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This morning for the first time, we want to especially welcome you and we’re in a series of studies on the letters of our Lord to the churches in Asia Minor and we’ve come to take a last look at the sixth letter to the church at Philadelphia. Starting next week we’ll look twice at the church at Laodicea and then our series will be concluded. And God willing, soon after that we’ll begin a series of messages on the book of Ecclesiastes. If you want to start reading ahead and studying ahead of that very interesting book, please do so. Revelation 3:7, to the angel of the church in Philadelphia, these things says, “He who is holy, he who is true, he who has the key of David, he who opens and no one shut and shuts and no one opens. I know your works. See, I have sat before you an open door and no one can shut it for you have a little strength, have capped my word and have not denied my name.
Indeed, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews and are not, but lie indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet and to know that I have loved you because you have kept my command to persevere. I also will keep you from the hour of trial which will come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I’m coming quickly. Hold fast what you have that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven from my God and I will write on him my new name.”
He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches. Want to come this morning to finish the message we began a couple of weeks ago on The Offensive. David Livingstone, the Scottish explorer and evangelist who give his life to the people of Africa and the continent of Africa said this, “I am ready to go anywhere with God so long as it is forward.” And we noted that on the offense of this how God wants us to live our Christian lives and our church lives in God’s work and in God’s world, there is no place for sitting down and going backwards. It’s forward or it’s nowhere. We’ve got to go forward in terms of missions. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel making disciples of all the nations.” It’s forward in terms of maturity. In Hebrews 6:1, we’re told to go on the maturity.
The Christian must always be going after the sinner and after the savior. We’re to do more than hold on. We’re to break out and break through. And that’s the essential message that we find in this letter. One addressed to the church at Philadelphia. It’s a letter without censorship, it’s a letter without criticism. This was a church that had caught the eye and the admiration of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was the smallest of the seven churches in the smallest of the seven cities and yet God sets before them a big task. We read in verse eight that Jesus has set before them an open door and we saw that that open door represented some wonderful opportunity for them to widen their ministry to make a deeper and greater impact for the Lord Jesus Christ. And we started to look at that whole issue. We’ve already covered aspects of this letter.
We’ve looked at the key which speaks of power, verse 7. Then we started to look at the door which speaks of possibility verse eight, nine and 10 and 11. And then this morning we’ll look at the pillar which speaks of permanence, but let’s go back to this thought of the door which speaks of possibility Verse eight, “I know your works. See, I have said before you an open door and no one can shut it for you. Have a little strength of kept my word and have not denied my name. Indeed, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews and are not but lie, I will make them come and worship before your feet and know that I have loved you. And because you’ve capped my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on it.
Behold I come quickly, hold fast what you have and let no one take your crown.” The last time we looked at this verse, we reminded ourselves that we have gone through the door of salvation and Jesus now wants to push us through the door of service. He is the door but he’s opening doors for us so that those who haven’t found Christ might find them through us pointing the way to Jesus Christ the gatekeeper, the one who has the keys to God’s kingdom. And we were struck by this metaphor of the open door which speaks we believe of this church’s opportunity to spread the gospel in this region. We saw that this church was strategically and geographically placed to make a wide impact for the Lord Jesus Christ. And we started to look at this metaphor of the open door and we saw that in the New Testament it is used again and again, especially in Paul’s writings of something that God is prodding us to do and allowing us to do in terms of reaching a greater number of people for the gospel’s sake. We started to look at God’s open door policy.
We want to challenge ourselves to go through the open door of our front door at the home or our office door, the gates to our school and remind ourselves that we are there as missionaries, ambassadors for the Lord Jesus Christ and God has us there on purpose and there are people whose hearts he will open on the other side of those open doors. But open doors require foresight. Open doors require fervor. We looked at that last time. But thirdly, open doors require faith. You’ll notice that the Lord Jesus acknowledges that the church he is calling to go through this open door to have a wider witness for him is a church that has little strength. Did you notice that? I’ve said before you an open door, no one’s going to shut it and I know you have little strength. I know you’ve capped my word not denied my name.
