Revelation 3:7-13 // The Church that Jesus Vindicates

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TEXT: Revelation 3:7-13, NIV84

  • This ends the reading of God’s Word.
  • The Word of God for the People of God.

PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION:

Almighty God, we bless You for the things we have read today concerning our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray that You would direct our meditations in light of the knowledge of Your glory in the face of Christ. We we would see Jesus, and it’s in His name we pray. Amen.

 

INTRODUCTION:

There’s one thing from last week’s message that I want to clarify.  Go back to Revelation 3:3 from last week’s passage. Look at the a clause.

“Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.”
– Revelation 3:3a, NIV84

What’s Jesus talking about? I believe He’s talking about the Gospel. I believe He’s talking about the good news concerning Himself, and concerning His kingdom. Now, we don’t often think about the Gospel (the good news) as something that needs to be obeyed, but it is.

  • Even the Apostle Paul says so in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10.

“God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.” – 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, NIV84

 

So, why am I bringing all this up? I feel after looking at today’s passage in Revelation 3:7-13 that the church at Philadelphia is one that has obeyed the Gospel.

 

  • They have believed God, and it has paid off for them. Believing in God and staying faithful to Him always results in a divine reward. It may not result in an earthly reward, but it will always result in a divine reward.

 

CHRIST’S CHARACTER

So, first thing we’ll see here is how Jesus presents Himself to this church.

 

“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” – Revelation 3:7, NIV84

 

First of all, we need to see Jesus’ character. Jesus is holy and true, and it’s for these reasons you can trust Him. Not only that, but He describes Himself as holding the key of David.

 

  • Philadelphia was highly populated with Jews, and so most of the converts coming into the church at this time were Jews.

 

And because there were a lot of Jews in this area, they would often persecute the Christians, and they would hold it over their head that they were the ones that God brought out of Egypt, they were the ones that God provided for, etc.

 

  • And technically, they weren’t wrong that God had done all those things for their people, but He provided them a way of salvation in Jesus as their Messiah and they completely rejected Him.

  • In Deuteronomy 7:7-8, God describes His election of the people of Israel by saying, “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you…”

The Jews were using their election as a weapon, but it was in the plan of God the whole time to have a people worshipped and loved Jesus as their Messiah, and it all has to do with the fact that God loved us before the very foundations of the world were laid according to Ephesians 1.

 

  • God electing love that He has placed us is not meant to be used as a weapon. It’s to make us humble.

  • There are some people, and some of those people are here this morning who might say, “Of course God loves me, I’m nice, I’m cute. I do everything right. I’m in church every Sunday morning. I pay my tithes on the gross and not the net. Why wouldn’t God love me?”

  • But the very thought of God’s electing love should make you say, “Me? He really loves me? He knew I would be a screw up and He loves me anyway?”

 

He loved us before we even knew what love was.

 

  • Listen, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so” not “Jesus loves me this I know for I deserve it”

 

James Burton Coffman does a really good job of summing up the situation in Philadelphia:

“Secular Israel is still in power [in this part of the world] over the Jews in a religious sense, still pretended to have final right of determining who should or should not enter heaven, sternly resisting the claims of the Christians that they, the Christians, were the true Israel of God. To enforce their claims, the Jews cast out of their synagogues all Jews who accepted Christ… This passage emphasizes the truth that, “It is Christ alone… who can give men entrance into the messianic kingdom.” “Christ speaks as He by whom alone comes entrance to the Church, the spiritual house of God.” The imagery of “key of David” and other expressions here is from Isaiah 22:25, where the king of Israel deposed Shebna and appointed Eliakim as the chief-steward.” – James B. Coffman

The implication is clear: Jesus is showing the church at Philadelphia that He is the true king, and He holds the key of David.

  • So, what does the key of David mean? Think about it like this: This is Jesus’ authority to open and close the kingdom of heaven, and he’s saying to this church here: “The door is wide open! Go out into the highways and byways, and compel people to come in.”
  • So, what’s Jesus saying to us at Mount Carmel? “The door is wide open! Go out into the highways and byways, and compel people to come in!”

 

Jesus hasn’t sustained this church since 1883 just so we can have a neat little place for our family. This church isn’t simply for our individual families, it’s for His one big family, and we have an opportunity to invite more people into the family of God.

 

CHRIST’S COMMENDATION

“I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” – Revelation 3:8, NIV84

 

I think the second part of verse 8 is very profound – “I know you have a little strength.”

 

  • I asked you last week if you had an active and living faith. I didn’t ask you if you had a lot of faith, or even strong faith. All I asked you was if your faith was active and living. Why? Because that’s all it takes.

 

“The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”
– Luke 17:5-6, NIV84

 

So, what’s the idea that Jesus is communicating? He’s telling us that our faith isn’t based on how we feel or how big it may be. It’s not about the size of our faith, it’s about the object of our faith.

