Sept. 28, 2014 “Christ’s Strong Promises for a Weak Church” Revelation 3:7-13
Maple Glen BFC Pastor Louis Prontnicki
Introduction: We are told not to judge a book by its cover. What’s inside may be much better than the artist’s poor rendering on the outside. And so it was with the church in Philadelphia, in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. The church looked weak and puny, but Jesus Christ, the Lord of the church, saw it differently…. And in the same way, we should take courage and strengthen our faith in what the Lord might do here at Maple Glen BFC, regardless of our numbers or the seeming weakness of many.
Consider what Christ promises for the church:
1. Christ Opens Up Witnessing Opportunities. (vv. 7-8)
2. Christ Orchestrates Reversals and Restraints. (vv. 9-10)
3. Christ Guarantees Our Everlasting Security. (vv. 11-13)
1. Christ Opens Up Witnessing Opportunities. (vv. 7-8)
“These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”
The open door here is a picture of opportunity for evangelism at Christ gave to the church in Philadelphia, and is giving to us, His church in Maple Glen.
Acts 14:27 God had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles, for Paul and Barnabas.
1 Cor. 16:8-9 “A great door for effective work has opened to me.”
2 Cor. 2:12-13 “A door was opened for me in the Lord”
Col. 4:2-3 Pray for “A door for the word, to declare the mysteries of Christ.”
Bottom line: The Lord is the only One who can sovereignly open up doors of opportunity for witnessing, along with an open heart in the person. Though people’s hearts and minds seem shut against the gospel, the Lord can sovereignly open them!
Recent examples of where Christ opened up opportunities for the gospel for us: with a neighbor; with a door to door salesman; and with a couple we had for dinner.
So… are you prayerfully expectant that God can give you such open doors for witnessing about Christ? He can do it!
Yet note that though there was an open door for this church in Philadelphia, it was not an easy entrance through that doorway. Two things were against them:
(1) The church had but little power/ strength. That is, the church did not exert any great influence on the city; its members were not movers and shakers in the community. They could not do much by themselves. They didn’t have any big name people, like a pro sports star, to attract the crowds.
(2) The church was facing strong opposition from some of the Jews, who are called a “Synagogue of Satan” in v. 9. Both the devil and the demographics were against them; both Satan and society were providing strong opposition. This is similar to our area!
Therefore, “Open Doors” from the Lord don’t necessarily mean that everything is easy!
But Christ is reminding this church that whatever the obstacles, whatever the limitations they feel, they are to remember that “Christ Opens Up Witnessing Opportunities.” His Grace is irresistible. No one can thwart His purposes. He can open up unthinkable opportunities for His gospel.
But how can such doors of opportunity be opened? Because Christ has been given all authority (Mt. 28:18); He holds the key of David. The reference here is to Isa 22:20ff., and the transferring the power in Judah from the unfaithful Shebna to the faithful Eliakim. Christ is the greater Eliakim, in whose hand is the key to the kingdom!
Christ alone holds the key to the door of salvation (John 10:9 “I am the door;” Matt. 16:19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom.”)
Therefore, let’s not give up when we face opposition. Don’t let your weakness deter you. Don’t grow weary in well-doing!
In our evangelism, let us pray for and look for God’s “Open Doors”, open doors of opportunity and open hearts to the gospel. Think of how those who want to buy the latest iphone camp out in front of the door of a store, for days, waiting for the door to open. How much more should we be praying for, looking for, and waiting for an open doo for the gospel of Christ!
Let us remember that the door stands open for the church, because it’s key is in Christ’s hand. Let us PRAY together to that end.
Christ’s second strong promise:
2. Christ Orchestrates Reversals and Restraints (vv. 9-10)
“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. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.”
To appreciate what Christ is saying here about this reversal in v. 9, we need to review the amazing promises that the Lord made to His people, Israel, in the book of Isaiah. In about 700 BC, the people of God were slowly falling apart and being devastated by surrounding pagan, gentile nations. It seemed that the glory that had belonged to Israel some 300 years earlier, under David and Solomon, had all but disappeared. But in Isa. 40-66 the Lord promises a great reversal: that the powerful gentile nations will come to Israel and bring their gifts to her, and they will worship Israel’s God! God will make his people a Gospel Magnet, attracting even those who had been oppressing her.
Now, here, in Rev. 3, Christ says that He will bring about another incredible reversal, only this time, it is some of the nominal Jewish people, who have been persecuting the church, (made largely of gentiles), but Christ is going to work in the persecutors, the “Synagogue of Satan,” so that they will come to the church and fall down and acknowledge that indeed, The Lord has set His special love upon these Christians!
