Revelation 016 – Our New Identity

Dr. Andy Woods | Oct 7, 2018 | Revelation 3:11-13 | Revelation

Andy Woods                                                                                                               Our New Identity    10-7-18                                                                                               Revelation 3:11-13                Lesson 16

Let’s take our bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 3, taking a look this morning at verses 11-13.  The title of our message this morning is Our New Identity.  And I want to thank Gabe Morris for teaching on short notice last week, I was not feeling well but obviously I’m doing a little better.  In fact, this last week I traveled to Minnesota and then to Denver to be involved in two conferences, made it back about 1:00 in the morning last night so I cannot guarantee the quality of this morning’s sermon necessarily, but God is faithful.

As you know we’ve been teaching our way through the Book of Revelation, having covered some background issues, having covered chapter 1, which is not just a prologue or an introduction but it’s really the revelation of the glorified Christ.  And from there we moved into the second section of the book, chapters 2 and 3 where John is told to write down the things that are.   And here, as you know, he has been addressing, Jesus through John, seven literal churches in Asia Minor.  John on Patmos, A.D. 95 is receiving this final revelation from Christ and chapters 2 and 3 is His message to His churches.  Each letter fits an eight-part templet which we’re using sort of as a way to organize 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.  You say wasn’t there any good news in this at all?  Well, we’ve been looking at Philadelphia most recently, probably the bright spot in the whole letter, the mission-minded or missionary church.  The destination of the letter, as we’ve said is Philadelphia and Christ has described Himself, verse 7, to this little flock, as holy and true.  He’s actually the one who holds the key to David and He is the one that opens doors and closes doors in terms of opportunities for ministry.  He describes himself this way, holding the keys and opening and closing the doors because this little group had a huge door in front of them that the Lord provided.

He commends them because he’s put before them an open door which no one can shut and though they have little strength they’re going through that door despite ferocious opposition from a group that Christ calls the synagogue of Satan.  And it’s sort of interesting that this church, sort of like the second church we studied, Smyrna, there’s no word of rebuke, there are no consequences for sinful activity mentioned.  Why is that?  Because the persecuted church is the pure church.  If you’re  under persecution, as these folks certainly were, there’s not a lot of room in your life to backslide and things of that nature.  He just moves directly into the exhortation.  He says, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”  [Revelation 3:10]

Now the last sermon that we were together teaching this material I tried to convince you, because I think this is what the Bible teaches, that that verse is a verse of the promise of the rapture.  The Lord Jesus Christ at any moment can return for His church to remove us from this world before that great hour of trial comes upon the world, called the tribulation period which is described in the subsequent section of the Book of Revelation, which we’ll be looking at in depth as we continue    to move through the Book of Revelation.

But from that teaching on the any moment appearance of Christ in the rapture He gives an exhor­tation in verse which is very, very important.  He says, “I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.”  Notice this first expression there, “I am coming quickly;” and you say well come on pastor, what do you mean He’s coming quickly, it’s been 2,000 years; I mean, these words were given 2,000 years ago, how could you say He’s coming quickly? Can’t God tell time like us?

The reality of the situation is the Word when you actually study it in the Greek is tacos, quickly or soon, and many times it’s used as an adverb.  An adverb modifies a verb. So when these events happen they’re going to happen lickety-split; in fact, they’re going to happen so fast, 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that it will be like the twinkling of an eye.  In fact, 1 Corinthians 15 talks about in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.  [1 Corinthians 15:52, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”]  The word “moment” there is translated from the Greek word, ἀτόμῳ, [atomō] where we get the word atom, which is a particle that is so small it can’t  be divided.  That’s the speed in which the rapture will take place.

And tacos is used that way many times in the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament.  I have a few examples of it there from the Book of Isaiah. [Isaiah 13:22: “Her fateful time also will soon come”  Isaiah 51:5: “My righteous is near, My salvation has gone forth, And my arms will judge the peoples; The coastlands will wait upon me, And on My arms they will trust.”

