Qualifying the Called 9-9-18
Revelation 3:7-9 Lesson 14
Good morning everybody. Let’s take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 3, and verse 7. The title of our message is Qualifying the Called. We continue to move through the Book of Revelation. In our first study together we sort of covered the introduction, the background of the book. From there we moved through what’s called the prologue, verses 1-8 of chapter 1. And then we moved into the first major section of the book where John is told to write down the things that he has seen, which he has done in chapter 1: the vision of the glorified Christ. From there he’s told to write down the things that are which is the section that we’ve been working our way through, chapters 2 and 3, seven letters to seven literal churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).
If Jesus wrote a letter to your church what would it say? John, of course, is on Patmos relaying the vision of Christ to those seven churches. Each letter has a basic templet that’s got about eight parts to it; that’s a good pattern and that’s a pattern that we’re using as we study each letter. We’ve seen Christ’s words to Ephesus, the loveless church, to Smyrna, the persecuted church, to Pergamum, the compromised church, to Thyatira, the corrupt church, to Sardis, the dead church, and you’re saying my goodness, isn’t there any good news in here at all? Well we come to Philadelphia, chapter verses 7-13, the missionary church. In fact, I would say this, this is probably the high water mark of these seven churches.
Here is the outline that we’re going to use as we take a look at this church at Philadelphia; we’re making it only through verses 7-9 this morning and likely completing the church at Philadelphia next week. Notice first of all the destination, take a look, if you could, at Revelation 3:7, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:” The angel, as we’ve tried to maintain, is the messenger or the pastor of each church. This church is located in Philadelphia, now don’t think Liberty Bell or anything like that, this is an area about thirty-eight miles southeast of Sardis. It had a chief deity there in that particular part of the world called Dionysius, the god of wine. And maybe that’s how they got the designation “brotherly love,” they were so drunk they could look past each other’s faults. Phileo, as you know, is a Greek word for love; adelphos means brother, you put the two together it’s the city of brotherly love. That was sort of the climate that is addressed here and there is a functioning church within that area.
As you look at the second part of verse 7 Jesus does here what He does with all of these churches, he describes himself. It says, “He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this.” Jesus, as He typically does, grabs imagery about Himself already revealed in chapter 1 and he highlights selective pieces for the good of that church based on their own circumstances.
Notice how Jesus describes Himself here in verse 7. Four ways, number one, Jesus is “holy.” What exactly does that mean? It means He is separate and apart from His creation. Chapter 1 and verse 14 you’ll recall, Jesus was described, “His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow;” speaking of His perfection, speaking of His moral purity. And of course, this is the dominant attribute of God, God’s holiness. God is gracious, God is loving, all of that is for sure but it is very interesting that when the angels stand round about God’s throne what do they say day and night? “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” In fact, it says that in this very book, Revelation 4:8. [Revelation 4:8, “And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.’”]
That has roots going all the way back to Isaiah 6, verse 3. [Isaiah 6:3, “And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”] This is what this Seraphim, a certain category of angels say as they lead worship. They attract attention to His holiness. It’s interesting to me that they don’t say grace, grace, grace is the Lord God Almighty, and He is gracious; love, love, love is the Lord God Almighty, we know that God is love. But His dominant attribute is holiness, a standard that’s so pure that sin in His presence must be punished. And as God is we are to be in terms of our moral character.
This is why Old Testament and New Testament says “Be ye holy, for the Lord your God is holy.” This is the dominant expectation of God for His people. First of all they are to be made holy positionally by trusting in what Christ has done in their place. That’s the only way to gain holiness as far as God is concerned. And then we are to grow up in Christ where we begin to imitate the character of God and we start to begin to see holiness, purity in our daily lives as we live under the resources of God. Why live that way? Because this is who God is; this is how He has revealed Himself.
Not only is He holy, He’s also 100% true; the Greek word here for true is alēthinos, in some places you’ll find the word alēthia, it’s the idea of truth, veracity, 100% reliability, no double speak, no sort of darkened thoughts or understanding, it’s 100% truth. That’s who Jesus is. People today are looking for truth and they’re not finding it because they’re looking in the wrong source. Only in Jesus Christ is truth available. After all, Jesus said in John 14:6, another book that the Apostle John recorded, where He recorded Jesus as saying about sixty years earlier, “I am the way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me.” [John 14:6] Notice the definite article in front of each of those Scriptures.
Jesus IS the truth. We’re living in a culture today that doesn’t even acknowledge that truth exists. You might remember what Jesus said to Pilate back in John 18:37. He said I have come into the world to testify to the truth. [John 18:37, “Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?” Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”’]
What did Pilate say to Him? What is truth, sort of giving a flippant answer back; you’re interested in truth, we don’t even know what truth is. Postmodern culture, fallen culture denies the reality of truth and yet who is Jesus? He is true, He’s all about truth. Well, if that were true and it is true then why don’t more people gravitate towards Jesus Christ? Well, to quote that great theologian, Jack Nicholson in one of his movies, says you can’t handle the truth. I mean, truth, when you think about it is somewhat painful because it’s like looking at a mirror which gives you an accurate reflection of reality. Reality is very difficult for people; we prefer to live in a mirage.
