What sort of church does Jesus prefer?
When Jesus looks at a church, He’s not
studying outward things. He’s looking for the
deeper signs of growing faith, fervent love,
and abiding hope. He wants His churches to
be motivated by love, founded on truth, strong
under pressure, and unashamed of His name.
Of the seven churches, only Smyrna and
Philadelphia received no words of condemnation.
And it is not coincidental that both
churches faced strong opposition because of
their bold witness. Hard times generally make
for strong churches, especially when the hard
times come because the church refuses to
compromise the gospel.
Revelation 3:7-13 records the letter to the
church at Philadelphia, a city about 35 miles
southeast of Sardis. The church in that city
was the youngest and smallest of the seven
churches of Revelation 2 and 3. Though the
faithful congregation was small in size, our
Lord had opened a huge door for them.
Here is a church of which Christ heartily
approves. As we study this letter, let’s think
about our own churches and consider how we
measure up to God’s ideal.
I. CONSIDER OUR OPPORTUNITY
(VERSES 7, 8)
A. Christ Himself opens the doors. When
God opens a door, no one can shut it. And
when He closes a door, no one can open it. God
rarely shows us the big picture in advance. The
“open door” is usually a door pushed slightly
open. We still have to summon the courage
to go through the door and see what’s on the
Jesus Himself, the One who is holy and
true, the One who has all authority, opens
doors for His people. It’s His job to open doors.
He’s very good at it, and He doesn’t need our
help. Our job is to go through the doors He
opens, one step at a time, one foot in front of
the other, going wherever He may lead us.
B. Christ honors faith, not strength. Jesus
said to the church at Philadelphia, “I know
that you have little strength” (verse 8). Little
strength and great opportunity often go handin-hand.
Sometimes small churches think there
is little they can do for the Lord, but it’s all a
matter of perspective. The church at Philadelphia
had little strength. We can assume that
they didn’t have much money or many influential people. But they had great faith.
What is it that God honors? Faith. What is
He looking for? Faith. What does He reward?
Faith, simple faith.
Notice the two wonderful things Jesus
says about this church: “You have kept my
word” and “You have not denied my name.”
The first involves holding fast to the words of
Jesus. The second means you aren’t embarrassed
by the first. Some people feel slightly
ashamed of their faith.
II. CONSIDER OUR OPPOSITION
(VERSES 9, 10)
Satan hates gospel preaching, and he
hates gospel preachers. Sometimes we hear
people talk about “easy places” to preach, but
there are no “easy places.”
Let a man decide he is going to stand for
Jesus, let him tell the community the whole
counsel of God, let him firmly but kindly declare
the saving gospel of Jesus, and he will
have enemies soon enough. And not all of
them will be outside the church.
I think the believers at Philadelphia cared
enough about the truth that they had made
some powerful enemies in the community.
That was a mark of their faithfulness to Christ.
A. We will be vindicated (verse 9). The
“synagogue of Satan” refers to those Jews in
Philadelphia who persecuted the early believers.
Seeing Jesus as a threat to their way of
life, they hated Him and those who followed
Him. But, Jesus says, they are liars. And that’s
not all. The day will come when these hostile
enemies will bow down and confess that Jesus
Christ is Lord. Some commentators see
this as a promise of vast gospel advance as
the church preaches to the unreached people
groups of the world. One day those who have
no simpathy for Christ or for Christians will see
how wrong they were.
B. We will be protected (verse 10).
Sometimes the best you can do is to “endure
patiently.” Spiritual warfare isn’t all roses and
rainbows. Sometimes it means not giving up
when you feel like throwing in the towel. Our
Lord makes a precious promise to these suffering
saints. He looks ahead to the “time of trial”
that will engulf the whole world before Christ
comes to establish His kingdom on the earth.
In the last days, things will be difficult
indeed. Scripture often speaks of the time of trouble that will shake the earth and prepare
the world for the coming of the Lord. Because
God’s people have been faithful, Jesus will
keep them in that time of trial.
III. CONSIDER OUR OBLIGATION
You can’t read this passage without getting
a sense that the early believers expected
Christ to come at any moment. He even said, “I
am coming soon.” This text calls us to do two
things while we look for the coming of Christ.
A. We are to wait for His return (verse 11).
Jesus said, “I am coming soon.” How many of
us believe that? We are to live as if Jesus will
come at any moment and work as though our
time is short.
B. We are to overcome by faith (verses
12, 13). The challenge to overcome is one we
face every day. We are called to be “overcomers”
every single day because we have a lot
to overcome: temptations, frustrations, difficult
situations, unexpected setbacks, internal
discouragement, chronic pain, and personal
We will be named and claimed. The power
to name is the power of ownership. Those
whom God has redeemed will be named and
claimed by Him. All the old names—doctor,
lawyer, professor, politician—won’t matter
anymore. In that great day, the blood of Jesus
will wash away all the “tags” by which we know
each other. Our “good” names won’t matter,
and our “bad” names won’t be remembered.
We will all stand on the same ground—saved,
redeemed, renewed, and renamed by our Lord.
If you want eternal security, you can find it
only in Jesus Christ. One day we will have new
names, and we will live in a city that cannot
Faithfulness to Christ and to His truth is
everything, especially in the days when iniquity
shall abound, and the love of many shall wax
cold. Fear not! The reward is glorious! The honor
is beyond all earthly honors! The contempt
and enmity are but for a day; the dignity and the
blessedness are forever and ever!
Indeed it is so. May God help us to be faithful
to Him who has done so much for us!