Jesus Wins! – Part 10: Open for Worship Rev. 3:7-13

// Jesus Wins! – Part 10: Open for Worship Rev. 3:7-13

 Jesus Wins! – Part 10: Open for Worship Rev. 3:7-13

 

Rev. 3:7-13

“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.’  [1]

In our study of Christ’s prophecies to these seven churches in Roman Asia, we have been focusing on how their problems came from seeking the benefits of Christ without Christ. Each prophecy to each church has the same command: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” [2] Every prophecy delivered is for ALL believers everywhere to hear and obey.

In each of these seven prophecies in Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus relates an aspect of his post-resurrection glory to specific issues facing each congregation. He points out struggles that each congregation is facing. He promises blessings to these churches when they are obedient to his commands while threatening curses if these congregations fail to repent. Each prophecy ends with a promise of blessing to all those who overcome despite the suffering, persecution, and temptations. Each prophecy has at least six characteristics: they contain an aspect of Jesus’ appearance described in chapter one; each an assertion that Jesus knows their circumstances; each contains an analysis of the church’s circumstances; each has an assurance from Jesus; and each has an appeal from the Holy Spirit to hear all the messages to all seven churches (each congregation is told to read the others’ mail).

For those who overcome by seeing and repenting of their sins in this broken life and rejoicing over Christ’s having kept his law perfectly for us and paid the lifeblood-price for sin, Jesus promises the unshakable eternal blessing of his intimate presence as Immanuel (God with us). In the upside-down Kingdom of Christ, believers overcome by submitting OUR will to Christ’s will. We die to our agendas, but we win the eternal victory in Christ who demonstrated ultimate submission to the Father by setting aside his own glory and submitting himself to death on a cross. Believers are overcomers through submitting to God’s sovereign will over absolutely EVERYTHING in our lives, even to the point of persecution to death.

IN THE CITY

Philadelphia was about 30 miles southeast of Sardis and was situated at the juncture of several trade routes, as well as being on the imperial post route. A major highway linking Asia with Europe ran through the city. It was called the “gateway to the East” and was a city of commercial importance. The great volcanic plain to the north was fertile and well suited to growing grapes. With an economy based on both agriculture and industry, Philadelphia enjoyed considerable prosperity.[3] It was a city with an open door through which trade, commerce, Greek language, and Greek culture spread from Greece and Macedonia to Asia Minor and Syria.[4]

The one drawback to life in Philadelphia was it’s being situated near a major faultline, subjecting it to devastating earthquakes. The city was nearly destroyed by a quake and series of aftershocks in 17 A.D. Its inhabitants, out of fear of the repeated tremors, preferred to live outside the city walls in the countryside. Thus, Jesus’ promise was meaningful to his followers in that city: they would never have to go outside anymore (v. 12). The city took the name of Neocaesarea for a time in appreciation for the imperial help received for rebuilding. Later, under Vespasian (69–79 A.D.), it took the name Flavia in honor of the Flavian dynasty and Vespasian’s monetary help in further rebuilding efforts. This city with three names (v. 12) was remarkable for its many temples and religious festivals. For this reason, by the fifth century A.D., it was called “Little Athens.” Because it was in a vine-growing district, the worship of Dionysus was its chief pagan cult. After Tiberius’s help, it founded a cult of Germanicus (Caligula), the heir of the emperor.[5]

The only old Roman-era structure remaining in the modern Turkish city of Alaşehir is a small hillside theater. But the modern city is still known for its production of Sultana raisins and fresh fruit. There are small industries and trade in the city today. From one of the mineral springs comes a heavily charged water popular around Turkey. Alaşehir remained a strong center of Greek Orthodox Christianity until the city was burned in 1922 during the Greco-Turkish war when Christian refugees were resettled in Athens.[6]

THIS DOOR MUST REMAIN OPEN

Messiah Jesus addresses the congregation of Philadelphia: “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.’” [7] Then Jesus says, “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.’” [8]

Jesus indicates he knows exactly what is going on in Philadelphia and that their situation is the same as the congregation of Smyrna (who receives essentially the same prophecy). The ethnic Jews of Philadelphia are leading the charge to wipe out Christianity in their city. Christians’ claim to worship the Jewish Messiah puts the Jews at risk of being linked to this unpatriotic, anti-Roman movement. To them it is a dangerous cult that worships a mere man (an openly-cursed Roman criminal at that!) as equal to YHWH. In the Jews’ mind, this was the ultimate insult to the God of Israel.

