Church of Philadelphia

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; 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. 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. 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. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. 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. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Revelation 3:7-13 (KJV)

In verses 7 – 13 I want to see Jesus revealed in His glory as sovereign, and ruling in His Church, determining when and where His Church and people are to minister, and preach the gospel of grace, and the whole counsel of God.

“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;”

The city of Philadelphia is approximately 28 miles Southeast of Sardis. The name means “Love of the brethren” or “Brotherly love”.

The main religion of Philadelphia was the worship of Dyonisus. To a certain extent the city was known as “The keeper of the gateway to the plateau” W. M. Ramsay THE LETTERS OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA, pp. 404-405. This city was also earthquake prone and destroyed and rebuilt.

Now, we see how Jesus identified Himself to this local assembly. Holy is the first. To declare Himself as that which is holy He declares Himself as God – He is. He is holy in His character. He is holy in His judgment. He is holy in His actions, words, and purposes.

He also is identified as “He that is true”. He is not a copy, but the original. Because He is true He can be trusted with history, the present, the future of our lives. He can be trusted to bring about that which we have entrusted to His care (2 Timothy 1:12).
There is little reference back to His characteristics revealed in chapter one. In verse eighteen of chapter one Jesus describes Himself as having the “Keys of hell and of death”. The “Key of David” is a reference to Isaiah 22:22. Surely Jesus is saying that great missionary efforts can only come about because He opens the door. They cease when He closes the door, thus, He is the One who holds the key [has the authority]. From around 1700 even to the present we as the Church have enjoyed an open door of evangelism. It appears that this door will remain open for mission work until Jesus comes to take His Bride home. No man can open or shut these doors, only Jesus does. While the doors are open we must take advantage of it. Jesus could come at any moment for His Church.

“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.”

The “I know” is nowhere near one of condemnation.

This church was weak, but possibly only in number, finances, or of little power to influence society because of sin and so called “Openmindedness” toward all religions. This weakness mentioned is not mentioned as a rebuke. It is mentioned more as a reminder of their need [our need] of His strength.

What is good about this church? They have an “Open door” for evangelism and missions. They have kept the Word – obediently. They have been faithful to His name despite the persecution they have gone through. “Open door” may also be a reference to readiness to receive the Word of God. Could be both evangelism and the Word.
It is a great blessing to have God open the doors in order that we might tell many who are condemned in and by sin of the wonderfu, marvelous grace of God.

“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.”

The “Synagogue of satan” can refer back to the letter to Smyrna chapter two verse nine.

Satan often uses religious people to try and stop the work of our Lord. The Jews have long worked against Christianity and the ministry of Jesus. Ever since Jesus ministry began they have sought to destroy Him. They have been unwittingly and are the “Synagogue of satan”. This is not an anti-semitic statement. They, as a nation, are a reprobate nation, lost and condemned until they receive Jesus as their Messiah. God is still working to bring the Jew to Himself. This work is in the person of Jesus Christ.
There are times when those who oppose the Church most vehemently will be the ones who trust the Lord best. Take, for example, the apostle Paul, who was Saul, who set out to destroy these Christ followers, and ended up one when he met the Christ face to face.

There will come a time when even the whole nation of Israel will know Jesus (Romans 11:25-26). They will recognize God’s institution of the Church as the instrument used in reaching the world for Jesus with the gospel and of glorifying 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.”

In their faithfulness to Christ and His Word they receive a promise of deliverance “From the hour of temptation…” This may very well be speaking of a specific time which has yet to take place. Of course, it had some significance for the church of Philadelphia, a promise for them to be kept from a certain “Temptation”. Keep in mind that these seven churches represent the whole Church throughout the Church age, but we could also see that each church represents separate times during this age. I have not made, nor did I intend to make, a case for each church representing a period of time during the Church age. This church of Philadelphia could be seen as the church which would see the rapture of the church.

This “Temptation” mentioned in the paragraph above could be what Jeremiah the prophet called “The time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). A time of judgment on the Jewish nation, because of their rejection of Jesus. It would be their final judgment when the nation is brought to faith in Messiah Jesus.

There would be no purpose for the Church which has kept His Word and been faithful to go through the sorrow of trial that is meant for the purification of Israel and the judgment of unbelievers. In order for chaos to have the “Upper hand” the people who are possessed by God’s Spirit will be delivered. The Scripture says, ” God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Something needs said here. Paul is speaking to Christians who have already been saved from their sin. The verse would, at least to me, be quite clearly speaking of a future wrath of judgment on the world, from which the Christian Church is to be delivered.

It is fairly clear that the “Open door” age, and the “Lukewarm” age overlap one another. We, today, are living in the greatest age of human history. The Lord has opened doors for gospel preaching in places all over the world, but for how long? While some are hot in evangelism and loving Jesus others are wrapped up in comfortable, dead formalism, more concerned with “Artificial unity” than true unity, pushing social programs, and political proponents, and moral laws, rather than the gospel which has the power to change hearts from immorality to moral living without a law demanding it.

“Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”

There are a lot of Christians who are questioning the imminent return of Christ. He says here, “Behold, I come quickly…” He is not speaking of minutes or seconds. He is speaking more of suddenness. “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” (Luke 12:40). He is coming suddenly to take His Bride home with Him. That is called the “Rapture”. NO! The word is not mentioned in Scripture, but the principle is, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thess 4:16-17). This is certainly speaking of a “Catching away”.
Jesus speaks also of a crown. These crowns have nothing to do with salvation. They are rewards for a life of faithfulness to our Lord. There are five crowns mentioned in God’s Word. The Crown of Life (James 1:12); The Incorruptible Crown (1 Corinthians 9:24-27); The Crown of Rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20); The Crown of Righteousness (2 Timothy 4:5-8); and the Crown of Glory (1 Peter 5:2-4).
Jesus says, “Hold on to these rewards, don’t let anyone take them from you”. Envy or jealousy can rob us of these rewards. It is called yielding to “Peer pressure”. “Hold fast” means make them your own – protect them at all cost. No material blessing is worth your life. Eternal blessings are…

“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.”

Sometimes in this city of earthquakes the only thing left standing was marble pillars of the temples which had been built for varied purposes.

Since all of Heaven is the temple of God every overcomer will be identified as one who stood when everything around them fell, cracked and was destroyed.

“Go no more out” is speaking of seeking shelter outside the city when it was falling. In God’s city, the New Jerusalem, none will ever have to flee.

In this new city the overcomers will also have a new name. In ancient cities they often put the names of important people upon the pillars which supported a building. These overcomers will stand forever with the new name which has been given them by Jesus Himself.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

Once again a call for every individual to hear the Spirit, and what He says to the churches. Hear the call of the Holy Spirit and you hear the call of God.

In conclusion, Jesus is THE WAYMAKER. He gives the Church an “Open Door” which He alone can open, and He alone can shut. He is THE WAYMAKER, because He has a way of deliverance from the great day of wrath for these overcomers. Jesus is THE WAYMAKER, in that, He has crowns awaiting those who are ever faithful. He is THE WAYMAKER, because He has a new name, “Up in Lights” you might say, for every overcomer.

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The Church in Sardis

And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Revelation 3:1-6 (KJV)

In chapter 3:1-6 we will endeavor to show that Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to His Church, that local churches, because they are made up of a “Mixed multitude” (a term from the Exodus), often grieve His Spirit, what happens to the Church when He is grieved, and the hope of life which only comes by His Spirit.

It appears that complacency is a problem. We get in a place where the temperature is just right, the seats are soft and comfortable, there is no trouble to speak of, and we fall asleep. Suddenly, we awake and we find ourselves plagued with problems, or we may not awake, because the enemy has crept in on us while we were unaware and kills us. If a friend does not wake us up, then, death is inevitable.

That friend of course is Jesus. In this Scripture text He reveals Himself through another one of His characteristics. He had to go away, in the ascension, before he Spirit came. Now the Spirit of God in all His fullness can dwell and habitat in the life of every believer.

Jesus’s message to Sardis is one to “WAKE UP!” to your true situation. There was still hope for Sardis, but it was by the resurrection power of the Spirit. They could have life and power with God in no other way.
Jesus is the “GIVER OF THE SPIRIT” who is the giver of life and power to live a clean, holy and endless life.

In verse 1 we have Jesus revealing Himself to the church of Sardis as the One who has the “Seven Spirits” – indicating the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and the “Seven Stars”. See chapter 1:4, 16.

The Holy Spirit is the source of life for the Church. Without the Spirit there is no life. We notice that Jesus reveals each part of His character as needed by each church. The church of Sardis certainly needed to see Jesus as “THE GIVER OF THE SPIRIT’. In chapter 4:5 we have “Seven burning lamps, which are the seven Spirits of God”. In chapter 5:6 we see “Seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God…”. We have a fullness of light, power, and spiritual enlightenment, which come from the Spirit of God.

The “Seven stars” are the pastors. Jesus places pastors in each of His local bodies as it pleases Him. If the pastor is the source of the church’s problem, then, Jesus will remove him and put in a replacement. It could be the people of Sardis was blaming their pastor. Accusing him of not doing his job, or the church’s lack of growth, its complacency, its dying or death. They could have been saying, “These sermons you have been preaching are irrelevant to our need. There is no threat from without. We are not near dying”. The pastor on the other hand may have just blended in, became one of the neighborhood. “When in Rome do as the Romans do”.

Sardis was a city on a hill. it was protected by cliffs. It was virtually impregnable. However, it was overthrown at least twice by enemies while the guards slept at their post; thinking, “We are impregnable, there is no danger”.

Jesus says that this church has a name of being alive – they still have a name over the door, they are still keeping their programs going, but there is little difference in the practice of the church and the practice of the city – “But you are dead”, says Jesus. It really does not matter what the people in the community say about the church. What really counts is what Jesus says.

In verse two, it would almost seem fitting to say, that, the phrase “Be watchful” could also read “WAKE UP!”.

