A Church Called Philadelphia – Revelation 3:7-13

Posted by: cghearn | 11/16/2014 | 12:00 pm

Download: A Church Called Philadelphia – Revelation 3:7-13
Have you ever been a part of a losing team or worked really hard at something, just to have it ultimately seem pointless?

A church may often times have very little power or influence in the world around it.  A church may be weak in membership, influence, and monetarily. (Smyrna was another example of a church that was both poor and persecuted)

A tortoise, lazily basking in the sun, complained to the sea-birds of her hard fate, that no one would teach her to fly. An Eagle, hovering near, heard her lamentation and demanded what reward she would give him if he would take her aloft and float her in the air. “I will give you,” she said, “all the riches of the Red Sea.” “I will teach you to fly then,” said the Eagle; and taking her up in his talons he carried her almost to the clouds suddenly he let her go, and she fell on a lofty mountain, dashing her shell to pieces. The Tortoise exclaimed in the moment of death: “I have deserved my present fate; for what had I to do with wings and clouds, who can with difficulty move about on the earth?’

Sometimes, we’re given difficult situations or circumstances in life and try as we might, we can’t seem to change it.  Even if we could make things easier, the options that we have that could change our circumstances might be more harmful than good.  However Christ would encourage us to do well wherever we find ourselves (even if it’s in the dirt, like the tortoise).  Although they both were facing tough life situations, both Smyrna and Philadelphia are the only 2 churches out of the seven John wrote to that are not criticized by Jesus.  One was poor financially and persecuted even to martyrdom; the other was very weak in its ability.

Hardship, as I’ve said before when looking at Smyrna, doesn’t mean that God has forgotten you. It also doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being punished.  The church at Philadelphia was true to their name: “filoV” which was the Greek word for affection between friends or brothers and “adelfoV” which meant “brother.”  I pray that all churches in our world would be churches of “brotherly love.”

Doctrine of sermon:
The church that stands firm regardless of circumstance will be rewarded by Christ.

The church that stands firm, regardless of their ability has a permanently open door

The church in Philadelphia, according to Christ had very little strength and yet their aim and their sole obligation regardless was faithfulness to Christ.  This left before them a door into heaven that was never closed.

When Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius there were many persons buried in the ruins who were afterwards found in very different positions.

There were some found in deep vaults, as if they had gone there for security. There were some found in lofty chambers. But where did they find the Roman sentinel?

They found him standing at the city gate where he had been placed by the captain, with his hands still grasping the weapon. There, while the earth shook beneath him; there, while the floods of ashes and cinders overwhelmed him, he had stood at his post; and there, after a thousand years, he was found.

The word appears in this text when John wrote that this church had “kept” the word of Christ is a derivative of “τηρέω.”  This word was used in many different instances but could also mean to observe, to aim for, or could even be used when describing marital faithfulness or fidelity.  In other words, the church in Philadelphia had no other god or commands who they were married to; only those of Christ. What happens when the commands of Christ are forgotten, or the word neglected?

It was 1095 A.D. and Christianity had begun to neglect the commands of Scripture for political power.  Pope Urban the 2nd declared, “I say to those who are present.  I command that it be said to those who are absent.  Christ commands it.  All who go thither and lose their lives, be it on the road or on the sea, or in the fight against the pagans, will be granted immediate forgiveness for their sins.  This I grant to all who will march, by virtue of the great gift which God has given me.”  Knights left Europe, slaughtered thousands of Jews, came to Jerusalem, took the city by force, burned a synagogue with Jews inside, thrown against walls, women were raped, and non-combatants were also killed.  You can say, “I’m Protestant, not Catholic” if you’d like.  There were no Protestants during this time, this story is part of the roots of Christianity’s story and therefore it is part of ours; shameful or no.  Even worse, people had visions and said that the Crusades were necessary.  Even worse, because others said that children were innocent, that they had to play a special role in Jerusalem.  Children were sent out of Europe only to die on the journey or to be captured and forced into slavery.

Why do I preach every week?  So that we constantly keep the focus on Christ’s commands.  Why do we gather in Bible studies throughout the week?  So that we constantly keep the focus on Christ’s commands.  Let us be as the church in Philadelphia was, let’s stay faithful to what Christ has spoken.

Redemption:

The church that stands firm will have unbelievers that will someday bow before them

This passage speaks of those who are Jews but are not.  They had somehow in this passage afflicted the church in Philadelphia.  But Jesus promises a few things and that is that if they will withstand the attack against them.  First that the hymn in Philippians 2:10-11 which reads “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” will be fulfilled when we’re seated with Christ.  These liars Christ speaks of won’t be bowing down to us, rather they will be bowing to Christ. Second, that they will be victorious in the end; even being preserved from God’s wrath.   There may be times when victory or preservation doesn’t seem possible, but God is capable of preserving what He wants to.