Sometimes the open door is so wide and the resources to meet it is so narrow that at times we might feel it’s an impossible task, and that’s where faith comes in. We need to exercise a big belief in the greatness of God and his power to do that which seems impossible. This verse here little strength probably represents the fact that they were few in number limited in resources devoid of influence. And we know from 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 that most of the early church was made up of people from the lower classes. It was a blue collar church in many ways. And so they weren’t the high, the mighty, they weren’t the powerful, the prestigious, they weren’t the wealthy, the movers and the shakers and yet Jesus Christ is saying, “Hey, I want you to move the world towards me through all that you do, through all that you say.”
And they go, “Oh, but Lord, look at us. We’re few. We’re feeble.” And he’s saying, “Don’t look at yourselves. Look at me. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.” Philippians 4:13. And that’s what you and I need to remind ourselves. Maybe God is laying on your heart a task you see an opportunity. You think that God is calling you to grasp a certain opportunity to leverage for his kingdom, but you’re timid, you’re tepid because you don’t seem up to the task and you maybe don’t have the resources to meet that which you see needs to be done. Well, link your feebleness to Christ’s fullness. Link your feebleness to Christ’s fullness. Listen to this. Heaven’s work is never hampered by lack of resources. It is always or sometimes hampered by lack of faith, lack of sacrifice, lack of obedience on our part.
There’s no lack on God’s part even though there’s a limit on our part. If we’ll link our feebleness to his fullness, things get done beyond the ordinary more than we can imagine or think. I like the phrase in Romans 8:37, “We are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us.” Just pause. When we link our lives to Jesus Christ, when we come into union with him by faith and his spirit is united to our spirit and we’re linked to the one who sits at God’s right hand and in a spiritual sense we are seated with him in the heavens, all that is his is ours for the sake of the kingdom, for the purpose of the will of God.
When you and I are linked to Jesus Christ, then we are more than what we are by ourselves. We are more than conquerors through Christ. And then Jesus is saying here, “I know you’ve got little strength, but through me you’re more than what you think you are and you can do more than you think you can accomplish.” Little as much when God is in it. And so open doors require foresight, they require fervor, they require faith. It’s the size of our faith in the greatness of God that determines the impact of our lives.
I came across this quote some time ago, I haven’t forgot it and I want to remind you of it this morning. A little more of God makes up for a great deal less of us. It’s a good quote. When the church understands who stands behind her, they won’t be intimidated by what stands before her.
That’s why William Carey, by himself, but the cup of couple of friends on a shoestring budget supported more by the small churches in the countryside of England than by the wealthy strategic churches in the great cities of London and elsewhere. He went out to India unafraid because he went out with this thought based on a prophecy in Isaiah that indeed he could expect great things from God as he attempted great things for God. You, William Carey, with your wife who has second thoughts about what you’re doing, your dad thinks you’re nuts, you’ve just about enough to get you started and when he gets there, his friend abandons him, but he persevered for seven years, saw his first convert and began to turn the tables in terms of the modern era of missions all because he believed although he was of little strength, his feebleness tied to fullness could move the world for God.
Open doors require fraternity, number four. I want you to notice that this verse, verse eight is addressed to the whole church. No one’s left out. Christ wasn’t speaking to a select number, a particular individual. He wasn’t particularly addressing the pastors. Now this was a challenge to evangelism and missionary enterprise addressed to everybody in the church from top to bottom. I think they took seriously the call of Jesus Christ in Acts 1:8 that the apostles and those who would come the faith through the apostles would be Jesus’ witness in Jerusalem, Samaria, Judea, the other most parts of the earth.
We read in Acts 8:1-4 of the church of Jerusalem being scattered and it says, in every one of them, that’s all the Christians that were scattered out of Jerusalem because of the hand of persecution. Every one of them went about gossiping the gospel. You see, the church of Philadelphia was commended for keeping God’s word, but they were recommended not to keep it to themselves. They needed to be reminded as we do that the church is the only organization that exists for people that haven’t yet joined it.
And so here Jesus says to them, “Hey, I’ve given you a wonderful opportunity. All of heaven stands behind you. Now go forward. Go on the offense of anywhere so long as it’s forward. Go after sinners, go after the savior. And know that this is something I’m calling each of you to do. I want each of you to mobilize for missions.” Paul sets this challenge, doesn’t he? Before the church at Philippi in chapter one verse 27, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel so that whether I come and see you or I’m absent, I may hear of your affairs.” Okay, I want good reports to come out of Philippi. Okay, Paul, what are you looking for? Here’s what he’s looking for. “I want to hear of your affairs that you stand fast in one spirit with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel.” That’s how you move the world for God. That’s how you make an impact in Jesus Christ, for Jesus Christ, you band together as a body of believers with one spirit, one mind, all the petty stuff is set aside.