And yet the closer you get to Jesus Christ the closer you get to truth in all areas. The searchlight of truth comes into our lives and Jesus says you need to align your life consistent with Me, receive My grace and grow up in Me. And that’s a difficult process for us because we like to think that we’ve got it all figured out and we’ve got it all together on our own. Well an advent of truth tells us that is not true and yet this is a realization we all have to come to because Jesus is not only holy, but He is also true.
Now you’ll notice also what it says here, His third way of describing Himself, “He holds” present tense, “the key of David.” Now according to our belief system we believe that the Davidic reign, where Jesus will reign from Jerusalem on David’s throne is not something that’s happening now. As you go to the far right of the screen you’ll see that that will happen following the second coming when He will establish His one thousand year reign; we call that the Davidic reign of Christ yet future. And yet there are many today within evangelicalism that will argue that we are in the Davidic reign now; we’re in the Davidic kingdom now they’ll tell us. Why do they say that? They build much of their doctrine on this idea here that Jesus holds the key of David.
One of my professors, Dr. Darrell Bock in his Progressive Dispensationalism believes that we are sort of in an already form of the Davidic kingdom and he bases it largely on Revelation 3:7. He says, “The rule is extended from the Father to the disciple through the Son, the one who in Revelation 3:7 says he has the key of David. Here Jesus refers to Himself as ‘the one who’ has the key of David, a phrase that contains a present participle” and it does by the way, “but one who has; this is currently held Davidic authority.”
“The rule is extended from the Father to the disciple through the Son, the one who in Revelation 3:7 says he has ‘the key of David.’. . . Here Jesus refers to himself as ‘the one who has the key of David,’ a phrase that contains a present participle . . . ‘the one who has.’ This is currently held Davidic authority.” [Darrell L. Bock, “The Reign of the Lord Christ,” in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, ed. Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 51, 62.] This sort of is taught in many, many places today by many, many pastors, professors, theologians, we’re in the Davidic reign now. Jesus is on David’s throne now. Why would they think that? Because He is holding the key of David.
Let me just sort of give you a response to that; these are the kinds of issues that we’re tackling on Wednesday night as we look at the subject of the Kingdom. This is some of the fun that you’re missing out on if you haven’t been tracking with our study. First of all, there is a big difference between authority to enter a reality and the actual presence of that reality. Those are two different things. For example, I could give my daughter the keys to the car (which I won’t be doing by the way, until she gets a certain age, she’s got a little ways to go on that) but she’s got the keys, she’s got the authority to enter. That should not be confused with actually entering the car itself.
When Jesus says He holds the key of David it doesn’t mean He’s reigning on David’s throne. It doesn’t mean we’re in the millennial kingdom now. What it means is He has the authority to grant citizenship to people to come into that kingdom once that kingdom is established on planet earth. Most people believe that what’s being referenced here is Isaiah 22:22, which says, “Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open.” This is a reference to Eliakim in the Old Testament who had the key to enter into the treasure of Hezekiah. But just because he held the key to enter the treasure doesn’t mean he was actually in the vault itself. There’s a difference between being granted the authority to enter and access versus the establishment of the reality itself.
For example, over in Matthew 16:19 we read these words: Jesus says to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom ….” And certainly Peter used those keys because he preached the gospel to the first Jews in the church age, Acts 2, and a bunch of them got saved. Then he used the keys a second time, or he preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household, the first Gentiles in the age of the church and they got saved. And so what happened to those three thousand Jews, Acts 2? What happened to Cornelius and his household, Acts 16:19, they became heirs of the coming kingdom at that point.
In fact, of people such as them and even people like ourselves it is said of us, for our citizenship is where? In heaven, that’s our identity, that’s where we’re going. Does that mean we’re in heaven now. I don’t think so, even in this wonderful sanctified environment we don’t look very heavenly, do we? We’re certainly not in glorification yet. Jesus was not at all saying that the kingdom has started because He had the keys. What He was saying is I have the ability to open the door and to grant entrance into that kingdom once it comes. But until it comes you are an heir of the coming kingdom, you are a citizen of that coming kingdom. You continue to live in Satan’s turf, in Satan’s world, in the devil’s world as an heir of the coming King and kingdom and that’s why our lives on this earth seem very peculiar to the unsaved because we march according to a different drumbeat, according to the values of the coming kingdom that I will enter into even though that kingdom is not yet here.
I mean, how could the kingdom be here when down in verses 11 and 12 he starts talking about all of these future realities. [Revelation 3:11] “I am coming quickly,” that’s future, isn’t it, “hold fast to what you have so that no one will take your crown.” The rewarding of the crown is yet future. Verse 12, “’He who overcomes, I will” future tense, “make him a pillar in the temple of My God,” is that happening now? No, that’s something yet future. “… and he will not go out from it anymore; and 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 My new name” on him as well.