It was 1947 and a group of shepherd boys noticed some caves in a cliff face.  Allegedly, one of the boys was throwing rocks to the back of the cave and heard a shattering sound.  He then went into the cave and came out with an armload of ancient scrolls.  Among the scrolls eventually discovered at the Qumran caves was a complete scroll of the prophet Isaiah that is almost identical to the current copies we currently have even though some have dated the scrolls to as early as 335 B.C. meaning that the text has been  preserved almost perfectly for 2,349 years.  (Show slide of Isaiah scroll) By the way this ended many arguments about the reliability of much of the Old Testament’s reliability.  Secular historians and archeologists can never be too careful when craftily concocting contrivances concerning Christianity’s conceptions.  They may accidentally prove their truths false and what they said was false true.

Some have argued that this passage, when referring to Christ preserving them from his wrath is verification of a pre-tribulation rapture.  However, the more obvious meaning is that he promises to protect or “keep” these believers from the experience of his wrath.  In John 17:15 Jesus had prayed, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them.” This uses the same Greek verb as is in verse 3:10 and is likewise used to support a post-tribulationist perspective. Which one is the one we should consider? First, this passage isn’t speaking to Christ’s second advent meaning his second coming rather it is simply speaking to a trail of some sort.  Second, the Greek word here for “trial” can also be translated as “temptation” which would simply mean that Christ will save the church of Philadelphia from the hour of temptation coming into the world.  Third, while God has assured believers that they can’t escape the devil’s wrath, the question needing to be posed is: Isn’t God able to protect and preserve what He will, even amidst the worst of circumstances?

Turn to Exodus 11:4-7

According to many secular historians throughout the centuries, Pontius Pilate (as we know was the prefect who sentenced Jesus to die) was considered to be a myth.  Many said that the gospel writers had written him into the narrative in order to try and further their own agenda.  However, in 1961 a stone was found with this inscription translated from Latin “Pontius Pilate…prefect of Judea…has dedicated this.” (Show picture of stone). The Pilate stone survived rebellions, thousands of years, and Jerusalem being destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  Secular historian’s greatest enemy is often archeological evidence. Secular historians and archeologists can never be too careful when craftily concocting contrivances concerning Christianity’s conceptions.  They may accidentally prove their truths false and what they said was false true.

God is able to save us from His wrath and any other circumstances that He wishes.  Just as the Dead Sea scrolls were saved from destruction, just as the Pilate stone was saved from being destroyed; God can certainly save His people from suffering destruction.

Redemption:
Ultimately, this is true in a temporary and in an eternal sense.

The church that stands firm in patience will never again have to leave the presence of God

In this passage we see a few very cool things concerning the security of a believer once they’ve entered the presence of God:

He says he will make them a pillar-The picture of the holy city or temple in which we shall eventually dwell (here called “the new Jerusalem”).  In this city, there will be no temple as there will be no separation between God and ourselves; there will be no separation between that which is holy and that which is common; there will be no more room for darkness and shadow. We will never again leave the presence of God!

Have you ever seen someone try to move a pillar in a building?  What would happen if someone tried to move a pillar inside of a building?  Wouldn’t the building collapse under the weight?  God is going to make us an essential part of the structure of heaven in ways we can’t imagine!

  1. He will write on us the name of God-This means that we are holy to God alone. –Turn to Exodus 28:36-38
  2. He will write on us the name of new Jerusalem-This simply means that we are citizens of this city; citizens of God himself.
  3. We will yet learn even another name of Christ-There are things, even yet in this life, that we will not discover until we are in his very presence.  We’re not done learning from our master yet.

When we look at the fall of Adam and Eve, it wasn’t simply that they would die when they ate of the tree of knowledge; rather it was that we were no longer sinless and able to stand in the presence of God.  We now see it will be reversed in the last days in which we will not only be permanently in the kingdom, but we will never go out again. Will we be able to sin in Heaven?  No, if we were able to, we would not be able to remain with God.

The story of the Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan always makes me long for eternity. He describes much about heaven which makes me want to be there sooner rather than later.  A small excerpt about heaven, when Christian and hopeful finally enter in reads:

Now, just as the gates were opened to let in the men, I looked in after them, and behold the city shone like the sun; the streets also were paved with gold; and in them walked many men, with crowns on their heads, palms in their hands, and golden harps, to sing praises withal. There were also of them that had wings, and they answered one another without intermission, saying, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord. And after that they shut up the gates; which, when I had seen, I wished myself among them.

Paul sums up this thinking when he says in Philippians 1:21-24, “ For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

Redemption:
Our aim should be to never again leave the presence of our Lord; in order to do so we must stand firm.

Conclusion

Doctrine of sermon:
The church that stands firm regardless of circumstance will be rewarded by Christ

Illustration:

The Hare was once boasting of his speed before the other animals. “I have never yet been beaten,” said he, “when I put forth my full speed. I challenge any one here to race with me.”

The Tortoise said quietly, “I accept your challenge.”

“That is a good joke,” said the Hare; “I could dance round you all the way.”

“Keep your boasting till you’ve beaten,” answered the Tortoise. “Shall we race?”

So a course was fixed and a start was made. The Hare darted almost out of sight at once, but soon stopped and, to show his contempt for the Tortoise, lay down to have a nap. The Tortoise plodded on and plodded on, and when the Hare awoke from his nap, he saw the Tortoise just near the winning-post and could not run up in time to save the race. Then said the Tortoise:

“Plodding wins the race.”

Application:

Sources

  1. Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 1587.
  2. Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 58.
  3. John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).