But it can also mean imminency.  In other words, this event of the rapture can take place at any moment.  It can take place before this sermon is over (some of you may be praying for that to happen—(I won’t take it personally).  You say well do you have a sermon application for us from this?  Yeah, here’s my sermon application: as you go through the line today to get food I would eat your dessert first because there may not be time to eat dessert later.  Is that a good sermon application?  I can live with that one.

But I believe this, that the Lord has set up this doctrine of the rapture for every generation. I believe that every generation has been expected to live based on this teaching, that the Lord could come back in their lifetime because prophetically there is no sign that must take place before the rapture can occur.  This is the problem with mid-tirbulationism, post-tribulationalism and all of the tribulationalisms that you feel like you’re in the tribulation trying to understand what all these people are saying.  All of them are putting some kind of sign or… the midtribulationalism,  you ask them can Jesus come back today and they say no, forty-two months of the tribulation period must elapse first.  Post tribulationalists—can Jesus come back today?  No, the seven years of the tribulation period must elapse first, but “comfort one another with these words.”

Only pretribulationalism is fair to the idea of imminency, that it can happen at any moment… ANY moment Jesus can come back for His church.  There is no prophesied event which must take place first.  And I believe that the Holy Spirit has intentionally designed it this way because when you live every single day of your life as if this could be the last one it changes your priorities.  You just live differently, you think differently.  And this is what the doctrine of imminency is supposed to do.

“I am coming quickly” and then He says, “hold fast to what you have.”  One of the things you’ll discover about Bible prophecy is it’s very practical.  A lot of people try to portray it as just pie in the sky stuff that has no relevance to daily life.  But I’m reminded of this quote by my professor and mentor, J. Dwight Pentecost, he writes these words:  “A short time ago, I took occasion to go through the New Testament to mark each reference to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and to observe the use made of that teaching about His coming. I was struck anew with the fact that almost without exception, when the coming of Christ is mentioned in the New Testament, it is followed by an exhortation to godliness and holy living.” [J. Dwight Pentecost, Prophecy for Today, Page 20]

I was sitting in the classroom when he made a similar statement and I really didn’t believe him when he made that statement and I’d also done the study, and you should do the study too.  Every time you’re reading the New Testament and you see a reference to the second coming you’ll always see it linked to daily life, evangelism, holiness, hope, encouragement.  And I believe this is why Satan has worked so hard to remove this doctrine from the church.  This doctrine of the any moment of the appearance of Christ adds an additional stimulation to holy living like few other doctrines I can think of.

As I’ve shared with you before there are many times when I’ve been in conversations with people that begin to get gossipy and I think to myself, you know if the Lord comes back right now He’s going to find me in this conversation and so I’ll either avoid the conversation or change the subject.  You’re sitting around the water cooler at work laughing at the dirty jokes and then you think to yourself as a Christian do I really want the Lord to come back and find me laughing at this dirty joke?  And it does something for your holy living as a Christian, thinking about the any moment return of Jesus Christ.  That’s the practicality of prophecy.  It’s not just about charts and graphs and all of those very interesting things.

There’s a reason why the Lord has given us this truth—to stimulate daily life.  2 Peter 3:10-11 says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”  And people say well Andy, do you believe in global warming?  I guess I do in this sense.  God’s going to take this whole world and burn it up, replace it with a new world.   And most people stop reading right there at the end of verse 10, but then look at verse 11.

Verse 11, “Since all these things” Peter says, “are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be” see the practical nature of this, “in holy conduct and godliness.”  If you know that this world is going to be destroyed with intense heat then why are we still up tight over not being able to find a parking space, someone opening the door and denting our car, the lawn man not mowing the lawn in front of our homes correctly.  I mean, why do those things get under our skin so much since the whole thing is going to burn anyway?  Why don’t we spend our time invested in the only two things that are going to make it from this life into the next?  What are those?  Only two things will survive the burning process: (A) this book, “Because the grass withers and the flower fades but the word of our God abides forever.”  [1 Peter 1:24]   “Heaven and earth” Jesus says, “shall pass away but My words will never pass away.”  [Matthew 24:35].

