Rev 3:8         Behold, I Have Set Before Thee an Open Door          4/09/2017      ßà   

 

 

 

 

#1.      Thou Hast a Little Strength (Rev 3:8)

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2.      The Promise of an Open Door (Rev 3:8-9, Acts 14:27, 1Cor 16:9, Isa 55:11)

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3.      A Pillar in the Temple of My God (Rev 3:12, Eph 2:20-21)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev 3:7 (2X). We are turning now to the sixth letter of the Lord Jesus to the churches of Asia, and here we have the letter to

There were only two of the seven churches that were perfect in the eyes of the Lord Jesus. Now we can see clearly that God’s language to individuals is different from His language to churches and congregations. To individuals the Lord says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts” (from John 10:27-28, Mal 3:17). But to a church or to a congregation the Lord says, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (from Rev 2:5). Individuals are saved by grace, and our works do not contribute to our salvation. But when the Lord judges a church, certainly their works enter into the picture. Here we see that two of the seven churches are operating just and right in the eyes of the Lord. They receive no rebuke, but only praise and commendation. But of individual saints God says that we are sinners. God writes in Rom 7:19, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do”. And only because the Lord Jesus Christ atoned for our sins have our sins been removed from us, so that we are now saints, and holy, and spotless in God’s eyes. But it is not because we are so holy, but because Christ has removed our sins. Let us now read the letter from the Lord to the church at Philadelphia, which was holy and righteous in God’s sight. This does not mean that every individual in that church was a saved person, but that the church as a whole was doing right in God’s sight. Every church has some unsaved people in it, our church has also, and I am sure that this can also be said of the congregations of Smyrna and of Philadelphia. But God’s Word says that these churches received only praise, and no rebuke. Let us begin to read:

Rev 3:7-8  And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;    I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

Rev 3:9  Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

Rev 3:10  Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

Rev 3:11  Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

Rev 3:12-13  Him that overcometh 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 cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.         He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

If we compare these words with the words of the Lord to the church at Smyrna, we can see that there are many similarities between these two churches. They were both churches that were small and of little strength. Both churches were despised. Both churches existed in a world which hates and persecutes them. Both churches have the same enemies, Jews who belonged to the synagogue of Satan. And so, there was not only spiritual similarity between those two churches, but their outward circumstances were also very similar. The only difference seems to be that the church at Philadelphia still had the opportunity to spread the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to gain converts to increase and extend the church, whereas this was not mentioned for the church at Smyrna. This is indicated by the very significant words, Behold, I Have Set Before Thee an Open Door. Therefore I have also chosen this as the title for our sermon today: Behold, I Have Set Before Thee an Open Door, which evidently means that the Lord has given the members of this church an effective entrance for the preaching of the Gospel into the hearts of those who are still unsaved. It is not because they were so smart, or because their Gospel presentation was so attractive to most people, or because they tested their church growth program with the latest MBA model. Not at all! But it was God the Holy Spirit who gave them the open door. Of the church itself God says in verse 8,

#1.      Thou Hast a Little Strength (Rev 3:8)

