THE CHURCH HELL CANNOT HANDLE (Philadelphia)
Revelation 3:7-13 (NKJV)
The Faithful Church
7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,
‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”:
8 “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.
9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.
10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.
12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. 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 out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.
13 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
Before the Lord Jesus went to the cross, He made a statement concerning the church. The church Jesus described often has little resemblance to many of the churches found in the world today.
Look at Matthew 16:18. Jesus said, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
In this passage, Jesus tells us a little about the character of the church He is going to build.
First, He says that the church is to be built upon Himself. Jesus Himself is the foundation of the church. His death, shed blood and resurrection form the foundation upon which the church stands.
Then, Jesus says His church is to be a militant church. He says that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Gates are not offense weapons, but they are defensive in nature. The church Jesus described was not a body of weak, oppressed people who were sitting around in fear waiting on the next attack of the devil. That does describe a lot of churches and a lot of Christians. Instead, the church Jesus pictures is one that is on the move. They are active in the Lord’s work and they are charging the very strongholds of Hell itself. They do not operate on fear, but on faith. Literally, the church Jesus came to found is a church that Hell cannot handle!
In our text today we have read our Lord’s letter to the church in Philadelphia. This church has been described in various ways over the years. Many have called it a weak little church.
I just want to call your attention to the fact that of all the seven letters to the seven churches, this is the only church that did not receive a rebuke of any kind. When Jesus wrote to this church, everything He has to say to them was positive.
With that in mind, notice that in this letter, Jesus, not the church is the primary focus. This tells us what we already know in our hearts. If Jesus is kept at the center of who we are and what we do, He will be glorified and we will grow as a result. If we make much of Him as a church, He will make much of us!
This morning, I would like for us to spend a little time with the Lord’s letter to Philadelphia. In His words to this church, we see a clear picture of the kind of church Hell cannot handle. If we are going to pick any church as our pattern, let this be the one we choose!
I want to draw our attention to a word that is used three times in this passage. It is the word “behold” and it is used in verses 8, 9, and 11. By using this word, Jesus is calling this church to make some observations. He is telling them to “LOOK!” There are some observations that the Lord wants the church at Philadelphia to consider.
These are observations that I would like for our churches today to make as well. I think we all want to be a church that Hell cannot handle. These verses tell us how to be that kind of church. Let’s make these observations together this morning.
I. V. 7-8 CONSIDER OUR OPPORTUNITIES
(Ill. The first “behold” is given to draw their attention to certain opportunities the Lord has made available to this church. By the way, these same opportunities are available to every church that will walk in His will.)
A. V. 7-8a The Character Of Our Master – Jesus comes to this church and He reveals Himself as One in control of everything. He reminds them that He is to be the focus of their faith and the hub around which the wheel of their service turns.
1. His Personality – He is Holy and He is True! There is no sin and there is no deception in our Lord. He is all He claims to be and His motives are always pure. Jesus Christ is the dependable One!
2. His Power – Jesus is described as holding the “key of David”. This is a reference to Isa. 22:20-22 where a faithful man named Eliakim was named the steward of King Hezekiah. He was given the “key of David.” This referred to the fact that Eliakim had access to all the riches that belonged to the king.
This Old Testament passage is an illustration of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the faithful administrator of the riches of the Kingdom of His Father. This reminds us that He has the power to meet the needs of His church as He leads them through the ministry He has given them. He will be faithful to provide all they need to do the jobs He calls them to!
Since He has the keys, He is has the power to open and close doors as He sees fit. The bottom line of all this is that Jesus is in control of the church. He is in charge of seeing that her needs are met and He is in charge of the direction her ministry takes. Jesus is to be enthroned as, and recognized as, the head of the church! (Ill. Col. 1:18; Eph. 5:23)
3. His Perception – He tells them in verse 8 that He “knows their works.” That is, He knows everything that they are doing, how they are doing it and what their motives are for doing it. He knows when they use the open doors He has set before them and He knows when they keep pushing on the doors He has closed before them. He knows all there is to know about us.
B. V. 8b The Call Of Our Mission – Jesus now moves to tell them that He has given them an open door of opportunity to minister in their world. The Lord called them to represent His name in that day and He went out before them and paved the way for their success.
Friends, He has done the same for us! The church today was not founded by the Lord without reason! He allowed the church to be born for a purpose and that purpose has not changed nor has it been fully realized. God has given the church an open door of opportunity in this world and our duty is to find out what it is and go through it by faith.