All the second guessing is set aside. You get behind what God is doing, get behind the leadership, get behind the word, get behind each other and with one mind, you act as one man for the faith and furtherance of the gospel. So God is saying to this church, saying to our church, saying to all churches, “I’m looking for one mind, one movement towards the world in gospel endeavor and enterprise, I want you to spread the name and the theme of my son.” Open doors require faith and they require fraternity, courage and community. Divided churches don’t unite people to God. Divided churches don’t unite people to God. Evangelism requires unity because I think evangelism is a team effort. We see it here in Philippines 1:27. We want to hear that you’re striving together for the faith of the gospel. That’s a Greek term made up of two words, striving together.
It means with and athlete, it speaks of athletes together, it speaks of a team, pooling for each other, together, each playing their part, putting some sweat on the pant, moving the ball, scoring, moving the chains, hitting the home run. Striving together as athletes, says Paul, with this one mind to see people one to Jesus Christ. Evangelism requires unity. We each have a role to play. We’ve got complimentary gifts. We all need to encourage each other in this. And I think evangelism produces unity. I think if you look at churches that are growing, churches that are not hooked up on pettiness and they’re not getting caught up on fighting with one another are churches that have got a mindset towards missions.
Churches that turn in on themselves or churches that have got no heart for those outside of themselves, evangelism requires unity. We can’t reach people as effectively by ourselves as we can together. And evangelism produces unity. If that’s our passion, if that’s our one goal, if that’s our overarching desire to see people one for Jesus Christ, when we understand that that hell is real and the men are lost and without the gospel, they perish, then the other stuff we get caught up in with each other doesn’t matter and you set at a side and you play as a team.
A couple of years ago I remember reading a story of a little boy on a farm who wandered off on a summer’s day just before the harvest into the corn fields. His mom lost track of time, lost track of him. When she realized he was gone, she frantically got her husband and the rest of the family and they started looking but they couldn’t find the toddler.
Now I’m beginning to panic a little. It was late into the afternoon. They called for neighbors and friends in the general area to come and they broke up into teams and they started to look, but again, they couldn’t find the child. By nighttime they’d called in the emergency services and police and paramedics had arrived and everybody found out in all kinds of directions. Late into the night and into the early morning they looked but the child wasn’t found. The last resort is all the resources were put together. They decided to hold hands in one long line and just sweep through the cornfield. Late into the morning, the child was found but it was too late and child had died of heat stroke. The mother lifted up the little one, carried it back to the farm and weeping, she turned to everyone to thank them for what they had done. But with these haunting words, she finished what she wanted to say and she said, “If only we had have joined our hands sooner.”
I hope that’s not going to be true of the church at the end of time and in the last day where we turn to each other and look back on our pettiness and our partisanship and our second guessing of each other’s motives and our fighting and our jealousy and our selfish ambition and we realize that souls have been lost and turn and say, “I wish we would’ve joined hands sooner.” Open doors require fraternity. They require foresight, they require fervor, they require faith. And then finally they require fortitude. Fortitude. Because it’s clear from this text that while there was great opportunity, there was great opposition, there was the bias and belligerence of the Jewish community that’s mentioned in verse nine. And then on top of that there was the ongoing tribulation at the hands of the world and the worldly. It’s not explicit, but I think it’s embedded.
Jesus said in verse 10, “Because you’ve kept my command to persevere, I will also keep you from the hour of trial which will come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.” I believe and I’ll substantiate this in a moment or two, that’s a reference to the great tribulation. And I believe Jesus is promising this church exemption and extraction from that time of testing which will be worldwide and horrific. But implicit in that is, “Hey, you stay faithful through general tribulation and I’ll keep you from the great tribulation.” And so they had opposition. They had opposition from the Jewish community, that had opposition from the gentile world. It was the best of times in that it was an open door, but it was the worst of times in that they had adversaries waiting for them on the other side of that door.