Why aren’t I more invested in this book since it’s only one of two things that’s going to last?  And the only other thing that’s going to last is people, because God “has set eternity” into the hearts of people.  [Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.”]  Every investment you make in a person is an eternal investment.  Other than an investment in this book of time and energy and an investment in people, every single thing will burn.  And you wouldn’t know this, would  you?  We wouldn’t know this had God not disclosed this to us in the prophetic sections of His Word.

What does Christ tell this little struggling group?  Here’s the practical nature of what I’m communi­­­cating to you, I want you to do something, I want you to hold fast to what you have.    In other words, continue doing what you already know to be right.  And it’s interesting to me  that he doesn’t place an extra burden on these people.  He just reminds them of what they already have.  2 Peter, the whole book is about remembrance, kind of like a finger with a string tied around it so you remember to take something with you that you need to recall.  That’s what 2 Peter is about, it just keeps saying over and over again, remember, remember, remember, remember, remember what you have.  And I’m not even sure if the body of Christ today needs a whole bunch of new truth dumped on them, unless they don’t know the truth at all.  I think generally what people need, I know what I need in my personal life is to be reminded of what I do know and to live according to that this week.

You say to yourself, well, you know, I don’t know everything there is to know about the Bible.  And there are people in this world that know the Bible better than I do.  And that may be true but the reality of the situation is there are some things you do understand; are you faithful to those things?  Rather than worrying about what you don’t understand have we been faithful to the things that we do understand.

You might recall Jesus said virtually the same thing to the church at Thyatira.  He says, “But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold to the teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan as they call them– I place no other burden on you.  [25] “’Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.”  We’re sort of living in an age today where everybody is trying to reinvent ministry, as if there’s something new under the sun when Solomon said there isn’t anything new, there’s no new approach.  There is no new five steps to spirituality.  It’s just the same old basic bread and butter stuff that you already know exists in your Bible.  [Revelation 2:24-25]

Jeremiah says this to the people of His day, God speaking to him,  “Stand by the way and see and ask for the ancient paths,” don’t ask for the new stuff, there is nothing new, just go back to the basics, go back to the fundamentals.  [Jeremiah 6:16, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”]

It reminds me of the famous story of the famous football coach, Vince Lombardi, when his team had lost a big game, he got with his team in the locker room after the game and held up the foot­ball and he said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”  What he was doing is he’s saying the reason we lost the game is because you lost sight of the basics, you lost sight of the fundamentals.  Go back to the fundamentals, go back to the basics, you don’t need anything new,  you’re just reinventing things.

And so Jeremiah was told here, told the people of his day to seek for those “ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.” But you see, that message is just too simple for a lot of people because you notice the reaction of the folks there when Jeremiah spoke these words so many centuries ago.  He says, “But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.” We’re living sort of in an age where people want their ears tickled, a prediction in 2 Timothy 4:-4, everybody is looking for something new, tell me about the UFO’s, tell me about the Martians, tell me about the Nephilim, tell me about the Islamic identification of the antichrist, tell me about the Bible codes, tell me about how there’s some kind of secret message in the Bible if I read the Bible backwards.  I can’t even figure out half the time what it’s saying when I’m reading front words.  But people are so interested in these sort of ear tickling topics.  And the fact of the matter is God is saying go back to the basics, go back to the fundamentals.  That’s where you’re going to find rest for your souls.

So he tells them, “‘I am coming quickly,” imminency; the application is “hold fast to what you have,” now look what he says here, “so that no one will take your crown.”  Do what you know to do “so that no one will take your crown.”  What in the world is he talking about here related to a crown?  Well, these were crowns that will be either given to believers or not given to believers at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ, which is an event immediately following the rapture of the church.

Following the rapture of the church we will stand before the Lord, not at a ceremony to deter­mine heaven or hell, that issue got settled when you trusted Christ as your personal Savior, this is an issue related to rewards being given to or not given to Christians based on how they spent their life in Christ.   One of the rewards given will be the incorruptible crown for the believer that gains mastery over the flesh, not someone who lives a sinless life but has learned under God’s power to sin less.  Then there’ll be, I have the Scripture addresses for all of them in the left column so you know that I’m not making this up, you can look them all up on your own.

