The Church at Philadelphia: Part 2 of 4 (series: Lessons on Revelations)
by John Lowe
The door of service was open to the church in Philadelphia because the assembly there had (1) “KEPT HIS WORD,” and (2) “HAD NOT DENIED HIS NAME.” The church in Sardis walked hand in hand with the world, and therefore God had no alternative but that Sardis must suffer the judgment of a holy God. God cannot condone sin. Whatsoever is sown by a man, a family, a church or a nation, that shall they also reap. “The world passes away and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abides for ever” (1 John 2:15-17). The future of the saints at Philadelphia was bright because they kept his Word and confessed His name. They did not deny the Lord before a wicked and perverse generation.
No man can shut the door which is open to those who honor the Word of God and the precious name of Jesus. Many times in the New Testament, the Spirit opened and closed doors to the apostles. One such case is found in Acts 16:6-7. The Holy Spirit definitely shut the door to certain cities, forbidding the apostles to preach there. When the blind man was brought to Jesus in the city of Bethsaida, He took him outside the city, opened his blind eyes and then instructed him to go home. He commanded him not to return to the city, nor tell any person in the city who had opened his eyes. “And He sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, or tell it to any in the town” (Mark 8:26). Read verses 22 through 26 to get the complete story. God commands certain men to go to certain places and carry on certain ministries, but He also commands some ministers NOT to go to certain cities and peoples. It is God who opens and closes the door of service. It was Paul’s prayer that he would never force his way unceremoniously through doors which the Lord never opened—“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains” (Colossians 4:3). Any man of God in the will of God will find an open door for Christian service, and there is no power on earth or in hell that can shut the door which God has opened.
Philadelphia is the second of these seven churches without criticism or rebuke. Smyrna is the other church not criticized or rebuked by the Spirit. Smyrna was the suffering church, the persecuted church, the church that underwent a bloodbath. Philadelphia, the weak but faithful church, is not rebuked, but on the contrary is commended because she kept the Word and did not deny the name that is above every name.
The “NAME” of Christ in Scripture stands for all that He is. His full name is “Lord Jesus Christ.” He is Lord Master, Jesus Mediator, Christ Messiah. But in the New Testament, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is invested with all that the name “Jehovah” implied in the Old Testament. That name suggests His deity, honor, glory, majesty, holiness, eternality, omnipotence, omnificence, and omnipresence. Sinners are saved through faith in His name (Matthew 1:21; John 1:12; 20:31; Romans 10:13), and in His name only—“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Conversely, all who have not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God are “condemned already” (John 3:18). Our Lord taught His followers to pray in His name as an essential requisite to receiving answers to their prayers (John 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23-24). He promised that “where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). He promised further an abundant reward for any sacrifice one would make for His name’s sake—“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).
Shortly after Saul of Tarsus was converted, the Lord sent His servant Ananias to assess the new convert. Ananias expressed his reluctance to go, on the grounds that Saul had authority from the chief priests to imprison all persons who called on Christ’s name (Acts 9:14). The Lord urged Ananias to go, assuring him that Saul was truly saved, “A chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel;” and then He added, “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (9:15-16). From that moment on, the great apostle was known as one who “spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus” (9:27, 29). When Agabus besought Paul not to go to Jerusalem so that his life might be spared, God’s servant replied, “I am ready not to be bound only, but also to
die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus (21:13). Paul never denied Christ’s name. The cost of acknowledging the name of Christ was high in the days of the apostles, and the day is upon us again when we may pay a price for declaring His name, but, blessed be God, we sanctify “a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).
The church at Philadelphia was the one which was true to the Word of God. In our day, the church which it represents could not be called the Protestant church or the Roman Catholic church or any other church. Actually, it represents all churches the world over—regardless of their labels—which still remain true to the Word of God.
As the end approaches, we will see more and more doors closed. God could have kept them open—but He permitted them to be closed because of the unfaithfulness of believers. The church in America spends millions for movies, cosmetics, cigarettes, soft drinks, computers, televisions, and automobiles—and sends the left-over pennies to missions! God pity America when this country stands before God! “To whom much is given, of the same shall much be required.” Oh, God! Have mercy on us to whom so much has been given!
9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.
Apparently, there was significant conflict between the Christians and the Jews in Philadelphia because we meet the same party here as in the address to Smyrna. The character of opposition may not be the same in both churches, for “SATAN” varies in his methods of attacks, but in both the opposition is termed the “SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN.” Those referred to are not necessarily of Jewish nationality, but just as the Jews claim to be God’s chosen people here on earth and that to the exclusion of all others on earth, so here we have a church which assumes the same position. No doubt they demonstrated the spirit of hyper-Calvinism. But just remember that nothing misses the all-seeing eyes of Jesus . . . those eyes like “flames of fire.” The Son of God assures the true believers that He will set them straight; so He exposes the true character of these people “WHO CLAIM TO BE JEWS THOUGH THEY ARE NOT, BUT ARE LIARS” and declares them to be “THE SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN.”
These people descended from Abraham and were Jews by birth, and they vehemently opposed and persecuted the Christians for their belief that Jesus was the Messiah. This dominant little clique of ungodly men in the church despised those who remained true to the Scriptures and to the Lord. Because of their opposition, Christ considered them as belonging to Satan, for we do not battle against flesh and blood—“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). True Jews (God’s people) have accepted Jesus as Messiah and Savior (Read Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 3:29; 6:16). These Jews who had rejected the Messiah truly belonged to Satan, not to God. They had shut the Christians out of their synagogues, but Christ says that he will force these people to “COME AND FALL DOWN” at the feet of his faithful people. Then they will acknowledge that the Christians are indeed the ones that Christ loves. At Christ’s return, true believers will be vindicated.
It was the Christian belief that the Jewish nation had lost its place in the plan of God and that that place had been handed to the Church. A Jew in Paul’s sense of the term was not one who could claim racial descent from Abraham but one of any nation who had made the same venture of faith as he had (Romans 9:6-9). The Church was the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). It was, therefore, now true that all the promises which had been made to Israel had been inherited by the Church. It was to her that one day all men would humbly make their submission. This promise is a reversal of all that the Jews had expected; they had expected that all nations would kneel before them; but the day was to come when they with all nations would kneel before Christ.
Jesus assures the true believers in Philadelphia that He will make the pretenders, the counterfeit church members, those who profess but do not possess, to come and worship at the feet of the true Church. God is jealous for the Church. The Church is the Bride of Christ. He purchased it with His own blood—“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28)—and those who counterfeit the true Church will pay for their deadly evil.