Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 15 What will Jesus say about our church? . Philadelphia - A Glorious Church

. Philadelphia - A Glorious Church

PHILADELPHIA - A GLORIOUS CHURCH

 

Revelation 3:7-13 (ESV) 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. 8 “ ‘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. 9 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.’

Introduction.

There was once a man who was looking for the perfect church, with the most perfect pastor. His friend aptly reminded him that if he were to find such a church that he should not join it as it will then no longer be perfect. There is no perfect church as there is no perfect Christian. And guess what? There is no perfect pastor – thought I will burst my own bubble on this one.

At Logos, we always say that we desire to be the church that Jesus intends us to be. However, we realise we will always fall short of the absolute standard of holiness that God has set, and none of us can be everything that the Lord desires, but it is still possible to be faithful, to be obedient, to be diligent, and to please the Lord as a congregation.

There are those Christians who claim that they are not part of the local church because it is full of hypocrites. They better not join then, because there will be one more hypocrite. Calling yourself a Christian and not aligning with the church of Christ is hypocritical.

Philadelphia maybe was quite close to perfection, well actually so close that like Smyrna they received no condemnation, but only commendations.

Philadelphia was 48 km southeast of Sardis in Asia Minor. It was founded after Attalus, the king of Pergamum in 189, came to that area. He was nicknamed Philadelphia because he was known as having a special love for his brother, and that became the name of the city which he founded. It was rich in agriculture, which was assisted by volcanic ash. There were elements of volcanic ash deposited in that area, Asia Minor, and it helped grow things more rapidly. The city, like so many other ancient cities, stood on a hill above a long valley.

We are told that in A.D. 17, a powerful earthquake destroyed 12 cities in the area, including Sardis and Philadelphia. And, again, in 60 A.D., an earthquake destroyed Laodicea. All of them were in this area where there were active volcanos. The emperor, the Caesar Tiberius, helped rebuild Philadelphia; he helped rebuild Sardis. So, a monument was made to him and he was worshipped there.

But let’s look at the letter.

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:” This is a representative from that church that will carry back the book of Revelation, and in particular, this letter for that church.

1. Introduction of author.

The author describes Himself in four distinct ways.

‘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.

1.1 He is Holy.

“‘The words of the holy one,”

These words do not appear in chapter 1. But they are implied, as John falls before Him as though dead, which reminds us of Isaiah falling before God in Isaiah 6 when His holiness is declared. It is a clear indication that Jesus is God. In John 6:69 (ESV) Jesus is called that: 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” In the Old Testament there is a prophecy regarding Christ in Psalm 16:10 (ESV) 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”

In Revelation 4:8 (ESV) we see the same living creatures as in the time of Isaiah still crying out that God is Holy. They just do not tire, do they?  8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

God is holy, and Christ is holy, and here Holy God is speaking to the church of Philadelphia, and He speaks well of His church.

1.2 He is true.

“‘The words of the holy one, the true one,”

In Revelation 6:10, He is called “holy and true.” Two magnificent attributes of His absolute character: holiness and truth. He is holy; He is true. Remember the Words of Christ in John 14:6 (ESV) 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is the true God, not the false one. He is perfect in His righteousness, and He is true in His character and all that He says and does, therefore He speaks with authority. His evaluation of His churches is true.  His truth is an absolute standard, and against that truth is measured every lie and it falls short. He is the Holy God who can’t tolerate sin. He is the true God who has no place for error or falsehood, and still He does not rebuke this church.

1.3 He has the keys of David.

“who has the key of David,”

Unlike Tele Prophet Shawn Boltz who claims that the angel who is the Minister of finances in Heaven has appeared to him and given him the keys to open and shut the riches of this world. He has even written a book on it now. He now has the power to unlock riches for anybody whether it is on the stock exchange or that business you want to own.

Bad News for him:  JESUS REALLY HAS THE KEYS, Shawn Boltz does not.

Jesus is identified in verse 7 as the one who has the key of David. He is called the root of David a couple of times in the book of Revelation. Here, He possesses the key of David. What does that mean? He has the Messianic authority. In the line of David, He is the Messiah. The key is the emblem of authority, ultimate control, sovereignty. This is a direct reference, by the way, back to Isaiah 22, where speaking of Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, who had the key to all the treasures of the king, he has authority over the royal treasury. He can open its riches and disperse them and dispense them. The key of David then is the ultimate Messianic authority over all the royal riches of heaven on all levels.

Jesus Christ then is the Holy One, the True One, and the one who has access to all the treasures of heaven, and who pours them out by His own sovereign will on His people. He has sovereign authority to open the riches of heaven to anyone. This is not just about finances but all the heavenly blessings which we have been blessed with in Christ Jesus.

