The Church that is Resilient

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READ Revelation 3:7-13
Just as we’ve done in the past letters, we must look at Jesus’s description of Himself to understand the broader meaning behind this letter.
First He says that these are “The words of the holy one, the true one . . .(Rev. 3:7b). In the Hebrew Bible, phrases such as “the holy one” and “the true one” are used as descriptors for God. For example in the book of Isaiah, “the holy one” is used as a title for God.
“They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel . . .” (Is. 1:4,ESV).
“. . .let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near” (Is.5:19, ESV).
“To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One” (Is. 40:25, ESV).
Likewise, the Septuagint, (the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible) describes God as alethinos, which means “true.” He is faithful, He is dependable, He keeps His promises, He is true. Isaiah 65:16 says:

he who blesses himself in the land

shall bless himself by the God of truth,

and he who takes an oath in the land

shall swear by the God of truth;

because the former troubles are forgotten

and are hidden from my eyes.

In Revelation 6:10, when the fifth seal is opened, the Martyrs are crying “out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth” (Re 6:10, ESV)?
The point is this, the same descriptions that are used for God are used to describe Jesus. That is because they are one in the same.
Moving along, Jesus offers another familiar description of Himself from the Hebrew Bible. (Read Rev. 3:7c)
Isaiah 22 tells the story about God giving “they key of the house of David” to King Hezekiah’s servant Eli-a-kim. This act symbolized Eli-a-kim’s authority over the palace. He had the power to determine who was allowed into the palace and who was not. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open” (Is 22:22, ESV).
This means that Jesus is saying that He is the sole authority over God’s Kingdom. In other words, He holds the keys that determines who is allowed in the presence of God and who is not. In Revelation 1:18, Jesus uses the symbolism of keys to describe Himself as the One who holds “the keys of Death and of Hades.” This description reflects His judgment on who will enter God’s Kingdom---to be in God’s Kingdom is to be in God’s Presence---and those who will be denied entrance into God’s Kingdom—to denied God’s Kingdom is to be denied God’s presence.
Theologian Stephen Smalley says, “The risen Lord . . .possesses the key to the messianic kingdom, in heaven or on earth; he thereby controls access or otherwise to that realm, and so to God’s eternal life.” —Stephen Smalley
Moving to verse eight, Jesus says “I know your works . . .” He has seen their works in the past, He knows what they are doing now. He sees their outward works and He sees the motivation for their works. He knows what they are doing and He knows why they are doing it.
So, what does He see them doing? He tells them in the latter part of verse eight, “I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and not denied my name.”
The letters to Smyrna and Philadelphia are the only ones that do not contain a negative word about the churches. Jesus does not hold anything against either of these churches, so, the tone of the two letters is praise and encouragement. Another similarity of the two churches is that both of them are marginalized in some way. The church in Smyrna is physically poor, and the church in Philadelphia has “little power.”
Today Philadelphia is known as Alasehir and it’s located in Turkey. At the time of Jesus’s letter there was nothing uniquely special about the City of Philadelphia, other than It’s location as a crossing point leading to the regions of Phyrgia (Fridge-e-a) , Lydia, and Mysia (Miss-e-a). Historians are uncertain as to the population of the city, other than knowing that it was a small number. It was also a city known for its cult worship of the Roman emperors. Therefore, the citizens were expected to offer food sacrifices and sexual immoral acts in worship of the Greek gods and Roman emperors.
Jesus tells the church that even though they have “little power,” which most likely refers to their lack of political and societal influence, they have “kept my word and have not denied my name.” In other words, in the midst of cultural persecution and pressure to worship false gods, they are remaining faithful to Christ in such a way that is pleasing to Him.
Because of their faithful and patient endurance, Jesus makes six promises to the Christians, but I want to focus in on four of those promises this morning.

I. “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut” (3:8a, ESV).

There are those who believe this door refers to an open door for evangelism. There are several occasions in the New Testament when the imagery of God opening the door for people to be saved is used. For example:
Acts 14:27

And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

Paul uses this same symbolism in 1 Corinthians 16:9:

for a great and effective door has opened for me, and there are many opponents.

Paul uses the imagery a second time in 2 Corinthians 2:12:

When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord,

A third time Paul uses this imagery is in Colossians 4:3:

praying at the same time for us also, that God may open for us a door of the message, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which also ⌊I am a prisoner⌋

But I don’t think that Jesus is referring to an open door for missions work. I think He’s referring back to His original description of Himself as the One who holds the keys to the Kingdom and the one who judges who is let in and who is kept out of the eternal kingdom. So, I think Jesus’s promise here to the ones who patiently endure is a promise of being in the eternal presence of God.
Notice in Revelation 4:1 when John describes being called to Heaven and seeing the Throne room of Heaven that he says, “I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne” (Rev. 4:1-2, ESV). The image here is John entering through a door and being in God’s presence.
Another example of Jesus using the door as a metaphor for entering in God’s presence is in John 10. In verse 7 He tells the disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” Then in verse 9 He says, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved . . .” Again, referring to entering into God’s presence because the unbeliever entered through the door of salvation, which is Jesus.
So, those who faithfully and patiently endure are promised the ability to enter Heaven’s door and into God’s eternal presence.

