The Book of  REVELATION
James J. Barker


Lesson 7
THE CHURCH OF PHILADELPHIA

Text: REVELATION 3:7—13


INTRODUCTION


  1. The city of Philadelphia ("brotherly love") was about 28 miles southeast of Sardis.
  2. It was founded in 140 BC by the king of Pergamos, Attalus II, also known as Philadelphus.
  3. The city was named after him.
  4. In AD 17, Philadelphia was destroyed by an earthquake. This same earthquake also destroyed Sardis.
  5. Philadelphia was the last bastion of Christianity when Asia Minor was overrun by the Islamic Turks. Through the centuries, a nominal Christian testimony continued in this city of Philadelphia and prospered even under Turkish rule. But all nominal Christians left the city for Greece after World War I.
  6. The church in Philadelphia is one of the two churches (the other being Smyrna) with which the Lord finds no particular fault.  There is no word of condemnation, only commendation.
  7. This church is not told to repent (cf. 2:5, 16, 21; 3:3, 19).
  8. Our Lord addresses the church as “He that is holy, He that is true” (3:7).  These are divine attributes.
  9. In Revelation 6:10, the Lord is called “holy and true.”  These divine attributes belong to Christ because the Lord Jesus Christ is God.
  10. Our Lord said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
  11. In Isaiah 57:15, God says His name is Holy.
  12. First Peter 1:15, 16 says, “But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”
  13. Holiness and truth go together.  There can be no holiness without truth.
  14. Christ has “the key of David” (Rev. 3:7).  I stated in my first message in this series that the book of Revelation cannot be properly understood without being familiar with the book of Daniel.
  15. Furthermore, I mentioned that the seven letters to the seven churches cannot be understood without being familiar with many Old Testament figures such as Balaam (2:14) and Jezebel (2:20).
  16. Here in Revelation 3:7 we find another reference to a man from the Old Testament.  This looks back to Isaiah 22:22 where, speaking of Eliakim, we read that “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.”
  17. Eliakim had the key to all the treasures of the king, and when he opened the door it was opened, and when he closed the door it was closed.   Here Eliakim is a type of Christ.
  18. In Revelation 1:18, the Lord Jesus Christ says He has the keys of hell and of death.   He also has "the key of David."
  19. To the church at Philadelphia surrounded by heathen darkness and wickedness, Christ gives assurance that He has power to open and close according to His sovereign will (3:7, 8).
  20. Christ has "the key of David" (3:7). He is of the lineage of King David, and one day He will return to earth to rule and reign from David’s throne in Jerusalem (Isaiah 9:6, 7; Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:29-31).

 

