7 “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.
8 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.
9 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.
10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.
13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:7-13
While the letter to Sardis was mostly bad news and censure, the letter to Philadelphia is very positive in nature. So, what makes the church of Philadelphia stand out from its sister churches of western Turkey?
The same persecution that affected some of the other churches mentioned in Revelation also was felt in Philadelphia. This church, however, stood its ground and refused to compromise, surrender or give in to the persecuting powers. Jesus says, “I know your works,” (v. 8) and a little later in that verse states, “you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” In verse 10 Jesus again states, “you have kept my word of patient endurance.”
One of the interesting aspects of the message to the Philadelphia church center on the three vivid symbolic descriptions found there. The church is pictured as having, “an open door, which no one is able to shut,” (v. 8) while Christ is described as, “One who has the key of David.” (v. 7) Finally the conqueror is described as being, “a pillar in the temple…of God.” (v. 12)
A study of these three symbols will give us an insight into what God has for us to learn from Jesus’ message to the Philadelphia church. Let’s begin with Jesus statement, “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut “(v. 8) In the Bible the idea of doors being open and closed is fairly common. The door when open is an opportunity and when it is closed that opportunity is either over or been missed.
The open door is the opportunity for salvation. Jesus Himself used the illustration of the door this way in Matthew, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (7:14)
Now, this is not the only use of an open door in Jesus teaching. Just one verse (v. 13) above verse 14 I just quoted from Matthew are these words, “Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”
There are two doors in Jesus teaching. One is wide, easy and open. But anyone who takes that road ends up in destruction. Unfortunately, because the door looks so inviting many enter into it. The narrow door has far fewer takers because it is a difficult and changeling door to enter through. We have to stoop down, squeeze sideways, and struggle through the door but the reward is life to any who are up to the invitation to enter through the narrow door.
The wide door allows us to carry all our baggage with us, but the narrow door means leaving our baggage behind. Our guilt, our sins, our rebellions, and our fears all must remain on the outside of the door. We can only enter the narrow door with the clothes on our back.
But the door is open not only for salvation but also for service. When we come to Christ there is more to being a Christian than sitting around all day trying to make sure we do nothing wrong. When we receive Jesus into our lives we are transformed from selfishness to service. No Christian is indifferent about the lost. We long to see our loved ones, neighbors and friends all enter through the narrow door.
Paul writes, “ A wide door for effective work has opened to me.” 1 Corinthians 16:9 Paul uses the idea of “wide door” here simply because of the great number of opportunities that opened up for him. We shouldn’t confuse it with Jesus’ use of the wide door that leads to destruction.
What is amazing about the Philadelphia church choosing the narrow door in the face of persecution was the fact that they were a small congregation without power or influence in the city. “I know that you have but little power” Revelation 3:8 In light of this persecution stirred up and led by the Jews, “the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie,” (3:9) the Christians in Philadelphia never surrendered their trust in Jesus.
You would think because of the persecution they faced that it would be a time for caution and waiting, but instead the church is told, “I will keep you from the hour of trial which is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell upon the earth.” Revelation 3:10 More persecution is coming and the church will go through it, but God will watch over them and keep them.
This post is much too short to cover the richness of the concept of “the open door” imagery in this letter, but one thing we must not overlook is that the church was seen as the doorway to the cities and towns of the central plateau. From Philadelphia ideas flowed outward influencing the culture of the region. It would seem that the reason Satan attacked the church with such vigor was because of its missionary ability and influence to reach so many other cities and areas with the gospel.
There is a message for us in Jesus’ writings to the Philadelphian church. Whenever we endeavor to begin ministry and attempt to reach out into our communities there will be opposition and Satan’s attacks. Ministry never comes easy and if it does then maybe it is not the right kind of ministry if Satan is indifferent to it.
God calls men and women to follow Him through the storms and to stand tall, not shrinking back when faced with opposition. The greatest call in the world today, I believe, is for Christians to take their faith seriously and put themselves into God’s hands for ministry.
Each of us has different talents, skills and gifts. If we pull together as a united force we can confront the indifference, sin and rebellion that is slowly creeping over our towns, cities and nations. Evil is on the march and we Christians need to be ready and able through the power of the Holy Spirit to stand our ground and present Christ to a lost and confused world. Let us be courageous and strong in these hours of darkness that is settling over our world.
* * Please remember to pray for the Christians who are suffering persecution for their faith in many countries around the world. These people remain true to Christ even unto death. There is a great evil settling on this earth and we must be vigilant in our prayers and stay close to Christ. Our hope is in Christ and he is faithful to his people. Please take the time to read about what is taking place in the world around us at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…