verb “to keep” is followed by a preposition whose normal meaning is “from” or “out of”—this phrase, “keep. . .from” supports the pretribulational rapture of the church (see notes on John 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:51,52 1; Thess. 4:13- 17). This period is the same as Daniel’s 70th week (see notes on Dan. 9:24 -27) and “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (see notes on Jer. 30:7).[15]

 

iv.   Now let me read the note on this same verse from the widely circulated Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible:

 

3:10 I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation. This is the most specific guarantee from our Lord Himself that Christian believers will not go into that seven-year Tribulation period He is about to unveil (Rev. 6—18). Revelation 3:10 should be studied in the light of Romans 5:9 and 1 Thessalonians 1:10 ; 5:9. After giving this assurance that believers would be kept out of the hour of trial, it is no accident that the very next chapter begins with a picture of the Rapture, when John is seen taken up to heaven just before the Tribulation begins.[16]

 

v.   Here is my great dilemma. I am in agreement with the prophetic viewpoints of both study Bibles I have cited with respect to this verse. Nevertheless, unless you assume that what we learn from this verse about prophecies concerning all Christians are mere applications of this verse, I will have to stop short of using this verse to support my position on the rapture and their position on the rapture. Why? This verse, and this entire letter, are addressed by the Lord Jesus Christ to the angel of the church in Philadelphia , not all Christians in Philadelphia and not all Christians throughout the Christian era.

 

vi.   The Lord Jesus Christ promised to keep this man from “the hour of temptation.” This cannot be a reference to the seven years of tribulation to which the commentators referred for one simple reason: the word that is translated “temptation” is not the word for “tribulation.” Every single time the word “tribulation” appears in the English New Testament it translates the word qliqin, but the word used in this verse is peirasmos.

 

vii.  So, I think the Lord Jesus Christ is intimating that something is about to happen. When it happens, the promise is that this faithful man will be spared. He will be kept “from the hour of temptation” because he kept the Lord’s word.

 

c.   which shall come upon all the world

 

i.    Whatever is about to happen will happen sometime in the future to “all the world.” But what is meant by the phrase “all the world”?

 

ii.    This word “world” is not the same word found in John 3.16, “for God so loved the world. . . .” It is the word oikoumenh, which refers to the inhabited earth.[17]

 

iii.   What is this referring to? I think it is likely referring to a terrible persecution that would soon befall Christians throughout the known world. John Wesley writes the following words with reference to this phrase: “The whole Roman empire . It went over the Christians, and over the Jews and heathens; though in a very different manner. This was the time of the persecution under the seemingly virtuous emperor Trajan. The two preceding persecutions were under those monsters, Nero and Domitian; but Trajan was so admired for his goodness, and his persecution was of such a nature, that it was a temptation indeed, and did throughly try them that dwelt upon the earth.”[18]

 

iv.   But this faithful man of God was kept from the hour of trial that everyone else suffered through. How do I know? Jesus promised that He would.

 

3.   Before we move on, I want you to take note of an extremely important phrase. This phrase is introduced by the Lord Jesus and is used a number of times throughout John’s Revelation. The phrase reads “them that dwell upon the earth.” I would urge each of you to read through John’s Revelation and underline or highlight this phrase every single time you find it.

 

4.   The word “dwell” refers to someone having his taproot sunk deep into the earth. It refers to someone who is a permanent resident of this old earth. It refers to someone who is lost. How do I know? Turn with me to First Peter 2.11: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” Therefore, I am of the opinion that you can take the phrase “them that dwell on the earth” as a technical reference to unsaved people.

 

(3.11)         Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

 

1.   Behold, I come quickly.

 

Behold.” Pay attention, this is important. The word “quickly” refers to the unexpected return of the Lord Jesus Christ. No one knows when the Lord Jesus Christ will come, so He warns this beloved pastor to be ready. If this pastor should be ready, you should be ready, as well. Amen?

 

2.   hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

 

The last part of this verse shows us that, while it is not possible for someone to lose his salvation, it is definitely possible for someone to lose his rewards. A Christian life can start out wonderfully and then end tragically, with a loss of all of the rewards later in life that were won early on. Therefore, this faithful pastor is warned by our Lord Jesus to be careful.

 

3.   An example of this happening might very well be Barnabas, the man who discipled the apostle Paul and served alongside him for several years. Starting out great together, Paul and Barnabas had a falling out over Barnabas’ nephew, John Mark. Please turn with me and read the passages in the book of Acts:

 

Acts 13.1-4, 7, 13:   1  Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

2  As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

3  And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

4  So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia ; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus .

 

7  Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.

 

13  Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem .

 

Acts 15.36-40:  36  And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.