1.4 He controls the Kingdom.

who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.”

Ephesians says we are blessed in Christ with all spiritual blessings. He advances His Kingdom and has complete control of the kingdom and its resources. He controls who enters and who does not. He is the one who said that He is the way the truth and the life and that nobody comes to the Father but by Him. He is the one who said that He is the door of salvation. According to Matthew 24:18 all authority in heaven and on earth is given to Him. According to Revelation 1:18 He has the keys of death and Hades. He has the key to heaven and to hell. This is majesty at its highest possible point.

Paul reminds us on occasions that the Lord has given Him open doors. And so, for our lives, we need to realise that Christ has the final authority. No man, no prophet, no priest, no pastor can open and close doors for you, only Christ can.

2. Commendation.

8 “ ‘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.”

The Lord Jesus Christ, who is God – holy, true, sovereign, powerful and who can open and close doors – looks at this church in Philadelphia and has nothing to rebuke, nothing to condemn, nothing to chasten them about, nothing to warn them about, nothing at all for which they should be threatened with judgement. That is encouraging, because they weren’t a perfect church. There can’t be a perfect church. But they were a true church and they were a faithful church.

So, let’s unpack what He says about them.

2.1 He knows their works.

8 “I know your works.”

Now, in verse 8, there is a divine commendation. The holy, true, sovereign, powerful Lord knows everything there is to know about them. He never says anything specific about the church in Philadelphia. He doesn’t discuss any specific issues or specific qualities. He just generally affirms that they are a church that He will bless.

As we study church after church after church, we see Him again and again saying that He knows their works. I think it is time to take note that He is watching us, that He knows what we are doing and how we are doing it. He knows whether we are serving Him for His glory, or whether we serve for our own glory. He knows!

2.2 He knows they have little power.

“I know that you have but little power,”

They had a little ‘dunamis’. And let’s not make the mistake that so many make to equate ‘dunamis’ with dynamite. Christian power is not like dynamite. The word ‘dynamite’ is derived from ‘dunamis’ and not the other way around. This letter is written in the first century, ‘dynamite’ only existed since it was invented by the Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Nobel in Geesthacht, and patented in 1867. So, the power of Christians can never be equated with dynamite.

There is no way here that ‘strength’ in this context can mean, strong, gifted, able people. It is also not that they were some kind of feeble church. The emphasis most probably lies in the fact they were a small church or a small group of people, which eliminated them from doing much that they would have loved to do. Their power was small because they were few. It was not a sin issue that limited their power. It was not a Holy Spirit issue that limited their power.

Paul helps us a bit in this regard. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (ESV)26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV) 9 Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Spiritual power was flowing in that small church. That means that they were true worshippers, true lovers of Christ, that they were holding to the truth, and they were in obedience to it.

2.3 He knows they have kept His words.

8 “… and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

We can spend hours on this one.

This is the mark of a true church, we hear His word and we keep His word. We do this because we know that the Word of God is living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword. We do this because we know that it is the Sword of the Spirit and Spirit filled people love His word and obey His word. We do this because we know that the whole of Scripture is God breathed and useful for instruction, admonishing, correction and training the man of God, to bring him to maturity. This church was committed to that.

2.4 He knows they have not denied His name.

8 and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

 

God has always been very jealous of His name. This jealousy is not the kind of sinful human jealousy. Isaiah 48:9-11 (ESV) 9 “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. 10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” God should be jealous of His name as He cannot share His glory with any other.

And so, every church should protect the name of the Lord. We must not use it in vain, and we must never deny it, even to the extent to which Peter did it out of fear. Revelation 14:12 (ESV) 12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” When persecution comes, it is so easy to deny His name.

This church obviously suffered persecution. They were given the opportunity to deny the name of the Lord, but they did not. They knew what Paul knew. They preached Christ and could not deny the Name of the one they preached.

2.5 He knows they endured patiently.

10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance,”

Another way to say that: “You have kept My command to endure patiently.”

All the churches are challenged to endure to the end, to conquer or to overcome. Philadelphia did just that. They might have tired in the battle, but they endured to the end.

Again, this indicates there was persecution – and we would expect that. The Lord told them they were going to be hated by the world. They were going to be persecuted, they were going to be mistreated by Jews, they were going to be mistreated by Gentiles. This is going to be life for a Christian. But they had kept the command of the Lord to endure patiently. He requires that of His own. John understood this by the way. We read in Revelation 1:9 (ESV) “9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”

He knew all about patient endurance in tribulation. This is the true church, the faithful church, not perfect, but faithful. And there are churches like that today. I would love to believe that we are a church like that.

