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Back To The Future

Sermon #11

 

Revelation 3:7-13

THE CHURCH OF THE OPEN DOOR

Intro:  We are continuing to move through the letters of our Lord to the seven churches of Asia Minor.  We have covered five of the seven churches thus far and we will soon pass beyond these letters into the heart of the book of Revelation.  Let me just remind you that these letters can be viewed from three different perspectives.

1.)  Practically – These letters were written to real churches functioning in that day. 

2.)  Prophetically – Each church represents a different period of church history from Pentecost to the Rapture.  This particular church represents the period between 1,700 AD and 1,900 AD.  During this period, the true Christian churches, though weak numerically and financially, began the modern missions movement.  This was also the period that saw the “Great Awakenings” and revivals in America and Britain. 

3.) Personally – These churches have something to say to every individual believer and to every church in existence.

      Today, we will consider the church in Philadelphia.  I want to preach about The Church Of The Open Door.

·         Philadelphia was the youngest and smallest of all the cities addressed in these letters.

·         The city was located in a narrow pass between two mountain ranges.  It stood as a literal doorway between Asia Minor and Asia.

·         Because of its strategic location, it was used as a military buffer city.  Enemy armies passing through the narrow pass could be delayed by a small force at Philadelphia.

·         The city was named for King Attalus II, the king of Pergamum.  He was renowned for his love of his brother Eumenes, and he came to be called “Philadelphos”.  The word means “one who loves his brother”.  Thus, Philadelphia became known as “The city of brotherly love”.

·         Philadelphia was built on a geological fault.  As a result, the city was plagued by frequent earthquakes and tremors.  The citizens were often forced to flee the city to avoid being injured or killed by falling buildings.

·         Philadelphia was also the home to numerous temples desiccated to the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece.

·         Philadelphia was the last of the seven cities to lose its Christian testimony.  There was a thriving Christian community there as late as 1,000 AD, when the city was captured by the Muslim armies of the Middle East.

 

      It is to the church in Philadelphia that Jesus speaks in these verses.  He comes to them with no words of complaint.  He comes to them with words of praise and words of promise.  I think the Lord’s words to this weak, but faithful church, have much to say to our own hearts today.  If we are going to model ourselves after any of these seven churches, it should be this church.  Let’s examine our Lord’s words and find out why. I want to preach on The Church Of The Open Door.

 

  I.  v. 7-8a    THE CHURCH AND HER MASTER

A.  The Master’s Attributes – Jesus comes to this church and He identifies Himself in two powerful ways.

1.  He Comes As The Sinless One – The word “holy” tells us that Jesus is sinless and pure. 

·         That is the Bible’s testimony to Jesus, 1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 7:25; 1 Cor. 5:21. 

·         That is Hell’s testimony to Jesus, Mark 1:24. 

·         That is Heaven’s testimony to Jesus, Luke 1:35. 

·         That was Jesus’ testimony to Himself, “Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?” John 8:46. (Ill. His question never was answered!)

      Jesus is speaking to a church that is striving to be holy in the midst of a corrupt and sinful world.  He comes to say to them: “It is possible to live for God!  I am holy, and I can help you be holy too.”

 

(Ill. That is a word of encouragement we all need from time to time.  This world is against us and sin and Satan are pressing us in on every side.  Jesus has the power to help us to live the holy lives He desires us to live.)

 

2.  He Comes As The Sincere One – The word “true” here means “that which is genuine”.  We know that His Word is true, now He tells His people that He is the real Savior; He is the only genuine Lord.

            These early believers were surrounded daily by that which was false.  False gods and false worship abounded in that day.  Jesus just wants them to know that He is the real deal.  They are not wasting their time serving Him.  They did not make a mistake when they turned their back on their idols and pagan gods.  When they came to Jesus Christ, they came to the only Savior, Acts 4:12; John 14:6.

 

      (Ill. We live in an age when many things are mere imitations.  We have sugar substitutes, salt substitutes and meat substitutes. We have faux fur and fake leather.  We have rent-a-dates, virtual reality and surrogate mothers.  We are surrounded by that which is fake and pretend. 