Didn’t Paul find that to be the case? If you go over to 1 Corinthians 16:9, he’s given the Corinthians a report of what’s happening in Ephesus and he wants them to know that he’s doing some damage to the kingdom of darkness. Behold, I tarry Ephesus until Pentecost, he says, verse nine, 1 Corinthians 16, “For a great and effective door has opened to me, but there are many adversaries.” You and I need to realize that. Nothing’s going to come easy in the Christian life. People are not easily won to the Lord Jesus Christ. It will take faith, it will take prayer, it will take perseverance, it will take spiritual warfare.
And when we go through and a door that God has opened and we see an opportunity to leave these things for the kingdom of God, we need to know that there will be an enemy waiting. There will be adversaries ready to ambush because with great possibilities, the always be great problems. You cannot have the one without the other. And that goes without saying because when a spiritual victory is on the line, the enemies of God will not roll over and play dead, which maybe reminds you and I that opposition can be a healthy sign. Opposition can be a healthy sign. When Satan starts paying a Christian or a church some attention it may be because he sees them as a potential threat.
So don’t be discouraged. When you get all excited and you see maybe a possibility of really doing something for Jesus Christ and you sat out through that open door with faith and fervor and foresight and others are joining you in fraternity, make sure you’ve got some fortitude, perseverance. Don’t lose your grip on that initial vision. Don’t come to the conclusion quickly. “You know what, we must have been mistaken because this is too hard.” No, with open doors, there are many adversaries. I like what Samuel Rutherford once said, “The devil’s war is better than the devil’s peace.”
You and I know what’s maybe the first leg of this NBA series and some of the best players, they’re all good, but some of the superstars like a Kobe Bryant or whatever, whoever is on the Celtic side, they’re being double teamed sometimes. But when someone’s double teamed, it’s a recognition that the enemy sees them as a threat. The opposition understands, “Hey, we’ve got to neutralize them. Take them out of the game. Get them off their game.” Don’t be surprised when the devil double teams you when you try to do something for God. Now you exhibit some holy stubbornness, stickability, sticktoitiveness. That’s what Jesus liked about this church. In fact, that’s why Jesus probably said, “Hey, I’m going to give you a challenge because you haven’t denied my name, you’ve persevered, you’ve held on and I’ve got something else for you to do something bigger and better than anything that’s proceeded.” And so the open door requires fortitude and with this he gives them some encouragement. With this, he gives them some encouragement. The encouragement comes in verse nine and it comes in verse 10, and this will give them encouragement to persevere.
This will add steel to their fortitude. One is the hope of vindication and two is the promise of protection. In verse nine, Jesus says, “Look, I know that the Jewish community is opposing you.” He calls the local synagogue here a synagogue of Satan. A synagogue is a word that means assembly, assembly of God’s people. But ironically here, the Jews are not doing God’s work. They’re doing Satan’s work. They have not accepted God’s son. They have not embraced God’s promised Messiah in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Unlike Paul, these Jews thought they were doing God’s work in persecuting the church when instead they were doing the devil’s work. They said they were Jews but they were not. Paul says in Romans 9:6-7, “Not all who belong to Israel are Israel.” There is the Jew according to Romans 2:28-29, who is circumcised outwardly on the flesh, but then there is the real Jew who has circumcised inwardly in the heart.
The real Jew who has submitted to God obeys his commands and embraces his Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. So they say they’re Jews but they’re not. They believe they’re an assembly of God, but they’re not, that the staging post of the forces of darkness and you have suffered at their hand. But here’s a promise, here’s the hope, I’m going to vindicate you. Some of these Jews will come and worship at your feet.
Now, some commentators believe this may be anticipating Philippians 2:9-11, when every knee will bow, every tongue confessed that Jesus is Lord. Jesus will have returned with his church, will be there as they bow before Jesus. In a sense, they’re bowing before the church, his people. And will be vindicated as being right and will be worth it all when we see Jesus. I don’t think that’s what’s going to be the case here. Although, it’s a thought and it may be true. I think Jesus is actually promising that some of these Jews will come to faith in Jesus Christ and they’ll actually come and worship in the synagogue. That must have been a phenomenal day. Okay? Maybe when someone who had given them a hardship and heartache comes in and sits in the church and gets saved, gets baptized and joins the assembly of the people of God at Philippi. What a turn up for the books.