I would like to believe with all my heart that our church is a faithful church. All we are praying for now is that God will give us open doors for the gospel, that He will cause our light to shine, that His people will rise up and use their gifts for the sake of His glory and His Name.

Oh, that He will give us open doors that no man could shut.

Too many believers view open doors as purely personal and in particular physical blessings. The early church had a different view.

Paul reports it as a door of faith. Acts 14:27 (ESV) 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”

Paul sees an open door in spite of opposition. 1 Corinthians 16:9 (ESV) 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”

He asks the church to pray for open doors. Colossians 4:3 (ESV) 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—"

I trust that we as a congregation are praying for open doors, and that we will endure patiently even if it includes persecution or facing adversaries.

 

3. Vindication.

9 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.

“Behold I will make” – is maybe the most exciting words a church can hear. We all desire to see God do what God will and can do. It is the same as the words ‘but God’ in  Ephesians 2:1-4 (ESV) 1 And you were dead (dead) in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world (deviant), following the prince of the power of the air (demonized), the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (disobedient)3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind (deranged), and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (damned). 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us (delivered).”

Oh, how we need God to act not only in our salvation as in Ephesians 2:4 but also in our vindication as in Revelation 3:9. We will see it again in verse 10. Three times in verse 9&10 we see God in action: “I will make”, “I will make”, and “I will keep.

This is what we want to hear, I have little strength, my faith is week, we are but a small church, I am struggling with my daily issues …………. ‘BUT GOD’ or “I WILL MAKE ….”.

But let’s put this in context first.

What does Jesus mean when He says: 9 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.”

Does it mean that there was a community that were part of the synagogue who were claiming and ethnicity that wasn’t true? Does it mean that they were Greeks who claimed to be Jews, but were not? If that were true it should have no affect on the church of Philadelphia.

The key words here are: “claimed to be” and “synagogue of Satan”.

The answer lies in texts like Romans 2:28-29 (ESV) 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”

Jesus says that they are not led by God, they are led by Satan. That’s familiar language, isn’t it? They have not experienced the “But God” in Ephesians 2. They are still: “following the prince of the power of the air (demonized), the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (disobedient). So, in Romans 8 they claimed to be Jews, because they were Jews by birth. When they were born they cried in Hebrew (humour intended for the theological purists).

We see it again in John 8:39-47 (ESV).  39 They (the Jews) answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Again, they claim to be, and Jesus says they are not. They are of the synagogue of their father, Satan.

The biological Jews who were actually children of Satan, because they were not circumcised in their hearts were obviously persecuting the church of Philadelphia. Remember they did it this with Smyrna. We saw it in Revelation 2:9 (ESV) 9I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan.”

BUT GOD, but the Lord makes an amazing promise: “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.” Jewish people from a synagogue bowing down to Gentiles and learning that it is the Gentiles that the Lord God loves. The true church of Christ should never worry about those in society who are persecuting them. They should not worry too much about their theology, but rather focus on their own, they should not look with jealousy at their size, their programs, their buildings or their growth. What matters is that God loves you, and that He will humble them.

No matter that they are you adversaries, that they are your enemies, that they are making life difficult for you, that there is persecution – God will make them bow.

We all know that the Jews have rejected Christ, that they sent Him to the cross. Is their hope for them? Can Jews be saved? I do not want to go into deep theological discussions, but a simple glancing will have to prevail. Romans 11 teaches us much about this. A few thoughts must suffice. Paul asks in Romans 11 whether the Jews can be saved. He then answers it in Romans 11:1 (ESV) 1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.” Now remember that the Jews did not believe that the Gentiles should be included in the faith, but Paul says in Romans 11:11 (ESV) 11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.” Even Jonah had a problem with the fact that God would give grace to the Gentiles in Nineveh.

These Israelites who claim to be Jews but are not were cut out of the main branch, and the gentiles who are people like the church of Philadelphia were grafted in. God will make the Jews jealous, God will make them acknowledge that He loves Philadelphia, God will humble them. According to 1 Corinthians 14:21 it is through the very language of foreigners that God again will speak to unbelieving Israel. That is the very purpose of tongues. 1 Corinthians 14:21 (ESV)21 In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”

The joy is that some will listen according to Romans 11. And so God will provoke them to jealousy, by humbling those of the synagogue of Satan to the point that they acknowledge that God loves the church of Philadelphia. The Jews throughout church history, and finally in the end, will see the blessing of God has been on the church. They will see that God has loved us.

And we are seeing it. This church is full of Jewish people who’ve come to Christ.

There is a further promise for the church of Philadelphia, not just Divine Protection.

