The key to God's kingdom is faith in Christ.
Revelation(53) (Part of the Jesus Unveiled(51) series)
by Stuart Johns(199) on April 22, 2018 (Sunday Morning(282))
Faith(16), Faithfulness(13), Protection(9), Salvation(64)
“Even before finishing his degree, and still lacking pastoral experience, Charles Simeon put his name forward for the pastorate of Cambridge's Holy Trinity church. This was unheard of. Amazingly Simeon was given the parish and would labor there the rest of his life.
The church was less than pleased to receive this blustering minister who insisted that those who called themselves "Christian" be truly saved by grace and live lives more closely conformed to Christ. They distrusted his ivory-tower background—they were largely artisan's families, or more bluntly, in Simeon's words, "very poor church folks," and they were wary of his fervor.
Opponents harassed Simeon by locking the family-owned pews, forcing those who wished to hear the new minister to find standing room as best they could. When Simeon brought in benches, church council members tossed them out into the churchyard, but he was undeterred.
Simeon was also determined to provide the Cambridge undergraduates with decent training in theology and pastoral ministry. In 1790 Simeon began holding informal seminars for ministerial students on Sunday evenings. In 1812, he instituted weekly "conversation parties" in his rooms, essentially theological and pastoral Q&A sessions. By 1823, some 40 students were attending. By 1827 the number was closer to 60, straining the room's capacity and keeping two servants busy distributing tea. Along the way, the eager participants acquired the labels "Simeonite" and "Sim," which they wore as badges of honor.
Of the undergraduates Simeon trained during his 54 years at Holy Trinity, some 1,100 became effective—and many, distinguished— parish ministers, chaplains, and missionaries.”
Chris Armstrong, "Simeon's Brigade," Leadership (Summer 2003)
I was aware of the Local Director position for CEF of Hardin and Hancock Counties, because Judy’s parents were part of the local board
They considered me for the position partly because of their connection with the local board
When I started working as the Local Director, they had to resign from the board
The key to obtaining the position was my connection with Judy’s parents
I had been laid off from the CEF headquarters and was working for Walmart at the time
A dear couple, whom I worked with at CEF contacted me about an open position with Every Generation Ministries
They were both serving with EGM at the time
They thought that EGM would benefit from my skill set
Long story, short, I flew out to California to interview with EGM and was offered the position
The key to beginning my service with EGM was my connection with the Cox family
Judy and I traveled to Florida right before our college graduation so she could interview for a Kindergarten teaching position at a Christian school
She was offered the position, so we returned to college knowing that she had a job prior to graduation
The key that unlocked that opportunity for her was a friend from elementary school that she had kept in touch with, who was on staff at the Christian school
Every one of us can probably think of “keys” that have unlocked opportunities for us
Keys that have unlocked opportunities
Teacher in high school who connected you with a professor at the college or university where you wanted to attend (you were accepted into the college or university)
College professor who connected you with a friend of theirs who works in your field of study and you were able to get a job through that contact
Perhaps it was a friend who introduced you to the man or woman who became your spouse
Maybe it was a colleague you worked with in the past who connected you with a new employer
For those of you hunt and fish, there is probably someone who showed you a great spot and you have been successful there ever since
Ladies, perhaps a close friend introduced you to a hair stylist, nail salon, or kind of makeup that has made all the difference
Jesus wants us to understand from the letter to the church at Philadelphia that . . .
BIG IDEA – The key to God’s kingdom is faith in Christ.
GOD (Revelation 3:7-13)
It is located 30 miles east, southeast of Sardis on the small Cogamis River
It was called the “gateway to the east” for two reasons
It was on the main trade route from Smyrna on the Aegean Sea to the regions of Mysia, Lydia, and Phrygia in the east
“It also lay on the major Roman postal road from Troas through Pergamum, Sardis, and then Philadelphia to the east.” [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 184]
It was founded by one of two brothers sometime around 189 B.C.