37  And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.

38  But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.

39  And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus ;

40  And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.

 

4.   Who was right on this issue of whether or not to give Mark a second chance, Paul who was against it, or Barnabas who was in favor of it? The church at Antioch very definitely sided with Paul, as we see in Acts 15.40. After this, we hear no more of Barnabas. However, years later we read of John Mark finally being ready to serve with Paul, as we see in Second Timothy 4.11: “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.”

 

5.   In short, Barnabas started out right, but finished wrong. He may have lost his rewards as a result. Had he followed the direction of his church he would have ended up doing the right thing, but he allowed sentiment for a family member to cloud his judgment.

 

(3.12)         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.

 

1.   Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.

 

a.   We have a general principle set forth by the Lord Jesus Christ here. He is showing what the requirements are to become one of the strong support members in the congregation. As well, we have a promise of spiritual prosperity. Let me develop this thought.

 

b.   Many people want position and prominence in a congregation. They think they deserve position or prominence because they make good money, because they are big givers, because they are great organizers, or for some other such reason as that. But the Lord Jesus Christ establishes the criteria as being “Him that overcometh.” In First John 5.1-5, we read that faith is what overcomes the world, so I think the Lord Jesus Christ is establishing something here that is reachable by any genuinely converted person. All you have to do is show that you are genuinely converted and the Lord Jesus will make a you a pillar in the temple of His God .

 

c.   But what is a temple of His God ? In First Corinthians 3.16, the apostle Paul asked the Corinthians, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God ?” As well, in Galatians 2.9 he refers to James, Cephas and John seeming to be “pillars” in the church in Jerusalem .

 

d.   Thus, I think the Lord Jesus is telling those of us who read John’s Revelation that if we have little strength, if we keep His Word, and if we do not deny His name (in short, if we actually live the overcoming life of a real Christian), He will position us to be pillars of strength and stability in our church.

 

e.   A. T. Robertson points out that Philadelphia was a city of earthquakes.[19] Thus, you can imagine the powerful imagery conveyed by this promise. In addition, what an encouragement it is to some newborn babe in Christ, or someone who is as fallible and prone to stumble as I am, to be able to claim my Lord’s promise . . . if I will only overcome.

 

f.    Every believer wants to be honored. Every believer wants to contribute in a meaningful way. Our Lord Jesus is telling us that as we live out our lives and demonstrate overcoming faith, living the life, keeping His Word, not denying His name . . . even if we are of little strength . . . he will make us to be the ones who add stability and strength to our congregation. It is another way of fulfilling the proverb, “before honour is humility,” Proverbs 15.33. Pay your dues and you will be honored.

 

g.   and he shall no more go out

 

This means that you, like a pillar, will be a model of stability. Think of it. Jesus is promising to give you the grace to become solid, to become stable, to become a stabilizer of others, to become one whose strength is relied upon. And it all started with one who had “little strength.” Isn’t the love of Jesus something wonderful?

 

2.   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.

 

a.   Upon the believer will be written three things: The name of the Father, the name of New Jerusalem, and the new name of the Son of God. What does this mean? Maybe the first name stands for the signature of the Artist Who molded these figures of clay. The second name, new Jerusalem, might stand for the display case where the choice vessel is to be displayed to show the magnificence of God’s grace. The third name may refer to Him for Whom the work of art was created.

 

b.   This Philadelphian pastor closely resembles a number of people in our church. We are of little strength. Amen? This being so, we must guard ourselves to expend every effort to use the strength we have to keep His Word, and to never deny the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, which would cause us to lose our rewards.

 

c.   What a glorious promise to be fulfilled someday.

 

(3.13)         He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

 

1.   The letter was written to the angel of the church of Philadelphia . But it was an open letter and not a closed one. Others, not just the pastor or the membership of the church, were to read and pay heed.

 

2.   This is the sixth time in six letters that the Lord Jesus Christ utters this type of warning. When the Master speaks, everyone needs to pay close attention.



[1] See footnote for Revelation 3.7 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1996.

[2] John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 84.

[3] J. Vernon McGee, Reveling Through Revelation, Part I, (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Books, 1979), page 31.

[4] Walvoord, page 84.

[5] Lehman Strauss, The Book Of The Revelation, (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1963), page 81.

[6] Walvoord, page 85.

[7] John 10.7, 9

[8] First Corinthians 16.9; Second Corinthians 2.12; Colossians 4.3

[9] Revelation 3.20

[10] Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 820.

[11] First Corinthians 16.13

[12] Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary, ( Bronson , MI : Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

[13] Proverbs 21.1

[14] Family Bible Notes, (Bronson , MI : Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

[15] See footnote for Revelation 3.10 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1997.

[16] See footnote for Revelation 3.10 from Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, (AMG Publishers, 2000), page 1370.

[17] Rienecker, page 820.

[18] John Wesley, Notes On The Bible, ( Bronson , MI : Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

[19] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol VI, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1930), page 319.

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