I think that’s the promise here. There are some more Sauls that will become Pauls. You know his story, right? Don’t you? Acts 9, Saul goes out. Hebrew of Hebrews thinks he’s doing the work of God but he’s actually doing the work of sin and he’s persecuting Jesus Christ as he persecutes the church, he comes to faith in Jesus Christ. It was something the church didn’t readily accept. Barnabas had to step in and act as an intermediary to allow Paul to get inside the assembly. He had his nose pressing against the window and they’re going, “Hey, you’re a Trojan horse. You just stay out there.” And they have to learn, no, God has worked in Saul’s life and now he’s Paul and he’s an apostle to the Gentiles and he’s going to suffer much for the kingdom and Paul gets on the inside. And that must have been amazing thing, right?
To sit in a worship service with the premier antagonist of the church, Paul. And that was going to happen here. Some of the lions would become lambs and lie down at the feet of God’s people. And Jesus says, “Hey, you stick to it. Go through this open door.” Before we look at the promise of protection, there’s encouragement here, isn’t there? It’s an encouragement to see that God saves souls out of the synagogue of Satan. God can save souls out of the synagogue of Satan.
There’s no one too hard for the Lord to save. He can save our enemies, he can save our antagonists, he can save our neighbor who laughs in our face every time we share the gospel. He can save our school friends who show no interest in the things of God. He can penetrate the secular godless society. We ought not to be giving up on people. We ought not to think that the best days of the church are passed. There’s open doors all around us and God will vindicate himself and vindicate his people and he will gloriously and sovereignly save his enemies and they will become our friends. That’s why William Booth said, the commander of the Salvation Army, I read something of his life story this week. He said to his troops, “Go for souls and go for the worst.”
But there’s a challenge, isn’t it? Go for souls and go for the worst. Because God is able to save to the uttermost those who come to faith and his son. The old preachers in Northern Ireland used to quote Hebrew 7:25 and they used to say, “God is able to see it from the guttermost to the uttermost.” From the guttermost to the uttermost. He is. But you’ve not only got this hope of vindication, you’ve got this promise of protection. Verse 10, let’s go back to our letter. “Because you’ve kept my command to persevere. I also will keep you from the hour of trial which will come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.” Because of their gospel commitment.
Lord Jesus Christ, I believe your promise is an exemption or an extraction from the hour of trial that will come upon the whole earth to test those dwelling on it. That it’s a question about what this time is, what this test is. It’s my understanding and my conviction that this promise constitutes promised deliverance of God’s people of the church from a time the Bible describes as the great tribulation. I actually believe that Revelation 3:10 is a promise in God’s word that supports the pre-tribulation rapture because I think Jesus assigned to this church, “Hey, you’ve kept my word. You’ve persevered. Having passed the minor test of present persecution, I’m going to allow you to bypass the major test of future tribulation.”
The pre-tribulation rapture is the teaching which teaches that Jesus Christ in his second coming first comes to the air, not to the earth, and he snatches away his people to the father’s heist. John 14:1-6, and there we stand before the judgment seat of Christ. There we enjoy the [inaudible 00:32:27]. And then later we return with him to the earth at the end of the tribulation period, at the onset of the millennial kingdom. Christ first comes for the church to the earth, then with the church to earth. It’s all the second coming. And I think here you have a promise that relates to that time when we’ll come to the air and take his church away from the world that’s about to face his judgment. Now bear with me for 10 minutes and I’ll try and give you some arguments that will support this.
I want you to know this first of all, what I call the logical argument. This has to be an exemption. This has to be an extraction from this time. To me if it’s to mean anything, if it’s to have any kind of comfort to the church at Philadelphia. See, Christ has already been with them. Christ has brought them through trial and tribulation, but he seems to be adding something. He seems to be inviting them to anticipate something more or something different. He’s already been with them. And if all we’re talking about here is, “Hey, I’m going to take you through a time of tribulation,” he’s already done that. But I think he’s promising something more. It’s logical. “Hey, what I’ve brought you through, I salute you’ve persevered, but now I want you to know I’m going to keep you from the hour of trial or testing will come upon the whole earth.”