Rev 3:8  I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

It meant that the church was small and that in the eyes of the people outside, that little church was despised. And they did not preach a Gospel that was popular. Actually the true church of Jesus Christ is always of little power if it is to be compared with the strength of the world. But the Lord mentioned it because this was one of the chief characteristics of the church at Philadelphia. The church at that place was extremely small and insignificant. And thus outwardly she had but little strength. But this does not describe her spiritual condition. Spiritually the church at Philadelphia was not weak, but very strong. God was on her side. The Lord commended her for having kept His Word, which meant that the church remained faithful to the truth of the Gospel. To keep the Word of Jesus certainly requires spiritual strength. When the enemies of Christ compass the church, they will always attack the church from the viewpoint of the truth of the Word of God. It requires strength, spiritual strength, the exercise of the power of faith, to be faithful to the truth and to keep the Word of the Lord. And it is evident that this little church had not only kept the Word of the Lord Jesus, but they also confessed His Name. The Lord writes of them, “Thou hast not denied My Name”. May it be that the Lord will also say this of our little congregation. From verse 9 we understand that most of their scorn and reviling came from the Jews in that city. The Jews were influential in that city and they left that church little standing room in the midst of the world. But it meant that this little church had witnessed in that Jewish neighborhood and had openly confessed the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ throughout the city of Philadelphia. They could not keep still about what their Savior had done for them. The glorious Lord Jesus Christ, their Redeemer in whom they believed and whom they loved, had delivered them from sin and death and Hell, and had merited for them glory and everlasting life with God in heaven. And of course to confess the Name of the Lord in this way requires a great deal of spiritual strength, especially when confessing that name provokes persecution and hatred on the part of the world. And then in verse 10 the Lord mentioned “patience”. In the Bible “patience” always presupposes suffering for Christ’s sake. “Patience” is always accompanied by suffering and persecution as a result of witnessing for Christ. We can see that here, because the Lord mentioned, “Thou hast not denied My Name”. Therefore we cannot say that this little church at Philadelphia had little strength spiritually. Only outwardly, according to the measure of the world, did they have little strength, but in grace this little church was very strong indeed. That is why the Lord introduces Himself as:

Rev 3:7-8  And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;    I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

The Lord Jesus quotes here from Isaiah chapter 22. Please turn in your Bibles to the Prophecy of Isaiah 22:20 (2X). We have here a beautiful parable that God introduces to us without mentioning that this is a parable. As you know, we find such parables all throughout the Scriptures. The historical setting here is at the court of Hezekiah, king of Judah. Hezekiah’s treasurer was Shebna. God was displeased with Shebna and He will put Eliakim the son of Hilkiah in his place. God speaks to Shebna

Isa 22:20-22 AAnd it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.      And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

Verse 22 are the words that were quoted by the Lord Jesus in Rev 3:7.  We read in verse 21, “he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah”. We know that God is the Father of all those who have been born from above and who as a result have become citizens of the Jerusalem that is above. And because we are in Christ and Christ is of the tribe of Judah, we are also of the house of Judah. And thus we can see that Eliakim the son of Hilkiah was a figure of Christ. Actually, Eliakim means “God who rises”, and Hilkiah means “a portion of God”. And thus His name effectively means, “the God who is risen from the dead and who is given as a portion of God”. Then we read in verse 22 about the house of David. Who is the house of David? Historically the house of David are all the blood descendants of king David. But the David in this context does not refer to the physical David, but refers to Christ. In many other verses in the Bible God uses the name David when He actually refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the house of David are all those who have become saved; they are in the house or in the family of Christ. What is it that Christ opens and shuts? He first opens up the prison house of Satan. The Lord Jesus said, “upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). Christ opens those “gates of Hell” to free those whom He has come to save. He leads them past the gates of Hell, which shall not be able to prevent Him. Christ also opens the door of His Kingdom to lead them past that door into His spiritual Kingdom, and later when this body dies He leads us into His heavenly Kingdom. What He opens no one can shut. Satan cannot keep anyone God wants to save in the dominion of darkness. Likewise no one can shut the door to the Kingdom of Christ that God has opened for His elect. When God decided to save someone, no one can possibly frustrate His plan. And what is it that Christ shuts? Christ has sentenced the unsaved to Hell on the Last Day. That door will be eternally shut. No one shall be able to escape from Hell. Likewise, once the door to heaven is shut behind us, no one can force his way in to pull us out. What Christ has shut, none shall open. But for what purpose did the Lord quote these words from Isa 22:22? Verse 22 says, “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open”. This power of the key therefore symbolized general supervision over the king’s business, and included specifically the authority to determine who were allowed to enter into the King’s presence and into His service. We know that Christ possesses the key of David. He alone has the authority to open and shut the door of His Father’s Kingdom. He alone determines who shall enter into that Kingdom and who shall remain outside. It is He therefore who adds to the church, and He controls if that little church in Philadelphia will increase in numbers and if converts will be gained. They must be faithful, and they must preach, and they must witness, but the Lord holds the key of David. He alone opens and shuts the door of His Father’s Kingdom. Please turn again to Rev 3:8; there we read about

