Philadelphia: Door and Pillars

Christ Covenant Church
Jon Marq Toombs
23 July 2017
Revelation 3:7-13
Ordinary Time

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“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Series – One Holy “Chaotic and Apathetic” Church

Letter to the church at Philadelphia = means different things to different people. To a few of us it is the home of Westminster Theological Seminary. To some people Philadelphia is the home of the hated Eagles, delicious cheesesteak, and the heroic Rocky Balboa. To many others it is the headquarters of the American Revolution, the place where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were written and signed and the Liberty hangs. But to everyone Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love.

The church at Philadelphia was a congregation in the City of Brotherly love; a living witness of the love of Christ in the world.

Jesus Considers the Church — vs 7

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

Holy One — In the OT prophets and poets referred to God as the Holy One. The phrase “Holy One” is used some 29 times in Isaiah alone. God calls himself the Creator, the Holy One of Israel, and the Redeemer.

Isaiah 43:1-3 says:

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

True One

Keys of David = refers to Jesus as the true and better King, a man after God’s own heart.

(Note: Echoes Isaiah 22:20-24. Jesus is the true and better Eliakim son of Hilkiah).

As we heard in our OT scripture reading from Isaiah 9

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Segue: Isaiah 6:1-4 helps us move from Isaiah back to Revelation. It says,

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw [ the One True King ] the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. (NIV)

The Holy One has the power of the keys; he opens and shuts the door to his temple by the power of his majestic glory; he opens and shuts the door to heaven by the power of sovereign grace – and no one can undo what he does.

The Holy One and True King draws near to speak to his church and says:

Jesus Commends the Church — vss 8-10

“‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.”

Works = kept word, not denied name

Open Door = earthly mission (epistles) and heavenly worship (Revelation 4:1 – a door in the sky)

A door is passage way that connects one space to another.

C.S. Lewis used the image of a door throughout the Narnia series. In several of the stories, a door was the portal which Aslan established to transport people from one world to another. In the Voyage of the Dawn Treader Aslan opens a door in the sky. Lewis got that image from Revelation 4 where John saw a door in the sky, an open door in heaven.

This was no ordinary door, but an Extraordinary Door.

Before his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus claimed to be to the Door by which, if anyone enters — he shall be saved; he also claimed to be the Way to the Father.

This is the door which was opened to the church at Philadelphia. The door in the sky is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd of the sheep. An open door is a welcome sign. Come in. This is your house. You belong here.

Little power = Gk. microteros – not just micro power, but very micro power; tiny power; the least power of all those who have power. “And yet…Works = kept word, not denied name”

How? By the power of Christ. Jesus is revealed as the pantakrator, the All-Powerful One (1:8; 4:8). Weak as they are, the church at Phillie is able to hang on to Jesus and confess his name because he has the power to hang on to them and not deny their name. Contrary to church-growth gurus, our safety and security never depends on the power and influence of the church in the culture; it always depends on the influence and power of Christ in the church.

You have microscopic power. So what? Christ has all the power in heaven and on earth. You can endure all things in him, by the power not your own. BTW, that is the only reason we are still alive and kicking as a congregation here in skeetside. We are weak, but Jesus is strong. His power is made perfect in our weakness.

Synagogue of Satan = Jews who rejected Christ and the gospel now, but will come bow down later — they will know that Jesus loves the church (called out ones), not the synagogue (gathered ones). // Claim to be the called and chosen ones, God’s covenant people, but they are not. Only the church, people from every t, na, lang, people, which was purchased with the blood of Jesus, is the called and chosen people of God.

Bow down = in the OT / Isaiah 45:14; 49:23; 60:1-14 God told his covenant people the Jews that Gentiles would come bow down before them. In the NT / Rev. 2:9 Jesus tells his covenant people (the church comprised of Jews and Gentiles) that the Jews will come bow down before them. Reason: so that will learn that Jesus loves the Church.

Trial = “this is a test – this is only a test.” Refers to the trouble coming on the earth-dwellers throughout the whole world – it is the hour of crisis, a time of judgment to sort out who is faithful and who is nominal, who is a cross-bearer and who is a couch potato, who is authentic and who is counterfeit.

Jesus Confronts the Church — n/a

As you know, this is usually the point in the letters and the sermons in which Jesus turns to critique and confront the churches – but not today. Just as Jesus had nothing good to say to the church at Sardis, so he has nothing bad to say about the church at Philadelphia.

Why? Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus is not a nit-picking fault-finder. As the Scripture says, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Whatever problems or deficiencies they might have had, Jesus didn’t consider them worth mentioning.

Jesus Counsels the Church — vs 11

11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.

Counsel is gift-wrapped in a promise.

Coming Soon = For the church at Philadelphia, Jesus’s coming is not a threat (I’m coming to get you), but a promise (I’m coming for you). Jesus is coming soon to render aid and rescue his people from the flesh, the world, and the devil. He is coming to judge the living and the dead and give to each one according to his deeds.

Hold Fast to what you have = Christ, the gospel, one another

Seize your Crown = take away the symbol of your victory; strip you of your title; take your prize; depose you from your throne.

Jesus Comforts the Church — vss 12-13

The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Conquers = Gk. nikao – our word Nike comes from this word. It means conquer, overcome, to win. So just do it — to the victor goes the spoils of war.

Koester – “Even though their adversaries [ = synagogue of Satan] seek to exclude them [from the kingdom by shutting the door in their face – Matthew 23] Christ has opened up the way into the presence of God for them.” (p.66).

Notice what Jesus will do for the one who overcomes the world by faith.

I will make him a permanent fixture in the house of God. He will never go out. (That’s assurance of salvation. That’s eternal security.)

I will write on him the Name of my God, the name of the City of my God, and my own new name.

The victorious pillars in the temple of God will bear this inscription:

Father, Son, Holy Spirit = received in baptism (via the water on our foreheads)

New Jerusalem = true and better City of Brotherly Love

Faithful and True,
the Word of God,
King of kings and Lord of lords.

Why? Because their identity is found in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone.

And faith is the victory that overcomes the world.

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