In fact, if that’s not the case, then I would argue with you that the church at Philadelphia’s no better than the church at Thai Tara. In fact, they’re worse off. You say, “What are you talking about?” Well, here’s a church at Thai Tara. We looked at it for seven weeks, remember? The church that was faithless, a church that was riddled with immorality and spiritual adultery, and Jesus says, “Hey, to Jezebel and her children, I’m going to cast you into a bed of sickness. I’m going to cast you into great tribulation. I’m going to kill your children.” So Jesus said to the church at Thai Tara, “I’m going to kill you. I’m going to discipline. I’m going to bring death and sickness.” Are you telling me that Jesus is saying to the church of Philadelphia, a pure church, a faithful church, “Hey, I’m not going to kill you, but here’s my promise, I’m going to put you through the great tribulation and I’m going to let the antichrist kill you and I’m going to let the false prophet torment you. And I’m going to let many of you be martyred.”
Because we read in Revelation 6&7 that the saints who were on the earth at the time of the great tribulation, 144,000 witnesses specially sealed, many of them and others who come to faith through them will indeed suffer martyrdom. I don’t think Jesus is saying that to this church. He said, “I’m going to keep you from.” This is a special promise. There’s no preservation in martyrdom. He’s saying, “Look, I’ve kept you. You’ve kept my word. You’ve gone through tribulation. I’m going to keep you out of great tribulation.” I think that’s logical. And the fact that verse 11 speaks of the second coming of the Lord Jesus, I don’t think Jesus here is talking about his ongoing presence through trial.
I think he’s talking about his forthcoming presence through the second coming and the escape. That’s the logical argument. Then there’s the grammatical argument. The little preposition act is used here, from. I’m going to keep you from the hour of trial. That word means out of, it carries the sense of not entering into. In fact, there were other prepositions available to the Lord Jesus. He could have used the Greek preposition, in, or dia, or which means in and through. He could have used those quite easily if Jesus intended to say, “I’m going to keep you through that time, preserve you within that time.” But he didn’t. He used a preposition [inaudible 00:36:33]. “I’m going to keep you outside of that time.” This is the promise of exemption. This is the promise of extraction. There’s also the theological argument, the theological argument. Let me give you it and then let me defend it.
The theological argument is this, according to Paul in his letters to the Thessalonians 1:1-10 10 of the first letter, chapter 5:9 of the first letter also, he says this to the church at Thessalonica, “We are not appointed on Terach. We have been saved from the wrath to come.” Okay? Well, I’m going to argue that the time that is being spoken of here in Revelation 3:10 is a time of wrath, is a time when God will send his judgment upon the earth dweller. It will be a worldwide cataclysmic horrific unrepeatable time called the great tribulation. Jesus says in Matthew 24:21-22, that it is such a bad time that unless those deaths be shortened for the [inaudible 00:37:45], those who come to faith during that time that none will be saved.
Now let me substantiate that, defend that. I don’t believe that this is general persecution here in Revelation 3:10. Some would argue Jesus is speaking here of the forthcoming Roman persecution and we know from our history that there’s a hundred years of general persecution that’s about to set in upon the church through the various imperial Celtic emperors of Rome. The church will go through far and high water for a hundred years and the Lord Jesus will preserve his people, of that, we have no doubt.
But I don’t think Jesus is speaking about that. And I’ll tell you why fundamentally because look at the text. This trial is coming upon the whole world, okay? It’s not regional, it’s not general. It’s specific and it’s worldwide. And I want you to notice most of all, to test those who dwell on the earth. Who is the object of this test? It’s not the church, it’s the world. So this is not a persecution of the church by the world. This is the judgment of God upon the world, apart from the church. In fact, in Revelation 7:14, this time is called great tribulation. In Revelation 14:7, it’s called the hour of judgment. If you go from Revelation 4 to Revelation 19, this time period is described in great detail as the vials and bowls of God’s wrath are poured out and the trumpets of God’s judgment are sounded.
And interestingly, although the word church is found 19 times in Revelation one to three, it’s not found once in Revelation four to 19. Oops. You don’t want to overlook that fact. Because you see, theologically, we’re not appointed the wrath. This is a time of wrath that’s coming upon the world directed towards them. This isn’t the angst of the world against the church. This is the righteous anger of God against the unbeliever.
