Revelation – Open Door – 9

Revelation 3:7-13  7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

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Have you ever lost your keys? We lost the keys to our shed and didn’t realize it until Christmas Eve night when I needed to get presents out of it. I had to figure out a way to take the doors off the hinges in the freezing night, while neighbors thought someone was breaking into our shed. What I needed was an open door and a set of keys. In the passage tonight, the letter to the church in Philadelphia, we see that they had an open door and that Jesus has the keys. This church was commended for their faithfulness to Christ, and we don’t see anything negative said about them. We can learn a lot from the church in Philadelphia about how to be a faithful people of God.

Jesus is the holy one, the true one, and the sovereign one. (vs 7)

Jesus is the holy one. To be holy means to be set apart. There is none more set apart than Jesus, who is seated on the throne in heaven, distinct and ruling and reigning over all else. He is the spotless lamb who was slain. The one who never sinned.

Jesus is the true one. Jesus, as scripture represents him, corresponds with reality. It doesn’t matter what we believe or want to believe. What matters is what is true. Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [him]” (Jn 14:6). So many people questioned him, even in Bible times…was he really who he said he was, like John the Baptist in Matthew 11:3, asking “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” And they walked away certain. We can be too. Jesus not only existed, as virtually all scholars believe, but he is, in reality, as he is recorded in the scriptures.

Jesus is the sovereign one. It says he is the one who “has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” This statement is found in Isaiah 22:22, which states, “I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” It also makes us think of the words of Matthew 16:19, which says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

What Jim Hamilton says in his commentary is too good and necessary for me to summarize. Hear what he says about all of this with your head and your heart.

“Revelation 3:7 is heralding the trustworthiness of Jesus for us. Do you trust him? Maybe you have consciously decided not to trust Jesus. Let me ask you: is what you trust holy? Are you sure? Is what you trust true? Are you sure? Will what you trust prevail? Are you sure?

If you don’t trust in Jesus, are you confident enough in what you do trust to bank your soul on it? Are you confident enough that Jesus is not to be trusted that you are ready to make the infinite, eternal wager of your everlasting destiny? Will you bet your life on your confidence that Jesus is not worthy of your trust?

Let me urge you today: bring all your questions to Jesus. Bring all your objections to him. Bring all the things that you prefer to him—your wealth, your job, your entertainment. Bring to Jesus all the things that tempt you to sin—your immorality, your theft, your lies, your gossip. Bring to Jesus everything that you can gather in your attempt to deny him as Lord. Do you know what you will find? You will find that he is “holy,” and everything that you prefer to him is filthy and defiled. You will find that he is “true,” and everything that you believe instead of him is false and hollow.”[1]

So, we see who Jesus is and our necessary response to him. And how we respond to him with our life determines what happens in our life and for eternity. If you seek to not follow Him, there are earthly and eternal consequences. If you do seek to follow him, you are given opportunities now and an eternal award. We see Jesus commend this church for following him, and because of their faithfulness to him they were given many opportunities to lead others to know him.

The church is given an open door because of their faithfulness. (vs 8)

What is an open door? It is opportunity and success in evangelism. It is people hearing the gospel and coming to faith in Christ. It is opportunity for ministry and evangelism (Acts 14:27; 1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3).[2]

Their faithfulness didn’t earn an open door, but God’s Word produced the open door. They were little and had no power on their own, but the Word of God is powerful and active and sharper than any two edge-sword [Heb 4:12). God’s Word never returns void (Is 55:11). It is by hearing the Word that we are saved (Rom 10:17).

How is your relationship with God’s Word? Your faithfulness to God is contingent upon your faithfulness to God’s Word. I’ve counseled many people who have been depressed or with anxiety or who struggle with giving into different sins. I’ve counseled people who feel that God is distant or nowhere to be found. In every situation, I ask how often they are in God’s Word. And the answer is always the same. Rarely.

We need God’s Word in the same way that we need food. We never go without physically eating so that we will survive, yet we go days, months, and years without feeding ourselves spiritually and we wonder why we are dead inside or pursue things that lead to death.