II. “Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you” (Rev. 3:9, ESV).

This is the second time Jesus refers to a group of Jews as a “synagogue of Satan” as this was the same language He used to describe the Jews in Smyrna. These people who claim to be Jewish are lying and will face His judgment.
Again, we need to go back in history to understand what Jesus means by calling these Jews liars. If you know anything at all about the Bible, and in particular the Old Testament, then you know that the Jews are God’s chosen people. He chose them to reveal Himself to all of mankind in history, the present, and in the future. Remember what God told the Jews when He first called them out of Egypt.
Exodus 19:5-6

5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

True Jews display their loyalty to God by obeying Him and remaining faithful to Him, therefore they are His, “treasured possession among all peoples” and “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
They are Jewish in nationality and culturally, but they are not a part of God’s chosen people because they do not obey His commands and are not faithful to Him. They are a synagogue of Satan. They are not His people. They are Satan’s people.
The promise God makes to the Philadelphian Christians is that these Jews will “come and bow down before your feet...” This statement is in reference to prophecies in Isaiah where God promises the Jews that their gentile enemies will bow to them. Here though, it is flipped. Here, the Jews who do not believe in God will bow down to both Jewish and Gentile Christians. I believe this is a reference to the end of days when all non-believers will bow down to Christians. In Isaiah 60:14-15 the prophet writes:

14  The sons of those who afflicted you

shall come bending low to you,

and all who despised you

shall bow down at your feet;

they shall call you the City of the LORD,

the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

15  Whereas you have been forsaken and hated,

with no one passing through,

I will make you majestic forever,

a joy from age to age.

See, we know that not all Jews are saved and not all Jews will be saved. We also know that not all gentiles are saved and not all gentiles will be saved. Conversely, we know there are Jews who are saved and Jews who will be saved. We also know there are gentiles who are saved and who will be saved. Based on these facts and this verse, I believe there will be a time in the end of days when non believers will bow down to true believers. The Bible teaches there will be a time when true believers will reign alongside Jesus. Notice in Revelation 20:4-6 where John describes this scene:

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

Whenever we think of people who reign, we think of people with power and people who have authority. When it comes to a monarchy, which is the imagery that John uses in his descriptions of Heaven, we know that in monarchies there are those who reign and those who kneel. The point I’m making is this, even though the Philadelphian Christians have “little power” in their current circumstances, God will reward their faithful endurance and obedience by forcing nonbelieving Jews to kneel down to them.
That same promise is true for us today. As Christians it often feels like we have little power in this chaotic world. We feel like we don’t have voice. I believe there is going to come a day in America when our faith and obedience will be put to the test because I believe persecution of Christians is going to grow stronger. We are going to be tempted and pressured to do things that we know God despises. Are we prepared to face these trials when they come with patient endurance and faithful obedience? The promise is if we do, then our enemies will one day grovel at our feet and know how much God loves us.

IV. “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.”

The promise here is a time of trial is coming, but those who endure and remain faithful will be protected from the trial. I do not believe this trial has occured yet. I think it is a trial that will signify that the Lord Jesus’s return is near and I believe it is a trial that is meant for unbelievers. Throughout the book of Revelation when “people living on the earth” is mentioned, it refers to nonbelievers. There are several examples of this, but let me offer you two:
Revelation 6:10:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

Revelation 8:13:

13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”

Now, I don’t know if Jesus’s mention of this trial is a foreshadowing of the tribulations that are described in Revelation 9 or not, but I believe a trial is coming and it’s meant to test non believers.
For the believers, though, He promises to “keep them.” In other words, He promises to protect them from this trial. Now, there are those who believe this points to the “rapture” or removal of the church from the earth before these trials occur. There are those who argue that it means Christians will be on the earth, but protected from this trial because it’s not meant for them. I think a great argument can be made for both theories, but as for me, I believe it points to God protecting Christians while they remain on the earth. I think back to the plagues that God placed on Egypt to get their attention about freeing His people. He didn’t remove the Jews from Egypt before sending the plagues, but He did protect them from the affects of it. He didn’t remove His people during great famines, but He told them exactly what they needed to do to be protected from the effects of the famine. I think this is another demonstration of God’s love for His people. He’s not going to remove us from the trial, but He is going to make sure we have everything we need to be protected from it.
But, woe to those who do not belong to Him. They will not be spared. They will face the trial without the protection of the Lord.
So, how does this letter apply to Monaghan Baptist Church? I asked this question a few weeks ago, but it needs repeating here.
Is your faith in God solid enough to be able to endure and withstand the pressures of our anti-God culture?
Folks, you are lying to yourselves if you still believe that America is really a “Country Under God.” It is not. This nation is far removed from God. A Unified Church is a church that is resilient and the only way it can be resilient is if its people are falling more in love with Jesus Christ on a daily basis. Falling in love with Him is the only way our faith grows stronger. Are you falling in love with Jesus more every day? If we are going that together, then we will be a resilient unified church.
2. Are you saved?
This letter is a warning for unbelievers. I’m not asking you if you think you’re saved because you come to church or do nice things for people. I’m not asking if you think you’re saved because you don’t curse, don’t drink, don’t cheat on your spouse, don’t watch porn, etc. Are you truly saved? Because there is a fourth promise that He makes in this passage. Look at the first sentence of verse 11. He says, “I am coming soon.” When the time comes, will you be one who bows down at the feet of the Christians who are reigning alongside Christ? When the times comes, will you receive God’s protection from the trial that’s coming? This is a warning to you! The trial isn’t here yet. The time of bowing down isn’t here yet. There is still time. Will you take advantage of it, or will you remain a “dweller on this earth?”
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