We may have a little strength, and we may have a little faith, but as long as our little faith is in our great big God, then He will supply all of our needs. (Philippians 4:19)

 

Jesus commends them more by saying, “yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

 

They’re not like the church at Sardis that blends in so well that they’re not persecuted. They’re not compromising like Thyatira. They are faithful.

 

So, if we’re going to be faithful like them, what do we need to do?

 

  • We need to keep God’s word, and be faithful to His name.

 

Keeping God’s Word

  • Mainline liberal churches are dying, and churches with a more faithful approach to Scripture are growing.

 

When Mark Driscoll started Mars Hill Church in Seattle it, they didn’t start the church with the intention of it being a big church. They just wanted to start a Bible study because there weren’t that many churches up there to begin with, and the few churches there were, didn’t even act like they believed in the authority of Scripture.

 

They interviewed a newly married couple that started attending there not to long after Mars Hill started and the husband said, “I’ve been church since I was a little kid and this is the first place where the pastor actually reads more than half a verse when he preaches.”

 

  • We have to be faithful to the word of God if we’re going to be the kind of church that Jesus commends.

 

And not only do we have to be faithful to the word, but we have to be faithful to Christ’s name.

 

Faithful to Christ’s Name

Jesus tells the Church at Philadelphia at the end of verse 8, “you have kept my word, and have not denied my name.”

This means that the message we preach is Jesus. Paul said we preach Christ crucified. That’s it! (1 Corinthians 1:23) The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way that people are saved, and if they turn their backs on us and reject us let be because they are rejecting Jesus.

I am reminded of what Paul said in his introduction to Romans.

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God  2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” – Romans 1:1-5, NIV84

This is what it means to be faithful to His name!

  • The Holy Spirit empowers us to speak the same Gospel of God the Son that God the Father had promised since the beginning of redemptive history.

  • This message goes back to Genesis 3:15 when God told Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

 

And the most beautiful part is that the Gospel is not God’s Plan B! Satan was already defeated as soon as he got Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit.

 

  • Our Gospel, our message that we preach, is Christus Victor! Jesus is victorious over Satan, over sin, over death, and over Hell! And it’s because of His victory that we can bow before Him and call Him Lord.

 

So far, we’ve looked at Christ’s Character, and Christ’s Commendation, but now we’re going to see The Church’s Vindication.

 

THE CHURCH’S VINDICATION

“I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars – I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.” – Revelation 3:9, NIV84

 

If you remember, when we covered The Church in Smyrna, in Revelation 2:8-11, the problem there as well was that there were these people who were Jews and Jesus says they are of the synagogue of Satan. Jesus says that they claim to be Jews and they are not.

 

  • The issue is not that they are pretending to ethnic Jews and they’re actually Gentiles, the problem is that they are trying to cast doubt in the face of Christians by flouting their heritage.

  • This shouldn’t be too hard for us to imagine since this is exactly what happened during Jesus’ ministry in John 8.

    • In John 8:39, the Pharisees were claiming that because they were sons of Abraham they’ve never been enslaved to anyone, and Jesus took them to school, and told them that they were actually children of their father, the devil. (John 8:44)

    • So, this begs the question? Who are the real sons of Abraham? Who are the real Jews? This might ruffle some feathers, but real Jews are those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. I’m not going to walk through it right now, but that’s what Galatians 3:6-29 tells us. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness (Galatians 3:6) and so those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham. (Galatians 3:9)

This church is living in Philadelphia, among a people thrive on oppressing them, and yet, Jesus says that these false Jews will fall at their feet and acknowledge that Christ has loved them as His own people.

I think Sam Storms is spot on here when he says, “Literally, Jesus says he will “give” these false Jews of the synagogue of Satan to the church at Philadelphia, i.e., he will cause them to bow down at their feet and to know that Jesus has loved them. Does this imply that these Jewish opponents will become Christians? Some say Yes and contend that the “open door” of v. 8 pertains specifically to evangelistic opportunity and success among the Jewish population of the city.[1]

Oppression in any form is an opportunity to love our enemies and share the Gospel with them. 

One of the most interesting things about verse 9 is if you know the Old Testament fairly well, then you remember that there are many promises about the Gentiles coming to bow down before Israel in the last days, like in Isaiah 60:14 where it says “they” (the Gentiles) will call “you” (the Israelites) “the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel” and yet, here in Revelation 3:9, Jesus seems to be saying the opposite that these Jews are going to bow down at the feet of these believers.

 

But what Sam Storms believes is that what the Old Testament prophets like Isaiah saw was the fulfillment of the Church as God’s people, and that there will be Jews who come into the Church because they finally see Him as their Messiah and their Savior.

 

And this is ultimately our goal. We want people to see Jesus in us, and realize, as Augustine said, that’s there’s a God-sized hole in their hearts and only Jesus can fill it.