#2.      The Promise of an Open Door (Rev 3:8-9, Acts 14:27, 1Cor 16:9, Isa 55:11)

The Lord said to the small congregation in Philadelphia in verse 8, “behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it”. The meaning of the “open door” is quite obvious throughout Scripture. Let me just read to you what God says in Acts 14:27. Paul and Barnabas returned from their first missionary journey to Antioch. “And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles”. God “had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles”, means that there were many Gentiles who were receptive to the Gospel, and believed. Now let me read to you from 1Cor 16:9, where the Apostle Paul speaks about his opportunities at Ephesus, “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries”. The meaning of the open door, therefore, is that the Lord would create an opportunity and a receptivity for the preaching and the hearing of the Gospel of Christ. But this promise of an open door is in harmony with the desire and the longing of that congregation, because that little church in Philadelphia had a zeal for the Lord’s work. Pray to God that we would obtain such a zeal for evangelism as they had. This tells us, first of all, that the Lord fulfills His strength in weakness. Most of the churches in the world today are not leaning on God to open the door of opportunity. They do not believe that they have but little strength. Instead they have hired business professionals whose task it is to create for the church evangelism programs that are proven successful in making a business grow. What we need, they say, are sound business methods. And so, the churches of our day have effectively brought the world into the church. They might be successful in adding people to their membership rolls, but are these people saved? Have they been “Born Again”, or born from above? Can these people make themselves “Born Again”, or born from above by making a decision for Jesus? Of course not! Therefore if the church resorts to pagan methods of evangelism, they should not be surprised if they succeed in filling the church with baptized pagans. More and more are churches leaning on such worldly methods, rather than leaning on Him who holds the keys of David. Secondly, the church must not force the fruits of their labors when the fruit does not immediately appear. You see, a church that preaches the whole Gospel, of Christ crucified for His people only, and of grace that reaches only those for whom Christ was crucified, and a church that stays far away from modern innovations such as miraculous healings and speaking in tongues, such a church will remain small, because they preach a Gospel that is not popular to the common man. But God is not interested in dragging the common man into the church. God wants His saints to gather into the church. Perhaps men are repelled by the preaching of sin and total depravity, of wrath and condemnation, of election and reprobation. But these things are in the Bible, and thus they must be preached, regardless what the consequences are. In most of today’s churches a shallow gospel of love is preached to attract unsaved men and to force them into the church. Rather than bringing the world to Christ, they succeed to bring the church into the world and the world into the church. But when will Christ open the door? Only when we bring the whole Gospel, and do not leave out Hell and damnation, and only when we bring the Gospel of grace alone will God consider the church worthy of expansion. But let God decide! Therefore, in Philadelphia we have a true picture of a faithful mission church. She remained a faithful witness and did not deny the truth. And the Lord promised her an open door. She would now experience that the attitude of the enemy has changed. Their witnessing would now meet with a certain eagerness to listen to the truth. The Lord would prepare the field for them. Where have they been witnessing? In the synagogue of Satan. They had been witnessing to the Jews. And then the Lord says to them in verse 9, “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee”. There was in Philadelphia a synagogue of the Jews. From them the church had suffered much. And until now all their efforts in witnessing seems to have been in vain. The door was closed. But now, behold, the Lord would finally reward their efforts with unexpected blessings. Some of those Jews who hated them and who persecuted them would be converted. These enemies would come and worship before the feet of the church, which means in all humility. These Jews would come and take their place among the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, and they would be expressing in their attitude that the church is the beloved Bride of Messiah. How glorious was that victory over Satan! And so, let us not despair when we face strong opposition in our efforts to reach the unsaved. Our labors may seem fruitless and without any result. Let us not forget that the Lord says in Isa 55:11, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it”. In other words, our labors to spread the Gospel are 100% successful. Our labors are successful with those who end up believing and become saved, because God intended to save them. Our labors are also successful with those who turn away and harden their hearts, because God intended to harden their hearts. And so, however the results are, God is glorified because His secret counsel was fulfilled. Let us now continue with this letter to the church at Philadelphia. The Lord says:

Rev 3:10  Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

Rev 3:11  Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

What is this period of temptation that the Lord calls “the hour of temptation”? Does this hour of temptation refer to a wave of persecution? And why would the church at Smyrna be cast into the midst of this tribulation and the church at Philadelphia would be excused? You see, that would not seem logical. Theologians of the past have interpreted this hour of temptation as the Final Tribulation Period. As you know, the Lord Jesus warned us that such a Final Tribulation Period would come. He says in Matt 24:21, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be”. This is the Final Tribulation Period, which occurs just before the Lord returns to judge the world and all therein. Is this promise to the church at Philadelphia a general promise to all the churches that we will escape this Final Tribulation Period? Is this a promise that the church will be raptured before the Final Tribulation Period arrives? That sounds nice. To the unsuspecting reader this argument sounds very convincing. But what have these theologians done? They have substituted the word “tribulation” for the word “temptation” here in Rev 3:10. Actually, these two words are very different. “Tribulation”, or “affliction” comes from the Greek word “thlipsis”, but this Greek word has never been translated as “temptation”. But on the other hand, the word “temptation” in this verse comes from the Greek word “peirasmos”, which has never been translated “affliction” or “tribulation”. And so, the word “temptation” cannot refer to the trouble of the Final Tribulation Period. What then can it refer to? The word “temptation” can also be rendered “trial”. Every temptation is a trial of our faith. Indeed “the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” refers to the trial of all people on Judgment Day. We read in 2Cor 5:10, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad”. Does everyone have to appear before the Judgment seat of Christ? Indeed everyone. But the saints have already stood before the Judgment throne of God when Christ was crucified. The Lord Jesus Christ was judged on our behalf. He was our substitute, and He paid the penalty for our sins. It was as if we stood there for Judgment. And so, the saints will not be judged again. And thus the saints will not be present before the judgment seat of Christ on Judgment Day. The saints will be raptured before Christ comes to judge the earth, and then the saints will be judges with Christ. But all the unsaved will stand there, and every one of them will be found guilty, and every one of them will be cast into Hell. But the saints will go through the Final Tribulation Period. We will not escape that, but in that tribulation the Lord will keep us, so that we will come out of it unharmed. The saints shall not be kept away from tribulation, for tribulation is to our glory and to our comfort. In the midst of suffering and persecution and other troubles, when the enemy is raging, the Lord by His grace will be sufficient to keep the saints, so that we will endure to the very end. That is our assurance. That is the comfort that we need. The grace of God will be sufficient, even in the hour of trial. This is the meaning of verse 10. And therefore this interpretation is in harmony with the admonition which immediately follows verse 10. We read in verse 11, “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown”. It is exactly in times of tribulation that the church has need of the comforting words that the Lord is coming quickly. For the coming of the Lord means our victory and our final deliverance. And so you see, it is not when the church escapes persecution, but when she is in the midst of it that she needs the admonition, coming directly from the Lord, “hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown”. But the Lord has more promises to His saints. He says, “I will make you:

#3.      A Pillar in the Temple of My God (Rev 3:12, Eph 2:20-21)

Rev 3:12  Him that overcometh 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 cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