            It is a comfort to be reminded that at least one thing is real!  Jesus is the real deal!  Jesus is not a substitute for anything!  When you trusted Jesus Christ, you got in on something that is real!  Salvation is real!  Prayer is real!  Grace is real!  Heaven is real!  His presence is real!  His Word is real!  His power is real! I am just saying, Jesus, and not Coca-Cola is the real thing!)

 

B.  The Master’s Authority – Jesus identifies Himself as the One Who is in control!  He has the keys and He opens and closes the doors.

1.  He Carries The Keys – Jesus says that He has “the key of David”.  Look at Isa. 22:20-25.  This passage speaks of a man named Eliakim.  This is an Old Testament prophecy that the glory of God; the power of God; the authority of God will rest on his shoulders. Then, we are told that he will be set as a nail in a sure place and that he will be cut off after a while.  This ancient prophecy is a picture of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

      God placed on His Son His kingdom and His government, Isa. 9:6.  He set Him “as a nail in a sure place”.  But, after a time, He was cut off.  This is a clear picture of the cross of our Lord.  We are told that He will have the “Key of David”.  What does this mean?

            Well, what are keys for?  Keys grant you authority, access and availability.  Jesus comes to this ancient church and says “I have the keys!”  He is telling u today that He “has the keys”.  What kind of keys does Jesus have?

a. He Has The Keys Of Sleep – Rev. 1:18.  Jesus alone is the Master of death.  You can’t even die until He opens the door! You can’t stay dead if you know Him, John 11:25-26.

b. He Has The Keys Of Suffering – Rev. 1:18 - Only He can open Heaven and shut Hell.  Jesus is the Key to Heaven!

c.  He Has The Keys Of Salvation – John 4:12; John 14:6; John 10:9.  Only He can open the door into eternal life for those who will come to Him. 

d.  He Has The Keys Of Service - 1 Cor. 16:9 – He decides when we serve, where we serve and how long we serve.

e.  He Has The Keys Of Safety – Col. 3:3 – No one can touch those who are locked away within Jesus Christ.

2.  He Controls The Doors – Jesus is in the business of opening and closing doors in the lives of His people.  We see this truth at work in the life of the Apostle Paul, Acts 16:6-10. 

            When God opens a door of opportunity in your life; run through it as fast as you can.  It may be a once in a life time opportunity.  How tragic it would be to get to Heaven and see what we could have done if only we would have trusted the Lord and stepped through the open door He gave us.

            By the same token, when He closes a door, don’t try to force it open.  You don’t want to be where God doesn’t want you to be.  The path to blessing is to be where the Lord wants us to be, when He wants us to be there.

            I think there is a word here for the church as well.  There will be times along the way when God lines things up for His church.  He may give us an opportunity to make inroads into our community.  He may give an open door to ministry to our town.  When that open door comes, it is not a time for delay.  It is a time for faith and action.  When we see that door opened, we must go through it, regardless of the cost.  We need to pray that God will give us spiritual wisdom to see the doors when He opens them.

C.  The Master’s Appraisal – As He does with the other churches, Jesus reminds them that He knows everything about them.  He sees their works and He sees the motives that drive the work.

            Just a reminder, He knows us too, Heb. 4:13; Pro. 15:3!  When He looks at our lives and at our church, what does Jesus see about us?

 

II.  v. 8b-11   THE CHURCH AND HER MINISTRY

(Ill. Philadelphia was a small church with tremendous potential for the glory of God.  These verses tell us something about their ministry.)

A.  v. 8  Their Ministry Involved Opportunities – In His sovereignty, the Lord had given this church a powerful open door of ministry.  Jesus says, “thou hast a little strength”.  This may mean that they were small in number and lacking in political and financial influence. They were weak, but they Lord was using them in a mighty fashion.  They were weak, but they were making a tremendous impact on their city! Why?

            They had kept His Word.  This means that even though they were weak in many ways, they were pure and strong in their doctrine.

            They had not denied His Name.  They were not ashamed of Jesus or of their relationship to Him.

            I think this means that they were not keeping the Gospel to themselves!  They were actively spreading the Word of God to a lost and dying world.  God had given them an open door of ministry there in Philadelphia and they had stepped through it and were doing what they could.

