The Vision of the

Church in Philadelphia

Part 2

 

Revelation 3:7-13

 

7.        And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;

 

8.        I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

 

9.        Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

 

10.   Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

 

11.   Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

 

12.   Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

 

13.   He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. KJV


 

Revelation 3:8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

 

“Toiling As An Occupation”

 

“I know thy works”

 

“I know thy works” is how the KJV translators chose to translate the Greek phrase “Oida sou tá erga.”  This Greek phrase reads, “I discern clearly, gazing with wide-open eyes in amazement, your toil as an occupation. Jesus Christ, as the glorified Son of God, is “amazed” as He receives the vision from the Father and sends it to the apostle John.  He is amazed how the church in Philadelphia toils at their Christian life as though it were a full-time occupation. 

 

The messages Jesus gave to John regarding the five churches leading up to Philadelphia were graphic, but something unique to Philadelphia amazed Jesus. The Philadelphia labors day and night, endlessly doing the will of God.

 

The scripture verses below discuss how a true believer will toil and labor for Jesus.  This is a labor of love and gratitude; it is not something the Philadelphians do merely out of a sense of “duty.”  If that were the case, then it would be only man-made efforts and legalistic works.  As it is, however, the church in the age of Philadelphia turns out workers, and co-workers that toil together with Christ.  This is their true occupation. 

 

As you read each verse, take time to assess what is being said, and invite God to give you a helping hand to be a part of the church in Philadelphia.  The word of God will provide the key of knowledge for you to understand His will for your life:

 

·         Matthew 9:35-38 And Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.  And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”  (NAS)

 

It is essential that we see the heart of Jesus here; he felt compassion for the people, because he saw them through the eyes of his Father God.  Jesus saw the people as distressed and downcast, as sheep without a shepherd.  He saw how lonely people were.  He saw how they were without any direction in their lives. 

 

We could say the same today of the people in American society.  They are distressed and stressed out.  They try to satisfy their empty lives and hearts with everything but the Lord.  Jesus feels the same today and he did yesterday, and forever more.  Take a moment every day to stop and look at the plight of mankind.  Ask God to make you one of His laborers in the great harvest field of souls.

 

·         1 Corinthians 3:6-9 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.  For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.  (NAS)

 

Each believer plays a different role, or function, in the scattering the seeds of the gospel.  God is ultimately the one who causes our labors of love to grow in the fallow ground of willing hearts.  We are, therefore, “God's fellow workers.”  The believers who make up the church in Philadelphia are willing to work together with other Christians, regardless of denominational or non-denominational affiliation. 

 

The Philadelphia church recognizes no man after the flesh, nor do they boast about their “ministry.”  They are merely thankful to be God’s fellow workers; in any capacity He wants them to be.  The scriptures listed below show specific examples of how the early believers labored together:

 

·         Philippians 4:2-3 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.  Indeed, true comrade, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in {the cause of} the gospel, together with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.  (NAS)

 

·         Romans 16:1-6 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.  Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also {greet} the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia.  Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you.  (NAS)

 

·         Romans 16:12 Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord.  (NAS)

 

·         Colossians 4:10-13 Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and {also} Barnabas' cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him); and {also} Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision; and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.  Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.  For I bear him witness that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis.  (NAS)

 

·         3 John 1:5-8 Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially {when they are} strangers; and they bear witness to your love before the church; and you will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.  For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.  Therefore we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers with the truth.  (NAS)

 

We are fellow workers with God, and with one another.  The scriptures indicate the church in Philadelphia is toiling for God as a full-time occupation, (i.e.- full-time laboring for the Lord). 

 

These scriptures are replete with actual events and ordinary people who dedicated their entire lives to serving God.  They labored in His power and grace to be a blessing to the body of Christ, and a shining light to the lost.  We are commanded to do the same, following their example as a kind of blueprint for our devotion to God’s kingdom.

 

Pay close attention and ask yourself questions about each verse of scripture.  How did the church toil for God, “as an occupation.”  The word,  “occupation,” indicates that which occupies ones’ mind, heart, time, and efforts...in every way, how to live for the Lord.

 

·         1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not {in} vain in the Lord.  (NAS)

 

Note the words,  “...always abounding in the work of the Lord.”  This shows a believer’s sacrificial lifestyle and how they are overflowing with the work of God.  

 

·         Philippians 2:12-17 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for {His} good pleasure.  Do all things without grumbling or disputing; that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.  But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.  (NAS)

 

The ‘Concordant Literal New Testament’ translates the words,” work out your salvation,” as follows:  “be carrying your own salvation into effect.”  The active form of the original Greek indicates an ongoing development as a believer occupies each day working together with God to complete his or her salvation.  The ‘Amplified Bible’ renders this portion of scripture as, “...cultivate, carry out to the goal and fully complete your own salvation.”

 

·         John 4:35-38  “Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and {then} comes the harvest'?  Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.  Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.  For in this {case} the saying is true, 'One sows, and another reaps.'  I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”  (NAS)

 

John 4:35-38 explains that a believer’s life is that of full-time toil as an occupation (i.e.-as a sower or reaper) This is in contrast to those who are procrastinating by saying, “There are yet four months, and {then} comes the harvest.” 

 

Too many charismatic Christians are waiting for the big “revival” of God’s spirit to come before they feel “ready” to go into the harvest field of souls.  They will still be waiting when Jesus returns; only then, it will be too late. (Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-29)

 

Paul’s life of excessive difficulty in preaching the gospel exemplifies toil and adversity.  In America we may not experience the extremes Paul did.  However, our brethren in persecuted countries like China, Sudan, and Pakistan can relate to Paul’s experience.  The elders who lead the church in Philadelphia labor like Paul...as an occupation for Jesus. 

 

Paul typifies all of the true shepherds (i.e.-elders) in his statement, “there is the daily pressure upon me {of} concern for all the churches.”  Their labors for the church are the equivalent of toiling for Jesus as a lifetime occupation.  They are not usually paid for spiritual work, although many should be.  They do God’s bidding because of the personal devotion to the people.  They are like a shepherd who is caring for the flock day and night.  There is no respite from this labor of love.  (Read Ephesians 4:28)

Ephesians 4:28 presents practical Christian aspects of a believer’s individual responsibility to give.  A person works at his or her secular job in order to use a portion of the paycheck earnings to bless those who are in need.  How many Christians go to their job every day with this motivation?  The money shared is not meant to go into an offering bag to support a building or an organization. 

 

In Acts 20:35 we read. “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”  (Also read Philippians 1:21-27; Colossians 1:28-29; 1Thessalonians 1:2-8; 2:3-12; 5:12-13).

 

The wording of Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica shows his was a full-time occupation, “as a nursing {mother} tenderly cares for her own children,” and “our labor and hardship, {how} working night and day.”  This is the kind of individual devotion and personal commitment the leaders of the church in Philadelphia must have.

 

·         II Thessalonians 3:4-10 And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will {continue to} do what we command.  And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.  Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition that you received from us.  For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we {kept} working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right {to this,} but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, that you might follow our example.  For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat.  (NAS)

 

NOTE: Paul’s “example” to the churches he helped lead was a much different model than the clergy today.  He did not mooch off people, nor did he expect a salary as so many pastors and ministers.  Instead, he paid his own way so he wouldn’t be a burden to anyone.  Paul is inspired to instruct the elders of the church to “follow” his “example.”  Some Christians contend with this saying the rules have changed today.  However, the Greek word for “follow” is the origin of the English word, “mimic” meaning literally, “to imitate.”