This promise is given to him that overcometh. It means that the glory of the Messianic Kingdom is preceded by the suffering of this present time. Without exception the rule is that we must suffer with Christ in order to be glorified together. Christ and His people have a common cause. We are united with Him, but we also suffer with Him. If they have hated Him, they shall also hate us. If they have persecuted Him, they shall also persecute us. Therefore only for him that overcometh is this promise. It is not for him who is defeated, or for him who falls by the wayside, or for him who capitulates to the devil, and it is not for him who does not keep the Word of Christ’s patience, and it is not for him who denies the name of Jesus, but only for him that overcometh is this promise. For the unfaithful and the unbelieving the Word of God has no promises. But he that overcometh shall be “made a pillar in the temple of God”. What does this mean? The temple is symbolic for the dwelling place of God with man. It is God’s most intimate dwelling place. God’s temple is His people, living in most intimate communion and union with God Himself. Each saved person is a pillar in the temple, and is a figure of a rock-solid load bearing member. God speaks of His body as a temple, referring to the body of believers. God says in Eph 2:20-21, “Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord”. In a properly designed building, every single pillar constitutes an important structural member. It carries the load to the foundation on which the pillar rests. And therefore the temple of God would not be complete until all the pillars are in place. With this metaphor the Lord is saying that every Christian has an important role to play in His Kingdom, and also that everyone whom He has elected will be saved. All the pillars must be in place. God will give everyone whom He has elected the strength to endure, and will hold him fast unto the end. And that is why the child of God “shall go no more out” from the temple. And then we read about:

“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 cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

#1, They shall bear the name of God; #2, they shall bear the name of the city of God; #3, they shall bear the new name of Jesus. What does God have in view here?

#1, The name is the manifestation of our being. It is the expression of what we are. We have already seen this in the letter to the church at Pergamos. Each one of all the saints will receive a new name, which is characteristic of our individual self. But in addition we shall receive the name of God, which means that there shall be the highest possible degree of likeness between God’s people and Himself, so that true and perfect covenant communion is possible, and we shall see Him as He is. We shall bear His Name. We shall be like Him. No, we shall not be God; but the highest possible affinity that is conceivable in the creature shall exist between God and His people. We shall see Him face to face, and He shall speak to us as a friend speaks with his friends.

#2, They shall bear the name of the city of God. This new Jerusalem represents the society of the elect in glory, the body of Christ, the complete assembly of all the saints. In that society every individual shall have his own name. Individuality shall not be lost. Yet his name shall also be the name of that city. It means that his individual being shall be in grand harmony with the general society of all the saints, so that all together shall form one grand harmony, manifesting the glory of God’s grace. There the communion of the saints shall be perfect when they shall all bear that common name of the city of God, the New Jerusalem that cometh down out of heaven. Presently that city is being prepared, and one by one the company of the elect are being gathered in heaven. But once it shall come down out of heaven from God into the new creation, it is there to live forever to the glory of the grace of God Almighty.

#3, They shall bear the new Name of  Jesus. It is the Name which was given Him at His exaltation at the right hand of God. It is a Name full of glory, and power, and strength, and majesty. It is a Name that indicates our Lord Jesus Christ as the Lord of all! For in the new creation He shall be King forever. That Name shall also be bestowed upon His saints, for we are His Bride, and we are going to be married, and that is why we shall receive His Name. It means that we shall share in His glory. With Him we shall reign. With Him we shall walk in the light of our God. With Him we shall be prophets, priests, and kings of God forevermore!

Rev 3:13, He tthat hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

And what does the Spirit say? In the first place, the Spirit says that the church is of little strength outwardly. This is true today as it was at the time of the early church in the 1st century AD. The church must continually bear in mind that she is of little strength in the task that she is called to perform, and in the tribulation that she will have to suffer. And therefore she must totally rely on the grace of God for being sustained and for growth. In the second place, the Lord is faithful and powerful. He has the key of David. He opens and no one shuts. He shuts and no one opens. No one shall pluck us out of His hand. No one shall root us out of His Kingdom. And in all our work in the Kingdom of Christ we must rely on Him alone. Although of little strength herself, the church is mighty in her mighty Lord who is faithful and true. In the third place, tribulation shall come, and the church must expect temptation. But in the midst of suffering and tribulation for Christ’s sake, the vision of the mighty King of Kings may always be before us. He shall keep us, so that we shall never fall. And with our eyes on Him we may be sure of the victory. That victory shall surely be our consolation! It shall be the victory of eternal glory in the New Jerusalem, in the temple of God and His tabernacle with men, where we shall see Him face to face, and we shall love Him forever as He has loved us.       

AMEN.

Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.