Jesus calls himself the holy one. Isaiah uses “holy” (LXX: ἅγιος) almost exclusively of YHWH as part of the title “the Holy One of Israel” (about 20 occurrences; see also: Isa 40:25; Hab. 3:3; Mark 1:24; John 6:69).[9] Jesus is saying to this congregation and the ethnic Jews in Philadelphia what he said in the Jerusalem temple in John 10 when asked if he was Messiah, “I and the Father are one.[10] This title, the holy one, anticipates the Isa. 22:22 quotation in 3:9, where Jesus assumes the role of Yahweh and his followers represent the true Israel. [11] So, Jesus is the holy one of Israel. He IS Messiah and Messiah is one with YHWH.

Next, Messiah Jesus says he is the true one. The designation “true” can be taken in the classical sense of “genuine,” to refute those Jews of Philadelphia who claim that Christ was a false Messiah. If it is taken in the OT sense of “faithful,” it serves to remind the believers at Philadelphia that not only has Christ been set apart (the root meaning of holy) to carry out his messianic task, but that he can be counted on to carry it to completion.[12] With one word, Jesus states that he is the real Messiah and fully capable of carrying through with all his promises despite the attacks on his people by the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Finally, the Lord proclaims himself the one “who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.[13] To have THE key is to control access. Christ Jesus controls access to his covenant promises to his people. In Rev. 1:18, Jesus said he had “the keys of Death and Hades.[14] Those who belong to Jesus have his covenant promise that He will be their God, they will be his people, and he will dwell with them. Those who deny Messiah Jesus are outside the covenant household of God regardless of their ethnicity. This language refers to an incident in Isaiah 22 where the Lord rebuked a faithless royal minister named Sheba and installed a faithful one, Eliakim. Faithful Eliakim would dispense or withhold all the resources of Israel on behalf of the king. God promised, “And 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.”[15]

Jesus’ self-description in verse 7 claims two essential things. First, God’s covenant promise of eternal fellowship in a new land comes ONLY through Messiah Jesus who said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.[16] He promised, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.[17] Be you Jew or Gentile, you can only enter into God’s Kingdom of salvation by trust into the perfect life and sacrificial death of the resurrected and ascended Messiah. Only David’s royal heir possesses the key that opens the door into the household of God and true worship.[18]

Second, the true Israel of God are only those who trust into Messiah as the seed promised to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15. The New Testament church doesn’t replace Israel. The people of God’s covenant have ONLY ever been those who looked to the work of Messiah as the true lamb of God. In the Old Covenant, those looking toward Messiah alone were predominately found among ethnic Israel because ethnic Israel was given God’s revelations of himself. In the New Covenant, that same revelation – now fulfilled in Messiah Jesus – goes out into all the world saving Jew and Gentile alike by means of the Holy Spirit’s granting spiritual life to dead hearts in the same way he has always done. Israel was an institution (racial and national) among whom were people trusting into Messiah and people who did not. The Church is an institution (multi-racial and international) among whom people are found who trust into Messiah and people who do not. In either institution, the Israel of God are only those who trust into the person and work of Messiah Jesus

In these last days, the ordinary way God’s saving covenant promises go out into the world is by means of the church who relies on Christ to grant success to its ministry. Jesus’ open door is the symbol of the church’s opportunity to participate in the resurrection of the walking dead. Jesus’ key is the symbol of his authority given to his church to minister the gospel in his name. Picture a sign that reads, “This door must remain open at all times.[19] When a particular congregation takes its focus off Christ and stops pointing to Jesus’ open door, they willingly give up their lampstand.

THE LITTLE CHURCH THAT STOOD

The local synagogue of Philadelphia had closed their doors to the ethnic Jews who received Christ’s saving covenant promises. Yet Messiah opened to his Jewish followers the door of heaven that only he can open and shut. “‘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.’” [20]

In this important city, the congregation (unlike the synagogue) was small, likely poor, and had little social or political influence. In these seven prophecies to the seven churches, Jesus speaks to large, important, wealthy churches and to tiny, poor congregations that appear irrelevant to everyone but Christ. Some teachers see in Jesus’ phrase “open door” a command for the church to evangelize and grow because Paul used “open door” as a metaphor for ministry opportunity (Col. 4:3; 1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12). Preachers are always looking for ways to make their people try harder and do more.[21] That desire to make this a “try harder, do better” command doesn’t fit the context of Jesus as the Messianic key to the New Jerusalem and the eternal promised land Christ establishes in verse 7.