It’s talking about an eternal city which hasn’t even descended to the earth yet. Why is that? Because the earth is not fit for that heavenly city to arrive; the earth has to be remade, it has to be changed, it has to be destroyed by fire. And once the earth is remade the way God originally designed it, before sin entered the world, then that heavenly city, which I believe exists right now as I’m speaking, will descend into its proper abode because that abode will be fit for that city. You see, these are all future realities.
What do we have the power to do, then, as we turn this key? Jesus holds the key; Jesus gave the key to Peter. We have the ability to invite people, through evangelism, into this coming kingdom, which is yet future. You can become an heir, a citizen, an inheritor of this coming kingdom which partially means you’ll stick out like a sore thumb in this life because this world is Satan’s kingdom operating by Satan’s drumbeat and the further you progress with the Lord in progressive sanctification the more you don’t imitate the values of this world but you imitate the values of the world to come. So all of these things, when properly understood, is not at all saying that we’re in the kingdom. It’s saying that we are heirs of this coming kingdom. Entrance and the power to enter is not the same thing as that reality coming to the earth.
I think Robert Thomas, in his Revelation Commentary has it right on this. He says of this verse, “As the root and offspring of David (cf. Rev. 5:5; 22:16), Christ in the fullest sense controls the entrance to David’s house, which ultimately… “which ultimately refers to the Messianic kingdom. . . . He is the genuine Messiah, and in the coming reign of glory His power to open the door to His own and close it to the self-styled ‘children of the kingdom’ is established.” [Rev. 3:7 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1–7: An Exegetical Commentary, ed. Kenneth Barker (Chicago: Moody, 1992), 275.]
What is Jesus doing today? He’s not building His kingdom, He’s not setting up His kingdom. We are not in the kingdom. He is in the business through evangelism as He works through the church of opening the door for people to enter the kingdom, become citizens of the kingdom once it fully materializes. You see, you can’t build your whole theology on Revelation 3:7. You’ve got to look at the context of those verses and the totality of what God says concerning this coming kingdom.
By the way, where is Jesus right now? He’s in heaven. How do I know that? Well John, Revelation 4:1, when we get there is going to be invited up to where? Heaven. [Revelation 4:1, “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in ‘heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.’”] And he’s going to see things yet to come. And who’s one of the entities that he meets up there in heaven, Revelation 5:6 says I saw a Lamb looking as if it had been slain. [Revelation 5:6, “And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.”]
Jesus today, and it’s been this way ever since the ascension, is not on the earth, He is in heaven. Now he is very active in heaven, He is functioning as high priest after the order of Melchizedek. But He is not reigning as Davidic king. If He was reigning as Davidic king then all of the drive by shootings and wars and all of the famines and pestilences that go wrong in the world will be subdued in an instant. That’s not happening today because we’re living in the devil’s world as we represent alien values in the devil’s world.
You see, when the kingdom comes it’ll be upon the earth. Zechariah 14:9 says and the LORD will be king in that day over all the earth. [Zechariah 14:9, “And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one.”]
Isaiah 11:4 says in that day He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth.” [Isaiah 11:4, “But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.”] And even beyond that once the kingdom is established the enemies of God are going to be subdued. You’re not going to have rebellion, you’re not going to have rival thoughts, you’re not going to have some board somewhere out loading God.
Psalm 110:1 says of that future time period, “A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’” So Jesus is at the right hand of God while His enemies are not of His footstool. But once the kingdom comes He descends from heaven back to the earth and His enemies are made His footstool and even the devil himself is bound in the abyss for a thousand years.
This is not the kingdom age today, folks. If this were the kingdom age then I’m sort of sorry I signed up for the whole thing to begin with because I’m greatly disappointed. This is a wonderful age when God is at work but it is never to be confused with the Davidic kingdom and Davidic reign of Jesus Christ. How could God’s enemies be subdued when verse 9 talks about how this little church is being harassed by a synagogue of who? Satan! And he does begin to reveal the time period when their enemies will be subdued but he talks about that as if it were a future reality.
Verse 9 says, “I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie– I will” see the future tense there, “I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.” He keeps saying “I will.” Your enemies are not subdued now but I will subdue them; that’s really the third clue why this could not be the kingdom even though Jesus today holds the keys of the kingdom, entrance into the kingdom and is inviting men and women into citizenship of the coming kingdom.
So Jesus is holy, He is true, He holds the key of David, and He also authoritatively opens and closes doors. Isn’t that interesting. Verse 7, it says of Him, “who opens and no one shuts, and who shuts and no one opens, says this.”. [Revelation 3:7, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this.”]
Why does He describe Himself this way? Because this little church at Philadelphia, something has been dropped into their lap; it’s going to start to be described in verse 8, it’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity that is before them, it is not in front of the other Christians but it’s right there and the reason they have it is because the Lord opened the door for the opportunity and as long as that door is opened by God’s authoritative decree Satan himself, even the synagogue of Satan that we’ll talk about in a minute, can’t shut that door.