It may have been Eumenes II, king of Pergamum
It could also have been his younger brother Attalus II Philadelphus
He had this name because of his intense loyalty to his older brother
Philadelphus means “lover of his brother”
Philadelphia is the “city of brotherly love”
Rumors had it that Rome was wanting Attalus to overthrow his older brother, but he refused to do it
It’s volcanic soil made it the perfect place to grow grapes
The soil allowed Philadelphia to prosper agriculturally, although not all crops grew well there
In A.D. 92 Emperor Domitian issued an edict demanding that half the grape vines be cut down and not replanted
Some believe that Domitian was trying to protect the vine growers in Italy
It was probably also due to the need for grain crops to feed the Roman armies
Unfortunately the grain crops were not as productive in the volcanic soil as the grape vines had been
This edict caused tension between Rome and Philadelphia
It was devastated by the same earthquake in A.D. 17 that wreaked havoc on Sardis
Because Philadelphia was closer to the epicenter of the earthquake, they continued to experience aftershocks for years afterwards
Out of fear, many of the inhabitants of Philadelphia lived outside the city as farmers
There was evidence of the aftershocks in the cracks that continued to form on the walls of the buildings
Emperor Tiberius helped to rebuild the city and out of gratitude the inhabitants renamed it “Neocaesarea”
In the 80’s the city also took on the name “Flavia,” which was the imperial dynasty’s title.
The history of this city will play an important part in what Jesus has to say to the church there
Characteristic of the Sender (v. 7)
Holy and true
A literal translation of the Greek would be “The Holy One, the True One
The attribute of holiness means that God is completely “pure, undefiled, spotless, without stain or blemish.” [Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition, Revelation, 91]
The Old Testament gives this title to God
Isaiah 40:25, “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Isaiah 43:15, I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King.
Hosea 11:9, I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man – the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.
God came in the flesh and dwelt among us through His Son Jesus
His attribute of holiness was evident in Jesus’ life
Jesus lived a pure and perfect life on earth, which is why He was able to take out punishment for sin
2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The attribute of true or truth means that God never lives and that He is completely trustworthy
It can also mean “genuine” or “faithful”
We never have to doubt any promises God makes
John 14:6, Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
We’ll see that the description of Jesus, as holy and true, is in direct contrast to the description of those in Philadelphia who are persecuting the believers
While the first two characteristics are pretty self-evident, the third one is not as obvious at first blush
Key of David
Jesus is described as the One who holds the key of David
This phrase is used metaphorically in this passage
We have to understand the historical significance of a king’s steward
King Hezekiah had a steward that had been using his position for his own benefit (Isaiah 22:15-16)
Isaiah’s oracle states that the Lord is about to remove him from his favored position, because he was a disgrace to his master, Hezekiah (Isaiah 22:17-19)
Eliakim has been chosen to replace Shebna as the king’s steward
Isaiah 22:20-23, “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will be a seat of honor for the house of his father.
Eliakim, as the king’s steward, will have authority to determine who will have access to the palace and the king
Jesus, as the Messiah, has absolute control over who is granted access to the heavenly kingdom and to God
Jesus’ authority to grant or deny access to God and His kingdom is without question
John 10:9, I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.
Jesus is speaking about Himself being the Good Shepherd
As the Good Shepherd He acts as the gate or door to the pen
He is the One who grants or denies access to the sheep
1 Timothy 2:5, For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
The key to God’s kingdom is faith in Christ
“Only one is the sovereign Lord who holds the key to the entrance into heaven and eternal life. Only one! His name is Jesus.” [Akin, 92]
We all enter this world with the same human condition, sin (Rom. 3:23), which separates us from God (Rom. 6:23)
Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”
We all try to deal with our sin and separation from God in various ways (good works, religion, philosophy, morality, etc.)
Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
We cannot bridge the separation, that our sin created, by ourselves
God provided the only way to bridge that separation
1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.”
Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
We have to repent – change our mind, attitudes, and actions
My Next Step Today Is To: Believe in Jesus as the key to God’s kingdom and eternal life.
Through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection the kingdom of God was opened to anyone who believes in Him, but it is closed to those who refuse to believe
Compliment to the Recipients (vv. 8-10)
Jesus again expresses that He is all-knowing concerning what the believers in Philadelphia have done
Most scholars believe this is a reference to the “door” to the kingdom of God (heaven)
Revelation 4:1, After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
It is thought that perhaps the believers in Philadelphia had been excommunicated from the Jewish synagogue when they converted to Christianity – they had been refused access to the synagogue
Jesus is reminding them that He has the authority to grant them access into heaven
The key to God’s kingdom is faith in Christ and not membership in the Jewish synagogue
Less likely is the belief that the open door is speaking about missionary opportunities that were open to them
Philadelphia had been described as a “missionary city” because they were spreading the Hellenistic culture further east
“Ramsay explains the expression in terms of Philadelphia’s geographic position at the eastern end of the valley leading up onto the great central plain. As the ‘keeper of the gateway to the plateau,’ it had been given a unique opportunity to carry the gospel to the cities of Phrygia.” [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 100-101]
While this belief doesn’t match the context as closely, it is an important principle for us to embrace
The kingdom of God is available to anyone who repents and turns to Jesus Christ for eternal life
Mike Stachura has said, “The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity.” [Akin, 93-94]
Jesus not only knew about their deeds, but also knew about their faithfulness
Small but faithful
This church was small in number and influence
While some churches who are small and have very little influence in their community may become discouraged, the church in Philadelphia remained faithful to the Gospel and the name of Jesus
PRINCIPLE – God is not concerned about the size of His church, but rather the faithfulness of His church.