Consider Paul’s writing to the Romans in chapter 13:11-14. It is time for the Church to “Wake up”. Revival is needed.

Sardis could very well represent the time of the “Reformation” if we were looking at that dispensationally. During the “Dark ages” the professing church had become villianous. Killing, enslaving and conquering of land was the work of a majority of the “church” in this time. The true Church had fallen asleep. The doctrine of the church was to earn your salvation or pay for it with money. You could even pay the “Priests” to pray some poor soul into Heaven. If you could do that, why not pay them to pray an enemy into hell. The church, then, used the name of Jesus, but few within it really knew Him.
Jesus saw the need and He called out brave, and bold men like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Knox, John Calvin, William Tyndale, and others to raise a mighty voice, to put the Word of God back into the hands of the people. To preach the true gospel of grace. The people began to wake up. The Church began to identified more with Jesus now, and less with the world.

Jesus’s words sound as though there is still hope…
“Strengthen the things that remain” is probably a reference to the small minority who were loving the Lord Jesus. Everytime they tried to work for Jesus the majority would stop it. The works were not perfect or complete in His eyes. Those who loved Jesus were the only possessors of the Spirit. A complacent spirit grieves the Spirit of God. The Spirit keeps us alert and aware. When we pay no attention to Him we grieve Him, and our source of power and strength erodes until ‘rigor mortis’ sets in. The Spirit never leaves the individual true believer, but He does and will leave from empowering a local church.

The only hope (v. 3) for a church in such as the afore mentioned condition is to get back to the basics. “Remember” salvation by grace through faith, hold on to it as though your life depended on it (it does), and repent. Confess your deadness, your complacent spirit, your grieving of the Holy Spirit.

If there is no awakening Jesus warns, that He will come as a thief (1 Thessalonians 5:4). This would, of course, be only upon those who are not “Overcomers” as the next two verses deal with.

A living organism has … growth, repair, reproduction, and power. If these are missing in a local church that church is either dying or dead. The church needs revival. If the believers at Sardis did not obey God Jesus warned He would “Come as a thief”.

In verses 4 and 5 the judgment that awaited a majority of “church members” would be avoided by the “Overcomers”. The “Overcomer” is a saved – born again – individual who is constantly growing in his/her walk with Christ, and by God’s grace is always faithful.

White is a symbol of righteousness, purity, cleanliness. Jesus mentions only a few who “Have not defiled their garments”. Jesus says, “They are worthy”. They have been made worthy because of the Holy Spirit and the “GIVER OF THE SPIRIT” Jesus Christ. The only way of righteousness or being worthy is in His Spirit.
The “Book of Life” is mentioned several times in the Scriptures. Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; Exodus32:32; Psalm 69:28; Philippians 4:3 just to list a few. Some believe this implies one can be saved and lose it. That would be contrary to God’s grace. If we do nothing to deserve God’s grace, then, how can we presume that we can do something to get out of His grace? The “Book of Life” has had written in it the names of everyone who was ever conceived. When a person died apart from Christ his/her name is “Blotted out of the book of life”. When a person believes and confesses that Jesus is Lord, and believes that God raised Him [Jesus] from the dead, then God writes that person’s name in the “Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27) and his/her name remains in the “Book of Life”.

Jesus says, that He will confess this individual’s name before the Father.
Some points to note about the BOOK OF LIFE:

1. Contains the names of all the living;
2. Revelation 13:8; 17:8 suggest that the names of saints are written in the book from the foundation of the world – before they have done anything good or bad;
3. Chosen in Christ before the beginning of time (Ephesians 1:4; Matthew 25:34).
4. As unbelievers die their names are removed from the BOOK OF LIFE (Psalm 69:28).

Once again, to the Church of Sardis, the message of Jesus is requesting/commanding His people’s hearing (v. 6). It is an invitation to hear the Holy Spirit speak to the heart of the true believer of Jesus. It seems especially appropriate in this letter, because Jesus is showing Himself as the “GIVER OF THE SPIRIT”. Hear His words. Hear Him and believe and do them.

In conclusion, the prophet said, “This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6). If the church is to be the Church it must operate in the presence of God. The Holy Spirit must be a continued welcome and wanted guest within the local church, and the total Body of Christ.

To “Grieve the Spirit” is to make Him an unwanted guest. Unwanted guests do not feel like staying very long, and begin to pull away any influence, and make themselves absent. God gives His people a commandment not to grieve the Spirit; “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30). The Holy Spirit will never leave a born again person, but when we pay Him little or no attention; ignore His teaching, leadership, comfort, convictions, righteousness, and judgment we will certainly be without His powerful influence.

Why do churches die? Because they neglect Jesus and His gift that He has given. He is the GIVER OF THE SPIRIT.

Only those in the local Church who heed the warnings of the Spirit and repent of their foolish deeds will overcome. Jesus’s promises to the “Overcomers” are for all those who are repentant.

The Church must stop grieving the Holy Spirit; the Church must depend on the Spirit, not the promises and promotions of the flesh and man; the Church of the 21st century must wake up out of its comfort, and lethargy, and live for God. The Church must experience revival.