 

·         1 Timothy 4:10-11 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.  For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.  Prescribe and teach these things.  (NAS)

 

Elders are supposed to “labor and strive” as “good servant” of Christ Jesus.  The English translation does terrible injustice to “labor and strive” in the Greek text.  The original language reads more accurately, “For it is for this we work hard, toiling with pain of grief to the point of inducing fatigue and lead in a struggle to compete for a prize by contending with an adversary

 

·         Ephesians 4:15-16 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:  From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.  (KJV)

 

The Greek word for “effectual working” in Ephesians 3: 7 & 16 is “energeia” meaning, “efficient energy.”  The meaning of the Greek word for “measure” is “a limited portion (degree).” 

 

The body of Christ is supposed to work efficiently to strengthen and build itself up in love.  This is only possible if EVERY individual member contributes.  Churches are typically run by a ‘one-man-show- (i.e. – a pastor) each week.  Philadelphia is different; the “limited portion” of each person’s talent, character, gift, etc. work in cooperation with one another, and all receive their direction from the head, even Christ.

 

·         Hebrews 13:20-21 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  (KJV)

 

Philadelphia will allow the God of peace to perfect them in every good work to do his will, working in them that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.  The Greek word for “perfect’ is where we get our English word “cauterize” (as in a surgical procedure the wound is “cauterized). 

 

To put this into proper perspective, the phrase, “make you perfect in every good work,” reads literally, “complete you thoroughly, by means of repair and adjustment to be in a fixed position for every good work.”

 

“Behold”

 

The singular word in the KJV, “behold,” at first glance, may seem to be insignificant.  However, when it is translated from the Greek language into English, (in an expanded translation), the word takes on extensive meaning.  The literal expanded translation of the Greek word “Idou” for “behold” reads as follows:  “Beware and perceive, for your own self interest, and be given to gaze at something remarkable that is in a fixed place, time or state.” 

 

We must understand every word of God has meaning in our lives.  Jesus is telling the church in Philadelphia to be alert, and aware, fixing a spiritual gaze on something that is remarkable, which God will reveal to them in the specific point in time they live in.

 

·         Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (NAS)

 

All believers must fix their eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.  The Greek wording for,” fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith,” is:

 

·         “Consider attentively (mentally and physically discerning clearly) at any point in time, or in any place, Jesus, the leader or magistrate in chief rank and the completer or consummator of mental and moral character of our persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (or the truthfulness of God; that is, truth itself).”

 

Jesus gives the elders in Philadelphia a “remarkable” promise.  Because of their commitment to truth and their devotion to God’s work as a full-time occupation, Jesus will be giving them the, “opening or ability to be closing; to open up, or reverse and close, by repetition; no one, or nothing, so much as is able, or possible, will close it,” (Revelation 3:8). 

 

The church in Philadelphia must walk by faith, and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).  They won’t always know the specifics the doors God will, or will not open.  Nor will they be aware ahead of time when a door of opportunity will be tightly shut.  Their focus is fixing their gaze, “on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.”

 

There is an appointed place, time or state of circumstances that will be provided for them to fulfill the Father’s will.  It is important that Philadelphia attentively considers and clearly perceives each opportunity.  If they are not on the alert, precious openings to do the work of God will pass by. 

 

The following scriptures will help us understand how God answers prayer, and sets in motion events whereby true believers do His will:  

 

·         Ecclesiastes 3:1, 10-1 There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven--I have seen the task that God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves; 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.  (NAS)

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 10-11 fits with the context of Revelation 3:8 and the translation of the word “behold” as, “something remarkable that is in a fixed place, time or state.”  The believers in Philadelphia recognize that there is, “an appointed time for everything,” and there is, “a time for every event under heaven,” and that God has, “made everything appropriate in its time.”  This is part of their ministry.  This implies that they must be patient, waiting upon the Lord for the right timing, words, or expression.

 

·         2 Timothy 4:1-5 I solemnly charge {you} in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season {and} out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but {wanting} to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.  But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.  (NAS)

 

Strong’s Dictionary defines the word, “season,” as follows:  2121 eukairos (yoo'-kahee-ros); from 2095 and 2540; well timed, i.e. opportune: KJV-- convenient, in time of need. 

 

Philadelphia must be dressed in readiness at all times.  They recognize the fixed time or place God wants them to deliver an appropriate message.  In other words, they perceptively seize upon opportunities provided by God.  Their words and actions are “well-timed,” or “opportune.”  Theirs’ is a ministry of love and compassion that comes “in time of need,” not when it is merely convenient.

 

·         Matthew 10:16-20 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.  But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.  But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.  For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.  (KJV)

 

There will be persecution for the church in Philadelphia.  In Revelation 3:8 the word “behold” is akin to the Greek word used in Matthew 10:17.  This word has both positive and negative connotations.  The LITERAL TRANSLATION includes a warning of “something remarkable that is in a fixed place, time or state.”  They will have “remarkable” opportunities to bear witness of Jesus before their enemies, and in some cases they will be delivered up to be judged.

 

It is vital that believers desirous to be a part of the Philadelphia church count the cost of the persecution.  Naïve Christians in America make bold statements like, “If the Lord requires it, I will lay down my life for him.”  Unfortunately, it is usually not a matter of instantaneous martyrdom. 

 

Christians in persecuted countries often spend months and years in rat infested, excrement covered, dark, and damp and disease infested prison cells.  They are subjected to untreated dysentery, fevers, skin diseases, malaria and a host of other maladies.  Their wives, husbands, children and family members are tormented, tortured or executed before their very eyes.

 

In order for a believer to prepare for persecution, he or she must demonstrate a willingness to embrace adversity and suffering.  These are not popular concepts in the American churches.  Christianity teaches that God will heal all disease and pain, and that he doesn’t want His children to suffer or experience loss.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Jesus was perfected through that which he suffered.  Why should we think we can be his disciple and escape it?

 

Philadelphia will have their senses trained and matured to discern good from evil.  Through their suffering their faith will be made strong and unwavering.  They know in their hearts that in the hour of persecution, their Father in heaven will give them the words they must speak. 

 

The Philadelphians’ must also love their enemies.  They must say of those who mistreat them, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”

 

·         Matthew 11:7-15 And as these were going {away,} Jesus began to speak to the multitudes about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at?  A reed shaken by the wind?  But what did you go out to see?  A man dressed in soft {clothing}?  Behold, those who wear soft {clothing} are in kings' palaces.  But why did you go out? To see a prophet?  Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom it is written, 'Behold, I send My messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.'  Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen {anyone} greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.  For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.  And if you care to accept {it,} he himself is Elijah, who was to come.  He who has ears to hear let him hear.”  (NAS)

 

Matthew 11:15 provide an admonition echoed at the end of each message to the seven church ages in Revelation, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  The ministry of Philadelphia will resemble that of John the Baptist...preaching repentance to all and preparing for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

Like John, the Philadelphians will be given responsibility to make the crooked paths within and without the churches straight.  They must make themselves the “least” by humbling themselves in the sight of God and man.  At the same time they must recognize theirs’ is a spiritual warfare. 

 

Jesus said, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.”  Violent men have always tried to seize the kingdom of God by force.  Sometimes this happens through ungodly kings and rulers. 

 

In the church, power hungry pastors seize control of their congregations by using the scriptures to manipulate. (Read the entire chapter of Ezekiel 34, Jeremiah chapter 23, and Matthew chapter 23; all of which tell of God’s warnings to the evil shepherds).