I. AN OPEN DOOR (3:8, 9)

  1. The church in Philadelphia is the church of the open door (3:8). The Lord had given them (and us) an open door for service.
  2. The Bible speaks often of an open door for ministry, for soulwinning, for evangelism, for missions, for preaching, etc.
  3. The apostle Paul wrote, “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” (I Cor. 16:9).
  4. Paul also wrote in I Corinthians 2:12, “Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord.”
  5. And in Colossians 4:3, “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds.”
  6. There is another way to look at this open door.  It is a door of deliverance from the Great Tribulation (3:10).
  7. In Revelation 4:1 we read, “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter” (cf. Rev. 1:19).
  8. I will say more about this deliverance in a few minutes.
  9. The church in Philadelphia had but “a little strength,” but they had kept God’s word, and had not denied His name (Rev. 3:8).
  10. Beloved, we do not need much strength.  The apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).
  11. William Carey, the great Baptist missionary to India, said, “I can plod.”   He is often referred to as the “father of modern missions.”
  12. In fact, those who see in the seven letters a prophetic picture of the church age – from the apostolic to the apostate – see Philadelphia as representative of the great missions era.
  13. William Carey knew that God had given him an open door in India. When Carey went before the Baptist leaders of England to discuss the need to evangelize foreign lands, he was told by an older preacher, “Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine.”
  14. But Carey was not discouraged because he knew God had given him an open door “and no man can shut it” (Rev. 3:8).
  15. One biographer wrote, “He, with a few contemporaries, was almost single-handed in conquering the prevailing indifference and hostility to missionary effort; Carey developed a plan for missions, and printed his amazing Enquiry Into the Obligations of the Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen; he influenced timid and hesitating men to take steps to the evangelizing of the world.”
  16. William Carey first became burdened for missions while reading the Last Voyage of Captain Cook.  To most readers, Cook’s journal was a thrilling story of adventure, but to William Carey it was a call to preach the Gospel in the regions beyond.  He then began to read every book that had any bearing on the subject.
  17. At the age of 21, Carey had already mastered Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Italian, and was working on Dutch and French.
  18. William Carey pastored a small church, and like many Baptist pastors, he had to work a second job. He was a cobbler – he worked on shoes.
  19. Friends called his shoemaker’s workshop “Carey’s College,” for when he cobbled shoes he always had a book before him.
  20. Carey preached a message on missions entitled, “Expect Great Things From God. Attempt Great Things For God.”
  21. William Carey knew he could attempt great things for God because God had given him an open door.
  22. In 1793, William Carey left England for India. At first his wife was reluctant to go — so Carey set off to go nevertheless, but after two returns from the docks to persuade her again, his wife Dorothy and their children accompanied him.
  23. When William Carey and his family arrived in India, the East India Company would not allow them to stay in the part of India governed by England, so Carey was forced to leave.  He then moved 18 miles up the Ganges River to a Danish colony and began his work.
  24. There were years of discouragement (no Indian convert for seven years), debt, disease, deterioration of his wife’s mind, death, but by the grace of God, Carey continued because God gave him an open door in India.
  25. When he died in 1834 at the age of 73, William Carey had seen the Scriptures translated and printed into forty languages, he had been a college professor, and had founded a college at Serampore. He had seen India open its doors to missionaries, he had seen a law passed prohibiting sati (burning widows on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands), and he had seen many converts for Christ.
  26. God is still opening doors today (Rev. 3:8).
  27. But as the apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 16:9, “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.”
  28. The adversaries in Philadelphia were from “the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not” (3:9).
  29. Let me be frank: any religion that denies salvation through Jesus Christ alone is Satanic.  Mormonism and cults that teach salvation by works are Satanic.
  30. Satanic opposition to the Gospel includes religious ritualism, hypocrisy, worldliness, and many false doctrines.  But our Lord said to the church of Philadelphia, “Behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.”   This is the blessing of the open door.

 