See, we often times complain, Lord, I need to open doors, I need some opportunities. I mean why is it that I never get an opportunity to share my faith with such and such a person. What we need to start doing instead of complaining is we need to start asking God to open a door, open the door of conversation, open the door of opportunity because He is the One that authoritatively holds those keys and He is the one, actually, that is in charge of ministry type opportunities. And the Church at Philadelphia has a massive door right in front of them that Jesus wants to make them aware of so He calls Himself the one who authoritatively opens doors. This door exists because I opened it for you. So Christ is holy, He is true, He holds the key of David, and He is the one that authoritatively opens and closes doors.
Now we move into verses 8 and 9 he begins to commend this church as He does all the churches except Laodicea. But notice how Christ starts off with each church; He begins to notice or point out the things that they’re doing correctly. Take a look at verse 8. Jesus says, “’I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” Notice how Jesus begins here, “I know,” I know exactly what’s happening in your life, I know exactly what’s happening in your church. Why is that? Because He is the head of the church. He has omniscience into what is happening beneath the veneer.
Over in John 2, verses 24-25 it says this: “But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them,” did you know that, that Jesus Christ didn’t trust Himself for every person that came along. Why is that? “… for He knew all men,  and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” This person I’ll entrust myself to, this person I won’t Jesus says. Why is that? Because He knew those who were coming to Him with superficial motives, coming to Him trying to get Him into their program rather than people surrendering to the divine program. Jesus didn’t have to wait for folks to pass a trial period; He knew exactly what was in people and consequently He could decide to trust Himself to one and not the other.
So He says “I know.” He also says “I know your deeds,” the Greek word there is ergon, and it has somewhat surprised me as we’ve moved through these chapters how focused Jesus is on good deeds. You know, as Protestant Christians we preach against good deeds, rightfully so because good deeds don’t save anybody. And we conveniently leave out from Ephesians 3:8-9 verse 10 which talks about good deeds or good works coming forth in the life of not an unsaved person but a saved person. [Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”]
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” In other words, not only was our salvation in the mind of God in eternity past but so would the things that He would do through us as saved Christians. This is why Jesus is focused so much on good deeds, good works. In fact, the kind of works that we do, including our speech, is largely an indicator of who we are. Luke 6:45 says, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil;” and then there’s this very convicting part of this verse that I wish was not in here, it says, “for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
Matthew 12:34 says, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” Why be focused on good deeds and good speech? Because they are merely a reflection of the things happening in our heart. If we have the new nature and we say we’re growing in Christ Jesus, which we all should be doing, then what will accompany that is natural good deeds, good works, done under His power and for His glory. And my speech ought to be different because as the late Adrian Rogers put it, what comes up in the bucket was down in the well.
In other words, if constant sarcasm, derision, anger, antagonism is constantly coming forth from my lips that’s an indicator of what is really happening inside of my heart. If my heart has been changed and I am learning more and more to say no as a Christian to the old nature and live according to the new nature, then there ought to be some sort of reflection of that, not to determine whether we’re saved or not, but to determine whether we’re actually growing in Christ.
So Jesus here tells Philadelphia “I know your deeds.” And He also says here in verse 8, “Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut.” Now I found this imagery of the open door very… there’s actually a church in Los Angeles, if I remember right, The Church of the Open Door, pastored if I remember right by J. Vernon McGee. What a great name for a church… in Los Angeles! I mean, if any part of the world needs evangelism I think Los Angeles would be on my top ten list… Amen!
“Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut,” now you track this imagery of the open door and it refers to evangelistic opportunities. Paul frequently spoke of his evangelistic opportunities as an open door. 2 Corinthians 2:12 says, “Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord,” isn’t that interesting. Paul went to his assignment and he waited for the Lord to open the right door, to start the right conversations, for the right ministry opportunities.
See, some of us are so eager to get out there and do great things for the Lord we haven’t asked Him to open the door yet. Colossians 4:3, Paul says this: “praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned;” I want to talk about the things of God Paul says, so he says pray for me, and pray “that God will open” a door where I can express the things that are already in my heart.
See, long before I came to Sugar Land Bible Church many, many times I prayed, long before I knew such a church existed long before I even arrived in Houston, I prayed Lord, just send me to where I’m supposed to be, and just create the right circumstances and just open the right door that I might glorify You in my fullness. That was a regular prayer request that I had unto the Lord. And I remember when the great Charles Stanley came to our school to lecture, I wasn’t on campus at that time but I’ve heard recordings of it, he almost started a revival on our campus by telling seminary students you’ve got get alone with the Lord and you’ve got to ask Him to open the right door for you, wherever it is, so that you might be able to express all of the things that God is doing in your heart.
So I just began to pray for just the right ministry door to open. And here I am today. I would ask you this: is that part of your prayer life? Are we so busy going out trying to do things through the human flesh and human works and not seeing any results that we never really ask the Lord to open the right door of opportunity. Maybe it’s a career door, a job door, an evangelistic door. I mean, why wouldn’t we ask Jesus for those things since He is, present participle, not orchestrating the kingdom but He is holding the key of David which grants entrance.