They had remained faithful to the Gospel and the name of Jesus through constant trials and consistent opposition [Akin, 93]
I read the article, “The Hottest Thing At Church Today,” this week posted on March 22, 2017 by Tim Challies. In the article it said that the hottest thing in church today is the preaching, but not just any kind of preaching, rather preaching based on the Bible. He cautions pastors not to jump on the bandwagon and begin expositional preaching if it is for pragmatic reasons only. Challies says, “A Christian wants nothing more than God’s Word because there is nothing he needs more than God’s Word. The Christian may not know it or be able to verbalize it any more than a baby can, but within every true believer will be a deep hunger to be fed by spiritual food – food that is found only in the Word of God. Those churches that committed to preaching endless series of sermonettes for Christianettes were starving their people. They were starving sheep in order to entertain goats.”
I strive to expound God’s Word here at Idaville UB Church, which is why I preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible
I want to make sure that I’m preaching God’s Word so we can keep God’s Word
I want us to make sure that we don’t deny the name of Jesus
As we’ll see, the Jews were the ones who were opposing them and causing them problems
As mentioned earlier, it is believed that the Jews who had converted to Christianity were being denied access to the synagogue – the door had been shut to them
The Jews who remained in the synagogue were convinced they were the true people of God, because of their religious heritage
They were claiming to be God’s people and yet they had rejected His Messiah, Jesus Christ
They were following Satan’s lead instead of God’s
This was not the first city or the first time that the Jews and their synagogue was labeled as belonging to Satan
Jesus identified them the same way in the city of Smyrna
Revelation 2:9, I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
They were continuing to live under the old covenant between God and Abraham
They were continuing the sacrificial system, even though Jesus’, once-for-all sacrifice, fulfilled that perfectly
The Jews continued to spread fear and doubt among the believers, by claiming they were the true people of God
Yet, Jesus calls them liars, because they had rejected the Messiah and were following Satan
John 8:44, You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
They were liars
So the Jews were simply following their father’s (Satan’s) lead
1 John 1:10, If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
1 John 2:4, The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
The Jews had forfeited their position as God’s chosen people to make Him known to the nations
That responsibility had now passed to the followers of Jesus Christ, whether they were Jews or Gentiles
Romans 2:28-29, A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
Jesus will make these unbelieving Jews fall down at His feet and the feet of His followers and recognize that God loves the Christians
Promise to protect His followers
Jesus recognized that the believers in Philadelphia had kept his command to endure patiently
They had experienced some difficult ridicule from the Jews and probably from the pagan community as well
They understood that God was with them and it was only through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and His power that they were able to endure patiently
Since they had faithfully kept Jesus’ command to endure, He was going to keep them during a time of testing
Those who live on the earth
In the other passages in Revelation where this phrase is used (6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 12, 14; 17:2, 8) it always refers to unbelievers, those who have rejected Christ and are enemies of God and who worship the beast and persecute believers
Those are the individuals who are going to be tested during the hour of trial
Will Christians be around when the hour of trial takes place?
Hour of trial
There are three beliefs surrounding this question
Pre-tribulationism (Church is raptured before)
Mid-tribulationism (Church raptured in the middle)
Post-tribulationism (Church raptured after)
“The hour of trial is that period of testing and tribulation which precedes the establishment of the eternal kingdom.” [Mounce, 103]
This one verse does not provide enough information for us to definitively claim any of the three positions above
We have to look at more of God’s Word to help us answer this question
Jesus told His disciples to anticipate trials and tribulations on earth as His followers
John 15:18, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”
John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We see God’s protection of His children while in the world and during trials
In Jesus’ high-priestly prayer for His disciples, we hear His request of God, My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one (John 17:15).
During the fifth trumpet there are locusts that come down on the earth with the stinging ability of a scorpion and they are given specific instructions about whom they are to afflict
Revelation 9:3-4, And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
Another great illustration of God’s protective power over His people during the trials and testing of His enemies is the Israelites in Egypt – they were protected from the plagues while the Egyptians suffered under them
God has the ability to do that again
“Therefore, the point is that the Philadelphia church (identified with all faithful believers here) will be protected from the wrath of God against unbelievers but not from the wrath of Satan, and that this protection is within and not a removal from (as in a pretribulation rapture) that wrath.”[Osborne, 194]
PRINCIPLE – God is able to protect His people.