 

Jesus has a kingdom of believers suffering violent attacks from spiritual enemies in high places (Eph. 6:10-18).  They will also suffer violent verbal attacks from within the ranks of Christendom.  Their teaching will come from the scriptures, but run counter to orthodoxy.  Therefore they will endure the loneliness of being rejected by the vast majority of those who call themselves Christian.

 

To understanding the significance and the impact that the church in Philadelphia will make on people’s lives, one must look at the life of John the Baptist.   John the Baptist wasn’t a “big name” ministry.  No snappy clothing.  No hype.  John was a straight talker.

 

Jesus said John’s message was like, “Elijah, who was to come.” This meant that John spoke with the same authority and power that Elijah had been given.  It also meant that Elijah was yet “to come” (future tense).

 

The word “Elijah” means, “Strength of Yahweh.”  John the Baptist did no mighty miracles as Elijah had done; yet his words and actions were driven by the “strength of Yahweh.”  Hence, yielding to the will of their Father in heaven (Yahweh), and clinging steadfastly to His truth as the essence of their life, Philadelphians allow the strength of Yahweh to flow through them too.  Remember, Philadelphia is said to have but “a little strength” (i.e. – miraculous power), but the strength of their message is infused from the Almighty.

 

·         Matthew 24:21-27 For then shall be great tribulation; such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.  And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.  Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.  For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.  Behold, I have told you before.  Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.  For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.  (KJV)

 

Matthew 24:21-27 is a warning to Israelites living at the time Jesus return is at hand.  The context explains they will endure the horrors of the great tribulation.  Prior to the great tribulation (present day), the believers in the church age of Philadelphia must recognize there will be many ministers who call themselves “anointed” (i.e.-Christs).  They will imitate Jesus and say, “Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers.”  Jesus said not to believe them.  Jesus’ words, “Behold, I have told you before” are a stern warning for Philadelphia to heed.

 

Today we see false Christs in many religions (a term commonly used in New Age circles is ‘the christ within’).  These deceivers are even beginning to show great signs and wonders (a precursor of the deception that will occur during the great tribulation).  This is causing mass deception within the church, and is leading many into Laodicea.  It has already happened in the phenomena called “the renewal movement” and through charismatic hyper-mania.  It happened in the northwest Washington state with the doctrine of “spiritual connections.”  False prophets will encourage Christians to seek Jesus in distant places, using only their “feelings” as the tool of discernment.  They even encourage the foolish to retreat into reclusive Christian communities. 

 

Other false prophets will speak in more mystical terms, telling naive Christians to find Jesus in the, “secret chambers.”  We see this happening in the so-called ‘prophetic’ ministries, which emphasize an ethereal spiritual relationship with “the Holy Spirit.”  They use nonsense like Messianic dances, banner waving performances, and blowing of the shofar horn to find God in a special ‘secret’ way.’ 

 

As the coming of Jesus grows closer, “remarkable” types of deception shall increase.  True believers must be “aware” and stay in the scriptures often to distinguish the truth from the beguiling.

 

·         1 Corinthians 15:50-58 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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 shall be changed.  For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.  But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory.  "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not {in} vain in the Lord.  (NAS)

 

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 uses the word “Behold” to tell us of a time when not all believers shall “sleep”, but shall be changed.  The Greek meaning of the word used for “sleep” means “death.”  The church in Philadelphia will be the church age when not all believers will die a natural death.  Rather, those still alive after much persecution, shall be suddenly “changed.”  This “change” will be a sudden seizing of faithful believers by Jesus into the spirit realm.  There they will be joined with Him as the head of his body. 

 

The Philadelphia church must be “aware” of this event as, “something remarkable that is in a fixed place, time or state.”  Just like Enoch, Elijah and Jesus were taken alive into that spirit realm (heaven), so shall the church in Philadelphia be taken alive into the spirit realm.  They are given incorruptible bodies to replace forever these decaying, mortal bodies. 

 

Some teach no Christians will die in persecution prior to Jesus’ return.  This is not true; even many in Philadelphia will die, and many more in Laodicea.  However, some will not die or be killed prior to their ‘change.’  All who have died in Christ will stand up before God, preceding the living, since they are already in the Father’s presence. Stated another way, Christians who have died will be the first to “stand” before Jesus on the day he calls the living believers into heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18).

 

·         2 Corinthians 6:1-10 And working together {with Him,} we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain--for He says, "At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you"; behold, now is "the acceptable time," behold, now is "the day of salvation"--giving no cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry be not discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; {regarded} as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.  (NAS)

 

2 Corinthians 6:1-10 admonishes the church in Philadelphia to be aware that every day is, “something remarkable that is in a fixed place, time or state.”  Philadelphians endeavor to give no offense to the ministry of Jesus. 

 

·         1 Peter 1:2-25 According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: may grace and peace be yours in fullest measure.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to {obtain} an inheritance {which is} imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 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; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.  As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that {would come} to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.  It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-- things into which angels long to look.  Therefore, gird your minds for action; keep sober {in spirit,} fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts {which were yours} in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all {your} behavior; because it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."  And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay {upon earth} knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, {the blood} of Christ.  For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.  Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, {that is,} through the living and abiding word of God.  For, "All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord abides forever." And this is the word which was preached to you.  (NAS)

 

In 1 Peter 1:2-25, an event that will transpire in the last days is, “something remarkable that is in a fixed place, time or state.”   The church in Philadelphia must be always alert and looking toward, “an inheritance {which is} imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 

 

Salvation is not a one-time experience at some church altar.  Salvation is a daily “working out” of our relationship with God the Father, and His son Jesus Christ (READ Philippians 2:3-13).  In the last days, God will bring about a final salvation to the church in Philadelphia as they collectively mature and are made complete in Christ (READ Revelation 12:5-11).  They are snatched toward the throne of God, the same as the man-child mentioned in Revelation 12:5. This will signal defeat to Satan and his angels in the heavenly realm.  Such an event will be “something remarkable that is in a fixed place, time and state.”  

 

·         Jude 1:14-25 And about these also Enoch, {in} the seventh {generation} from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."  These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their {own} lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of {gaining an} advantage.  But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ that they were saying to you, "In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts."  These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.  But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.  And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.  Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, {be} glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.  (NAS)

 

Another “remarkable” thing that the believers in the church age of Philadelphia must “behold” is what Enoch prophesied.  Most Christians refer to this event as ‘the Second Coming of Christ’.  Though this phrase is not mentioned in scripture, there will come a time when Jesus returns to the earth visibly with His “holy ones” (i.e.-the completed and glorified church).  At that time he will render judgment upon all of the ungodly peoples that remain upon the earth. 

 

The book of Jude says, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”  Knowing there is justice with God, this prophecy is a comfort to believers from all seven church ages that have suffered persecution from the devil at the hands of ungodly men.  Its comfort comes with another warning to Philadelphia, “In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” 

 

We see the increase of “mockers” pursuing ungodly lust, but someone must have God’s heart to reconcile them.  Philadelphia will do this by, as Jude says,” But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.  And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”

 

·         Revelation 22:1-7 And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve {kinds of} fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name {shall be} on their foreheads.  And there shall no longer be {any} night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever.  And he said to me, "These words are faithful and true"; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must shortly take place.  "And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book."  (NAS)

 

Finally, we look at the end of the Book of Revelation, and see one last thing the church in Philadelphia is to “behold.”  Jesus "And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book."

 

 

“I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it”

 

The literal translation of Revelation 3:8a in the KJV “...I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it,” reads, “The one, which opens up, by means of repetition, and not even one closes (it).