The Lord does not chide the Philadelphians for being tiny. Jesus brings people to the church and he sends people from the church. He can send a great revival and swell their numbers dramatically or he can allow in the wolves to split the place. What Christ commands is that his under-shepherds be faithful to keep his word by boldly proclaiming his name (his “name” means his message/doctrine). Failure to remain faithful to Christ as Messiah is the removal of the light/lampstand.  I read some heartbreaking examples of “renaming” Jesus this week.  Let me quote one example attributed to “progressive Christian author” Phillip Gulley:

If the Church Were Christian…

Jesus Would Be a Model for Living Rather Than an Object of Worship

Affirming Our Potential Would Be More Important Than Condemning Our Brokenness…

This Life Would Be More Important Than the Afterlife[22]

Those statements are perfect examples of how to abandon God’s two words of law and gospel, and how to deny Jesus’ name, and how to throw away the lampstand. Jesus was a good man who came to affirm my potential by giving me keepable rules to make me a better version of me.

The verb tenses for “you have kept” and “you have not denied” (aorist) point to a particular period of trial in the recent past. This congregation has already been persecuted and remained faithful. Jesus promised a threefold reward for faithfulness: vindication before the ethnic Jews opposing them (v. 9), deliverance in the final period of testing (v. 10), and security in the coming age (v. 11).[23] Jesus is indeed “affirming their potential” because their true potential lies in their trust union with Christ and all his benefits (which include vindication, deliverance, and eternal security).

Their vindication is not found in the size of membership, the quality of the ambiance, the number of programs maintained for your entertainment pleasure, or size of the church budget. It’s found in the benefits of union with Christ. Their vindication comes in the present as more ethnic Jews come out of the synagogue and join them in worshipping Messiah Jesus, thus becomming the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16; Rom. 2:28-29). Complete vindication will come at the consummation of all things when every knee shall bow to Messiah and all who trust into him; for they are the true Israel of God regardless of race, color, tribe, language or nation (Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10).

Their deliverance comes not by being taken out of persecution but by remaining faithful through the hour of trial (all the judgments of God, Rev. 6:1). Messiah will be faithful to them at the time of their great trial. The promise is consistent with the high-priestly prayer of Jesus, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15).[24] Their deliverance is that they shall overcome through suffering (rather than escaping suffering). “The spiritual protection of the church is presented elsewhere in Revelation under such figures as sealing (7:1ff.) and flight to the wilderness (12:6).”[25]

Their security comes from Messiah’s promises. The overcomer shall be an unshakable pillar in God’s true temple. Remember, God’s true temple is not a building but the reality of Immanuel dwelling with his people. Because Christ’s Kingdom is unshakeable, they will never have to go out of it running from earthquakes that shake their temporary home of Philadelphia. Their temporary city had three names: Philadelphia, Neocaesarea, Flavia. As citizens who have passed through the open door of Messiah’s Kingdom, the overcomers will have three names: the name of God the Father, name of the New Jerusalem (the temple-city of God and his true Israel), and the name of Christ – a name made new because we who overcomes shall see The Man in Heaven face-to-face in all his glory.

The reward of believers who trust into Christ is not fame, health, wealth, or even necessarily membership in a large and wealthy congregation. The reward is Immanuel alone. My question for you this morning is this: Is Immanuel enough for you? All the trials you endure in this temporary city of man you endure so that you can begin to perceive Messiah alone is enough.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. [26]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 3:7–13.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 3:13.

[3] Mounce, 98.

[4] Kistemaker and Hendriksen, 156.

[5] Id.

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ala%C5%9Fehir#Modern_period

 

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 3:7.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 3:8.

[9] Mounce, 99.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 10:30.

[11] Beale, 283.

[12] Mounce, 99–100.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 3:7.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 1:18.

[15] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 22:22.

[16] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 10:9.

[17] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 14:6.

[18] Phillips, 144-145.

[19] Id.

[20] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 3:8.

[21] Phillips, op. cit.

[22] Phillip Gulley, If the Church Were Christian, Rediscovering the Value of Jesus

[23] Mounce, 101.

[24] Id., 103.

[25] Id.

[26] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 2 Co 4:16–18.

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