Being faithful to God and his Word doesn’t mean that everything will always go right for you or that you will always even feel close to God. It is a daily decision of knowing that Jesus is true and that he can be found in his Word. And when hard times come, and they will, it is his Word that will sustain you through them, not necessarily deliver you from them. And hard times are coming in your life and especially in the end times.

There is a specified time period in the future called the tribulation, of which life on earth will be hard to bear. There are some terms we need to define in moving forward in Revelation, and to understand this passage better. The tribulation is a definite time of God’s wrath and testing for all on earth (Dan 9:25-27; Jer 30:7; Rev 6-19).  The rapture is a moment when God’s people are taken from earth to heaven (Jn 14:1-4; 1 Cor 15:51-54; 1 Thess 4:13-17).

There are three views about when the rapture takes place regarding the tribulation:

Pretribulation – The rapture comes before the tribulation.

Midtribulation – The rapture comes in the middle of the tribulation.

Postribulation – The rapture comes at the end of the tribulation.

Verse 10 would seem to indicate a pretribulation view, though good, biblical, and godly scholars disagree somewhat on this. When good, godly scholars disagree on specific points, it is best that we hold them loosely with open hands. We should have an opinion and know why we believe it, but we should be willing to hold to it loosely, especially when it comes to eschatology. After all, the Jews had the Old Testament prophecies about the first coming of the Messiah, they were looking for him, and they missed him because they had the details wrong. We need some intellectual humility when approaching these issues. We are not so much different than them.

Many people view the rapture as happening before the tribulation because they believe that God would not allow his people to suffer. We know this isn’t true, though. God does allow his people to suffer, as we’ve seen from several of these letters.

Danny Akin, who personally holds a pretribulation view, states it well, saying, “ultimately the most important issue is not physical protection from temporal wrath but spiritual protection from eternal wrath. Our Lord protects us to the end and forever.”[3]

Though we don’t know when the tribulation or rapture will happen, or even necessarily how it will happen, we do know one thing: Jesus is coming soon. (vs. 11)

Scripture says he will come like a thief in the night (Matt 24:43; 1 Thess 5:2, 4; Rev 16:15). The purpose of God explaining it this way is twofold: 1) His coming is imminent, and 2) We should be found ready.

I love what one person said about how we should live now in light of knowing these things about the end: “God did not give us the book of Revelation so that we’d build bomb shelters in the backyard. He gave us this book so that we’d build bigger dinner tables and invite our friends over and tell them about Jesus.”[4]

We are to live faithfully for God here on earth, longing for the day we dwell with him in heaven. That’s what the church in Philadelphia did, and Jesus had only good things to say about them. And the reward for their faithfulness is great, as will yours be if you are faithful to him.

We will dwell with God forever. I love this picture we get here that we get more fully at the end of Revelation. What happens when a building is destroyed, what is often the last things standing? The pillars. That’s what God says we are when we are faithful to him. The faithful will be as pillars in the temple of God. Dwelling with God and standing tall and firm.

From ancient times, there are columns still standing from many buildings, like the temple of Zeus at Euromos. Though the rest of the structure has been worn down, the columns still stand. And there are inscriptions on them. Names. These inscriptions typically note who donated the column. “For example, Menecrates, a physician and magistrate donated five of the 30 columns of this temple and Leo Quintus, a magistrate donated another seven.”[5]

Think of the significance of what this means for you and me. Christ will make us a pillar and write on us the name of God. We are his. We exist for him, are sustained by him, and will dwell with him. Forever and ever.

We get the first picture here of the great hope of all of scripture. We get the first picture of where God has been moving all of history towards. My favorite chapter in the Bible is Revelation 21. It is where we see the New Jerusalem coming down and God wiping every tear from our eyes. He is making all things new.

And with him, forever, we will stand firm. We are his. He is our reward.

So, as we long for that day, let us, like the church in Philadelphia, live in faithfulness to him now. Trust him for the opportunities and open doors he gives you each day to demonstrate your faithfulness, rely on his Word, and look forward to the reward that awaits you.

[1] James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 113-14.

[2] James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, 114.

[3] Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 2016), 97.

[4] TJ Tims; found online though cannot find original source



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