Summary: Christ opens the right doors for us, and encourages us when life hurts.
Philadelphia-"Church of the Open Door" Revelation 3:7-13 The Letters to the Seven Churches
Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Imagine the heartache of an athlete striving to qualify for the Olympic team, only to be disqualified by a technicality. Consider the feeling of rejection after being passed over for promotion. Try to appreciate the disappointment of a couple unable to have children. These are some of the closed doors of our lives. If we truly believe that God is in control, we will believe that He has the power to open and close doors of opportunity for us. Christ writes an encouraging letter to the church at Philadelphia, the church of the open door.
The city of Philadelphia-not the one in PA-was situated about 25 miles SE of Sardis, the next town a courier would reach on a circular tour of the 7 churches. Philadelphia was founded in 159 BC as a center of Greek language and Hellenistic culture, to bring the glory that was Greece to Asia Minor. It was renowned for its temples, vineyards, and cultural festivals, and for this reason it was nicknamed "Little Athens". The city was founded by Attalus II and was named for him-he was called Philadelphus because of his love for his brother Eumenes. Philos is a Greek word for love or affection, and adolphos means brother; so "Philadelphia" means the "city of brotherly love".
Verse 7…Christ introduces Himself as the "Holy One" (RSV), a familiar Jewish title for God. In Isaiah 43 God declares, "I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King" (vs 15). Holiness is an attribute of God alone. Jesus also says that He is "the true One"; in the original language (anathenos), the word means something real, genuine, authentic. In Jesus we find reality. When we consider Him, we’re confronted with Absolute Truth. Jesus is real.
In His hand is "the key of David". Jesus is our Messiah, the Son of David, the King of Israel. The "key" is an expression that indicates control over the royal household of God. The messianic prophecy of Isaiah states, "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" (22:22).
Verse 8…Some verses of Scripture sustain us over the years; here is one that has sustained me. Rev 3:8 has been my "career verse" and has characterized my vocational calling: "Behold, I have set before you an open door which no one can shut." The door stands open because the key is in the hand of Christ.
During my college days I spent weekends working at a Christian Servicemen’s Center near Fort Jackson, SC. It was there that God impressed me with the needs of soldiers and called me to the Chaplaincy. I applied, was accepted, but was told that there were no openings for the CCCC for active duty. At that time the Chaplaincy Department of Personnel made acquisitions according to set quotas. I was discouraged, yet I tried to accept this as God’s will. I was offered an opportunity to pastor a small Congregational church in Tennessee, and was active in the Army Reserves. During 4 years of waiting, God taught me valuable lessons in patience and maturity. I gained pastoral experience, earned an additional Master’s Degree, and worked with Laura as a volunteer at a suicide crisis center. Then one day I received a phone call from the Pentagon. Even though there still were no openings, I was invited to come on active duty. The lessons God taught me during my years of waiting helped me to more effectively serve Him when He opened the door. Faith means trusting God even when our sense of timing doesn’t agree with His. When I worry about the future, I am reminded of Rev 3:8. God stands before me and next to Him is an open door.
Christ stands before 2 open doors-doors of salvation and service. When we receive Him as Savior, He offers us opportunities to live for Him. The Apostle Paul knew that his ability to minister totally depended on God. He tells the Colossian church, "Pray for us that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ" (4:3). He also writes in II Cor that when he journeyed to Troas to preach the Gospel he "found that the Lord had opened a door" for him (2:12).
Jesus tells this struggling church, "I know that you have a little strength." The city also had little strength, as it was slowly recovering from an earthquake that devastated the area in AD 17.
Verse 9…Jesus implies in vs 9 that the believers of Philadelphia have been excluded, locked out of the synagogue. That door was shut, but the door of salvation was open wide. The Jewish leaders viewed the Christian church as a threat to their faith. This is sad and ironic, for the most Jewish thing you can do is to believe in Jesus! In spite of opposition, the church had an impact on the community-converts are portrayed here as captives on a battlefield.