II. KEPT FROM THE HOUR OF TEMPTATION (3:10)

  1. “The hour of temptation” refers to the tribulation period, which will immediately follow the rapture.    The church of Philadelphia was promised to be kept from it, and I believe we will be kept from it too.
  2. Titus 2:13 says we are to be, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
  3. The tribulation period is referred to as Daniel's seventieth week because Daniel 9:27 says the antichrist (“the prince that shall come” – 9:26) shall confirm a covenant with Israel “for one week.”
  4. But this will be a week of years, and in the midst of the week, i.e., after three and a half years, the antichrist will defile the temple in Jerusalem.
  5. The apostle Paul said in II Thessalonians 2:4 that the antichrist (“that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” – 2:3) will sit in the temple, shewing himself that he is God.
  6. In I Thessalonians 5:9, Paul writes, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”  I take this to mean we will be raptured before the tribulation.
  7. Likewise, I Thessalonians 1:10 says we are “to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
  8. Some say that this refers to hell.  It can refer to hell, but it also refers to the tribulation, which is repeatedly referred to as the time when God will pour out His wrath on this Christ-rejecting, sin-loving world (cf. Rev. 6:12-17).
  9. Here in Revelation 3:10, our Lord tells the church at Philadelphia, “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.”
  10. Because of their faithfulness the Christians in Philadelphia are promised that they will be kept from the hour of trial which will come upon the earth as God's judgment upon sin.
  11. The Pentagon announced the other day that military chaplains may now perform homosexual unions, whether on or off a military installation.  This horrible ruling follows the Sept. 20 repeal of a law that had prohibited homosexuals from serving openly in the military.
  12. Do the leaders of our country really think they can escape the judgment of God?  Apparently they do but they are deceived.
  13. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:6).  The other day, a state advisory panel recommended that New York State taxpayers pay for perverts to have so-called “transgender surgery/hormone replacement therapy and treatment."
  14. Even though our government is broke, and deep in debt, they want Medicare to pay for this surgery.  Thank God the Lord is coming back soon!
  15. John Walvoord said, "If this promise has any bearing on the question of pretribulationism, however, what is said emphasizes deliverance from rather than deliverance through. As far as the Philadelphian church was concerned, the rapture of the church was presented to them as an imminent hope" (Revelation).
  16. This "hour of temptation" will overtake "all the world" (3:10).
  17. Jeremiah 30:7 refers to the tribulation as "the time of Jacob's trouble," but it will be trouble for Christ-rejecting sinners everywhere, not just in Israel.
  18. The Philadelphian church is therefore promised deliverance from this time of trouble.  It will overtake the whole world, but it will not overtake them.
  19. Some Bible teachers say our Lord has promised to keep us “from” the tribulation, but not out of the tribulation.  But I believe these teachers (usually they are "post-trib") are wrong.  We will be kept from it and raptured out before it starts
  20. Those who will be left behind during the tribulation are referred to here as “them that dwell upon the earth” (3:10).  This group of unregenerate sinners is referred to often in the book of Revelation.
  21. Revelation 8:13 says, “Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth.” Three woes upon these wicked Christ-rejecting sinners!
  22. Revelation 12:12 says, “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”
  23. These sin-loving inhabiters of the earth will go through the tribulation. According to II Thessalonians 2:11, God will send them a strong delusion.
  24. Revelation 13:8 says they will worship the antichrist.  Revelation 13:4 says they will worship “the dragon (the devil) which gave power unto the beast.”
  25. In Revelation 2 & 3 we have the seven letters to the seven churches.  Then comes the rapture.  Revelation 4 & 5 takes place in heaven.  Revelation 6—19 deals with the tribulation and there is no mention of the church.
  26. This is because the church will be kept out of the tribulation (Rev. 3:10).
  27. We must reject any view that places the church in the tribulation – partial rapture, mid-tribulation, post-tribulation, and the more recent (and totally unscriptural) “pre-wrath rapture” view.

 

III. JESUS IS COMING QUICKLY (3:11).

  1. The Lord’s coming for them is described as imminent, i.e., it will come suddenly without announcement.
  2. “Quickly” here means suddenly and unexpectedly.
  3. In view of this expectation they are to hold fast to their testimony for Christ in order to receive their reward at His coming (cf. 2:13, 25; 3:3).
  4. The expression “quickly” is to be understood as something which is sudden and unexpected, but not necessarily immediate.
  5. To the dead church in Sardis it was a warning (3:3), but to the faithful church in Philadelphia it was a promise of blessing.
  6. In other words, in this passage the rapture of the church is in view. This is a blessing for godly believers, but a warning for those who are not right with God.
  7. The “crown” refers to rewards at the judgment seat of Christ, which will immediately follow the rapture.

 

CONCLUSION:

  1. The apostle Paul wrote in II Timothy 4:8, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
  2. Do you “love His appearing”?
  3. Paul said, “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (II Tim. 4:10).
  4. I have known quite a few people like Demas in my lifetime.
  5. Do not be like Demas.  Be an “overcomer” (Rev. 3:12).
  6. The way to victory is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  7. First John 5:4 says, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
  8. “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.”


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