            Because they were faithful to Him, He was blessing them!  They were preaching and exalting Jesus and the enemies of the cross were powerless to stop them. Such was the power of God in their midst!

 

(Note: I think the same principles still apply today. Fundamental, Bible-believing churches are in the minority in our world.  If we will honor God’s Word and keep Jesus at the center of all we do, the Lord will honor that by giving us an open door of ministry in this world.  But, we have to do what He says here.  We must “keep His Word”.  This means that we are to hear it, love it, do it and share it. 

      We must “not deny His name”.  That is, we must not minimize Jesus to draw a crowd.  But, we must make Him the centerpiece of our church and of our worship!  God blessed that kind of church 2,000 years ago and I believe He still will today!

      If we will love the Book and live the Book; if we will love Jesus and lift Jesus; God will use us in this world in ways we can not begin to imagine!  He “opened” that door long ago, and it remains open today!)

 

B.  v. 9  Their Ministry Involved Opposition – The phrase “synagogue of Satan” probably refers to the local Jews who were persecuting them. 

            The phrase “which say they are Jews and are not” can be interpreted by what Paul said in Rom. 2:28-29. This church is suffering at the hands of people who claim to love God, but are lying!  They have rejected their Messiah and they are headed to Hell, Rev. 21:8.

            Jesus tells them that He is aware of their mistreatment.  But, He wants them to know that a day is coming when they will see those who oppose them bowing before them.  He is probably referring to that day when “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:10-11.  One day their enemies would experience total defeat.  Whatever the Lord is speaking about here, He wants them to know that He is in control of the critics too.

 

(Note:  We might as well face this fact: old-fashioned churches are not as popular as they used to be.  There was a day when most churches were good churches.  They preached the Word.  They live right.  They evangelized the lost and exalted the Lord.  That day is long gone!  Just because a church has the right name on its sign does not guarantee you that you will find the right kind of church behind the doors.

      And, in our day, old-fashioned churches are going to be ridiculed, maligned and persecuted, 2 Tim. 3:12; John 3:20.  Like it or not, we can usually measure the level of our effectiveness by how much criticism we receive.

      When people talk about your church and make fun of your for your standards, don’t worry!  Just respond like Jesus taught us to respond, Matt. 5:44.  And, remember that there is a day coming when God will have the last word!  Vengeance is His jurisdiction; simple obedience is ours!)

 

(Note: By the way, if I were moving to a new town and started looking for a new church to attend, I would listen to the talk around town.  That church that every body laughed at, criticized and mocked, is the church I would attend first.  Why? The world and all that are joined to it hate the truth and they hate any church that preaches truth.)

 

C.  v. 10  Their Ministry Involved Optimism – This is a precious promise to a suffering people.  They have endured much, but they will be spared the horrors that will come upon the entire world and those who dwell in it. Jesus promises them that their faithfulness to them guarantees them deliverance from the terrible time of tribulation that is to come upon this earth.

 

(Note: The phrase “them that dwell upon the earth” can be literally translated “the earth dwellers”.  We will encounter this phrase several more times in Revelation.  It refers to those who are part of this world’s evil system.  It speaks of those people who do not know the Lord.  They will face the wrath of God in the tribulation, but His people will not!

      Will the church pass through the tribulation?  Absolutely not!  Jesus is coming and He is going to remove His church before God pours our His wrath upon this world, Rom. 5:9; 1 Thes. 4:16-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-52!)

 

D.  v. 11  Their Ministry Involved Obligations – The believers in Philadelphia are told to be on the look out for two things.  First, they are to be watching for the coming of the Lord.  Second, they were to watch their walk.

            Jesus is coming and His people need to be ready to meet Him.  That means we are to live as if He might come at any minute and we are to work like our time is short.  But, as we watch and as we work, we are to be careful of how we live our lives.  We must not allow ourselves to become like the world around us.  We are to live for Jesus, love Jesus and look for Jesus; guarding everything He has given us, so that we can be confident of a reward when He comes.  We will face our Lord some day at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  That day can be a day of reward, or it can be a day of loss, which depends on how we live now, 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:12.

