Week - 8 The Rewards for Being a Faithful Church Revelation 3:7-13
Updated: Dec 15, 2021
Authored by Jerry Marshall
The exclusive claims of Biblical Christianity serve as the flash point of controversy with those who do not share our faith (i.e., Jesus is the exclusive way of Salvation, the exclusive claims about the person and work of Christ, and the claim that the Bible is the Word of God).
The church in the city of Philadelphia understood experientially, that there is a price to pay to remain faithful to God's Word and to name the name of Jesus in a fallen world.
This church is looked upon with divine favor, not because it was a perfect church, but because it was faithful to the Lord and His Word under the pressure of intense persecution. Because they obeyed the Lord’s command to persevere under such a condition, the Lord rewards their faithfulness with five promises. As a side issue, the church in Philadelphia, along with the church in the city of Smyrna were the only two out of the seven addressed by the Lord that received no words of condemnation from Him.
I. The Promise of an Open Door. (3:7-8)
The symbol of the open door is often interpreted in the light of Paul’s usage in
1 Corinthians 16:9 and 2 Corinthians 2:12, namely the opening up of evangelistic opportunity. In this context, however, it almost certainly refers to the door of God’s kingdom.
While the Jews in the synagogue in the city of Philadelphia closed their doors to those who professed that Jesus was the Messiah, none could deny the believers in this church entrance into the Messianic Kingdom - into heaven itself. For the one who holds the key to David, had opened the door to His kingdom to them - and no one but Him determines who comes in and who stays out.
Apparently, there must have been some effort on the part of the “Synagogue of Satan” to get those who were a part of the church in Philadelphia to publicly renounce their profession of Jesus being the Messiah and to disown Him in a public manner, but this church held its ground and did not deny the name of the Lord.
Practically speaking, the society in which we exist may close the door of its acceptance of true believers labeling them agents of intolerance and such. The door may be closed for us to sit as welcome members around the table of political discourse. But the door that matters the most is open to us, and no one can shut it, because we have an intimate relationship with the One who holds the key to the kingdom of David.
II. The Promise of Ultimate Victory. (3:9)
The present enemies of the church in Philadelphia may have the power and the influence to persecute the church and to make its days most difficult at the time of this letter. However, the
1Carson, D. A.: New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA : Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, S. Re 3:7
Lord of the church promises that He will arrange a time when their persecutors would give the proper respect and honor to this church and acknowledge that the believers in Philadelphia are indeed the focus of God’s love.
The Jewish synagogue in Philadelphia was composed of Jews who had refused the message that Jesus was the Messiah. Though they professed to worship God, their opposition to Christians showed that they were in fact under the power of satanic darkness (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Those self-styled Jews who had opposed them so bitterly would be humbled before these simple believers. Those who claimed to be God’s chosen people, though actually a synagogue of Satan, would be forced to admit that the despised Christians were actually the chosen flock.
The passage does not tell us how this would come about. Some suppose that the Lord in His sovereignty would have some of their enemies come to Christ and in that sense, they would now give the proper honor and respect to the church (much like the experience of the Apostle Paul). Others believe that this expression of honor would be given to this church at the culmination of all things, at the time of the final judgment.
But the principle that emerges from this passage is that the church, no matter what it might suffer here on this earth is always, and ultimately, the victor because of its relationship with the Lord.
III. The Promise of Eventual Deliverance. (3:10)
In response to the believer’s obedience to the Lord’s command to endure patiently (hupomone), the Lord promises to spare them from an ultimate time of testing that would be worldwide in its scope and focused on a particular people group (those who dwell on the earth).
In what sense will this promise be fulfilled? How will the church be kept from this hour of testing? Many reputable Bible scholars understand this to be an implied reference to the catching of the church away, or the rapture of the church, more specifically a pretrial rapture when the Lord will come to collect His redeemed church from this earth in order that they might be with Him in Heaven. This is not the Second Coming in which the Lord comes with the saints, but rather this is His coming for the saints.
The details of this event are described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. This unique happening in redemptive history is described as a mystery (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
Among those who believe in the rapture of the church, there are differences of opinion in terms of when the church will be raptured. There are at least three main views. One is that the church will be raptured at the end of this hour of testing (Postribulational View). Another view is that the church will be raptured in the middle of this hour of testing (Midtribulational View). And finally, another view that proposes the rapture of the church will take place just before this hour of testing (Pretribulational View).
2MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments. electronic ed. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995, S. Re 3:9
At the center of the debate is the little phrase, “keep you from.” This comes from the translation of the Greek phrase, tereo ek (future active indicative). Those who argue that the church will go through this hour of testing (mid or post), argue that this phrase means preservation in the midst and final emergence from this period. In other words, the church will be preserved while experiencing the tribulation of this time but will ultimately be delivered from this time.