Scripture                                         Crown                                Purpose

1 Corinthians 9:24-27                  Incorruptible                    Gaining mastery over the flesh

1 Thessalonians 2:19-20               Rejoicing                          Soul winning

James 1:12, Revelation 2:10         Life                                     Enduring trials

1 Peter 5:2-4                                     Glory                                 Shepherding God’s people

2 Timothy 4:8                                  Righteousness                 Longing for His appearing

The crown of rejoicing for the soul winter, the crown of life for the believer that endures trials, the crown of glory for those that faithfully shepherd God’s people, that could be as a pastor, a Sunday School teacher, a counselor, however God has you.

And then of course there’s the crown of glory for simply longing for His appearing.  Paul talked about that in his last letter.  The last chapter of the very last letter he wrote he talked about a crown of righteousness that would be awarded to him because he was looking for the return of Christ.  Is that what you’re looking for?  Are you looking for the any  moment return of Christ?   I was thinking about it the other day, I don’t have a single problem in my life that the rapture wouldn’t fix.  I’m looking for the return of Christ, simply yearning for the fact that this world is not your home, looking for something better qualifies  you for a crown.

And what do we do with our crowns?  Kind of strut our stuff?  No, you won’t be able to strut your stuff because you won’t have any pride (won’t that be nice) because you’ll be in a resurrected body which you will receive at the rapture.  Anybody need a resurrected body today?  Some of you look like you might be needing that, I feel like I might be needing one of those too.

So it won’t be an attitude of pride, it’ll be just sort an attitude of I have a crown and I want to deposit it at the feet of Christ, Revelation 4:10, our of worship.  [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, [11] Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”]

And it would be kind of embarrassing, wouldn’t it, everybody is putting their crown at Christ’s feet and they get to you and your hands are empty.  Wouldn’t that be embarrassing?  And how we can avoid that by entering heaven fully rewarded.  You’ll see this doctrine of some people not receiving rewards in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, it’s not something I’m making up.

[1 Corinthians 3:10-15, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. [11] For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. [12] Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, [13] each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. [14] If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.”  [15] If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”]

Verse 15 says, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss” so  you think of the concept of loss you think of losing a home, think of working on something on a computer and you’ve deleted it accidentally, there’s always that feeling of loss.  And so some will get to heaven as Christians and will experience sort of a moment of regret of what could have been, “but he Himself” it says, “will be saved, yet as through fire.”

A lot of folks are going to get to heaven and they’re going to smell the smoke on their garments because their life in Christ was simply vested in the wrong thing, invested in fleshly things, wood, hay and stubble which will burn; not invested in those costly stones, gold, silver, etc. that cannot be burned.  And all of this is there as sort of a warning to get us to align our lives correctly.  Paul warned this about this, even in his own life he was concerned about it.

He says, “I discipline my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others I will not be disqualified for the prize.”  [1 Corinthians 9:27]

Paul took his body under divine resources and reigned in that sin nature; he wasn’t sinless but he certainly sinned less, and he was afraid; this is a healthy fear.  Not all fear is bad, there is a healthy fear that motivated him.  And he didn’t want to preach to others about being fully rewarded at the Bema Seat Judgment and have nothing concerning his own life.  A lot of people think this is a salvation passage; it’s not!  If Paul is teaching how to be saved here he would contradict everything he ever taught about salvation.

Our salvation is not gained based on whether we’re willing to discipline our body and make it a slave; we’re saved on the basis of faith alone through Christ alone by grace alone.  This is a rewards context.  But it’s very clear that rewards can be lost.  2 John 8, John says, “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.”  1 Corinthians 4:5 says, “Wait until the LORD comes who will bring to light the things hidden in darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts, then each man’s praise will come to Him from God. “

It’s not just what we do that will be exposed at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ, it’s our motive for doing it.  Why did I do it, at the end of the day?  To get popular?  To get my name out there?  To get successful?  I mean, what really is the motivation.  It’s a tricky subject because my heart is so wicked a lot of times I don’t even understand my own motivation.  Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitfully wicked above all things, who can understand it.”  And yet God is going to evaluate that heart and reward and not reward accordingly.