(Ill. The Lord Jesus is in control of all the doors of our life. Notice how He moved in the life of Apostle Paul – Acts 16:6-10. All the doors of God are a blessing! There are times when He opens wide the doors and there is no doubt about His will and leadership. There are other times when we see doors slammed shut before us. When that happens, we often become confused and try to push that door open ourselves. We need to understand the truth that when the Lord closes a door in our lives, He is actively involved in what we are doing and He is merely going to lead us in another direction where He has opened a door for us! It would do us well if we learned to praise God for both the open doors and the closed doors.)
C. V. 8c The Consistency Of Our Ministry – Another opportunity these people possessed was the consistency with which they carried out their ministry. Two thoughts are mentioned here.
1. Our Weakness – these people are described as possessing a little strength. Remember what Jesus said to the church in Sardis? They had the reputation of being strong, but He said they were dead, Rev 3:1. The church in Laodicea thought they were powerful and needed nothing! Yet, Jesus told them that they made Him sick, Rev 3:16.
Yet, this church (Philadelphia) , which was probably small in size and poor in the financial realm is described as having “a little strength.” While this church was weak in the eyes of men, and in their own eyes as well, their weakness was, in fact, their greatest strength! Jesus tells us that our weakness forces us into a place of greater dependance upon Him and the result is Heaven’s power loving in and through us, 2 Cor. 12:7-10.
2. Our Willingness – As Jesus continues to speak to this church, He addresses two characteristics they possessed that made them strong in the midst of their weakness.
A. They Kept His Word – The word “kept” means “to take care of, to observe.” In other words, this church honored the Word of God. They gave it a high place in their church and in their lives. When the Bible spoke, they listened and obeyed without reservation.
(Ill. Friends, the Bible is the Word of God! This blessed old Book is under attack in our day and many have left the Word of God behind. However, for a church to be strong in the Lord, the Bible must be that church’s marching orders. A people who want to be blessed will be a people who will honor the word of God (the BIBLE) when it is read and preached to them. How are we doing when it comes to keeping His Word?”)
B. They Kept His Name – They were not ashamed to be identified with the name of Jesus. They were not ashamed to exalt Him and allow Him to be the focus of their worship and their lives.
(Ill. As long as Jesus Christ is the center of the church, her work, her worship and all she does, that church will be blessed. We are living in a day when many are turning away from the name of Jesus. I just want to remind you that He is the reason we are here today! He is why those who are saved will not go to Hell. He is the purpose of our being here today. May He always be the focus! JESUS! JESUS! Let that name ever be raised high in our lives and churches! If we will make much of Him, He will make much of us! If we make much of Him, He will draw all men unto Himself, John 12:32. Remember what Jesus said about the church in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Notice where Jesus was when two or three were gathered together! He was “in the midst!” Is that where Jesus is this morning?)
I. Consider Our Opportunities
II. V. 9-10 CONSIDER OUR OPPOSITION
(Ill. Why the church possesses many opportunities, they also must facet he fact that not everyone is on their side! There are enemies to there work. They are dealt with in this passage.)
A. V. 9 Our Master’s Promise – Their enemies were Jewish people who refused to receive Jesus as the Messiah. These “Jews” opposed the work of the early Christians and persecuted them to the death. Of course, the real enemy was not the Jew, it was the Devil, Eph. 6:12.
However, the Lord promises them that their enemies will one day bow in submission to Jesus Christ while the exalted church looks on in glorious worship. The promise is that they will be safely protected from their enemies and they will enjoy the final victory.
(Ill. This church has enemies! That may be hard to believe, but it is true! There are those who said we would never make it. Glory to God! There are those who still fight against what the Lord is doing in the world, but I want you to know that the church of Jesus Christ in the world is not going down! We are partakers of the Lord’s victory and one day we will join our Savior in His glory and we will see the enemies of our Savior bow at His nail-pierced feet and proclaim Him Lord!
Since this is true, I call on the church today to remain faithful to the task! Stay the course! Keep His Word and Keep His Name! He has promised to see us through. Hell will have a hard time with us when we walk in His power!)
B. V. 10 Our Master’s Protection – This great verses reminds than that the Lord is coming back for His people before the Great Tribulation comes to the world. It is a promise that they will be protected from the day of the Lord’s wrath that will fall on the lost one day!
(Ill. The Lord is planning judgment on those who have denied His name, but He promises to protect His children from that awful time. Thank God, we have the promise of His coming!)
I. Consider Our Opportunities
II. Consider Our Opposition
III. V. 11-12 CONSIDER OUR OBLIGATION
(Ill. Before Jesus closes His letter to this church, He reminds them that they have certain duties as His children. There are three obligations that are mentioned here.)