Over in 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 Paul talks about this door again. He says, “But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost;” well why is that Paul,  “for a wide door for effective service has opened to me,” in other words, I’m staying here in Ephesus because of something God has done, He’s opened the door, and look at this—“and there are many adversaries.” Well, wait a minute, I thought when the Lord opened the door it was supposed to be easy street. Right? No headaches, no problems, no setbacks. See, your average Christian today moves out into an area they think God has for them and they encounter the first opposition and they say well, I must be going the wrong way. Well here’s the deal folks, if you’re going the wrong way God is big enough to grab you and set you on the right way. You’ve got to start trusting Him a little bit. Amen!
We’re all so worried we’re going to go the wrong direction. Why are you so worried about that, God is big enough to grab you and put you in the right direction, isn’t He. And then we think that when we’re going down paths that God has opened to us, oh no, I’m getting some pushback, I guess God hasn’t opened this door for me. When Paul says I’m sticking around here in Ephesus because I’ve got a door here that the Lord opened for me but simultaneously I’ve got many adversaries. The little church at Philadelphia had a door, verse 8, but it doesn’t take away the opposition, the synagogue of Satan who was persecuting them, verse 9.
But when you start to go through the door you begin to accept by faith that God is the one who opened this, only God can close it, and I can’t determine my right barometer, or my right place on the map, or my compass based on push back; I think push back is normal in the work of God. I mean, is Satan going to just sit back and say well, let them do whatever they want. Let them go out there and do damage to the kingdom of darkness, I won’t bother them. Of course Satan is not going to do that; he’s going to try to create problems, discourage any way he can. But you should not interpret that opposition as somehow that door is not open. You need to stay with the task. Stick with it. Paul continued to stick with it despite being in Ephesus with many adversaries because he was convinced that the Lord had opened a door for him.
He makes a statement here in verse 8 and he says, “because.” “I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no man can shut, because” have you ever wondered that? I’ve been wondering this my whole life. Why does one Christian get one door and another Christian gets a different door? Why does God use some people and not others? Why do doors seem to almost miraculously open for some people but not other people? Well, after the word “because” hoti in the Greek, he gives you three reasons for that.
There are three reasons why Philadelphia had a door that Ephesus didn’t have, that Smyrna didn’t have, that Pergamum didn’t have, that Thyatira didn’t have, that Sardis didn’t have, that Laodicea didn’t have. None of those other churches had this door, this little group here had the door and I want to know why? And Jesus said I’m glad you asked the question, here are three reasons. Number 1, and this is the shocker, you have little power. How do you like that? I picked the church with the least amount of power and opened the door for them. The church with the big budget, the church with the big numbers, the church with all the accolades, the church with all the reputation, no door for them but this little group over here, the door is opened.
In other words, your qualified on the basis of your lack of qualifications. And study this out in the Bible, you’ll see this pattern over and over again. God calls the least likely person. He called Moses; what did Moses say, Exodus 4:10, “Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’” What are You messing around with me, Lord, I’m not an orator. I mean, who am I to go tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.
Why did God pick Gideon in the Book of Judges. He said to him, O Lord,” this is Gideon speaking to God, “how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh and I’m the youngest in my father’s house.” I’m in the wrong tribe, I’m in the wrong clan, I’m in the wrong family, I’m even the least person in my whole family, what are you bothering me for, with a calling? [Judges 6:15, “He said to Him, ‘O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.’”]
How about Jeremiah 1:6, Jeremiah, the great prophet, wrote a whole book in our canonical Old Testament that spans 51 or 52 chapters. What did he say when he was called? [Jeremiah 1:6] “‘Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth.’” I’m just a kid.
Or how about the disciples, do you think those guys really had it together? In Acts 4:13 they were called uneducated and untrained men. [Acts 4:13, “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”] And yet they, that’s the Sadducees, were amazed and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. They were qualified because they were with Jesus. The problem with people that know that they’re qualified and think they’re qualified is they don’t have a tendency to rely upon the Lord. They already have their own plans, their own ambitions, their own strategies. And as I had a youth pastor that told me once, “you want to make God laugh, show Him your plans.”
1 Corinthians 1:26-28 says, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;  but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,  and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are.” What do you have to do to be called by God? You’ve got to be a nobody. God is in the business of taking a nobody and making him a somebody. But the problem is the somebody doesn’t realize they’re a nobody so God goes ahead and bypasses them and picks the person that knows they’re a nobody. Now that’ll preach… Amen! [Laughter]
I like how Grant Jeffries puts it, he says, “In Gideon’s army” and watch how God deals with Gideon’s army, he develops a strategy where he dismisses the crowd, the strongest ones leave. Grant Jeffrey writes: In God’s army “God delights to accomplish His great victories with a small remnant.” Well why is that? “Then it will be obvious to all that it is God who has won the victory, not man.”