Grant  R. Jeffrey writes this:  “Someday every Christian will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive rewards for faithful service. Some believers will receive no rewards at all because they lived their lives of service to self rather than service to the Lord…Christians are promised a number of golden crowns for us faithful service to the Lord. Jesus warned that we are to ‘hold fast’ lest we lose our crowns. This indicates that it is possible to lose eternal rewards and blessings that God prepared for those who love Him. While our salvation is assured today by our accepting Christ as our savior…our future reward will be determined at the Judgment Seat of Christ after the Rapture. We are encouraged to hold on to these rewards through continued faithful service.”  [Apocalypse: The Coming Judgment of the Nations, p. 85, 87.]  Of course, under His power.  That’s good theology right there.

Sadly, a lot of people when they read these words here, Revelation 3:11, “lest you forfeit your crown” they think you can lose your salvation; maybe I’m not going to heaven.  That’s not what it’s talking about.  Jesus was already very clear about that subject in John 10:27-29 when he says: ““My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; [28] and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish;” a double negative in the Greek, followed by the word ionia, eternal, that’s the strongest negation you could possibly have concerning loss of salvation.  It’ something that’s an impossibility.  “… and no one will snatch them out of My hand. [29] “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”  You’re not only in the Son’s hand, you’re in the Father’s hand.  You have what I  like to call the double grip of grace.  Your salvation doesn’t rest upon you trying to keep yourself saved.  If that’s  your mindset then you’re your own savior.  Your salvation is based on what God has done for you; He saved you, He’s the one that sustains you.  He’s the one that keeps you.  The only issue is rewards at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ.  Did I sit my whole Christian life and fight the Holy Spirit over and over again and simply not succumb to His plan?  Or did I allow the Lord to produce eternal beautiful fruit through my life?  That’s why they’re warned here about not losing crowns, not losing rewards, a very, very powerful exhortation.

Notice here His promise to the overcomers, take a look if you could at Revelation 3:12, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, 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.”

Now if you’ve been tracking with us in this study we know that when He begins to exhort the overcomers here He’s giving special promises to believers.  We’ve done in depth studies on overcomers, 1 John 5:4-5 defines every Christian as an over comer.  [1 John 5:4-5, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world– our faith.  [5] Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”  Because even if I live carnally in the flesh as a Christian I’m still going to heaven; absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  So positionally I am already an overcomer.  And this is a tremendous way he uses to comfort this little tiny struggling flock of Christians, by reminding them of the glory which is just around the corner which they will experience in the last two chapters of the Bible, the eternal state.

See, the knowledge of the future, not only does it motivate us in the present, it also encourages  us because it’s a reminder that no matter how challenging life can be we are on the winning side of history, not because of any strength in ourselves but because of who we are united to. And here Jesus to the little tiny struggling flock at Philadelphia promises two blessings to this born again Bible believing group.  The first is the fact that one day they will be a pillar in God’s temple.  The second blessing is they’re going to have written on them three names.  Let’s look at each of these one by one.

The first thing He promises them is they will one day be a pillar in God’s temple.  Notice what he says there in chapter 3, verse 12, “To him who overcomes I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God and he will not go out from it anymore.”  What does a pillar do?  We have several pillars, three it looks like on this side of the room, three more on this side of the room, and those pillars aren’t going anywhere, are they?  They’ve got sit here and listen to all my sermons whether they like the sermon or not, they’re basically stuck.  That’s what a pillar is; a pillar is something that’s established, it’s immovable, by definition it can’t leave.  And it says here, “He will not go out from it any more.”