 

It is obvious that the literal translation is quite different from the KJV text!  To simplify the interpretation Revelation 3: 8a shows God giving the ability and the opportunities to open up doors of ministry; or, to reverse the direction of their ministry and close doors He wants shut.  It’s that simple.

 

The reversal of direction is most likely allowing for the Philadelphians to shut or close so-called “opportunities” that are not of the Father’s will or leading.  When God gives them these opportunities, no one shall be able to hinder them; particularly lukewarm, worldly, and compromising Christians; or the religious hypocrites in America, who are jealous of what the Holy Spirit is doing through the church in Philadelphia.

 

The first set of scriptures to examine deal with the “open door.”  Before listing scripture references, we will look at the definition of the Greek word used for the English word ‘door’:

 

·         Door” = 2374 thura (thoo'-rah); apparently a primary word [compare "door"]; a portal or entrance (the opening or the closure, literally or figuratively):  KJV-- door, gate. (Strong’s Electronic Dictionary)

 

·         Door” = thura ^2374^, “a door, gate” (Eng., “door” is connected), is used (a) literally, e. g., <Matt. 6:6; 27:60>; (b) metaphorically, of Christ, <John 10:7,9>; of faith, by acceptance of the gospel, <Acts 14:27>; of “openings” for preaching and teaching the Word of God, <1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3; Rev. 3:8>; of “entranceinto the Kingdom of God, <Matt. 25:10; Luke 13:24-25>; of Christ'sentranceinto a repentant believer's heart, <Rev. 3:20>; of the nearness of Christ's second advent, <Matt. 24:33; Mark 13:29>; cf. <Jas. 5:9>; of “accessto behold visions relative to the purposes of God, <Rev. 4:1>.  Note: For the phrase “that kept the door,” thuroros, <John 18:16-17> (“porter” in <Mark 13:34; John 10:3>), see PORTER. #  (From Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)  (Copyright (C) 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

 

The Greek word “thura” is the primary word used in the NT for an, ‘opening.’  As you can see from Vine’s list, thura has many different applications.  We will look at thura as it is used in “openings” for preaching and teaching the word of God. 

 

“Open Doors”

 

The church in Philadelphia is much like the church of the first century in their love and commitment to the word of God.  It is what causes them to walk in God’s anointing for blessing others:

 

·         1 Corinthians 16:8-10 But I shall remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door for effective {service} has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.  Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid; for he is doing the Lord's work, as I also am.  (NAS)

 

·         2 Corinthians 2:12-17 Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord, I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia.  But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?  For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.  (NAS)

 

Just like Paul journeyed to Troas for the purpose of the gospel, in the last days, the believers in Philadelphia will travel from city to city, across America, and to other parts of the world, to preach the good news of Jesus Christ.  Philadelphia will put its greatest efforts for the gospel in their own communities and neighborhoods.  Once they find an open door, they find “no rest” in their spirit until they have entered it. 

 

One of the significant differences between the Philadelphians others who claim to be Christians is they, “are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God.”  They “speak in Christ in the sight of God.” 

 

Many so-called “Christian ministries” are selling the word of God today.  Just visit your local Christian bookstore and see the high cost of gospel music, Christian novels or help books, etc.  Or turn on your T.V. and watch ministers continually pleading, begging, lying, cheating, and manipulating for money from their viewers. 

 

Joyce Meyer once offered her cassette tape series “It Is Finished” and other tape series regularly for, as she puts it, “An offering of $30 or more U.S. funds ($45 Canada).”  These people try to justify their plea for money by stating the high costs of broadcasting or publishing materials.  This doesn’t include registration fees for Christian conferences, Internet fees, etc.  It is a Christian racket.

 

The church in Philadelphia will be different.  They will give freely of their resources.  They do not give to ‘receive’ from God, but the Father will meet their needs.  They will print Bible studies, duplicate cassette tapes, and buy books and Bibles for others and more.  They will buy extra groceries and toiletries and clothes for needy families, especially single moms and the elderly.   They give without asking for anything.  They will sacrifice their time, energy, money etc. to help others in need because this is their commitment and lifestyle.  They will not be rich with this world’s goods, but they will be rich towards God. (READ 2 Corinthians 8:9-15)

 

The New Testament and gospels speak of a variety of “doors” one can and should enter when they have been opened by God.  There is also mention of doors that are open for a season, and then they are closed.  Some doors, once closed, will not be opened to those without.   

 

·         Colossians 4:2-6 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with {an attitude of} thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God may 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; in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.  Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, {as it were,} with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.  (NAS)

 

In the Greek the phrase, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with {an attitude of} thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word,” reads like this:

 

·         “Be earnest towards, persevering and constantly diligent in the direction of prayer (a desire verbalized), keeping awake by rousing yourself from inactivity and be active, gratefully expressing your language to God as an act of worship; supplicating at the same time for us because of our close association with you, in order that the God would open up to us a door for the expression of [our] thoughts and reasonings by {the means of} uttering {to others} the shut up secret of contact with the anointed {one}.”

 

Keeping alert with an attitude of thanksgiving in prayer is essential.  There is a great spiritual sleepiness blanketing America.  Individual perseverance and diligence is needed.  We must arouse ourselves from a state of apathy and inactivity.  It is easy to be lulled into a state of indifference or mental dullness.  The day-to-day routine of life takes its toll.

 

Prayer is the expression of a wish or desire to the Almighty.  It is saying, “Father, I am embarking on a journey for you today.  Wherever I go, and whomever I encounter, I am seeking, asking, and trusting you to furnish both opportunity and anointing, both knowledge and wisdom, understanding what the needs are and how to implement them.  I will keep ‘alert’ having an, ‘attitude’ of prayer, so I will be sensitive to the door or doors you have for me to enter.  I also want to be listening to your voice, so that I don’t enter doors that you want me to avoid or keep shut.”

 

·         Acts 14:25-28 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia; and from there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished.  And when they had arrived and gathered the church together, they {began} to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.  And they spent a long time with the disciples. (NAS)

 

Paul and Barnabas were on a return visit to Antioch to see how the church was getting along.  Previously they had preached the gospel there and made many disciples.  The believers in Antioch told the apostles that God had, “opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”  Seeing that the church in Antioch was responding eagerly to the truth, Paul and Barnabas “spent a long time with the disciples.”  

 

The open door for the church at Antioch to share with the Gentiles was the result of the apostles’ prayer and the time they spent discipling the church.  Those in Antioch were modeling the example of evangelism left by the apostles as well.

 

·         Luke 13:20-30 And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?  It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened.”  And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem.  And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there {just} a few who are being saved?”  And He said to them, “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.  Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ Then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’  Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers.’  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth there when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being cast out.  And they will come from east and west, and from north and south, and will recline {at the table} in the kingdom of God.  And behold, {some} are last who will be first and {some} are first who will be last.”  (NAS)

 

Jesus told His disciples, “ Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many will seek to enter and will not be able.”  This passage uses the Greek word “thura” for “door.”  It is important to understand that even though doors of ministry will open to the believers in the church in Philadelphia, the most important of all doors is the one that leads to each one’s personal salvation. 

 

The Greek words used for “narrow door” speaks of an opening that has many obstacles close about, making it a very difficult entrance into the kingdom of God.  It will also be difficult for the believer to endure trials, suffering, and temptation in order to gain entrance into the kingdom of heaven.  Life is filled with numerous obstacles for the believer, and recognizing this will help prepare you for the trials you will most certainly face on the narrow way.