The problem with the human instrument is the human instrument gets in the way of the glory that should be going to God. And we know that God, Isaiah 42:8, will not share His glory with another. [Isaiah 42:8, “”I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.”] So how does God solve this problem of the human instrument getting in the way of His glory? He picks the least qualified person, where the world says there’s no way that could be accomplished by him (or her). And beyond that the person that realizes that they’re unqualified is not going to come to God demanding their own way; they’re just going to be dependent on Him, usable.
Charles Ryrie, in the Ryrie Study Bible says this: “Not because of spiritual weakness but because of the few believers in the church.” What was the church of Philadelphia, a little tiny church, probably wouldn’t even appear on the map of most of our church gurus today and yet Jesus acknowledges their small size. He says, “You have a little” which is the Greek word micros, meaning micro, microscope, “You have a little power,” the word for power is dunamis, where we get the word dynamite, dynamic. You don’t have a lot of dynamite on your side. And people say well, if we pick a pastor he’s got to be dynamic. That’s not who Christ picked. He didn’t pick the dynamic person; He picked the person that had little dynamic quality, He picked little Philadelphia. That’s why I’ve entitled this sermon God Does Not Call the Qualified, Rather He Qualifies the Called. What you need is the calling of God. What you need is to be as the disciples were with Christ, everything else God will take care of.
There’s another reason why this little church had this opportunity; they have kept His Word. What does this mean? They were faithful with the little things. Luke 16:10 says, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” You wonder why there’s not more opportunities and doorways set before you? Let me ask you a question; are you faithful with the little tiny things God has given you to do today? Lord, I want to evangelize and start a crusade and I want tens of thousands of people to come to know Christ through this crusade. Great, have you gone across the street or next door and shared your faith with your neighbor? Or how about that little kid that comes over and plays with your daughter, have you shared your faith with them. Well, Lord, I’m destined for bigger things than that. Well, God says then the opportunity is not going to go to you, it’s going to go to someone else.
You know, people are living in an apartment, I want my own house. You know what the best advice I could ever give you on that? Treat that apartment as if it were your house, don’t take advantage of the fact that the house is not yours and that you’re a renter and you could treat the house any way you want because you might be able to fool everybody but God looks at that and maybe if you’re faithful with that God will put you in your own house. Lord, I want to own my own business. How are you at being faithful in the business God has put you in that belongs to somebody else? If you can’t be faithful there how can you be trusted with greater things?
See, everybody wants to start at the top and that’s never how it works in God. Joseph did not wake up one day as second in command in Egypt. You study the life of Joseph and he was faithful, faithful, faithful, no matter where he was, despite all kinds of difficult opposition. He was even faithful with another man’s wife; (that’s not going to sell well on the soap operas, is it)? And God one day, because of proven character put him in charge of the second in command in Egypt.
Well, what about David, you know, when Samuel came to anoint the next king and Jesse brought out the kids he didn’t even bring out David. Finally Samuel said well there’s got to be someone else here because none of these guys fit the bill. Well, there’s this little kid in the back. What’s he doing? Do you remember? He was tending the sheep, he was taking out the garbage, he was cleaning up the mess. I mean, he was doing things that were so menial and yet that was God’s man. Why? Because if you’re faithful with the very little thing God can trust you with greater things.
And Philadelphia had also not denied the name of Jesus Christ. I can’t tell you how important the name of Jesus Christ is. Salvation is found, Acts 4:12, in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” I mean, you compromise on that, how in the world can God trust you with anything else? And of course we’re living in a world today where everybody says you can be saved through your own path. Oprah Winfrey says that; she says there are many, many paths to what you call God. What is she saying? The name of Jesus Christ is not that big a deal because you can be saved the Christian route, that’s fine, but there’s other people that don’t know Christ out there and they can be saved their own way. This comes into Christianity through inclusivism where emergent church leaders are telling people to remain as new converts within their Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish context. Where they’re saying things like this: evangelism or missions for me is no longer persuading people to believe what I believe; it’s all about encountering spirituality form each other. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Buddhist, it doesn’t matter if you’re Muslim, it doesn’t matter what you are as long as you’re sincere the name of Christ really isn’t that big a deal, that’s the culture, that’s the Oprah Winfrey spirituality and as God is my witness this is what is happening within the church more and more.
Let me tell you something; you throw out the exclusivity of Jesus Christ there’s no reason to send missionaries any more, is there, if people are saved by just being sincere, whether they know the name of Jesus or not. What’s the whole point in translating the Bibles into the dialects of every culture, including those unreached people groups of the 1040 window if the name of Jesus Christ is not that important? I mean, are you denying the name of Christ when you’re in a conversation with someone and they’re talking about their path to spirituality? Are you the one that says well Jesus said you’ve got to come through Him and there is no other name? Are you going to stand up and stick out like that, to friends and family and lost people? I’m forced all the time to water this down because I know I’m going to get some strange looks but largely how I’m handling this issue is contingent upon future opportunities that God will give.