Now as a Christian I can leave the presence of the Lord, can’t I, in my sin nature.  I can still be saved but get out of fellowship with the Lord.  It’s sort of like being in a marriage. You do something to offend your spouse, legally you’re still married, aren’t you.  But what has been broken?  Not the position but the intimacy and moment by moment enjoyment of your spouse.  That cord has been snipped and it’s not until you apologize for what you’ve done that intimacy is restored.  Marriage itself positionally is not restored, that’s already a legal reality, but intimacy is restored.  And you see, that’s what unconfessed sin does in our lives.  If you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ with unconfessed sin, contrary to what many people will tell you, does not send  you into the lake of fire.   You’re not a candidate for the lake of fire but I’ll tell you what it will do: the moment by moment experience you have with the Lord, enjoyment of the Lord, that disappears until  you exercise 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Why do we confess our sins to the Lord?  Not to get saved or re-saved, any more than a child born into this world who’s been born, how can they un-birth themselves?  A child born into this world can’t un-birth themselves, they’re born, but what can happen is they can have obstacles in their life that develop and negate against maturity.  See that?  That’s what can happen to us as Christians, we can allow unconfessed sin into our lives, it doesn’t get us un-birthed, that’s an impossibility, once saved always saved, but I’ll tell you what it can do.  It can inhibit intimacy with God, fellowship with God and full growth into the stature of God.   But you see, in the eternal state there’s no more sin nature.  You couldn’t sin if you wanted to in the eternal state.

So you’re like an immovable pillar which never, ever can leave the presence of God.  You have been transferred from a dual natured creature, which is where we are now, with a new nature but the old nature is still alive even though I’m dead to it, but I can return to it, not because I have to but many times because I want to.  And when I do that as a dual natured entity I’m not unsaved, I’m not un-born again, but fellowship with God has been broken.

But think of being a single natured entity, without a sin nature, no opportunity any longer to go back into an excursion of the flesh and therefore the only thing you can do throughout the eons of time, throughout the ages, is to bask forever in fellowship with God, just like that pillar and a temple that never leaves.  Are you looking forward to that?  I sure am!

He goes on and he gives them a second blessing and he begins here to talk about three new names that they have.  Why is he talking about names?  In the Bible names are very, very significant. When you read about a name in the Bible you should pay attention to it.  For example, Abram’s name was changed to Abraham, father of many nations.  He was given a name based on his destiny.  Simon—Peter actually had three names, Simon was his Hebrew name, Peter or Petros is his Greek name, Cephas is his Aramaic name, and it’s interesting that when the Lord met Simon He gave him a new name.  He gave him a new name called Petros, which means little stone.

Contrary to what the Roman Catholics teach it doesn’t mean that Jesus built the church on Peter, allegedly the first Pope.  Jesus built the church on Petros, first of all He gave him the name Petros, meaning little stone, but He actually build the church on Petra, a different Greek name, in Matthew 16, which is a neuter noun, no longer singular masculine but neuter and it means large stone.  He built the church on Peter’s confession of who Christ was, not on Peter.  I sure hope He didn’t build the church on Peter because Peter denied the Lord three times.  Peter is the one that actually was used as a mouthpiece of the devil, Matthew 16.  But it interesting to me that when Jesus met Simon He gave Him a new name, Petros, little stone, which means an immovable rock and I have to tell you that this guy was anything but an immovable rock.  I mean this is the guy that would walk  out halfway into the water and get afraid and sink and he denied the Lord three times, etc. etc. etc.  But you see the Lord named him not based on who he was but who he would be.

The fact of the matter is, the Lord loves us as we are but He loves us too much to leave us as we   are because He has in store our destiny and He will oftentimes give us a new name based on that destiny in Him.   Peter was given… Simon was given this new name based on his destiny.  And if a person is “in Christ,” 2 Corinthians 5:17, he is a new man.  [2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”]  He is a new creature in Christ Jesus and because he or she is a new creature it would make sense that God would give him (us) a new name.