 

“Closed Doors”

 

Our commentary will now focus on the closure of doors; that is when the direction of ministry may be reversed.  To refresh our memory, Revelation 3:8a reads: “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.”  The Greek translation is as follows: “The one, which opens up, by means of repetition, and not even one closes (it).” 

 

The following is a list of concepts that indicate how doors can be shut when it is not in the will of God for them to be open.  The believers in Philadelphian church era have the ability to reverse their direction, and close doors of ministry when they see that those doors are not where God wants to lead them. 

 

The lukewarm hearts of the Laodicean church will not cool the boiling hot love that Philadelphia has for Jesus.  Philadelphia will not allow the worldliness and apathy of Laodicea to affect them and close the doors of ministry opportunity. 

 

In the Greek, the closing of the door originates from a word meaning the “evaporation of moisture.”  This is a metaphor for Christians who go from being a “hot” drink to a “lukewarm” drink.  In this natural process of cooling down, there is a loss or evaporation of moisture.  Hence, to lose the boiling hot love for God and Jesus is to become lukewarm.  To be lukewarm is to lessen the anointing of God’s Spirit. 

 

God’s spirit is said to descend as the dew, or rain.  God will not anoint those lukewarm Christians who are selfish, greedy, self-serving, and unwilling to obey His voice.  (READ: Genesis 27:28,39; Deuteronomy 32:2; Psalms 110:3, 72:6; Isaiah 18:4).  Some men in the scripture are referred to as “clouds without water” because of their backslidden hearts, and their greedy, deceptive ways:

 

·         Jude 1:12-13 These men are those who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.  (NAS)

 

·         2 Peter 2:14-19 Having eyes full of adultery and that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the {son} of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, but he received a rebuke for his own transgression; {for} a dumb donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.  These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.  For speaking out arrogant {words} of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.  (NAS)

 

The idea of a door of ministry being closed, “by chilling it shut,” is also conveyed in the Greek.  This is another a metaphor for those who oppose the gospel with their cold, hardened stony hearts; most probably the unsaved (READ Matthew 24:12; Revelation 3:15-16; Proverbs 25:26; Jeremiah 18:14). 

 

The idea of cold air chilling a door shut can also be figurative language for conflict and tribulation.  Storms that were cold blew out of the north, the place where God’s judgment resided.  This does not mean that God won’t open doors to share the gospel to the unsaved, as well as opening doors to exhort, rebuke or encourage the lukewarm Laodiceans.  It is implying that when you do God’s will by entering doors of opportunity, you will encounter opposition. 

 

The good news is that when God opens the door, that opposition, whether through lukewarm Christians, or through persecution, or through tribulation, it won’t shut the door of opportunity closed.

 

·         Acts 16:1-7 And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.  Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.  Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees, which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe.  So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.  And they passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and when they had come to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.  (NAS)

 

Paul reversed his direction after being warned by the Holy Spirit, “And they passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and when they had come to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.” 

 

God allows us to make mistakes, because He knows we are fallible.  At the same time, God would rather we step out to do something for His kingdom, even if it is a process of trial and error.  The spirit of Jesus will warn us and advise us which places we ought to stay away from when proclaiming the gospel.

 

The Greek word for “forbidden” in Acts 16:6 means, “To stop, i.e. prevent (by word or act); to curtail, i.e. (figuratively) to chastise (or reverse for infliction).”

 

God’s spirit “curtailed” Paul and Timothy from delivering the decrees sent from the apostles in Jerusalem.  The exact way they were hindered is not revealed in the text, but the curtailment could have been chastisement by the Jews.  Sometimes God uses even our enemies for His own plan.

 

In Acts 16:7 they were trying to go into Bithynia, but the spirit of Jesus did not permit them.  The Greek text indicates being “baffled back” as one would be blown backward by a powerful wind.  If you have ever seen or experienced the effects of a strong windstorm, it will help you visualize what is being revealed in the Greek text.

 

The implication is that the apostles were strongly impressed by the Lord Jesus not to enter this city.  This impression did not come from the Father God; rather, it was the spirit of the glorified Son of God.  The spirit of Jesus was likened to a strong wind giving them a sort of spiritual intuition within, and perhaps warning them of impending danger in the area known as Bithynia.

 

Jesus is the “spirit of truth.”  Before his crucifixion, he explained to his followers that there would come a time when he would “guide” as the Helper or Comforter (Greek for Helper is parakletos meaning one called alongside).  He told his disciples that he would “lead and guide” them into all truth (READ John 16: 1-24). 

 

The literal rendering of John 16:7 (below) is helpful in understanding how Jesus comes to the church as the Parakletos, and his role together with the Father in providing guidance and leading.

 

The Appropriate Translation

 

·         John 16:7 However, I recount the unconcealed truth to you; it is for your benefit {and} purpose I go away; because if, for any reason, I do not go away, the one called alongside will not come toward you.  However, provided I traverse (upward), I will dispatch him (on temporary errand) toward you.

 

There seems to be a contradiction as to whether it is Jesus who dispatches the parakletos (one called alongside) as in John 15:26 and 16:7, or whether the Father sends him, as in John 14:16 and 14:26. 

 

In John 14:16 Jesus says, “And I will request the Father that he grant you a different (another of equal quality) one called to your side.”  In 16:7 Jesus appears to say just the opposite, “However, provided I traverse (upward), I will dispatch him (on temporary errand) toward you.”

 

What appears to be a contradiction is explained by the unique relationship Jesus shares with the Father.  Jesus lives only to do the Father’s will; this is evident from his life example.

 

·         John 4:34-35 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work.  NKJV

 

Not only did Jesus live to do the Father’s will, but he also knew it was vital for him to finish what the Father had given him to do.

 

·         John 6:38-40 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.  This is the will of Him who sent me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I myself will raise him up on the last day."  NASU

 

God’s will is that Jesus loses none any of his disciples.  Therefore the Father granted His son the authority to raise each one on the last day.  This authority is exercised in various ways, but after Jesus ascends and is glorified, the scope of his influence is multiplied immeasurably.  At this time, the authority given to Jesus by his Father is primarily used to come to the aid of everyone who calls upon his name in spirit and truth.  Of course whatever Jesus does is for the glory of God the Father (Romans 15:6; Colossians 3:17).

 

Another reconciliation of the apparent contradiction in the verses mentioned above is understanding the ONLY way God the Father will interact with those who seek Him is by (through) the agency of His only begotten son Jesus the Christ.

 

·         John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”  NAS

 

·         Galatians 1:3-5 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.   (From New International Version)

 

·         Ephesians 2:18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.  NKJV

 

Who sends the parakletos?  Ultimately, it is the Father, because Jesus can only do what the Father authorizes.  In fact, Jesus desires NOTHING but to do the will of the Father.  However, since the Father has given Jesus authority to act in His behalf, Jesus also can be said to have dispatched the parakletos to his disciples.

 

Why would Jesus move the apostles away from one city or area and direct them to go to another?  The context of Acts 16: 1-7 does not provide the answer, but in another N.T. epistle there is found one clue.  In 1 Peter 1: 1-2 the apostle Peter writes to, “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen.” 

 

Peter was known as the apostle whom God sent to preach the gospel to the Jews, while Paul is said to be the apostle sent to the Gentiles (Romans 15: 16; Galatians 2: 7-8).  The phrase “who are chosen” indicates Peter is writing to the Jews, who were “chosen” by Yahweh as His people, and to whom was given the Law and the prophets.