 

CONCLUSION

Maybe you’re here this morning, and you realize your need for Jesus.

Maybe you already see your need for Jesus and you’re already following Him faithfully, but you need more power, more strength, and more encouragement.

I’m not going to walk you through the Sinner’s Prayer or have you sign a card, but I will pray for you and with you if you would like. We have elders here who will pray with you and for you.

Maybe you need healing, we believing in anointing with oil, and we believe that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, and that the prayer of the faith shall save the sick.

We believe all of these things because Jesus has done all of these things for a lot of us in this room at one time or another. Let’s pray.

 

CLOSING PRAYER

Heavenly Father, we think about the promise You spoke to your prophets when You said, “I will be their God, and they will be my people” and we think, “That’s us? Really? We’re the best You could come up with?” But we quickly realize that You didn’t choose us because we were the best or even because we were good, but You chose us in Christ before the foundations of the world because You loved us. We don’t have to understand it, but we have to accept it for what it is.

______________

[1] Storms, Sam. “The Letter to the Church at Philadelphia (3:7-13).” Sam Storms: Oklahoma City, OK, http://www.samstorms.com/all-articles/post/the-letter-to-the-church-at-philadelphia–3:7-13-.

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 2

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

In the last post, we left off talking about the nine things that God has done for us through Christ’s blood.

1. He has blessed us (Eph. 1:3)
2. He has chosen us (Eph. 1:4)
3. He has predestined us (Eph. 1:5, 11)
4. He has made us accepted (Eph. 1:6)
5. He has redeemed us (Eph. 1:7)
6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)
7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)
8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)
9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

Before we get started on Predestination, I want to finish up my thoughts about being chosen. We’ve already established that this word ‘chosen’ is an active choosing. It implies that God has chosen us out of a group. We know that the elect are chosen. What find interesting is the word for ‘chosen’ is an active choosing and the word for ‘church’ is ekklesia is ‘ones who are called out’. This is an active calling. Think about it. God has His thumb on you and He’s calling out to be separate from the influence from the world, separate from the negative influence of the culture, separate from the negative influence of society, but even an even greater scale than that, I believe that this is referring to your divine destiny. You are called and chosen to do something great for thing Kingdom of God for such a time as this. What a profound thought that everything that has happened to you whether it is good or bad has been setting you up for great things in God. You might ask me, “How can you say that something bad that’s happened to me has been setting me up?” In Romans there is a promise that all things will work together for good.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” – [Romans 8:28 KJV]

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” – [Romans 8:37 ESV]

I like where Paul says at the beginning of verse 28, “we know”. He’s saying that “we are confident; we are fully convinced that God is always working and operating for the good of His people.”

I don’t mean to go all Joel Osteen on you or anything but sometimes you’ve just got to determine within your heart that everything is going to be good in the end because God loves you and He might allow bad things to happen but in the end it will all be good.

3. He has predestined us. (Ephesians 1:5, 11)

Again, this is a touchy subject for Calvinists and Arminians alike. After all of the research and studying I’ve done on it I feel like I should side with Finis Jennings Dake on the issue:

“It is God’s plan that He has foreknown and predestined, not the individual conformity of free wills to the plan. He has called all people and all are free to accept or reject the call (Jn. 3:16; 1Tim. 2:4; 2Pet. 3:9; Rev. 22:17). All who do accept, He has foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son that His Son might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). Those who reject the plan, He has foreknown and predestined to be consigned to eternal hell as an everlasting monument of His wrath on rebels (Isa. 66:22-24; Rev. 14:9-11; Mt. 25:41,46). This is the sum of foreknowledge and predestination.” – Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible

For me, personally, the issue of predestination and election is something that I keep in the open hand. I can take it or leave it. What I mean by the closed hand and open hand metaphor is this: if someone were to put a gun to my head and say, “Do you believe Jesus died on the cross for your sins?” I said “Yes” and take what was coming to me. If someone were to put a gun to my head and say, “Do you believe that man can choose whether he is saved or not?” I’d say, “Wait a minute. Let’s talk about this.” I’m willing to die for Jesus but not over my position on predestination and election. Moving on…

4. He has made us accepted. (Ephesians 1:6)

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” – [Ephesians 1:6 KJV]

I absolutely love Scofield’s position on this verse.

