Saturday, 30 July 2016 23:55

24. Church in Philadelphia, when God gives you a door * Revelation 3:7-13, Part 1 of 2

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7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things says he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens;

8 I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it: for you have a little strength, and have kept my word, and have not denied my name.

9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.

10 Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown.

12 He that overcomes 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 comes down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

13 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.

 

PART 1

 

*** Historical setting ***: Philadelphia was located in the region of Lydia, in the western area of Asia Minor, about 25 miles southwest of Sardis. Today, it is the city of Alşehir, Turkey. The ancient city was built on a volcanic plateau. It was established by king Attalus II, in 189 BC. His brother, Eumenes II of Pergamon, was the king of Pergamum. The city was named in honor of their close relationship. It means brotherly love, from the Greek phileo (to love) and adelphus (brother). In 167 BC, the Romans attempted to persuade Attalus to betray his brother and take over the Pergamene throne, but Attalus refused.

The city was strategically located, right at the junction of the borders of Mysia, Lydia, and Phrygia. It was a gateway to the East, by the Imperial Post-Road. This road essentially connected Rome to the East. The city was located at a perfect place to help spread the Greek language and culture. The city was founded with that purpose. It was quite literally an open door for the spreading of the Greek philosophy throughout Asia. It was a prosperous place, and sat on a fertile area near a river, by the foot of Mount Tmolus. But it had a big disadvantage. That region was subject to Earthquakes. The earthquake of 17 AD destroyed Philadelphia, as well as other nearby cities (including Sardis). Because of this, those cities were exempt from taxation, and were offered funds for relief.

Due to the seismic activity in that region, not much is left of the ancient city today. Some of the remaining ruins are: a small theater (Odeon), which sat between 2,000 and 3,000 people; a large 60,000-seat amphitheater, built around the 1st century; and some broken pieces of columns. Under Byzantine rule, Philadelphia was known as “Little Athens”, because of its pagan temples and festivals. Around 600 AD, the Basilica of St. John (St Jean) was built. Some of its ruins still remain as well.

*** Biblical View ***: This is another city only mentioned in the book of Revelation. The church in Smyrna and the church in Philadelphia have some things in common: they did not receive any rebuke, were persecuted by the so called Jews that were the synagogue of Satan, and the faithful remnant of God had a victory crown they should hold on to. It is interesting to note, that Jesus did not address the unfaithful members of the church in Philadelphia. The letter is directed only to those in the church with little strength, who had kept His word, and had not denied His name (verse 8). But Jesus identified, once again, the opposing side at the time, even though He was not addressing them directly. In the letter, we see two sides, very well defined:
- The ones with little strength: faithful Christians. Revelation 14:12 identifies the people of god as being those who “keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus”.
- The synagogue of Satan: everybody else; and also referred to as ‘those who dwell on Earth’.

A strong theme in the letter is the idea of a key and a door. Jesus has the key, and the church in Philadelphia received the door from Him. This door was open. Even though they had little strength, the door remained open to Philadelphians. That’s because they kept His word and did not deny Jesus’ name. There were no barriers between the church and Jesus. In contrast, in Laodicea, Jesus was found outside, knocking at a locked door (Revelation 3:20).

There is a very important door that once closed, will never be open again. We read about this door in Luke 13:22-30. In these verses, Jesus explains that the owner of the house is the one closing that door of Salvation on the last days. Whoever is inside, will remain inside, and whoever is outside will remain outside. He does not recognize the ones left outside, and therefore they cannot come in. Jesus called those people evildoers (Luke 13:27). This closed door is actually a reason for celebration and feasting to the ones inside. But it is the cause for weeping and gnashing of teeth to the ones outside (Luke 13:28-29). We see this same concept in the story of Noah. God locked the door of the arc, and the ones inside were saved, while the ones outside perished (Genesis 7:16, 22-23).

The idea of this closed door is a very strong message. But when Jesus lays an open door before His chosen people, powerful things can also happen. Paul mentioned that a “great door for effective work” was open for him for the preaching of the Gospel, while he was in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:9). In a similar way, he found an open door for spreading the message in Troas (2 Corinthians 2:12). When writing to the Colossians, he requested that the church pray for God to open a door for successful evangelistic efforts (Colossians 4:2-6). Where there are willing servants, God will provide the way to spread His Word. Clearly, we should pray for this type of door to be open, and at the same time, we need to be prepared to use it.

Perhaps the most important door that He opened was an unconventional door, located in the temple in Jerusalem. When Jesus died, the “door” that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, in the temple, was permanently open. It was torn down from top to bottom (Mark 15:37-38). Christ was the ultimate sacrifice, and He had become the bridge between His people and the Father. Through Jesus, the blessing of Eternal Life could now be given to the people. And no one, in Heaven or the on Earth, can ever change this. This is exactly the message of the Gospel: that in Jesus, we have an open door to salvation, eternal restoration, and unbreakable reconnection with the Father.

When we think about the concept of the open and the closed door, we can see that the church in Philadelphia had a great responsibility on their hands. Their city was already optimized for the rapid and effective spreading of information. We can understand that Jesus expected the members to utilize the door He had opened for them. We cannot forget the main feature of this door. Christ is the one who controls it. He is the one holding the keys. As we saw in the texts from Paul’s letters, we can pray for God to open the doors for us. To His faithful servants, His door means salvation. To the one who keep His word and do not deny His name, this open door means a direct link with their Creator. Luke 11:9-10 says: “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” But what exactly is it that we should be asking for? What are we supposed to seek? Why do we need an open door? Jesus gives the answer a few verses later, in Luke 11:13: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” It is through this open door that we can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit will power the people who receive Him. And they will be able to do great things, and produce “effective work”, as Paul mentioned.

*** Overview ***: The church in Philadelphia had an open door. No barriers stood between the members of the church and the Lord. Not even the opposition from the synagogue of Satan could separate them from God. The only thing that could shut that door, or make them lose their victory crown (verse 11), was if they did not keep the truth they already had. This door was held open not by the strength of the believer, but by the faith the believer had on the One holding the keys. By believing in the Lord, Noah was protected by a closed door during the flood, and was saved by an open door after it. Through an open door, Paul was able to preach throughout Asia, despite persecution and multiple incarcerations. When we knock on the door, we will receive the Holy Spirit. And that is the single most important thing we should ask God for when we knock at His door. He has the keys to it. He is in control. Whatever will help us in our spiritual journey, be it a closed door, or an open one, Jesus will provide it.

   
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