You know, this idea that youth have, we had it when we were young at one point, I’m just going to go out there and sow a few wild oats, then I’ll get serious about God later. Can I tell you that is completely contrary to the way God thinks and the way God promotes? Is that want Daniel and his three friends did? No, they took a stand as teenagers against Nebuchadnezzar right out of the gate. And what did God do? He kept promoting, promoting, promoting, promoting, all the way through the Book of Daniel, as we have studied. Is your life stale, does it lack direction, does it lack opportunity? I would simply ask you to evaluate decisions that you have made and are currently making.
Philadelphia, this micros church, is given this huge doorway of opportunity in spite of the fact that they hardly had the power to go through the door. The door is open buy many persecutors will tell us, John, could you [can’t understand word] about these persecutors. Glad you asked. Revelation 3:9, “Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie, I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.”
Look at this expression here, “synagogue of Satan,” doesn’t that strike you as kind of odd? I mean isn’t a synagogue a religious term? If it’s religious then how could Satan be involved in it. Let me tell you something, beloved, Satan loves religion. Satan traffics in religion all the time. If he can get you caught up in religion he’ll do whatever he has to do to get you involved in that. Who did Christ have the most trouble with in His ministry? The religious crowd! The religious Pharisaical stone-throwing crowd, that’s who Christ had trouble with. That’s why Jesus called them in John 8:44, “You are of your father, the devil.”
What is religion? Man trying to do a series of good works to get to God. God is not the orchestrater of religion; He’s the orchestrater of grace. And He mentions this group of “the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie,” why would He say that? Because what pleases God is not national heritage, Judaism, not circumcision of the skin but circumcision of the heart.
Now I am a Zionist, I am pro Israel, I believe God has a work for Israel, but here’s the deal: none of that is going to happen until Israel is in faith. God is not in the business of bypassing people or working with people who bypass being born again. You don’t have standing before God because you’re Jewish. You don’t have standing before God because you’re a Baptist. You don’t have standing before God because you’re an American. You have standing before God because your heart has been circumcised through the new birth. Born again Christianity is not a denomination within Christendom. It’s the only kind of Christian there is. That’s what Jesus told Nicodemus in His conversation with Nicodemus, Nic at night, “you must be born again.”
Matthew 3:9 teaches the same thing. Don’t say to yourselves we have Abraham as our father; I say to you that from these stones God could raise up children of Abraham. [Matthew 3:9, “and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.”] Ethnicity I’m not impressed with; what I’m impressed with is the new nature. And we know prophetically that Israel will receive that and it’s going to take the perils of the tribulation period to bring them to that realization, that they need to trust in Christ.
Nobody is going to get into heaven based on what their grandparents said or did, or what their parents said or did. It’s an individual relationship with God, trusting in Christ, receiving the new birth, regeneration, the impartation of divine life. That’s the only kind of Christian there is and the only such person that God will recognize. These people call themselves Jews, they’re not even Jews because they are far from Me because they’ve never been born spiritually.
It’s very interesting that what Jesus says to Philadelphia about this group, “I will cause them,” that’s the synagogue of Satan. “I will make them,” what is he talking about? He’s talking about a time in history is coming where those that are persecuting you, those that look like the upper hand are actually… what does it say? Are going to come and bow down, that’s the same word proskuneō, which is used to describe the worship of God in the Book of Revelation. Revelation 4:10 [Revelation 4:10, “the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,”] I’m going to make these people that are persecuting you come and bow down at your feet. Obviously this is not happening today because we’re not in the kingdom now, even though Jesus has the key of the kingdom, because the enemies of God are not bowing down at the feet of God’s people. But once he returns to the earth, establishes His kingdom, fulfills Psalm 110:1-2 where His enemies will become like His footstool, then this prophecy will be fulfilled. [Psalm 110:1-2, “The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”  The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Your enemies.”]
Theologians sometimes call this the doctrine of reversal. What is that saying? Those in this life that look like they have the upper hand, those in this life that look like they’re winning, those in this life that look like they are winning in their war against God’s people. In the next life everything is reversed. I mean, look at the story of Lazarus and the rich man, how in this life the poor man was wanting just for a few pieces of food to fall from the rich man’s table. And it looked like the rich man had the upper hand and Lazarus was being oppressed and how fast in the next life everything changed. It was the opposite; the rich man in unbelief is in Hades and torment and Lazarus is in Abraham’s bosom, the doctrine of reversal. How fast circumstances change once the eternal realm begins, once the kingdom of God starts.
This is why Psalm 73:3 tells us not to be envious of the arrogant. Psalm 73:3 says, “For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Ever felt that way? You know, Lord, I’m trying to follow You and I’m being pushed down all the time and yet the people that cheat on their taxes, cheat in school, are unethical in the business world, they seem to always get promoted. They seem to always have the most money, they seem to always live in the nicest areas and the neighborhoods. What’s the deal Lord? The Psalmist says, “For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
He goes on like this for several verses, just complaining. But then verse 17 says, “Until,” that’s the turning point. Psalm 73:17, “Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived there end.” Until I got a glimpse of the eternal realm and I saw the doctrine of reversal at work, and you know what, I stopped envying the arrogant and the wicked. In a certain sense I felt sorry for them because once the doctrine of reversal takes root you’re moving off into eternity. The upper hand of the wicked today is just taxing; as the Book of James says it’s like mist that appears for a little while and then disappears.
“Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews and are not, I will make them come and bow down at your feet,” and one other thing he says to them, “I will make them know that I have loved you.” See, the world today, the way it treats Christians, it doesn’t even seem to understand that God is on our side. In fact, if you tell them that God is on our side you get laughed at. John 16:2 says, “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.” People attack Christianity and the Bible because they don’t see God in it at all; they think it’s something evil or wicked. So the Lord says I’m going to resolve this issue by not only making them, your enemies, come down and bow down at your feet but they’re actually going to have to acknowledge that I’m with you and I’m on your side. I mean, what an amazing set of verses related to commending this church and revealing their future.
Now did you catch my outline here? Rebuke, do you see any verse entries for that? Consequences for sin, do you see any verse entries for that? What Christ has done to the church of Philadelphia is He has skipped over those sections that He commonly employs to address carnality in the church. You might recall He did the exact same thing with the church at Smyrna, the second church. Church two and church six receive no rebuke; every other church gets a rebuke; not church two and not church six, not Smyrna and not Philadelphia. And you say well, that’s very interesting, what do they have in common? Here’s what they have in common: both of them are being persecuted by the synagogue of Satan, unbelieving Jews. What’s the point? The point is a persecuted church is a pure church. See, when you’re under persecution and you’re literally depending upon God from moment to moment the opportunity for sin to slip into your life those opportunities start to become null and void, slim and none, and slim just left town.
What does Jesus tell the church at Laodicea? The opposite, isn’t it? In Revelation 3:17-18 is saying “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and Jesus tell them,  “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich,” what is “gold refined in the fire?” It’s tribulation. There’s a reference to that in 1 Peter 1:6-7. [1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,  so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”]
You know what you need Laodicea so you can be like Philadelphia and Smyrna? You need a problem. You need a difficulty, you need a frustration, you need someone to come against you, you need a trial, you need a valley, because as long as you’re kind of smug and complacent you’re not going to depend upon Me. All of this unconfessed sin is entering your life, you’ve forgotten about me so what I’m going to do is I’m going to create so many problems in your life so you can become practically pure so your practical purity matches your positional purity and so that you’re going to have to cry out to Me more frequently in prayer. Does that sound like anybody’s life today? Could it be that the problem in your life right now is simply there because God hasn’t heard from you or me in so long, because prayer is no longer a habit, that He puts a problem in our life where we start to say wow, I need the Lord, I’m going to pray more. That’s kind of a different way of looking at problems, isn’t it.
Why does God want to hear from you? Because He loves you. He wants a relationship with you. And yet we’re so smug, we’re so complacent, we’re so self-confident we think we’ve got everything under control where we hardly ever talk to God and then God says I’ll fix that, I’ll do to you what I did to Laodicea, I will advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, which is a tribulation of some sort. Now Philadelphia didn’t have that problem, they were already under tribulation. See that. Smyrna didn’t have that problem, they were already under tribulation because a persecuted church is a pure church.
You say well, wait a minute pastor, doesn’t talk in here about us escaping the tribulation? In fact, that’s the next verse, isn’t it? Well, we are candidates for trials (little t) but we escape Tribulation (capital T). And you say well I want to know more about that and my answer is you’ve got to come back next week to learn about that.
But you know, you may be here today and you might not even know Christ personally and so our exhortation to you is the gospel, Jesus did the work, He did everything possible to bridge the gap between a holy God, the Father, and fallen humanity; His final word from the cross were “It is finished!” this is a translation of the Greek word tetelestai, paid in full. And He calls us to trust in what He has done in our place. So Christianity is not about cleaning yourself up and coming to Jesus; it’s about coming to Jesus on His terms, faith alone and He does the cleaning process. He’ll positionally make you righteous in a nanosecond before a holy God. And then He’ll give you the resources and the instructions to grow thereby in the grace you have received. But none of these things are possible until a human heart, as it comes under the conviction of the Spirit, trusts in the Savior. Without trust in the Savior all we are is a pathetic mess of depravity mixed with religiosity, which doesn’t save anybody. So if the Holy Spirit has been at work today in your life and your heart, He’s been convicting you by way of your need to have salvation, our exhortation to you is to trust in Christ and Christ alone and receive the salvation that He has for you. You can do it right now as I’m speaking; it’s not a matter of walking an aisle, joining a church, filling out a card, filling out a form, it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where you trust in His provision by itself for salvation. And for those of us that are saved and have been saved we are to continue to walk in the grace of God under the instructions that He has given us, and we’re learning about these instructions as we examine the seven letters to the seven churches.
Shall we pray. Father, we’re grateful for Your Word, we’re grateful for Your truth, we’re grateful for the things that You have revealed to struggling Philadelphia. Make us Philadelphian this week Lord, in our personal lives; bring us to the end of ourselves, recognizing how little power we have but looking to You for the great opportunities that come our way and the strength to walk through those doors which only You can open for us. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said… Amen.