WORD PICTURES OF A CHURCH
WITH MISSIONARY OPPORTUNITY
Rev. 3:7-13 (NAS)
This is the church with unlimited opportunity. Have you seen churches like the today? They seem to have limitless opportunity. God gave this church an open door that no one could close. The reason they had this opportunity related to their keeping the Name and Word of the Lord. Let's look at this church.
I. A PICTURE OF THE CITY. v. 7 a.
Two Greek words are used to make the name Philadelphia. PHILEO. is love and ADELPHOS is brother; together they are love for brother or brotherly love. This city was founded in 150 B. C. by Attalus II, who was nicknamed Philadelphus because of love for his brother Eumenes. The city was located in the valley of the Cogamis River, a tributary of the Hermus. The Imperial Post Road from Rome to the East passed through Philadelphia. It could easily be called the gateway to the East.
The city was prosperous due to its location and the grape growing and wine making. It was the center of worship of the god Dionysos. In addition, they had several other pagan temples.
Ramsay lists four characteristics of this city. First, it was a missionary city founded to spread Greek culture. Second, it had been hit by several earthquakes and tremors. Third, because the tremors caused falling debris, the people many times went outside the city walls to live. Fourth, after the earthquake of 17 AD, the city had to be rebuilt. They took a new name, Neo-Caesarea, for Tiberius who rebuilt the city. However, the new name did not continue and at the time of this letter, it was known as Philadelphia. A fifth note of importance is that there was an active Jewish synagogue.
Zondervan's Pictorial Encyclopedia notes, "In the 14th century when Moslems advanced into this area, Philadelphia resisted, becoming an island of Christianity." Gibbon notes, "It stood as a pillar of Christian strength." Summers said, "Christianity, though not in its purest form, survives in the city today." A. T. Robertson wrote in 1933, ". . .there are some 1,000 Christians there today."
The city today is part of the nation of Turkey. It is called ALASEHIR,
meaning reddish city, because of the red hills behind it, or city of God.
II. A PICTURE OF THE CHRIST WHO SPEAKS. v. 7 b.
Christ identifies Himself five ways to this church. First, He who is holy. True holiness is always connected to the Deity. Holy in contrast to the Unholy practices of pagan worship. Second, "Who is true." This means genuine and probably refers to Jesus being the true Messiah. Christ is not only truth, but ultimate truth. Third, "Who has the key of David." This refers back to Isaiah 22:20-22, McDowell says, "Eliakim is a type of Christ." Jesus has the keys to heaven, earth and hades.
Fourth, "Who opens and no one will shut." He opens by His will, and no one has the power of will to shut what He opens. Read Rev. 5:1-5, and see another indication that only Jesus can open. He has power to admit who He wills to include. He always includes those who have acknowledged Him as Lord. Fifth, "Who shuts and no one opens." Not only does the Lord admit, but He excluded Who He will. Read Mt. 7:21-23
Summers takes these statements and makes 3 categories. The qualities holy and true, represent the Lord's character. The keys of David represent the official position. Opening and shutting represent the Lord's character. The keys of David represent the official position. Opening and shutting represent the Lord's Administration. "His character of holiness and truth is His right to kingship. Because He is king, He exercises His kingly office and administers the affairs of the kingdom."
Billy Graham was only partially known in the early '50's. Then he held a Crusade in Los Angeles. One of the Hearst family went to hear him and gave the order for his newspapers to push Graham. Years later someone of the publishing industry said, "We made Graham." An answer came back, "Let's see you make another."
God made the open door. How does verse 7 b apply
III. A PICTURE OF THE CHURCH COMMENDED. vs. 8, 10 a.
The Lord commends this church for four areas of their spiritual life. First, He knows their deeds. Jesus could look over their involvement and see they were giving of time, talent, and possessions. They were not just giving their spare time, but their precious time. Second, they have a little power. At first that may not seem like a commendation, but the Lord is commending them for doing what they are doing even though they are not a large powerful congregation. This probably refers to smallness in number and influence. Some commentators also suggest these folks were from the lower classes socially. It certainly does not refer to spiritual strength.
Thirdly, they have kept His word. Now, they didn't have Bibles in abundance like we do. They didn't have the New Testament, so this refers to the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah they kept and saw them fulfilled in Christ. Hobbs says, "observed, guarded from error, and passed on to others Christ's word, the gospel." Notice what it says in verse 10 a. They have "kept the word of My perseverance." Vincent says this means "the word of Christ which requires patience to keep it,. . ."