 

Philadelphia is comprised of believers all over the earth.  Some members of this last day body of Christ will be chosen to preach the gospel primarily to the “Gentiles” (i.e. – the unbelievers and unsaved), while God uses others mainly in ministry to the “Jews” (the word “Jews” is figuratively spoken of here, and representative of the churches).  We are all called to share the good news within and without the church.  There are different callings and functions of the many-membered church of Philadelphia. 

 

We can apply the principles of Acts 16: 7 to our lives today, realizing there will be times when either the spirit of God and the glorified spirit of Jesus direct us away from certain people or areas and use us in the capacity we are best suited and anointed for, thus making us more effective co-workers with Jesus. (Read Acts 19:24-20:1)

 

Paul began to share the gospel, but because of persecution and severe opposition, he was convinced by his brethren in Christ to reverse his direction.  The church in the age of Philadelphia is also experiencing tremendous conflict as they continue to reach out to others. 

Humility and a willingness to let God use Christian brethren is a primary “key” held in the believer’s possession.  There will be times when a brother or sister in Christ will warn and /or exhort another regarding where or to whom they should go to bear witness of the truth. 

 

It is vital to establish mutual respect and an attitude of equality among the individual members of the worldwide body of Christ.  A brother’s warning could mean the difference between life and death if it comes from God through him.  That is why Revelation is replete with the admonition, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” 

 

The believers of Philadelphia love Jesus by following his commands.  The scriptures are their inspired and anointed direction from God.  Not everyone will have an open heart to receive the truth they share.  They will encounter resistance to their message and must therefore sometimes reverse their direction and look elsewhere to share.

 

Jesus called his followers “friends” if they did what he said (READ John 15:10-15).  The friendships Jesus spoke of are the type in which a man will lay down his life for his friends.  Believers in the church of Philadelphia will protect one another, and will assist each other in doing what is best, even if that means changing a person’s mind to go minister in a different direction than they started. 

 

In the context of Acts 19:24-20:1 (above) the following quotes exemplify the kind of friendship being discussed in this section:

 

·         “And when Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him.  And also some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theater,” and again, “And after the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples and when he had exhorted them and taken his leave of them, he departed to go to Macedonia.”

 

Read Acts 2:4-18, 21-24, 32-41.

 

The unbelieving Jews made fun of the disciples that were speaking in tongues, supposing that they were drunk.  Satan was using these mockers to close the door of opportunity Peter had to preach the gospel.  However, the Lord used the scoffer’s own words as a catalyst to proclaim the truth.

 

In Revelation 3:8 it is said that the Philadelphia church will have doors of ministry opportunities opened by God that, “no one, or nothing, so much as is able, or possible, will close it (by blowing it shut through the evaporation of moisture; that is, by chilling it shut).”  Peter and the other apostles took their stand for the name of Jesus, not allowing the mockery to hinder them.  As a result of Peter’s preaching, “those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls!!”  This is one of many examples provided for us in scripture, enlightening us to ways God works to keep the doors to minister the gospel open.

 

While God is able to prevent doors of opportunity from being blown shut through opposition, we must persevere.  God will not do everything; He works together with us.  We must “press on” and “fight” for the faith as good soldiers of the cross (Hosea 6: 1-3; Hebrews 6:1-3; 1 Timothy 6: 12).  Revelation 3:10 says the church in Philadelphia will have kept the word of Jesus’ “perseverance.”  (Read Acts 16:13-18)

 

Paul found himself in conflict with Lydia, a demon possessed woman.  Lydia was a slave-girl of local fortunetellers who made a handsome profit off of her ability to practice divination.  Paul did not allow Lydia and the evil spirit within her to close his open door of ministry.  After being hindered for many days, Paul turned to her and said to the evil spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!”  The demon spirit came out at that very moment.  The Philadelphia church will not allow the demonic activity manifested through others to hinder them.

 

Today, in America, occult practices are rampant.  There is a continued rise in the practice of Wicca (i.e.-white witchcraft), Satanic worship (black witchcraft), New Age religions, psychic hot lines, and so much more.  Even the Christian community has been infiltrated with mystic concepts, such as the making of the movie, “The Omega Code” a few years back. 

 

This movie rarely mentioned Jesus or the clear plan of salvation and was produced by Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN).  It was based on false prophecy techniques like the gematria (using secret numerology to predict prophetic events).  Gematria is also used in the occult with Tarot cards, and the mystic Kabala, and it is incomprehensible to have a Christian ministry spend millions of dollars of donated money for a movie like this.

 

Similar to the apostle Paul, the church in Philadelphia will most certainly encounter opposition.  They will routinely be confronting people who are possessed of demon spirits.  They will not allow these individuals to close the doors of opportunity to share the gospel, but will use the power of God to command the unclean spirits to be silenced.  They don’t allow the cold and dampening oppression of the enemy to blow the doors of opportunity shut!   (Read Acts 3:1-20, 4:1-23)

 

Peter and John received an open door to share the gospel because God performed a “noteworthy miracle” through them by healing the lame man at the gate called Beautiful.  This open door had the following results:  “But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.”   This was indeed an open door!

 

The devil attempted to close the door on their ministry through the religious men of the day.  They were imprisoned, and questioned the next day.  The church in Philadelphia is today learning from the apostle’s example, because the apostles spoke boldly before their religious accusers.  These unsaved Jews represent the same type of opposition Philadelphia will face from the worldly churches and self-righteous Christians. 

 

The boldness and confidence of the church in Philadelphia will cause their accusers to have, “nothing to say in reply.”  They will not define their teaching and concepts from their own mind or ideas, but from the scriptures.

 

Peter and John were given an edict told by the religious Council, “They commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”  Their reply to the Council was,  “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.” 

 

Though the Council threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which they might punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened.  These self-righteous Jews could not close the door on their ministry, even though they made threats of imprisonment. 

 

The believers of the church in Philadelphia will not have their doors of opportunity shut by the jealous threats of 21st century religious hypocrites!  Like the apostles, they have a deep conviction and commitment to the truth of God’s word.  They love Jesus, and have developed a love for the Son of God through their love and friendships with each other. 

 

Philadelphia is not swerved by the popularity of the organized church.  They are not impressed with big name ministers, Christian apologists, and the like.  In fact, they openly speak out against the greed and hypocrisy in the church, which is something many people in America have wanted to see happen for the past two centuries. (Read Acts 4:32-5:11)

 

The early church is a good pattern for the church in Philadelphia.  They cared for one another so much that no one’s needs were ignored, “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one {of them} claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them... For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, and lay them at the apostles' feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.” 

 

Not everyone that was a part of the early church shared the same convictions.  There were some who were filled with greed and pretense.  Ananias and his wife were lukewarm, and their selfishness threatened to destroy the unity amongst the brethren. 

 

There are many in the Christian church today that, like Ananias, are filled with the love of money.  They are lukewarm, and distort the meaning of “faith.”  They have been dubbed, ‘name-it-and-claim-it’ Christians.  Their hearts seek God for what they can “get” from Him financially.  They think that faith in God includes financial blessings and have no regard for the millions of Christians who love Jesus in third world countries that live their entire life in abject poverty.

 

These lukewarm believers are unwilling to share their own possessions to bless those in the body of Christ who are needy, but they are quick to “claim” God’s financial blessing for themselves!  The Spirit of God knew what was in the hearts of Ananias and his wife Sapphira, and He would not allow this open door of united concern and generosity in the body of Christ to be chilled shut by a couple of self-serving and pretentious believers. 

 

God opened the door for the early church to function as a true family of God.  A married couple that held back money out of their selfish desires threatened this unity in the church.  God, who knows the hearts of all people, knew they were holding back from contributing what had been dedicated to Him.  God struck Ananias and Sapphira dead, and the doors of opportunity stayed open for the early church. 

