“Christ’s Message to Philadelphia Part 1”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Revelation 3.7-13 Part 1
Revelation 3:7-13. Before 9/11, the church was far from perfect. But after 9/11, the church… was still far from perfect. Although there were packed churches for a few weeks, there was no sweeping revival… the churches soon went back to normal and we could say the “dog returned to her vomit.”
Why is that?
Well, it’s difficult to determine. It seems though that Christians responded more with American patriotism and optimism than with a seeking after God and being on mission with Him. Christians seemed more intent on revenge against our physical enemies than seeking to ground our hope and others’ hope in God.
Revival didn’t happen.
As begin to peer into our passage today, Philadelphia was a church that needed no reviving. This is a rare sight in these letters to the seven churches. The Lord doesn’t condemn them or threaten judgment against. And I think we can learn from this church about how to be a church that the Lord commends and doesn’t threaten.
Revelation 3:7–13 7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; 8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. 10 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. 11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. 12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. 13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
The Lord Jesus is writing to a small church, yet a faithful church in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a city twenty-seven miles east of Sardis, the previous church letter we discussed in modern day Turkey.
Jesus doesn’t condemn them, criticize them, or rebuke them. He doesn’t threaten punishment; He praises them and promises them glorious things, that is true even for us.
Revelation 3:13 13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
We too have these glorious promises….
But in this letter, we have “Christ’s promises to a small and faithful church.”
TRANS: Jesus has the authority to give the promises that He does later because of who He is in verse 7. He’s authorized to give the promises because of who He is. And He’s authorized to give the promises because of what He possesses.
Christ’s Self Description (3:7)
First, He’s authorized to give the promises that He does at the end of the passage because of who He is…
If someone said, “Hi, my name is and then said this about themselves, what would you think?
Revelation 3:7 7 … These things saith he that is holy, he that is true,
Holy…He is to be worshipped.
“These things saith he that is holy”
EXP: Literally He is “the holy one.” This is the attribute of God that describes all his other attributes: His wrath is holy and His love is holy. His holiness means that He is separate, distinct, and unique. There is no one like Him!
1 Samuel 2:1–2 1 And Hannah prayed, and said,… There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.
Exodus 15:11 11 Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?
Similar in Revelation 4:8 8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
Jesus is holy…
Speaking of seeing the Lord Jesus, as John explains in chapter 12 of his gospel, Isaiah writes…
Isaiah 6:1–4 1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4 And the posts of the door [shook] at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
And David by the Holy Spirit calls Jesus “the Holy One.”
Psalm 16:10 10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [in the grave]; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Jesus didn’t suffer corruption, He did not see bodily decay. He was raised from the dead.
Jesus is the Holy One of the OT. He is and always has been, and always will be God, eternal God.
APP: Be in awe of His majestic holiness… fall down at his feet!
Isaiah 57:15 15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
He’ll dwell with you…you say “I’m a peon, I’m a nobody, one who is so weak!” Exactly… when you’re weak, then you’re … strong! Come before Him meek, humble,
Let ev’ry kindred, ev’ry tribe,
On this terrestrial ball,
To Him all majesty ascribe, And crown Him Lord of all;
TRANS: Jesus is the Holy One. And Jesus is the True One.
True: He is to be trusted
Revelation 3:7 7 … These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, …
EXP: Literally “the true one”
He is true in the sense that He’s the only Messiah, the true one, as opposed to the false ones. And He’s true in the sense that He’s faithful.
He’s the Only Messiah
In contrast to the false Jews who would persecute the Christians in Philadelphia, Jesus is the true Messiah, the Christ. The biological Jews would say, “You stole our God, Yahweh, and now you claim to worship Him claiming Jesus is Yahweh.” Obviously, they’d be upset about that! You can read in Acts how the Jews would persecute Christians.
But the truth is…
Acts 4:12 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Jesus is the true Messiah, the Christ!
TRANS: And He is the faithful one… He’s the true one in the sense that He’s faithful.
He is Faithful
The word translated ‘true’ can be understood as ‘faithful.’
Exodus 34:6 6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Deuteronomy 32:4 4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
Jesus… is holy and true…
Revelation 6:10 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
His ways are true and just…
Revelation 15:3–4 3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of [the nations]. 4 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
His judgments are true and righteous….
Revelation 16:7 7 And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.
His word is true…
Revelation 19:9 9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” He keeps his promises!
And the very name of Jesus is True…
Revelation 19:11 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
He is the True One!
APP: Trust in Him! Sometimes coming face to face with truth is difficult. When you’re exposed to Someone who Himself is truth, Who exposes all your error… but will you not come to him because of that? He will reveal all your sin, expose all your treachery against Him…is that a good thing? Or will you love darkness and reject the light?
ILL/APP: will you be like a cockroach when the light comes and scurry off or will you let the One who is called Holy and True, will you let him expose you? … come to the Light!
He is true in the sense that He’s the only Messiah, the true one. And He’s true in the sense that He’s faithful.
“I am resolved to go to the Saviour,
Leaving my sin and strife;
He is the true one, He is the just one,
He hath the words of life.”
TRANS: He’s authorized to give the promises He does because of who He is: He is holy and true. He’s authorized also because of what He possesses.
Has the key of David: He has Unopposed Authority; He is to be Obeyed.
Revelation 3:7 7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, [here it is…] he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
EXP: He has the key of David. Keys in Scripture are often symbols of control and sovereignty. What this means is that He has all the authority to allow into His kingdom those whom He has called! Only He can open and shut. He is sovereign in salvation.