Morris agrees with Swete that it means "the teaching which was exemplified in My steadfastness." The Williams translation of the N. T. reads, "Because you have kept my message with the patient endurance that I give you. . ." Havner makes a good observation which may serve as a summary to an understanding of this word, perseverance or patience. "The greatest friend of truth is time. Error is always in a hurry, but God's men can afford to await the vindication of time. Fourth, they have not denied His name. His name Jesus, means Savior. His name Christ means God's anointed one. In both cases this church had been faithful to praise and promote His name.
In many civic meetings it is traditional to begin with prayer. I know of several cases where Christian ministers have been asked not to end their prayer "in Jesus name" because it offended non-Christians.
I have been in ministerial groups that were asked not to pray in Jesus name. Some complied rather than offend a councilman. I said "I do not want to offend anyone but I had to pray in Jesus name because I was most afraid of not offended Jesus." When the Jesus Rabbi understood why we pray in Jesus name he corrected the councilman.
How do vs 8 and 10 apply to you?
IV. A PICTURE OF ENCOURAGEMENT. vs 8, 10
Jesus gives an open door of gospel ministry. No one can stop this church if it takes advantage of this open door. The reward for faithful service is greater opportunity.
Verse 9 represents vindication. The Lord is going to cause the Jews of Satan's synagogue to acknowledge the church in Philadelphia as true worshipers. The Jews of this synagogue thought Gentiles and converted Jews would someday bow at their feet. Because they rejected Jesus as Messiah, they are rejected.
Verse 10 has several words that need careful interpretation because this verse is used as an important word in the systems of eschatology. The words kept and keep are the Greek word TEREO. Hobbs says it means "to keep, guard, and pass on to others." Jesus says, "I will keep" and I is emphatic. The Greek word EK is translated from. It can mean out of or in the midst of. Similar Greek words are arranged in John 17:15, but many interpreters make an entirely different application from the same words. Hour can mean an indefinite period of time. Testing (temptation in the KJV) means a thorough testing or trial. In the Model Prayer, we are instructed to pray, "lead us not into temptation, . . ." and it is the same Greek word. There is an entirely different word for tribulation. Whole World is the Greek word OIKOUMENE. Vine says it can mean ". . .the inhabited earth, the Roman Empire or the world as viewed by the writer or speaker," Note Lk. 2:1, Acts 11:28, or Acts 24:5.
Therefore, there is a problem for we who would interpret this passage. Does it refer to the tribulation period which follows the rapture of the church? If so, it had little meaning to the church in 90 A. D. Now I believe there will be a tribulation period, but I don't believe this verse has to refer to it.
How does this verse apply to you?
V. A PICTURE OF THE CHURCH CHALLENGED. v. 11.
One phrase seems to be a challenge. It is "hold fast what you have, in order that no one take your crown." The Lord is telling these folks to keep on in their faithfulness; to hold on with a firm grip. They had been given a trophy or crown of praise by the Lord. The Lord's challenge is to keep doing what they have been doing.
The heavyweight boxing champion of the world became very cocky. He did not train for his fight as he should have. He was defeated and lost his crown. No one took it from him; really, he defaulted because he didn't hold on to it as a proper champion. I do not believe this refers to salvation but to rewards of those who are saved.
How does verse 11 apply to you?
VI. A PICTURE OF THE PROMISES. v 12
The Lord has four promises for the overcomers (again read I John 5:4-5).
Please note that all 4 of them emphasize the word My. First,
they will be pillars in this temple. This word temple is NAOS. It
refers to the inner area where God dwelt. Both the church and the individual
Christian are called a NAOS. Pillar means stability. The city was subject
to falling debris, but they will be pillars. They are firmly planted. Second,
the name of God will be written upon them. This is in contrast to pagan
practices and the 666 number discussed later in this book. Third,
they will have God's city written upon them. Their city had changed names,
but God's city is eternal and they are eternally secure. Fourth,
they are to get written on them Christ's new name. Read Rev. 19:12, 16.
VII. A PICTURE OF COMMAND TO THE CHURCHES. v. 13
In verse 13 we have a command to the churches plural. It is not just to this church. It represents a constant call of the Spirit that all might hear. Do you have spiritual ears? They are given with the second birth. All of them who have been born again are to hear what the Lord said. He spoke to John. John wrote the message down. The Holy Spirit speaks the message today to all who have ears.
This church was given an open door of missionary opportunity. We have many doors of opportunity open for the gospel message. However, some doors are closing and they may be closing because we failed to march through that door when God opened it. You can give money so others can go and that they might have the best kind of equipment available to them. You may be called of God to go; if so, you need to get busy about that kind of opportunity today.
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And Beyond. Amen? Amen!