 

(Note: As He relates to them all that He has given them and is doing for them and through them, it is possible that they didn’t even know just how much the Lord was blessing them and using them for His glory.  Here’s what Jesus saw as He looked at the ministry of the church in Philadelphia.

      I think it is very likely that we don’t know the extent of our outreach and the strength of our influence in this world.  We may never know until we get to Heaven.  But, I am confident that God is using Calvary Baptist Church in ways that we cannot begin to comprehend!  He would tell us to watch, wait and work.  He would also tell us to guard what we have so that we can meet Him with joy on that day!)

 

III.  v. 12     THE CHURCH AND HER MESSAGE

(Ill. Jesus closes His letter to this church by giving them a message of hope for the future.  This message is just as valid for us today as it was for the people in Philadelphia.)

A.  A Message Of Stability – Jesus tells these believers that He will make set them as a pillar in God’s temple and they will go out no more.  This was a message of hope to the people in Philadelphia.  With all the earthquakes the city suffered, they were used to having to evacuate their city.  Now, Jesus promises them that they will enjoy stability in His kingdom.

 

(Note: This world may rock and reel and troubles and trials may assault us day by day, but we have been placed on a solid rock and we are headed to a sure destination.  There may be little stability in this world, but the saints of God will be fixed firmly in Heaven above and they will never be threatened, assaulted or attacked again!  Nothing that troubles the church down here will be allowed to enter over there, Rev. 21:4, 27.)

 

            In that city, the highest honor that could be bestowed on an individual was for a pillar in one of the pagan temples to be dedicated in his honor.  His name would be written on it and the reason for the honor would be inscribed there too.  Jesus is saying to these saints, “You might not be well known or honored down here, but things are different in Heaven.  You might be a nobody today on earth, but you are a somebody in Heaven!”

 

      (Note: It’s the same for us, my friends!  This world hates us; the devil hates us; and each day sees the church become the focus of increasing attacks and hatred.  But, in Heaven, we are somebodies!  We are the redeemed children of God!  We are the spotless, chaste, virgin bride of the Lamb of God!  Our names are known over there and one day, well enter that city and be firmly fixed there forever!  Praise His name!)

 

B.  A Message Of Security – God says that His people will be identified with The Creator; with The City; and with The Christ –

·         God puts His name on them to establish ownership.  He has redeemed them and they are His forever! 

·         He places the name of the city on them because that is their destination.  They might be living on the earth today, but they are headed for glory. 

·         He writes a new name for Jesus on them because they are special to Him.  The name of Christ represents the fullness of His Person.  And, in Heaven, they will see Christ in all His fullness! In the Old Testament era, His name was Jehovah.  In the New Testament era His name is Jesus.  In Heaven, He will have a new name!

            The world might not see their value, but God does and He honors His faithful servants.  The people in the church of Philadelphia had no security in the city where they lived.  But, they had eternal security in their relationship with Jesus Christ and in His kingdom!)

 

(Note: This verse reminds us of the wonderful security all the redeemed have in Jesus.  We have been saved to the uttermost, Heb. 7:25.  We have been given everlasting life, John 6:47.  We cannot lose anything we have been given in Jesus, John 10:28; 6:37-40.  We are sure for Heaven as if we were already there, because in God’s mind, we are already there, Eph. 2:6.

      God has claimed us as His children, I John 3:1-3; He has addressed us for special delivery to our new home in glory, John 14:1-3; and He placed us in the body of His Son, 1 Cor. 12:13.  We are as secure as we can be!  That is a reason for rejoicing!)

 

Conc: I am grateful to be a member of a Philadelphian kind of church.  Of all the churches in these two chapters; Calvary is more like this one than any of the others.  We are blessed and we should never take what we have for granted.  The Lord has given us much and there are more opportunities waiting on us down the road.

      So, here is the invitation: If you are lost and you would like to give your heart to Jesus you come.  If you are saved, but you haven’t been watching and you know you are in danger of losing your rewards, you come.  If you are thankful to be a member of a great church and want to ask God to help us, and to give us wisdom as we move into His future, you come.

      These precious words from our Lord should motivate us to serve Him faithfully until He returns for us.

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