So what names has He given us?  He’s given the Church of Philadelphia, and by extension us, three new names. What are those?  Number one, the name of my God, Revelation 3:12 says,  “’He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God,” that’s the Father in the Trinity, His name is inscribed on us as we trust in Christ alone as our Savior.  But there’s a second name that is written on us, that’s “the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem,” what does it say there in Revelation 3:12, “and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God,” so the Father’s name is written on you, and the name of something called the new city, the eternal city, the new Jerusalem, is written on  us as well.  Why is that?  Because that’s where out citizenship is.  You know, Abraham, what was he looking for?  He was not looking for… Hebrews 11 tells us he was not looking for a city whose builder and maker was man but He was looking for a city whose builder and maker was who?  Was God!

Is that what you’re looking for?  Are you looking for that eternal city?  Or has our hope become    so intertwined with this world, with the stock market, with the price of gold, with the judicial confirmation process that we just thankfully are over with for a while, I mean are we so invested in  the things of this world and in the United States of America and I’m about as patriotic as they come, if you cut me open I’d probably bleed red, white and blue I love America so much. But the fact of the matter is America is in decline.  Secular powers come and go.  And how important it is to have our identity in this eternal city that’s coming.

Philippians 3:20 tells us our citizenship is where?  In heaven.  [Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;”]

So there’s coming upon this earth an eternal city coming down out of heaven, Revelation 21:22 describes it.  [Revelation 21:22, “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”]  I’m of the belief that that city exists right now, it just hasn’t come to the earth yet.  The reason I think that is because when Paul describes this eternal city in Galatians 4:24 he  uses the present tense verb to describe it, “the city of my God which is” present tense, “in heaven.”  Well why hasn’t it come to the earth yet?  There’s a very simple answer to that, the earth is in a state of bondage.  The earth has been in corruption ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden.

Romans 8:19-22 tells us that this world is in a state of travail.  [Romans 8:19-22, “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. [20] For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope [21] that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. [22] For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”]

It’s actually in a state of crying out.  It’s in a state of bondage and therefore this earth, as it presently exists, is not fit to be a home or a habitation for that eternal city which exists in heaven. So what’s God waiting for?  He’s going to rule this world for a thousand years, and then as we saw earlier He will dissolve this world by fire, replace it with a new world as God intended the world to be before sin ever entered the picture and once that package is complete then that eternal city, which exists in heaven, will distend to the earth and we will be inhabitants of that eternal city.  That’s our home; that’s our destiny as God’s people.  And so consequently the name of that city is inscribed upon the believer.  What kind of dual citizenship, if you will.  I have a passport, I’m a citizen of the United States of America, but the reality is I’m a dual citizen, I’m a citizen of the U.S. but my ultimate citizenship is in that eternal city.  That’s the city we ought to be looking for, whose builder and maker is God.

Then there’s a third name that’s written on us, if all that weren’t enough, that’s the name of Jesus Christ, the Savior; His name is written on us as well.  That’s fitting because it’s His body and His blood that makes salvation possible for us.  So the name of the Father is written on us and the name of the Son is written on us.  It says there in Revelation 3:12, “which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.”  [Revelation 3:12, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, 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.”]  That new name is written on top of us or on us.

So isn’t it interesting that the different members of the Trinity each play a different role in our salvation.  1  Peter 1:2 says, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”  See all three members of the Trinity there in our salvation?  Number one, “God the Father” foreknew us.  Number two, it’s the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that sanctifies us.  And number three, it’s the sprinkled blood of Jesus Christ that saves us.  Isn’t that great!  All three members of the Trinity are involved in our salvation.  That’s why the name of the Father, and the Son, not to mention the city, are inscribed upon us.

And then we finally come to the eighth and last part of this letter, verse 13 and with this we will conclude.  Notice, if you will, what he says in the final verse, “To the church at Philadelphia,” Revelation 3:13, “‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”  Here’s our very familiar exhortation to listen… to listen to God!  Listen to what He says!  You know, listening is hard work, isn’t it?  It’s far easier to be energetic and moving around and jumping up and down and doing all of these other things other than simply listen to the Word of God.  And yet that’s what we’re exhorted to do.