One problem with this view is that if the Lord intended to convey such an idea in the process of inspiration, there are words in the Greek language that could communicated that in a very clear manner. For example - If this phrase read, tereo en (in), it would be translated keep you in the hour of testing. Or, if the phrase finished with the Greek word dia (through), then it would read, keep you through the hour of testing.
But the little word Ek conveys the opposite of these two words because it conveys the continuous existence outside from: out of, away from.
This is a promise of exemption from the Tribulation Period described in
Chapters 6–19. Note that they will be kept from the hour of trial, that is, from the whole time period. Also, they will be kept out of that period not through it.
Another problem area of viewing this phrase as a promise of preservation through this hour of testing is the church in Philadelphia which is addressed in this letter. This church never went through the tribulation - the event spoken of here is still future - but this church will never go through the tribulation because all of the true believers in the church in Philadelphia are in the presence of the Lord even as I speak.
An additional problem with viewing this phrase to mean preservation through or in the tribulation is revealed in the fact that many believers are martyred in the time of tribulation. They are not preserved, protected or shielded during this terrible time of testing (Revelation 6:9-11; 7:9-14).
The promise of preservation then would be meaningless if this is what is meant by this phrase, because the believers existing during the tribulation suffer the very same fate as many unbelievers.
"Some hold that the promise of deliverance is only from God's wrath during the tribulation. But a promise that God will not kill believers but will allow Satan and the Antichrist to do so would provide small comfort to the suffering church at Philadelphia." They were already experiencing that at the hand of the synagogue of Satan.
So, the church is given a promise from the Lord of continuous open access to the Lord's Messianic Kingdom. The church is promised ultimate victory. And now the church is promised eventual deliverance from a time of testing, in which God unleashes His judgment upon the world as we know it.
3MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments. electronic ed. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995, S. Re 3:10
And this is true because the Lord never intended for those who are in Christ to experience His unleashed wrath in the final days of this world (i.e., 1Thessalonians 5:9).
IV. The Promise of The Lord’s Coming. (3:11)
In light of the truth of the any moment coming of the Lord for His church, the Lord issues a command to this suffering community with little power.
This isn’t the threatening temporal judgment described in v. 3; 2:5, 16, or the final judgment of chap. 19; it is a hopeful event. Christ will return to take His church out of the hour of trial
Contextually, there is a definite connection between the Lord’s promise of deliverance and His imminent return.
“The placement of this promise at this point is clear implication that deliverance of the faithful will occur in conjunction with His coming. It holds open the possibility that His coming will happen before this generation passes but does not guarantee it.”
Dr. Robert Thomas
In light of the Lord’s any moment return, this church is exhorted to “hold fast to what you have.” “Hold fast,” is a translation of the Greek word, krateo, which conveys the idea of keeping something carefully and faithfully. It’s to continue to hold and to retain.
In this context, it would be a reference to keeping the Word of the Lord and not denying His name even under the intense pressure of persecution. And if they hold on to this, they will hold on to their crown, the stephanos, which is the wreath or garland which was given as a prize to victors in public games. This crown speaks of the eternal blessedness which will be given as a prize to the genuine servants of God and Christ: the crown (wreath) which is the reward of the righteous and the possession of eternal life.
The church then is promised an open door to the kingdom of God, ultimate victory over its enemies, eventual deliverance from God's final judgment and now, the anticipation of His any moment appearance to bring the church home.
V. The Promise of an Enduring Eternal Place. (3:12-13)
"A faithful municipal servant or a distinguished priest was sometimes honored by having a special pillar added to one of the temples and inscribed with his name... "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." The inscribed name signifies identification and ownership. To those who have little influence because of being ostracized, Christ promises recognition in His Kingdom worthy of the noblest hero of any society." The Expositor’s Bible Commentary
Everyone who is an overcomer will become a pillar in the temple of . . . God. This is of course symbolic of the permanent place in heaven for believers, referred to here as the temple
4MacArthur, John Jr: The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed. Nashville : Word Pub., 1997, c1997, S. Re 3:11
of God. The entire New Jerusalem will be the ultimate temple (21:22). In contrast to earthly temples and earthly pillars which fall, believers will continue forever in the temple. Christ specified that He was referring to the city of My God, that is, the New Jerusalem (cf. 21:2). He repeated His promise: I will also write on him my new name (cf. 2:17; 14:1; 19:12). Because believers have identified with Christ by faith, He will identify Himself with them.