EXP: The background to the phrase on the “key of David” is a direct reference to Isa. 22:2. There, a man named Eliakim was to oversee who could enter into the king’s presence. Jesus here applies that terminology to Himself.
Now, it’s called the key of David because in 2 Samuel 7 God promised David that the Messiah, the Christ, would be David’s ancestor and God would give to the Messiah an everlasting kingdom. That’s 2 Samuel 7.
Jesus has the key to the promised Davidic kingdom; Jesus is the Messiah who will rule over His millennial kingdom and beyond.
Just like in Revelation 1:18 Jesus says… 18 I …have the keys of hell and of death.
… here He has the keys of salvation and eternal blessing! He opens and shuts without opposition.
Obey Him by Trusting Him
APP: And since God is sovereign in salvation, and since He has the keys to His millennial kingdom, you’d better ask Him for mercy! You’re not able to do any good works to get it; no, He is entirely sovereign; you’d best fear Him who controls all and humbly plead for Him for entrance into this kingdom.
And if you’re trusting in Christ alone this morning, you can glory in the coming Davidic kingdom!
EXP: There is a glorious kingdom that is coming! When Christ comes back to set up his 1000-year reign upon the earth,
Isaiah 11:6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
The nursing child will play by the hall of the cobra and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
Isaiah 11:9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
Isa. 65:20, A child will die but at 100 years old. Nature will be upended…human lifespan will be greatly increased, Christ will be ruling upon the earth from the throne of David in Jerusalem, there will be a rebuilt Temple and those who have trusted in him in this age will be glorified in that age and we will rule and reign with him perfectly upon this earth.
TRANS: The One who tells us that He’s holy and true and who has the key to the Davidic kingdom is the one who gives His viewpoint of the church at Philadelphia: no condemnation only praise!
Four Qualities of the Philadelphian Church (3:8, 10)
Revelation 3:8 8 I know thy works: [skip this next phrase for now…] behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for [rather, that…now we see their works…I know thy works… what are they? Here are their works…] thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
Also Revelation 3:10 … “… thou hast kept the word of my patience [or perseverance]….”
Wow, what a great church! Of course, there is no perfect church, but this is a good start!
ILL: A man reportedly came to the British pastor Charles H. Spurgeon looking for the perfect church. The famous preacher told him he had many saintly people in his congregation, but a Judas could also be among them. After all, even Jesus had a traitor in the company of His apostles. He went on to say that some might be walking disobediently, as had been the case among the believers at Rome, Corinth, Galatia, and Sardis.
“My church is not the one you’re looking for,” said Spurgeon. “But if you should happen to find such a church, I beg you not to join it, for you would spoil the whole thing.”
Small: They have a little strength
EXP: That first one in verse 8, “thou hast a little strength.” They are a small church, perhaps even made up of slaves. Not extremely influential.
That’s just as Paul wrote to the Corinthians…
1 Corinthians 1:26–29 26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
How is a small church, a church that doesn’t hold much influence… how are we to respond?
2 Corinthians 12:8–10 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
The Lord knows we once we’re more influential than we are today. Do we depend on Christ now?
Loving: They have kept Christ’s word
Verse 8… “and hast kept my word.”
John 14:15 15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
John 14:21 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
They did, therefore love Christ … they kept His word.
We need to take God’s words and do them, apply them… use the word of God in our lives for growth and change… would that we’d be more conformed to His word!
And for those who keep His word, there is great blessing…
Revelation 22:7 7 Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
APP: 2 Timothy 1:14 14 Guard through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
Guard the treasure of His word in your heart!
TRANS: They are a small church yet loving Christ. And they are faithful!
Faithful: They have not denied Jesus
End of verse 8, “hast not denied my name.”
They are faithful. They haven’t denied Jesus’ name. They’ve kept on believing in Him.
They heeded the warning…
Matthew 10:32–33 32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
They remained faithful and continued trusting in Christ despite opposition: you could imagine opposition from persecution, but also opposition from the world, flesh, and the devil! When temptations to turn from Christ abounded, they turned to Christ not away from Him!
TRANS: And finally, the Philadelphians endured.
Endurance: Rev. 3:10
Revelation 3:10 10 … thou hast kept the word of my patience….
The idea is that they persevered. Instead of denying Jesus’ name, they have endured, persevered; they kept serving Christ.
They kept on trusting in Jesus despite opposition… The romans hated them, the Jews hated them. Yet, they kept going and didn’t quit.
A true believer will not deny Jesus Christ as Lord… you can’t even burn it out of them. They will confess Christ and keep on confessing Christ, serving Him no matter the cost.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Revelation 3.7-13 Part 1
Is this the perfect church?
The Perfect Church
I think that I shall never see
A Church that’s all it ought to be:
A Church whose members never stray
Beyond the Strait and Narrow Way:
A Church that has no empty pews,
Whose Pastor never has the blues,
A Church whose Deacons always deak, [not fake]
And none is proud, and all are meek:
Where gossips never peddle lies,
Or make complaints or criticize;
Where all are always sweet and kind,
And all to other’s faults are blind.
Such perfect Churches there may be,
But none of them are known to me.
But still, we’ll work, and pray and plan,
To make our own the best we can.
Trust in Him who is true
Be the church He wants you to be and that starts with you and it starts with me.
Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 123. ↑
Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 242. ↑