As we sing in Jesus, Thank You, “Your enemies you’ve made your friends”
We’ve seen a bit of this as the Lord has reversed the hearts of those who worked in abortion chambers and now are followers of Jesus! We’ve seen this in God turning the heart of Lynn’s cousin, from a terrorist to a disciple of the Lord. And we’ve seen this is how He has changed you and me, from rebels to willing citizens, from orphans to adopted children, from enemies to His friends.
While we see bits and pieces of this promise of reversal here and now, we look forward to a greater fulfillment, when Christ returns: Phil. 2:10-11: “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Some will do this joyfully and some remorsefully.
And then in v. 10 Christ promises that he will restrain the forces of evil against this local church. For the church that patiently endured and kept God’s Word will now be kept by Christ from this coming tribulation. (As God did with Daniel in the lion’s den, or with Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace.) Granted, such restraint is not always God’s plan for all his churches. In Rev. 2:10 we read of the church at Smyrna, which was also faithful, yet Christ told them they would be put in prison and suffer persecution for 10 days, and some would even taste death for the gospel. What we need to take away from what Christ decrees for these two faithful churches is that He has the supreme authority to restrain all evil, all suffering, and all persecution; and that we must trust Him for what is best for us, and what is best for His highest glory.
Therefore, let us trust God and wait patiently and prayerfully, for Christ will eventually turn everything and everyone upside down, with the gospel, by His grace and power. Think of it this way: hasn’t the Lord brought some amazing, grace-filled reversals and restraints into your life, and into the life of this church, over 111 years? Can’t He do the same today? Because Christ sovereignly orchestrates reversals and restraints, we have hope!
Christ’s third promise:
3. Christ Guarantees Our Everlasting Security. (vv. 11-13)
“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
The city of Philadelphia in Asia minor experienced many earthquakes, and the citizens were always wondering when the next one would hit them. In fact, the whole region was earthquake prone. In A.D. 17 an earthquake had destroyed Philadelphia. Consequently, many people preferred to live in the rural area surrounding the city. The fear of earthquakes caused those who continued to live in the city to leave it at the slightest sign of a tremor.
Often the only parts of a city left standing after a severe quake were the huge stone temple columns. Using that image, Christ promises to set believers in his temple in such a secure fashion, like one of those pillars, that no disturbance can ever force them out.
Notice that these promises are given by Jesus Christ to those who “hold on” and who “overcome.” This is the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints: God gives grace to His saints so that they can persevere to the end.
In Christ, they (we) were (are) secure as a strong pillar in the temple.
The Philadelphian church had a long history of faithfulness to the Lord. Long after all the surrounding country had succumbed to Muslim control under Turkey, Philadelphia held out as a Christian populace till 1392. That means they persevered for about 13 centuries!
The Lord has enabled MGBFC to persevere for 111 years…. May it be many more!
(12) “I will write on him the name of my God….and my new name”
A distinguished citizen was sometimes honored by having a special pillar added to one of the temples, with his own name inscribed on it. This may well be the sense of the second promise, “I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem,… and…my new name.” To those who have little influence, because of being ostracized, Christ promises recognition in his kingdom worthy of the noblest hero of any society.
You may think that you are a nobody. You may think that our church is fairly insignificant. But in the eyes of Christ, you are honored. In the eyes of the lord, our church, by His grace, is precious. It’s what He thinks of us that counts.
John Stott writes: “Risk your name for Christ in this world, and on your pillar in the next world will be permanently inscribed three names: The name of God, the name of the New Jerusalem (The Church Triumphant), and Christ’s New Name. In these images of the pillar and the inscribed names, Christ Guarantees Our Everlasting Security.
And so to the faithful church at Philadelphia, and to us, Christ gives three things: His authority in witnessing opportunities, His promises for great reversals and restraints, and His protection and security forever, with Him.
The conclusion: “Christ has the keys. Christ has opened the doors. Christ promises to make us safe as massive pillars in a temple. Now it is up to us…. Let us go in through the door of salvation, and out through the door of service.”
Have you gone through the door of salvation, by trusting Christ for your soul, your life?
Are you then going out through the door of service to the Lord?
As we discuss the church and our future at the luncheon to follow, let us hold on to these precious truths, and believe that Christ will graciously and sovereignly guide us, protect us, and use us, for His glory!