A. V. 11a We Are Obliged To Watch – His reminder to them is that they are to be mindful of His return. They are to live everyday in the light of His soon coming. Why is this so important for the church? The answer lies in the fact that those who are looking for Him are always those who are living for Him, 1 John 3:1-3. When we are looking for Jesus to came at any moment, we will want to live a live that is pleasing to Him. In other words, we will not want to be found doing things that we would be ashamed of if He were to come.
Another aspect of looking for Him is that we will present a good testimony to a lost world. When we live as we should, it will tell them that Jesus does indeed make a difference in those He saves by His grace.
B. V. 11b We Are Obliged To Work – They are next counseled to hold onto the things they have, His Word and His Name. They are to continue to walk through the doors He is opening for them until He comes. They are to guard their rewards so that there will be crowns to cast at His feet one day, Rev. 4:10-11.
(Ill. Let the church take good inventory of where we are today. We need to be sure that we continue in the things the Lord has called us to until He comes for us. It is not the time to quit! It is not the time to slow down! It is not the time to let someone else do it. It is time to go on in the work of the Lord. It is time to continue in the things that have made us what we are: hard praying, obedient faith, work, witness and love. Let us continue to carry out until we are carried up!)
C. V. 12 We Are Obliged To Worship – This verse lets them know that there will be a day when they will be rewarded for their faithfulness and their obedience to the work of the Lord. What He tells them is designed to strengthen them in their resolve to continue working for Him and to drive them to their knees in worship before Him. When we consider what He will do for those who honor Him, it is enough to make us worship His Name!
1. Over What He Will Make Us – (Illustration – The ancient city of Philadelphia was filled with many pagan temples. It was the practice in Philadelphia for citizens who has served the city to be honored by having a pillar with their name engraved on it placed in one of the pagan temples. To have your name on a pillar was one of the greatest honors known to people of that time.)
Jesus tells His people that they will be honored by being made a pillar in His Temple! This speaks of our security in Him! Philadelphia was built on a geological fault, and as a result, there were earthquakes that destroyed the city. When this happened, the pagan temples fell and had to be rebuild.
In fact, in 17 BC an earthquake destroyed Philadelphia and many of the people refused to move back into the city, but rather stayed in the countryside. No such problems will affect the Temple of God! His promise is for Strength, Stability, Steadfastness and Security! He is promising to establish His people in absolute security in His presence one day!
(Ill. Notice where the emphasis is placed in this verse! It is not on man, but it is on the Lord! Notice “Will I make”. Jesus is the one who will make us a pillar in the Temple of Our God! One day, if we are saved, we are going home, where we will spend eternity with our blessed Lord!)
2. Over How He Will Mark Us – We are told that the Lord’s people will be marked with the name of Jehovah, the name of the new Jerusalem and with the name of Jesus! That is, we are marked as God’s people. We are marked as to our destination and we are marked as to our Master! He is not ashamed to be identified with us in this day. He has already placed His mark on us and we are destined for home!
(Ill. Both of these truth speak of the blessed security enjoyed by the redeemed! Those who are washed in the blood of Jesus are saved, sealed and secured. We have already been addressed and are just waiting to be delivered to that Heavenly land. Saints, we are going home! That is enough to make anyone want to worship before Him!)
Do we want to be a church that Hell cannot handle?
If so, then we must stay the course for God! We must do what we have heard this morning and “Keep His Word and His Name.” We must do what verse 13 commands and “hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
Have you heard this morning? What will you do with what you have heard?
Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) – the church that had endured patiently (3:10). Persevere and walk through the doors God opens.
Further Studies :
Our focus should be on what message God is giving us through the seven churches in the Book of Revelation :
The MESSAGE of the Seven Churches were :
(1) Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) – the church that had forsaken its first love (2:4).
(2) Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) – the church that would suffer persecution (2:10).
(3) Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) – the church that needed to repent (2:16).
(4) Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) – the church that had a false prophetess (2:20).
(5) Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) – the church that had fallen asleep (3:2).
(6) Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) – the church that had endured patiently (3:10).
(7) Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) – the church with the lukewarm faith (3:16).
Summary of the LESSONS we can learn from the instruction God gave each church:
• 1. Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7): Don’t lose your love for God’s truth or His people.
• 2. Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11): Remain faithful in the face of tribulation and poverty.
• 3. Pergamos (Revelation 2:12-17): Resist Satan’s influence, even to death, if necessary.
• 4. Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29): Resist false teaching.
• 5. Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6): Remain zealous and pure in conduct.
• 6. Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13): Persevere and walk through the doors God opens.
• 7. Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22): Don’t become lukewarm about God’s way of life.