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8 "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie-indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. - Revelation 3:8-9

With the exact same words that Jesus had spoken to each of the other churches, He told the Philadelphians, "I know your works." Again, we cannot possibly earn our way into heaven by our good woks, but having a right relationship with Christ just naturally results in a life of good deeds (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5,8. See the notes on "works" in chapter 2, verse 2 and verse 26).

As He continued His commendation, the Lord gave them more promises than any other church. There is no criticism in this letter. The only other assembly that received no criticism was Smyrna, the persecuted church.

"See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it"

In the previous verse Jesus described himself as the one who opens and closes doors. No one else can close what He has opened or open what He has closed.

Jesus' omnipotence makes this situation possible. He is the all-powerful Son of God, the Creator (John 1:1-3, 14; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-3), whose earthly life overflowed with miraculous events. He cleansed lepers with a word, gave sight to the blind, and even raised the dead. He calmed the storms, walked on water, and turned water into wine. And most amazingly, after He had submitted Himself to death for us, He was resurrected from the dead, and after more than a month, He ascended into heaven!

This promise speaks loudly about Jesus' divine direction in the lives of His followers. For this group of faithful believers, and indeed, those in every place, He arranges just the right set of circumstances to bring about His good plan for their lives and ministries.

In our individual world, and in our corporate experience, as members of His Church, there are countless ways that the eye of faith can see His power and providence. For the church at Philadelphia, there were at least three ways that Jesus opened doors:

1- Salvation
2- Opportunity/missions
3- Deliverance from wrath by the Rapture

1 - Salvation

Jesus told His Disciples,

"Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. - John 10:7-9

He is the door. In this most important sense, He provides an entrance into eternal life and adoption into the family of God (John 1:12; John 3:16; Ephesians 1:5). Yet, in another sense, He stands at the door and knocks (we will consider this in Revelation 3:20).

The fact that He has no criticism of this group, nor any call to repentance, shows that they were well aware of the simple Gospel of salvation, and that most of them had already committed their lives to Him.

2 - Opportunity/Missions

The Philadelphians would already be familiar with the idea that their city was a door, or an opening, to the adjoining regions for the purpose of exporting Greek culture to others. They could easily imagine that their thriving church would be responsible to proclaim an even greater way of life: Christianity. Through their obedience to the Great Commission, untold numbers of others in Asia Minor and beyond would hear the life-changing Gospel and respond to it by believing in Jesus!

Jesus' will, expressed in the Great Commission, is to spread the Gospel.

"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." - Acts 1:8 (See also: Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21-22)

As mentioned before, Philadelphia was on a highly-maintained segment of the Roman Roads. This was a boon to evangelism because it made it so much easier for Christians to travel to places far and wide in the vast Roman Empire. Missionaries like Paul and Silas could move from place to place sharing the Gospel. Christians who needed to travel for business or other reasons would take their beliefs with them to share wherever they stopped on the highway. Visitors from other, sometimes far-away, places would visit Philadelphia on their journey. Christians there could provide hospitality, and offer them the most valuable gift: the story of Jesus.

If the Philadelphians could be encouraged to spread the Word because of their privileged position on the Roman Road, how much more should we, in our time and place, make use of the broad roads of our life-style to take the Gospel to others all over the world, and to share God's message with those who have come to our area for work or study. Not only do we have freeways and highways in the skies for jetliners, but we have radio and television airwaves, cell phone and satellite connections, and the most incredible path for knowledge: the Internet.

The "information explosion" of our generation, and the instantaneous connection of our devices to sources of knowledge anywhere on the earth, were envisioned in Daniel's prophecies hundreds of years before Christ.

"But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." - Daniel 12:4

We are blessed to live at such a time as this, and even though modern technology can be used for evil as well as for good, every Christian has the opportunity of sharing his or her faith and influencing others for good through the many social networks that exist, such as Facebook, Twitter, and others.

After we have seen the application of this section to the original church at Philadelphia we will contemplate how this church was the prototype of the great Missionary movements of the 18th to 20th Centuries.

3 - Deliverance from Wrath

Another vital way that Jesus opens a door for this church era is the Rapture of the Church! We will soon consider the Lord's counsel to the recipients of this letter and His promise to deliver them from the Tribulation Period (chapter 3, verses 10-13) when He returns to "catch up" believers of the Church Age.

"For you have a little strength..."

As Jesus continued His commendation of the Philadelphia Church, He noted that they had some strength. This was not a criticism. He was not calling them weak. It is like the little encouragements a good coach gives to a young athlete when he shows improvement. "Great job, Bud! Keep up the good work!" The believers in Philadelphia didn't have all of the advantages that some Christians had in a major city, or in a place where the Apostle Paul had spent months or years, like Ephesus,

In Christian theology, the knowledge that one has limited strength is an important prerequisite to "letting go, and letting God" take control of the details of our life. It is like Paul's "thorn in the flesh."

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Another commendable fact about this church was that they "have kept My word and have not denied My name." There is a definite correlation between keeping God's Word and not becoming a failure. Keeping God's Word involves knowing and declaring the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). In too many churches there is limited exposure to the incredible wealth of "the whole Bible." Topical messages have their place, but the mainstay of instruction for God's people should be expository preaching of whole books of the Bible.

Following the recent death of Chuck Smith, the founder of the Calvary Chapel and the "Jesus People" movement, a nearly endless number of people, including hundreds of pastors, called his radio station to honor his faithful service to the Lord. Many of them especially mentioned his example of teaching verse-by-verse through whole books of the Bible.

The other thing the Philadelphia believers surely must have done in order to keep Jesus' word was to remember and observe His commandments (John 14:15-25; 15:10). James explained the importance of not only knowing, but of doing God's will.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.- James 1:22-25

Next: Revelation 3:9


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