Week Commencing 11th March 2018   With a PDF found here

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Revelation 3:7-13, “To the church in Philadelphia.”

A reminder that we see a predictable pattern and outline in these letters, with a few exceptions. Here’s the typical pattern – here with a reminder of how we’ve been presenting this in our sermons:

  1. Recap – why does Jesus have the authority to speak?
  2. Commendation – what’s good in this church?
  3. Admonishment – what’s not (so good)?
  4. Exhortation – what’s the call to action?
  5. Promise – what encouragement is offered in for those who overcome or are victorious in the challenges presented in the letter?

DAY 1: Read Revelation 3:7-13

The city of Philadelphia, was situation on the great south-east road that left Pergamum and passed through Thyatira. It was about 50kms beyond Sardis. A relatively new city, it had arisen during the Hellenistic era. It was a frontier city – a last bastion of Greek civilisation, before reaching the more tribal people of the interior of Asia Minor.

Jesus describes himself in this letter as him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. Twice he refers to an open door – in v7 and v8 – a door which he opens and no one can shut and a door which is placed before the Philadelphians. The background to this is Isaiah 22:22. In the context of a prophecy of judgment against Jerusalem, a servant by the name of Eliakim, is given the same authority which Jesus has here – to open or shut a door. What is the door? The entrance to the house of David – i.e. – the temple – the presence of God. The gates are opened, says Isaiah, ‘that the righteous nation which keeps faith may enter in’ (Isaiah 26:2). In Isaiah 56:5 and 60:11, we see eventually, that entrance into the house of David – the kingdom, the city, the temple of God – is promised to the weak, the despised, and the converted outsider. The Lord condemns Jewish legalism and transfers the doorkeeper’s authority to the church – see Matthew 16:19. So Peter and his associates have the privilege of admitting Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles to the kingdom of God. So here in this letter to Philadelphia, all the concepts of key, door, city, temple and pillar – are taken up and used to refer to the guaranteed place these faithful believers have in the future kingdom.

But this promise of a guaranteed future in God’s kingdom is not just for Philadelphia, but for all who trust and follow Jesus and who remain faithful to him in the face of persecution. That is to say, the Lord has opened a door for you which no one can shut! Give thanks to God today for that open door to his eternal kingdom!

DAY 2: Read Revelation 3:7-13

As for Smyrna, there is no fault to find in this letter. There is nothing that Jesus holds against them. He only has commendation not condemnation. As we also see in the letter to Smyrna, the Jews are a source of grave difficulty for the Christians in Philadelphia. Reference to them and the synagogue of Satan (v9) is followed immediately by the ominous warning about the hour of trial that is about to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth (v10). Punishment by the Roman authorities for failure to participate in the emperor-cult appears to have arisen as a direct result of Jewish complaints and reports to the local officials. Yet somehow, the Philadelphians are promised that they will be kept from the worst of that trial.

Even though they suffer at the hands of the Jews who are not Jews and even though they “have little strength”, Jesus lovingly commends them because

  1. They have kept his word (v8)
  2. They have not denied his name (v8)
  3. They have endured patiently as they were commanded to do (v10)

Brothers and sisters – this is a tremendous example to us. When things get tough for us from whatever corner, how wonderful for it to be said of us – they kept his word, they did not deny his name and they endured patiently.

I’m sure there are times when we have failed in one or more of these areas. I’m also sure, that the closer we connect to God and to one another, the less likely we are to fail in any of these ways!

DAY 3: Read Revelation 3:7-13

Jesus’ promises to the one who overcomes, to the one who endures patiently, are couched in terms that seem to have had particular relevance to the local people. First, by analogy with the time-honoured practice of dedicating a commemorative pillar in a temple in honour of a local citizen, Jesus will make the one who overcomes a pillar in the temple of God in the new Jerusalem which is coming down out of heaven. The promise never again will he leave that temple is probably a pointed reference to the frequent departure from Philadelphia to escape the perils of earthquakes on the one hand, and the forced emigration of those affected by a ban enforced by the local authorities about growing grapes. Life in Philadelphia was very uncertain, but there would be security in the City of God.

The other promise, I will write on him my new name (v12), probably points to the renaming of the city Neocaesarea in honour of Tiberius whose generosity to the earthquake-affected cities of the area in 17AD had made possible their rebuilding.

Jesus’ wonderful promise to those who are weak and who are made to feel on the outer, is that they will one day, finally belong – to God, to the temple and to the Kingdom.

We often feel in the 21st century, that we don’t belong in this world. The changes in our world these past 50 years – especially in regard to the morals and values in our society – often make us feel that we have no place here anymore. There is a sense in which that is appropriate, because the Bible tells us that we are just passing through here and our citizenship is in heaven. So let us then be content with this – that one day – in Jesus’ new completed and glorious Kingdom, we shall well and truly feel at home!

DAY 4: Read Psalm 139

Here are some questions for you to consider

  1. What are the implications of the Lord knowing all our actions and thoughts?
  2. Why can’t we escape God’s presence?
  3. What are the implications of the Lord knowing us even from when we were in our mother’s womb?
  4. What part do vv19-22 play in an otherwise ‘nice’ Psalm?
  5. Will you pray vv23-24 today, asking the Lord to keep leading you in the way everlasting?

References: Paul Barnett: “Apocalypse Now and Then: Reading Revelation Today”;
and Michael Wilcock, “The Message of Revelation” in the Bible speaks today series.
Some sections used word for word.