And in fact, this little phrase, those upon the earth, is a word or a phrase that’s used consistently through the book of the Revelation 6:10, 8:13, 11:10, 13:8, 12:12. It’s a code for those who are earth dwellers. Those whose horizons don’t live above the material. They live for the here, they live for the [inaudible 00:40:32]. Like the animal, they just die and rot. And so hey, you only go around once. So grab all you can, knock people out of the way. Live for yourself. That’s the earth dweller. They’re God and they bought the altar of me, my and mine. And there’s coming a day when that day is going to come to an end.
And Jesus Christ, according to Revolution 5&6, is going to take back the title deed of the earth and return it to its former glory and return it under the authority of the one who created it in the first place. And the earth dweller will be judged during this time of great tribulation. They’re the object of God’s wrath. The church is not the object of God’s wrath.
And that’s why the church is absent during this time. That’s why it’s not to be found in Revelation 4-19 because we are not appointed onto wrath. There is the logical argument, the grammatical argument, the theological argument, last thought, the chronological argument. Look at the text 3:10, “Because you’ve capped my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the trial.” Is that what it says? No, it says from the hour of the trial. That’s important. The protection is related not to the test or the trial, but to the hour, the time of the test. And that’s important because if the promise only pertains to the test, then it is possible and it is conceivable that you and I could be delivered from within the trial. But Jesus says, “Hey, I’m not going to deliver you from within the trial. I’m going to deliver you from the hour of the test, from the period that is this test.”
Listen to Charles Ryrie of Dallas Seminary. He makes a helpful comment here on this very thought. “It is impossible to conceive being in the location where something is happening and being exempt from the time of the happening.” Okay? Location is what? Planet earth. What’s happening? The judgment of God is being poured out on the world. We need to be exempt from the location and the time.
When you look at who is being addressed here and what is happening here, we see that this has got to be read as an extraction and an exemption out from that. What a promise we have to be protected. We’re not looking for the antichrist, we’re looking for the Christ. Mark Hitchcock who has preached here, and I’ll be preaching for him later this year, says in one of his books in Genesis 18, 19, has recorded the rescue of Lad and his family from Sodom seems to indicate that it is against God’s character to destroy the righteous with the wicked when he pours out his judgment. The raptor of Venek to heaven before the flood is another illustration of this principle. God doesn’t judge his people when he judges the wicked.
So I hope that you and I will persevere, keep God’s word not to ourselves, but having kept it so that we’ve got the real gospel to preach, we share it with others and we’ll persevere knowing that that gospel will bring our enemies to be our friends, will turn lions and the lambs, Sauls and the Pauls, and we persevere knowing that the sun is setting and that our friends are living in darkness in the shadow of death. There is great tribulation coming. The wrath of God is coming. We need to take the gospel to them before we’re called up and called out. Couple of moments. Here’s the last thought, the pillar which speaks of permanence. I’m going to cover these last few verses in less than five minutes because I want to finish this. Verses 12-13, you have another premier promise to the one who overcomes the world through faith.
And this time it’s a promise to be made a pillar in the temple of God, a pillar in the temple of God. Now, you and I know that many of the different words and phrases and illusions in these letters have an immediate historical echo in the context to which they are addressed. And sometimes when we paint in the background, we understand why Jesus would say what he said. And it’s certainly the case here. “I’ll make you a pillar in the temple.” We go, “That wouldn’t get you and me that excited, would it? Hey, do you want to be a pillar today in the temple of God?” But for them, it had all sorts of implication, all sorts of inspiration. Let me help you understand it quickly. Jesus says to them here, “I’m going to make you a pillar in the temple of God.
I’m going to write God’s name on you, the name of the new city, the new Jerusalem, and my name, my new name on you.” And that would’ve resonated with them immediately because my research tells me back then, if somebody gave faithful public service, whether a dignitary or a cultic priest, among the many temples in Philadelphia, and there were many of them, so much so that the city was called the little Athens, that a pillar would be raised in the honor of that person and their name would be etched. They would have a fixed place of honor. They would be memorialized for a long time among the people of that city. Because often even when buildings fall down, you’ve maybe visited some of these ancient sites, the one or two things that’s left standing are what? The pillars. So Jesus head, “Hey, I’m going to make you a pillar in God’s temple and I’m going to write my name on you and my father’s name on you and the city’s name on you,” which speaks of ownership.