 

This is an example of how the lukewarm, selfish Christians will not hold back the church in Philadelphia.  In these last days, God is raising up a church that is glorious, without the blemish of selfish ambition.  The church in the age of Philadelphia is just such a church (Ephesians 5:25-27).

 

“For thou hast a little strength”

 

The KJV of Revelation 3:8b“for thou hast a little strength” is translated literally (bold type): “Because you possess a quantity of miraculous power which is small in number...”

 

This is one of the most fascinating characteristics of the church in the age of Philadelphia.  Although Philadelphia excels in areas of friendship, they do not possess a great deal of miraculous power from God.  The meaning of the Greek word in the KJV text “little strength” is as follows:

 

·         “Little” - 3398 mikros (mik-ros'); including the comparative mikroteros (mik-rot'-er-os); apparently a primary word; small (in size, quantity, number or (figuratively) dignity): KJV-- least, less, little, small.

 

Our English word “micro” comes from the Greek word “mikros.”  For example, the word “microscopic” illustrates how we would use “mikros” as an adjective. 

 

·         Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines “micro” as follows: 1) very small   2) minute 3) used for, or involving minute quantities 4) one millionth part of a specified unit 5) using microscopy; revealed by or having the structure discernible only by microscopical examination 6) abnormally small

 

The Philadelphia church has but a small, amount of miraculous power (in both size, quantity, and number).  They also have little dignity beneath the great name Christian ministries of their era.  They do not have big ministries, churches, and T.V. or radio programs.  There are no aspiring Christian musical artists amongst the Philadelphians.  They have chosen to become the least, and eventually God will elevate them to the position of greatest in the kingdom of God, as they share in the inheritance of Christ.

 

·         Matthew 11:11  “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen {anyone} greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (NAS)

 

·         Luke 12:32  “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.  (NAS)

 

·         Luke 19:2-3 And behold, there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; and he was a chief tax-gatherer, and he was rich.  And he was trying to see who Jesus was, and he was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature (i.e. - size). (NAS)

 

Today, particularly in Pentecostal churches and other charismatic movements, believers eagerly seek the miraculous power of God.  In fact, popular Christian ministers have put forth so much emphasis on miracles they make people feel guilty if they don’t experience a miraculous healing!

 

The Greek definition for the KJV word “strength” is defined as follows:

 

·         Strength” 1411 dúnamis (doo'-nam-is); from 1410; force (literally or figuratively); specially, miraculous power (usually by implication, a miracle itself): KJV-- ability, abundance, meaning, might (-ily, -y, -y deed), (worker of) miracle (-s), power, strength, violence, mighty (wonderful) work. (Strong’s Dictionary)

 

To summarize, the believers in the church age of Philadelphia appear to have but a, “small; minutely small” (in size, quantity, and number) of miraculous power. 

 

Using “mikron” as “micro” in our vernacular, it would appear that any miraculous strength or power the Philadelphia church has, it is so minute, so little in comparison to the other characteristics such as fixed friendships, mutual love and care for one another that miracles seem to pale in their importance. 

 

·         Matthew 7:22-23  “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’  (NAS)

 

·         Matthew 13:57-58 And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his home town, and in his {own} household.”  And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.  (NAS)

 

The church in Philadelphia chooses a more excellent way than pursuing miracles.  Their pursuit is the love of God for one another, and for the inhabitants on earth.  This is not to infer that God will not perform miracles through believers in Philadelphia; it’s just that the miracles will be small in quantity.  Philadelphia follows the more “excellent way” (i.e. - the agape love of God; READ 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 and 13:1-8). 

 

·         1 Corinthians 13:1-3 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have {the gift of} prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed {the poor,} and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.  NAS

 

The so-called “faith movement” promotes a false type of faith; a sort of ‘hyper-faith.” This teaching has at its satanic roots a pseudo-faith demands that God perform a miracle for healing, deliverance and financial prosperity every time they pray!  Those who teach this claim any person who “confesses” their sickness is lacking faith. 

 

Prosperity ministers teach that if you dare “confess your illness” you are speaking a negative report.  They assign a special label to this negativity calling it, “negative rhema,” (rhema being the Greek word for that which is spoken aloud).  What nonsense!  It almost sounds like Chinese eastern philosophy of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ karma.  The verse below is one of their pet favorites, and they apply scripture verses similar to this one in every situation.

 

·         1 Peter 2:24 Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness-- by whose stripes you were healed.  (NKJ)

 

Pastors and ministers all across the country pray over the sick quoting only this part of the verse!  Their prayers go something like this, “I command you to be healed right now, in the name of Jesus!  I rebuke this illness, Lord!  Dear God, this person is now healed, because your word states that, ‘By whose stripes you were healed!!’”

 

The intention here is not to mock prayers for healing; rather, it is to demonstrate the importance of using the word of God by quoting it in its context.  By keeping within context, we avoid twisting the scripture to mean what we want it to mean.  By following the scripture in its intended context we prevent misuse and are less inclined to claim it for miraculous healing. 

 

You cannot “claim” a miracle.  God will honor our faith, but performing a miracle is His decision, and not ours.  We are not “entitled” top miraculous healing simply because we are Christians, or because we have faith in a verse of scripture.

 

Let’s re-examine the context of 1 Peter 2:24 and see what it is really speaking about:

 

·         1 Peter 2:19-25 For this {finds} favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.  For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?  But if when you do what is right and suffer {for it} you patiently endure it, this {finds} favor with God.  For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting {Himself} to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.  For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.  (NAS)

 

The full context of 1 Peter 2:19-25 reveals neither physical healing, nor miraculous healing.  The context is dealing with the believer following Jesus’ example in doing what is right, and suffering for it.  The text explains how Jesus was able to endure such harsh treatment without yielding to the sin’s temptation; that is, “He kept entrusting {Himself} to Him who judges righteously.” 

 

Jesus bore our sins upon the tree and he understands how suffering, being reviling, and harshly treated for righteousness’ sake can wound our hearts.  Therefore, he was willing to endure the physical beating (i.e. – the stripes), so we might find an example of how to endure harsh treatment from our persecutors.  When we endure as he did, we also find healing for our souls from God. 

 

Without the healing for our wounded hearts, we might continue to continually go astray like sheep without a Shepherd.  1Peter 2:24 is speaking of being healed in your spiritual relationship with God.  The believers in Philadelphia are warned about those who are, “of the synagogue of Satan.”  This means that they will most definitely endure harsh treatment as their Lord Jesus did!

 

Now why make all the fuss over this point?  To straighten out the crooked and condemning teachings keeping the church from caring for it’s individual members who are sick and disabled.  The central theme for Philadelphia is friendship that is fixed, caring, dear, and fond.  That is why ‘miracles’ are not their primary focus.

 

·         2 Corinthians 4:7-10 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; {we are} afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  (NAS)

 

·         2 Corinthians 12:7-9 And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me-- to keep me from exalting myself!  Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  (NAS)

 

Jesus was beaten with stripes to bring God’s healing to our sin sick souls.  However, a servant is not above His Master, and so we too must receive a “scourge.”  The difference between Jesus and us is that he was beaten without just cause; he was scourged for our sakes.  On the other hand, our scourging is a discipline from God to keep us walking without being crippled by sin (read Hebrews 12:4-15). 