“Adoption (huiothesia, “placing as a son”) is not so much a word of relationship as of position. The believer’s relation to God as a child results from the new birth John 1:12, 13 whereas adoption is the act of God whereby one already a child is, through redemption from the law, placed in the position of an adult son. Gal 4:1-5 The indwelling Spirit gives the realization of this in the believer’s present experience Gal 4:6 but the full manifestation of the believer’s sonship awaits the resurrection, change, and translation of saints, which is called “the redemption of the body” Rom 8:23; 1Th 4:14-17; Eph 1:14; 1Jn 3:2” – Scofield Reference Bible

I don’t care if you’re Pentecostal or not, that ought to make you want to shout and run laps. We are not just adopted but we are made to know that we are accepted by God’s Holy Spirit that causes us to cry ‘Abba, Father’. Sometimes in families where the child is adopted they can’t sense that they don’t belong. Their adopted parents might treat them well and love them dearly but the child knows that there is something different. It’s like they have an innate feeling that those are not their biological parents but with God there is no vacant feeling. He makes feel wanted and when we become saved he plants the Holy Spirit inside to make us know that we are one of His own.

I hope this has helped you an encouraged you today. You are loved by the King of Kings! Be blessed!

 

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 1

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

In our last post we talked about the Christ Hymn found in Colossians 1. In this post we’ll discuss the Praise Hymn found in Ephesians 1 and we’ll compare the two. While the Christ focused more on His preeminence in the cosmos through the church, this hymn focuses for more the redemptive work of Christ for the elect. I believe it’s important that we, as believers, know exactly what it is that we are entitled to through Christ’s atoning work on the cross. There’s nine things are shown here that God has done through Christ’s atoning work.

1. He has blessed us (Eph. 1:3)
2. He has chosen us (Eph. 1:4)
3. He has predestined us (Eph. 1:5, 11)
4. He has made us accepted (Eph. 1:6)
5. He has redeemed us (Eph. 1:7)
6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)
7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)
8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)
9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

Before we get into the details of what each of things mean to us I want you to see the use of the pro noun ‘He’. It is God who has done all of these things for us. It was of no effort of our own that God saved us and made us the elect. If you read in Ephesians later it says:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– …For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  – [Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9 ESV]

Going into this study it’s important to realize that our Salvation has nothing to do with our works. I need grace every day. I mess up a lot. I’m a sinner saved by God’s grace. As sinners, we were never meant to have any kind of inheritance in God’s kingdom but God did these nine things for us and now we have fellowship with Him.

1. He blessed us (Ephesians 1:3)

The verse says that God blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Paul was specific in using the term ‘spiritual blessing’. It supposed that he meant ‘spiritual blessing’ as opposed to a ‘temporal blessing’. We know that God can and will sometimes bless us temporally but what Paul is referring to here are the kind of blessings that never fade. Before I get into specifically what those blessings are I believe that it is worth mentioning where they are and how we get them. If read the verse carefully you notice that Paul said that we have these spiritual blessing in Christ. That’s how we get them, in Christ. Which leads us to the next question where are they? Since we get these spiritual blessings from God in Christ we must remember that Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father in heavenly places. Our Freedom under the new covenant, as New Testament believers, tells that we may boldly come before the throne of grace. What happens is when we pray we have access, by faith, to Jesus who intercedes on our behalf to the Father according to Hebrews 7:25 and 1 John 2:1:

“Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” – [Hebrews 7:25 RV]

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” – [1 John 2:1 ESV]

As far as what the blessings are, we know that they are spiritual in nature. The word for spiritual in the Greek, pneumatikos, is used a lot in the New Testament in reference to the Holy Spirit. This tells us that the Holy Spirit is the one that makes these blessings manifest in our life. So the spiritual blessing is our fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. – [Galatians 5:22-23 RV]

In his Commentary over this passage one writer says:

“But the fruit of the Spirit – That which the Holy Spirit produces. It is not without design, evidently, that the apostle uses the word “Spirit” here, as denoting that these things do not flow from our own nature. The vices above enumerated are the proper “works” or result of the operations of the human heart; the virtues which he enumerates are produced by a foreign influence – the agency of the Holy Spirit.” – Albert Barnes

2.      He has chosen us (Ephesians 1:4)

This is where it gets hairy to say the least. This is Calvinists and Arminians will fight to the death over the issue of Limited Atonement. I do not hold to that position but I will try my best to present you the facts as the word of God makes it clear. The word that is used here for ‘chosen’ in the Greek is eklegō and it implies an active choice as seen in this verse:

“but one thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – [Luke 10:42 RV]

This word implies an active choosing and the whole debate has been over whether Paul meant that God chose us individually or whether the church is the elect and by choosing to follow Christ, God makes us one of the elect. The Bible doesn’t really harmonize this paradox. Honestly, from studying this subject as long as I have, I ‘ve come to the conclusion is that it’s irrelevant just as long as your saved. I’ll probably have Arminians and Calvinists that will send me emails over this issue but it’s just another day at the office for me. What matters though is that whether it is in general or in particular, either way we are chosen and predestined for a restored relationship with God that will lead to an unbroken fellowship with Him in Heaven that only comes through Jesus Christ.

For the sake of time and energy I’m going to stop right here and continue this thought throughout the week. You are loved by the King of Kings! Be blessed this week!