The Church at Philadelphia
The Church of the Open Door
The Church of the Open Door
God may close one door but it’s for the purpose of pointing us toward the OPEN one!
was established in 189 BC by King Eumenes II of Pergamon (197–160 BC). Eumenes II named the city for the love of his brother, who would be his successor, Attalus II (159–138 BC), whose loyalty earned him the nickname, "Philadelphos", literally meaning "one who loves his brother
Almost totally destroyed by an earthquake in AD 17
Roman Emperor Tiberius exempted the city from taxation in order to help it rebuild
The area close by was particularly known for it’s fine vineyards of grapes
The early church actually met in Jewish places of worship.
in Acts, the met in the temple courtyard
Evidence that they even met in synagogues
They were considered a Jewish sect
But as the years went by and it became more evident that their claims and beliefs were exclusive and could not be compromised, they started to be shoved out of Jewish society
It was never really a question of being accepted into Roman or Greek culture. The differences between them were great.
But the painful reality for them was being ostracized from Jewish culture.
This was what was happening in places like Philadelphia
Literally, the door was shut in their faces.
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. “ ‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 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. 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. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Things to notice about this letter:
This is the first time that the resurrected LORD is introduced using words that are not found in the beginning of the vision
There is no rebuke, no correction, no warning, no judgement
Only acknowledgement of their struggle, encouragement, and the promise of reward
Was Philadelphia a big church?
Seems that they weren’t
You have little strenght (vs 8)
Does this mean that Philadelphia is a perfect Church?
Certainly not! There’s no such thing as a perfect church
Church is made up of people like me who are far from perfect
But Philadelphia was an approved church
The way that they were living, the way that they were fighting and enduring, Jesus approved of them
These are the words of Him who is Holy and True
These words describe the very character of the speaker, the essence of who the person is.
Both descriptive words indicate that this is Someone whom you can trust
..”who holds the Key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts, no one can open.”
words used almost verbatim centuries before of Eliakim, son of Hilkiah during the days of King Hezekiah
Was prophesied that Eliakim would take the place of Shebna, the palace administrator
The Bible does refer to him as after that as the palace administrator
perhaps it was like the President’s Chief of Staff
Wields extraordinary power in regard to what the other staff do
And who has access to the president
in a sense he has keys to the president
Maybe these were physical keys to the king’s palace
But symbolically they were the power to shut people out of the kingdom and out of the covenants that God had made with his people
So now here is Jesus saying that I have the keys
And I have set before you an OPEN DOOR (Literally, an openED door!)
Door--Such a rich imagery
Closed doors can have negative imagery (not always
Rejection—she shut the door in my face
Solitude—I just need to get away for a bit
Secrecy—No one knows what goes on behind closed doors
Open doors—almost always positive imagery
Welcome—the door is flung open; eg. Christian arriving at the Celestial City
Opportunity—The door of opportunity
who, by the way, are actually the synagogue of Satan
What a change in language from biblical themes of God’s redemptive work for the Jews
Bringing them out of slavery
Establishing a home land
redeeming them from exile
Sending the promised Messiah
Jesus said that he had come to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
The Jews persisted in their unbelief and deception
So much so that Jesus is now referring to them as the synagogue of Satan, the deceiver.
No longer were they holding to the truth
Jesus says to the young church at Philadelphia “They are actually of the synagogue of Satan
in a sense, “You are my true followers, those who are holding on to the truth.
Jesus is introduced as He who holds the keys of David
They claim to have the truth and are marginalizing you but I have the keys to the house of David
I say who gets in and who stays out
“I have put before you an open door which no one can shut”
To this perhaps small, struggling, marginalized church, these are welcome words
Jesus is a LORD of the open door!
All are welcome.
You may be on the outskirts. You may be suffering rejection from your family, your community, your church
I hope not your church, but it’s possible
But you are welcome to Jesus. His door is open
no one can shut this door.
By his sacrifice on the cross, all are welcome.