4. Divine Protection.

4.1 He will keep them.

“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.”

We are not sure what is meant here as we do not have a clear-cut historical event that we can point to. It might be referring to elevated persecution. We must remember that in their day and age the whole world, was their world that they knew. They did not possess global maps. So, it might simply be that they were spared from some trial that came into their world at a given time.

But it can be deeper than that, because the language is very deep and sweeping.

It could be referring to the end of history when a time of severe judgment was going to come on the earth. They knew about the coming of the Great Tribulation Daniel’s Seventieth Week; a time that is described to us starting in Revelation 6 through Revelation 18; a time that is described in sequences of sealed judgments, trumpet judgments, and bold judgments that come on the earth that are just devastating beyond comprehension? It’s about to come, not in the sense that it’s coming in days or weeks, but it’s next, it’s imminent, it’s nearer every day – like our salvation, Romans 13, is nearer than when we believed.

Could this be the time of tribulation, the time of great tribulation spoken of by Daniel, Ezekiel, Zachariah, Revelation? And here, is our Lord not saying then to the church, “I will keep you from the hour of testing. The present trouble will be enough. The final test that comes on the whole world will not be for the faithful.”

We know we’ll be kept from the eternal wrath to come, and so would they. I believe it refers to the Pre-tribulation rapture of the church. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (ESV) 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

Why do I believe that it is this? Simply because they will not go into the tribulation. Something will happen that protects them from entering into it. Well, we might say, so what, they lived 2000 years ago, so how could this be a comforting promise for them. The same way it is to us. 1 Thess 1:10 was applicable to Philadelphia, and the early church, and the church in the middle ages, and in the reformation, and those that existed during the 1st and the 2nd World war, and to those during the turn of the Millenium, and it is applicable to us today. So, whether we die before or are raptured before the great tribulation we are spared.

The language used here then leads us to believe that those who are part of the faithful church in the end will be kept out of, or out from that time of trial.

Verse 11 helps us further. Revelation 3:11 (ESV) 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.” As much as we are reminded that He is coming soon, they were.

We know based on Scripture that you cannot lose your salvation. All that you can lose is your reward. Romans 8:1 teaches us that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, but we will along with the church of Philadelphia be judged one day according to what we have done in this life, and we will receive our crowns of reward, or lose out on our full reward. 2 John 8 (ESV) 8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.”

4.2 He will make them.

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.’

If you’re a believer, if you’re an overcomer – this is counsel and comfort to the true Christian, the genuine believer.

There are four eternal blessings given here which we will cover under 3 points.

4.2.1 He will make them pillars in the temple.

“I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God.”

What does that mean? It simply means that you are going to live in heaven forever. Your place in heaven is a permanent, immovable place in heaven. It is interesting when we look at the ruins of those times, as I have post on the screen numerous times, that it is often the pillars that are left standing. It is an apt reminder to the Philadelphians and us that we will be pillars in the temple of God forever.

4.2.2 They will receive the Name of God.

“I will write upon 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.”

It was tradition in those times to honour people by carving their names on pillars. God will write on us, His pillars His name and the name of the New Jerusalem. We are His and we live in His Holy city. It’s incredibly gracious, stunning mercy. We will be forever God’s, forever honoured. We have permeant citizenship in heaven with all rights and privileges to the Eternal City.

4.2.3 He will write on them His new name.

:… 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.

We are reminded of the new name of Jesus in Philippians 2:10-11 (ESV) 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

It is not at the name Jesus, but the name of Jesus that every knee will bow. Because He died God gave Him a name that is above every name. Whatever that name is, be it Lord or a name we’ve never heard, it will be the name that encompasses the fullness of His eternal majesty. The name will encompass the fullness of His eternal majesty.

Closing.

And so, this is a little church with little power, but much loyalty, obedience, endurance and faithfulness. The Lord threw the doors open and heaven was made accessible, the riches of the kingdom available. And this little church was used by God to bring people to those open doors, and the Spirit of God ushered them into the kingdom. This church had such an impact that even its Jewish persecutors bowed down and acknowledged that God loved them. Ans so God made them promises, eternal promises, and those promises are available to us today, if we too keep His word, do not deny His name, and endure to the end. We will also then experience a ‘but God’ or an ‘I will make’.

And here we see again that the holy, true, sovereign, mighty Lord knew everything about this church. They were not perfect, but they were faithful. And He poured out heaven’s privileges on them; gave them opportunity to be the open door for the gospel; promised to deliver them from the hour of testing; and to come quickly, take them to heaven, and give them everlasting privileges. This is the blessedness of being a faithful church.

 

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: 5 & 12 August 2018