While it’s not definitive in Scripture, I believe God will protect His people through the trials and tribulations that will come during the ends times
The pre-tribulation belief is really a North American belief system
We have not really experienced persecution like churches in other parts of the world
And if we were really honest with ourselves, we don’t want to experience persecution, trials, and tribulation
So, we favor a pre-tribulation belief system that allows our minds to be at rest
Yet, we have to be prepared to experience persecution, trials, and tribulation
We see in Revelation (6:9-11; 12:12-13, 17; 13:7; 16:6; 20:4) that Christians will be “the focus of intense persecution (indeed, martyrdom) from the dragon and his followers.” [Osborne, 194]
Are we ready and willing to give everything, including our lives, to patiently endure the wrath of the beast?
Are we prepared to experience persecution and hardships?
My Next Step Today Is To: Examine my heart to see if I’m prepared to remain faithful to Jesus even through the trials and tribulation.
A pre-tribulation belief, that God will remove His people from the earth prior to the Great Tribulation, would be a foreign concept to those in the persecuted church around the world – they are already experiencing trials and tribulation and God is sustaining and protecting them through it
Although the church in Philadelphia was small, it had remained faithful to Jesus through the trials and persecution of their culture
Jesus then gives them the command to hold on to what they have
Command to the Recipients (v. 11)
Jesus encourages the believers to hold on, because He is coming soon
They were to hold on to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they had received from the apostles and teachers
They were also to hold on to their citizenship in heaven that was indicated by the open door that cannot be shut, and their future vindication (the Jews bowing down at their feet) and protection by God (during the hour of trial) [Osborne, 195]
“One of the greatest Christian leaders of the last century was John R. W. Stott, rector of All Souls Langham Place in London and a peerless preacher, Bible teacher, evangelist, author, global leader and friend to many. I knew him over many decades, but I will never forget my last visit to his bedside three weeks before he died. After an unforgettable hour and more of sharing many memories over many years, I asked him how he would like me to pray for him. Lying weakly on his back and barely able to speak, he answered in a hoarse whisper, ‘Pray that I will be faithful to Jesus until my last breath.’ Would that such a prayer be the passion of our generation too.
Os Guinness, Impossible People (IVP Books, 2016)
Stott wanted to be known and remembered as a follower of Jesus Christ who was holding on to what he had to the very end
The reason they were to hold on was so they wouldn’t lose their crown
This is not referring to losing our salvation, but rather losing our rewards
We talked about that last week with nominal and incomplete deeds
God will test our deeds and see if they will hold up to the fire
Wood, hay, and straw will not hold up, but gold, silver, and costly stones will
If we build with wood, hay, and straw our rewards will be burned up, but we will still achieve heaven as one escaping through the flames (1 Cor. 3:10-15)
Jesus then concludes with His commitment to those who overcome
Commitment to all who Overcome (vv. 12-13)
PRINCIPLE – God will provide stability and permanence for His people who remain faithful to the end.
The image of the pillar is one of stability and permanence
This would have provided special encouragement to a church whose city experienced devastating earthquakes that caused the inhabitants to flee their homes and dwell in temporary housing in the fields surrounding the city
“Often the only parts of a city left standing after a sever quake were the huge stone temple columns [pillars]” (Revelation, 1983, 61). [Alan Johnson cited by Akin, 98]
Just imagine, then, being a pillar of Christ – it should provide a sense of complete and total security
Romans 8:38-39, For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We will be identified as God’s people
We will receive the name of God, the name of God’s city (the new Jerusalem), and the new name of Jesus
“The names signify who my God is, where my home is and who my Lord is! I belong to the Father, heaven is my home, and Jesus is my Lord. I bear the signature of my God!” [Akin, 98]
We will find permanence and stability and be identified as God’s children when we remember and embrace the truth that the key to God’s kingdom is faith in Christ
Have you put your faith in Christ?
Have you determined in your mind that you will faithfully hold on to Christ and His Word even during the trials and tribulation that will surely come from the evil one
David Platt expresses well the reward we will experience when we put our faith in Christ as the key to God’s kingdom.
“This, we remember, is the great reward of the gospel: God himself. When we risk our lives to run after Christ, we discover the safety that is found only in his sovereignty, the security that is found only in his love, and the satisfaction that is found only in his presence. This is the eternally great reward, and we would be foolish to settle for anything less. (Newell, Mission Quotes, 241).” [Akin, 98-99]