You recall the two sisters, remember, one was very energetic and busy, the other one was sitting at Christ’s feet simply listening to His teaching, and what did Jesus say?  Mary, has chosen, it’s a choice, chosen the better way.  It’s a choice to come to a church like this and listen to the Word of God.  All of the other distractions out there on your time, not the least of which is that little titanic device called the iPhone.  Think of all of the distractions, all of the diversions that the mind can go down and  yet we’re exhorted simply to listen to the Word of God.  That was God’s ancient words to Israel.  “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”  [Deuteronomy 6:4]

They’re told to listen, pay attention to the eternal things of God.  And you’ll also notice the end of the verse, it says to the churches.  All of these promises that we’ve talked about to Philadelphia, whether it be escape from the tribulation, whether it be the new names written on us, whether it be our status one day as pillars in His temple, don’t think these are just promises to the church at Philadelphia.  It’s very clear that churches there is a plural noun; these are promises just as real to you as they were to the church at Philadelphia.

And so that’s our treatment of the church at Philadelphia.  And next week, if the Lord tarries we’re going to be moving into the church at Laodicea, which is the final church that Christ addressed, a church that’s in such a horrible condition that not a single comment is given about that church.  What’s the problem?  It’s bound up in the words Laodicea; Laodicea  is  a compound Greek word, two words making up a single word.  It comes from the word Laos, meaning people.  And it also comes from the Greek word dikeo, meaning to rule.  Laodicea literally means the people ruling.  These are people that are having Christianity without Christ, they’re having church without Jesus Christ, they’re very successful and prosperous but Jesus is on the outside of the door knocking on the door to get into the church, not to get these folks saved but to restore broken fellowship.  And this is the tragic condition churches can wind up in should they not follow the exhortation to listen to the things of God, heed the things of God, less they wind up Laodicean.

If you’re here today for the first time, perhaps you’ve never had your identity changed.  If you’re not in Christ you don’t have the new nature, you don’t have the new identity, you’re not the new creature or creation in Christ Jesus and so our exhortation to you here at Sugar Land Bible Church is to trust the gospel, believe the gospel, trust what Jesus has done in your place through His, as we celebrated this morning, His death, burial, resurrection and ascension.  His final words on the cross were “It is finished!”  I say “were” because that’s the translation that comes from the singular word, tetelestai, paid in full.  There’s actually nothing you can do to contribute anything to the finished work of Jesus Christ.  We’re called to simply believe what He has done.

Harry Ironside put it this way, he said: “The gospel is not good advice to be obeyed; it’s good news to be believed.”  Now your obedience and your growth and all of those sorts of things that we’ve been talking about this morning, that comes out of your new relationship with God through the new resources that He gives but prior to that point in time you don’t even have those resources inside of you.  You don’t even have the new nature, you don’t have the Holy Spirit, you don’t have the new identity and so our exhortation is take step one in  your growth, trust in Christ.  That’s a singular step and it can only be taken by way of faith.  I call it step one because once you are saved then you move into the growth phase, just like a newborn child, they’re born and then they begin to grow, then they begin to mature, but how can they grow and mature until they’re first birthed.  A human being has to be birthed spiritually and that happens by receiving what Jesus Christ has done.

If the Holy Spirit is convicting you in any way, shape or form, and I think that He is, as a matter of fact, I just received a very encouraging word, the first time I ever heard this from our internet ministry, that we now have an actual documented case of somebody that was listening to our messages on Facebook and is no saved.  [clapping]  And so now I praise the Lord for that, you just never know what God is doing out there.  But no doubt He’s convicting people and if you find yourself under conviction today our exhortation is to respond to that convicting work of the Holy Spirit and receive by faith what Jesus has done as a free gift.   You don’t have to raise a hand to do it, you don’t have to walk an aisle to do it, you don’t have to give money to do it, you don’t have to go to church to do it, you don’t have to bring the biggest apple  pie in town for the potluck to do it, although if you want to bring an apple pie we will dutifully accept that.  Just simply trust what God has done in your place.  You can do that right now in the sound of my voice where you’re seated.

Shall we pray.  Father, we’re grateful for Your Word, grateful for Your truth.  I pray You will continue to be with us as we walk with You this week remembering the things that You have done 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.