He is not willing that any should perish but that all come to repentence
This is an incredible picture of welcome and acceptance
Those who have rejected you are going to come and fall at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you
THE OPEN DOOR
The Door of Welcome
Jesus said, “I AM the Door”.
I am the only way to the Father
This church was facing exclusion and marginalization from “The Synagogue of Satan”
Those who say they are Jews but are not
(NIV) 28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
These Jews were saying, “Hey, we are the true Jews”.
We have been circumcised, we follow the Law, we are ceremonially clean and perfect
Jesus says that they are actually not true Jews but are of the synagogue of Satan
Why? Because they were not Jews inwardly
Their heart had not been circumcised
They were actually deceived—the work of Satan
This is quite a change in language from the language of Jews being God’s chosen covenant people
Yet, not so far.
These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me
Jesus says to the church at Philadelphia “These Jews may block you from the synagogue, but they are deceived. I am actually the one who holds the keys and I have placed in front of you an open door!”
I am the one who says who is in and who is out
Your hearts have been circumcised. You are the true Jews by faith
My door is open to you!
“‘I am the Door” And it’s an open door.
All are welcome
The Door of Opportunity
Talked about this at Leadership Retreat this weekend
God is a God is open doors, not closed doors.
I believe that God opens doors of opportunities, not closes them
We tend to think this way: God has closed that door for me. I will wait around until something opens up.
Or we just say, “God hasn’t opened up any doors for me”
I believe that each one of us already has an open door or multiple open doors in front of us
When God closes a door, He has already opened another one somewhere
He has not created us and called us to live stagnant lives
This weekend, we heard from a number of people who came to that realization in their lives
One was a city bus driver
Another was a carpenter
Another was an athletic trainer
All of them realized that God had put in front of them an open door and all they needed to do was, by faith, walk through it!
What tools has God given you? What has he put in your hands?
What open doors has He put in front of you?
We tend to say, “Yeah, this might be something I could do, but I just don’t have peace about it.”
That might not be an altogether accurate indicator of God’s will
Everyone has a sphere of influence, those whom God has placed in our lives
I can say from experience that as you go through the doors that God has opened in front of you, He gives power, grace, and provision for the task that you engage in.
Our story of going from JAARS to MAF
Jesus says that those who are of the synagogue of Satan will come an bow at your feet. Why?
Because of what we have done? No
Because they realize the power of God in your life. They will see God working through you and they will be drawn to Him
The purpose of walking through the door that God has placed in front of you is not for your personally glory and influence
We tend to measure it by “What is this going to do for my career goals, my influence, what people think of me?”
Jesus says that others will realize that I have loved you. The emphasis being on HIM!
You have kept my command to endure patiently
Hold on to what you have so that no one will take your crown
Rewards (To Him who overcomes)
Be made a pillar in the Temple of my God
A symbol of strength—God has chosen the weak things of the world to “confound” or confuse the wise
One clear message of the bible is that our weakness allows God’s strength to be made clear
This weak, marginalized christians would one day be made into symbols of strength and power and steadiness
“Never again will he leave it”—he will be in the presence of God forever
a place of honor, comfort, blessing
I will keep you from the hour of trial
a text used to support the “Pre-Trib” position, that the Church will not go through the great tribulation
Whatever it is, I think that we can safely say that God provides extraordinary strength and endurance for those engaged in His calling
“I will write on him....
The name of my God
The name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem (which is coming down out of heaven)
My new name
Your name not only identify who you are, but whose you are.
My name identifies me as of the household of Hertzler
It used to identify your occupation as well.
But my name indicates who I belong to
This New name will declare (like sewing the name of the parents and the address to kid’s clothing when they would travel alone)
You are ultimately the creation and possession of God
Your residence, your address is with Him in His city
You have been purchased by Jesus
You share in His inheritance. Co-heirs, the Bible calls us
His new name is YOUR new name
What an encouragement!
Church, hang on! Be strong! Walk boldly through the doors which he opens for you! For His glory!