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'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens." - Revelation 3:7b-e

"These things says He who is holy"

The author of this letter, the Lord Jesus Christ, gives some of His credentials at this point, as He did with all of the other churches. In the previous letters He applied images from the shocking revelation of Himself in chapter one to the various churches. But for the last two letters He introduces other vital information about who He is.

Holiness is one of the major themes of Scripture. The word "holy" comes from the Greek word hagios, which means "venerated, sanctified (set apart)". It particularly designates separation from sin. Surprisingly, it comes from the root word hagos, which means "an awful thing." The concept is that it is terrifying to envision just how opposite God is from anything that is evil. Thus we understand the many places in God's Word where we are told to fear the Lord.

"And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." - Deuteronomy 10:12

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. - Proverbs 1:7

Isaiah and Ezekiel were both awe-stricken when they had visions about the holiness of God (Isaiah 6:1-7; Ezekiel 1). The Apostle Paul had a similar experience when he beheld an image of the risen Christ (Acts 9:1-9).

The word "holy" is used 27 times in the Book of Revelation, and this is the first of those instances. We will discover that it is often used of things or beings other than God, such as holy angels, and the holy city. In fact, it is repeatedly used of true believers. "Saints" are holy ones, those who are sanctified or set apart to God. When we get to Revelation 5:8 we will consider the first of 14 places where this same word is translated "saints."

This image of believers being "set apart, sanctified, holy" is closely related to what we studied in Sardis, where Jesus said there were a few who had not defiled their garments and they will walk with Him in white robes (chapter 3, verse 4). Their white robes were symbolic of the fact that their sins were forgiven and God had imputed to them the righteousness of Christ. The Apostle Paul addressed all believers as "saints," even in his letter to the unspiritual Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:2; cf. 3:1).

Saints are not perfect and yet we are told to be holy.

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." - 1 Peter 1:15-16

Theologians explain that there is a difference between our standing and our state. In our redeemed standing before God, we are declared righteous because of what Christ has done for us (Romans 6:6; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 1:12-13), but in our current state, we still struggle with the temptation to sin (Romans 7:13-25; Philippians 3:12; 1 John 1:8-10), and sometimes we fail. That is why we are taught to regularly confess our sins, and consciously allow ourselves to be filled anew, or controlled, by the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:9; Ephesians 5:18).

Jesus also described Himself as, "He who is true." The intrinsically holy Son of God would also need to be truth personified. We get a glimpse of Jesus' concept of truth from His trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.

Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?"
Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."
38 Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, "I find no fault in Him at all.
- John 18:37-38

Pilate was influenced by the philosophers of the day, and the more famous ones from the Greek era. Philosophers were most concerned with what is true, but in a period of moral decline it was fashionable to dismiss the demands of morality by asking the rhetorical question, "What is truth?" For many people of the First Century, and indeed, too many from our own generation, that question would end the conversation.

Jesus had already taught His Disciples that He was "the way, the truth, and the life," and most amazingly, "No one comes to the Father except by me." (John 14:6) This, of course, is completely contrary to the notion that all religions are equal. That error has been present in some form, for our entire generation. When I was young I heard people say, "It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere." However, it has become much worse in recent years with people parroting the illogical statement that, "Everything is relative," denying that there is any absolute truth. (See the notes on the new definition of "toleration," in chapter 2, verse 20). On judgment day, everyone will realize that there is absolute truth, and that it is centered in Jesus Christ.

The New Testament makes it very clear that Jesus was a "son of David" (Matthew 1:1; 9:27; 21:9, etc.), meaning that He was of the family or lineage of David (Matthew 1:17; Luke 1:27; John 7:42; Romans 1:3; Revelation 5:5; 22:16), but here He makes the additional claim that He is: "He who has the key of David."

What would the key of David unlock? Since God had promised that David's throne would be eternal (2 Samuel 7:13; Isaiah 9:7; Luke 1:32), David himself will be king in Israel in the Millennial Kingdom (Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 37:24-25) under Jesus, the "King of Kings (Revelation 19:11-16). It appears that this key is the right to determine who may enter into that kingdom. This is consistent with what we just mentioned - that Jesus was the only way for people to reach the Heavenly Father. In his Gospel, John had described it this way, showing that Jesus opened a way to the Father, but individuals would need to "receive Him" in order to become God's children.

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: - John 1:12

"He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens."

As mentioned before, Philadelphia was established as a center of Hellenistic culture in order to export that way of life to the adjoining regions of Lydia and Phrygia. The church there had an even higher purpose of exporting the Gospel. It had evidently not been "closed" or kept from accomplishing its purpose up to this time.

The Lord Jesus had plans to use the city as a beacon of truth to those around it, and history tells us that once it became a Christian community, it held out against the advances of Islam for centuries, and was the last city of Asia Minor to surrender to the Ottoman conquerors.

The door of Philadelphia's Christian testimony was finally closed in AD 1390, but with the Lord's permission. This should give us comfort in the Lord's plan for His Church in a day like ours, when Christians are being driven out of their ancient homelands in the Middle East by radical Islamists. God had often allowed His people to be scattered, in Bible times, and in all of history, so that He might open new areas of evangelism.

Next: Revelation 3:8


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