 

·         Hebrews 12:11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.  NAS

 

Philadelphia possesses only a small quantity of miraculous power for physical healing.  Yet their quantity of spiritual healing exceeds all of the other six churches in the book of Revelation.  Along with the church of Smyrna, Philadelphia was the only church to receive commendation without rebuke from God in His message to them (Read Revelation 2: 8-11 with 3:7-13).  Ironically, like Smyrna, God warns the Philadelphia church to be aware of the “synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, but are not.” 

 

Smyrna was the early post-apostolic church, most of who were martyred for their faith. 

To Philadelphia, the “synagogue” could be a reference to the mainline, lukewarm churches that will verbally, or physically, persecute the Philadelphians.

 

Jesus prophesied they would be scourged in “synagogues.”  Therefore the synagogue may be symbolic of government sponsored church denominations, not unlike the ‘Three-Self (so-called) Patriotic Church’ in Red China.  This Communist-run church is a façade for government spies to trap and persecute true believers.

 

Philadelphia’s focus is obedience to the word of God.  This means being directed by Jesus and developing personal relationships in the body of Christ.  Their desire is to manifest God’s love to one another and to the lost in practical ways. 

 

·         Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  (NAS)

 

·         1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  (NAS)

 

Why would the Almighty, Sovereign King of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things, withhold His miraculous power from the end-time church like Philadelphia?  They are to become a mature body of believers, intent on one purpose, and of one heart.  Yet God chooses to give them, “a quantity of miraculous power which is small in number.”  Why would he do this?  After all, Elijah had miraculous power, and Philadelphia is said to be the last day “Elijah” who was to come (Matthew 11: 12-15). 

 

Part of the reason the Father withholds and miraculous power from the Philadelphia church is because He wants their focus to be more on friendship and mutual care for each other.  God alone does miracles, but only people can develop character.  Philadelphia must work together with God and His son Jesus and be made in their likeness, becoming the image (outward visible representation) of the invisible God.

 

Jesus warned of the pitfalls of those who are given authority to do great signs, wonders, and miracles.  They tend to get puffed up in pride, and begin to leave their first love for the thrill of the ‘ministry.’  Consider the following verses in this regard:

 

·         Matthew 7:15-29  “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn {bushes,} nor figs from thistles, are they?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will know them by their fruits.  Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’  Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and {yet} it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand.  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”  The result was that when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were amazed at His teaching; for he was teaching them as {one} having authority, and not as their scribes.  (NAS)

 

In the last days, the Philadelphia church will be particularly aware of false prophets, who disguise themselves as Christian ministers.  Inwardly, these men are nothing more than greedy counterfeits.  They are like wolves ravaging the flock of God for wealth, power, sex, or whatever they can get.  These voracious men and women will make use of television or radio media; or they will flood the pulpits of organized Christian churches.  They will tickle the ears of the lukewarm, Laodicea church that cannot distinguish their façade from the truth (READ 2 Timothy 4:2-4). 

 

Though Philadelphia is not known for having miraculous power, they are diligent to develop the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.  There is a huge difference between the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit, and the ‘gifts’ of the Spirit.  A person can become adept to performing the gifts, but without the tedious work of developing good fruit, they will be cast out of God’s presence on judgment day.

 

Jesus said to discern a person by the ‘fruit’ in their life.  Is it good fruit?  Consider the following verses: 

 

·         Galatians 5:22-26  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” (NAS) 

 

One may ask, what kind of bad fruit should I look for to discern the good?  Consider these verses: 

 

·         Galatians 5:19-21  “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (NAS)

 

·         Luke 6:39-49 And He also spoke a parable to them: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit?  A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.  And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.  For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit; nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit.  For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.  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; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.  And why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?  Everyone who comes to me, and hears my words, and acts upon them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation upon the rock; and when a flood rose, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.  But the one who has heard, and has not acted {accordingly,} is like a man who built a house upon the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”  (NAS)

 

Having entered in the 21st Century, Christian propaganda advertises the so-called “power of God.”  A nationwide frenzy is again sweeping through charismatic circles, with declarations of yet another revival. While charismania tries to pump new life into the dying “renewal movement” Philadelphia works tirelessly for the Father in obscurity. 

 

In the ‘Renewal Movement’ everyone gets excited, laughs, jumps, claps, and sings.  It used to be nearly every time you turned on ‘Christian’ television, you’d see some well-known minister laying hands on some naive believer who would fall backwards into the arms of professional ‘catchers’ to cushion the plummet.  This is what charismatic church calls ‘revival.’  And after all the theatrics, the pianist plays a familiar tune, as the minister begins his plea for donations.  There is truly “nothing new” under the sun (Eccl 1: 9).

 

Producers of senseless TV programs sit in plush chairs, in the setting of an extremely ornate set of props.  They hold hands in prayer, on live tape (pre-recorded) acting as though they have a “word of knowledge” about illnesses that God will cure.  God is now being pre-recorded and His miracle-working power is broadcast via time delay! 

 

Is this really the way Jesus wants His gospel to be preached?  Even more amazing is the fact Christians send in millions of dollars worth of donations to support these lavish and phony ministries! 

 

All the while, smaller amounts of believers are building their foundation on the commands of scripture.  Disgusted and repulsed by the pilfering of God’s sheep by wolves in sheep’s clothing, nonetheless, they that the gospel is preached, even though for greed and gain. 

 

Paul wrote about this when he was in prison:

 

·         Philippians 1:12-18 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in {the cause of} Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.  Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter {do it} out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.  (NAS)

 

What about the more important things?  What about becoming servants?  What about feeding the poor, or clothing the naked, or visiting the stranger, or the prisoner?  What has happened to the concept of individual discipleship?  What kind of example did Jesus give us to follow?  Are we following his example?  The life of Jesus has gone by the wayside, and been given a back seat to all of the programs of man! 

 

The churches are dead, lukewarm and indifferent.  Only a handful of churches, by way of comparison, have taken to task the commands of Jesus to reach out to the lost, or to the hurting, or to their brethren.  Amos 8:11-12 says that in the last days, men will “stagger” looking for the word of the LORD.

 

·         Amos 8:11-12 "Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord GOD, "When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD.  And people will stagger from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find {it.}”  (NAS)

 

American churches now teach a “feel good” type of Christianity.  They say, “Just come to church faithfully, and perhaps one day we will see a revival of God.”

 

Only the believers who have “ears to hear” what the Spirit of God is saying to the church will be built upon the solid rock.  The reason?  They have not only “heard” the commands of their Lord, but they have “acted” upon them.  These ones who ‘act’ out their faith are the believers of the church of Philadelphia.  It is not an organization; it is a body of individual believers united and eager to be ‘doers’ of the word. 

 

·         Luke 6:45 “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; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” (NAS)

 

The good treasure brought forth by the church in Philadelphia will be a disciple for Jesus through caring friendships. The rest of the church in America is the lukewarm church in Laodicea; these bring forth the bad fruit of selfishness, greed, and deception.

 

·         Luke 6:39-40 “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he?  Will they not both fall into a pit?  A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” 

 

·         Matthew 7:29 The result was that when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as {one} having authority, and not as their scribes.  

 

Though Philadelphia’s believers are not trained in seminaries and Bible colleges, they will follow the example of their Teacher...Jesus.  They won’t speak as the stereotypical preacher and ministers today, but will speak as those having the delegated authority of God the Father.  The reason?  They are committed to living by the scripture, believing it to be every word proceeding from the mouth of God.  It is their food, and through it they do the will of God.

 

·          2 Timothy 1:7-8 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.  Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.  (NAS)

 

Selah

 

Continued in Part 3


Links to the Entire "The Vision of the Church in Philadelphia” Series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7



 

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