“You belong to me.” It’s a beautiful image to them. Because if you go to Revelation 21-22, when we come to the new heaven and the new earth and the new city called New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 & 22, we’re actually told it doesn’t have a temple. So this isn’t literal, this is spiritual. This is a metaphor. It says that God is the temple. So what’s this saying? It’s saying, “Hey, if you live for me down here, if you give your time with eternity in mind, there’s coming a day when you will have a fixed place in the presence of God forever. And he will own you as his son. He will own you as his daughter forever.” And that’s pretty exciting. To those who have little strength and little status in a city surrounded by pagan temples, your day’s coming. Preach the gospel until I take you out of this world, until my father’s house, and then will be part of the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven amidst the new earth and the new heavens, the new era, the forever time, and you’re going to be fixed in God’s presence forever.
And then he says, “And there’ll be no going out.” Again, you got to paint in the historical background. Philadelphia was built on an area of volcanic activity. We know all about it here in Southern California. So you’d understand the significance of this. In fact, the city was rocked with an earthquake in AD-17, destroyed, it had to be rebuilt. But it was rocked a number of times. And many times the people fled the temples and the houses and went outside the city and they lived in tented cities for a while. They went out and after the aftershock stopped, they come back in. And they went out, and they come back in.
Now you see what Jesus is saying, “Hey, I’m going to make you a pillar in God’s temple. We’re going to write our name on you. You’re going to be ours. You’re going to have a fixed place in God’s presence forever. In the new city, the new world. And you know what? Nothing’s going to shake us there. You’re going to be unthreatened there, untroubled there. You’re going to be safe and sound forever, unmolested by sin, unharmed by sickness, untouched by death, unreached by Satan, unmoved by fear, untroubled by regret, unfazed by tomorrow.” Anybody ready for that?
Philip De Courcy (49:39):
Amen. Want to be made a pillar? Go through the door that God has opened to you. He has the keys. He’s got work for you and me to do. That’s work until the sun sets on our life and the church is called home. And then it’s forever with the Lord. And nothing will shake us in that unshakable kingdom. We’ll be a pillar.
As we prepare for the Lord’s table. Here’s an illustration to close with. On a balmy October afternoon, 1982, Badger Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin packed. The University of Wisconsin is playing the Michigan State Spartans, 60,000 die hard badgers are there to support their team, but it doesn’t go well. They get whooped, smashed, ground into powder. But the amazing thing about that day is, as that game is taking place and the home team is getting beaten, every so often the Wisconsin fans would cheer and holler and happiness. And those who were out of time are going, “Are these people nuts? Your team’s getting whooped, beat up on.” Until everybody learned that 70 miles away, the Milwaukee Brewers were beating the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the 1982 World Series, and half the crowd at Badger Stadium were listening in on a transistor. And so their happiness wasn’t tied to the immediate circumstances. They were tuned in another frequency. There was better news somewhere else.
This is a tough, troubled world. It’s not easy to be a Christian. It’s not easy to be an evangelist and an ambassador for Jesus Christ behind enemy lines, but that’s what we’re called to be. He who has the key has opened the door and he wants us to persevere and keep his word and not just keep it to ourselves, but give it to others in the knowledge that indeed he will make our enemies our friends, his elect will be saved, his kingdom will be built. And when the time comes, the church will be called home. And you and I will be given a fixed abode in God’s presence forever.
And we’ll be able to truly sing that old spiritual, we shall not be moved. But until then, we better be listening on another frequency. We better be listening to the master who sits on high, who continues to give us our orders, day-by-day. That makes all the difference, that helps you to reread and revisit your immediate circumstances.
Let’s pray. Father, we thank you for this time and your word this morning. Thank you for this great letter to the Church of Philadelphia, the smallest church, the smallest city, but they were given the greatest opportunity and it looks like they embraced it because success has nothing to do with the size of a church, but it is to do with the size of its faith and the size of its savior. Oh God, make us a big church in the sense that we are people who have large faith and ambitious plans for the kingdom, for this age of the church, make us faithful witnesses, surprise us with surprising conversions. Lord, help us to live in the light of that coming tribulation and the wrath that would be poured out on this world. The sun is setting. Help us to be in the harvest field until Jesus calls us up and calls us out.
And we look forward to that day when you’ll plant our feet in your presence and we will be part of that unshakable kingdom. And these things we ask and pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.