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Revelation 3:7-13

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If you have access to the internet, I invite you to go to the website of Voice of the Martyrs. Their official website is persecution.com.
On this page, there are several news updates and testimonies of Christians who are facing challenges and trials because of their faith that we can’t begin to imagine.
There are also stories of God’s faithfulness as well as stories of miracles of how people were spared or others came to faith in Jesus Christ.
There are stories from all over the world: China, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Laos, Colombia, India, Kenya, Egypt, and Malawi, just to name a few.
I know from personal conversations with Dan Smith, the director of Paradise Bound, there are some places in the southern tip of Mexico that he is looking to do ministry. One of the things that he is concerned and praying about is the persecution of Christians in some of these areas. People of influence in these areas are tied in with organized crime and observe a type of Roman Catholicism that is based more on superstitions than anything that resembles the Christian faith we are familiar with. New Christians are a threat to their power and a threat to their business, so missions are discouraged.
We live in a place where we don’t give a thought to persecution unless someone brings it to our attention. When you left home tonight, you didn’t give a second thought about whether or not this would be the night the government troops would come in to shut the service down.
After reading some of the stories on voice of the martyrs, I realized that I hadn’t ever thought about being identified as a pastor, and therefore being viewed as a threat. I haven’t thought about being arrested, beaten, imprisoned, kidnapped, or murdered.
We don’t have to worry about going to work tomorrow and keeping our faith quiet, because if people learn that we are Christians, they are going to stop giving you business or that you are going to lose your job.
We have blessings far beyond what we can count, but know that there are those we can call brothers and sisters in the Lord who struggle with these issues daily.
Jesus has a message to anyone who faces opposition and persecution in his name.

The door is always open to those who believe.

What do we know about Philadelphia. We’ve heard about the city of “brotherly love.” It was actually named in memory or honor of two people in ancient history, actual brothers, Eumenes, king of Pergamum, and Attalus, his younger brother.
On two different occasions, Attalus had the opportunity to take the throne away from his older brother, but he refused it. One time, his brother was rumored dead after a battle, Attalus ruled briefly, but when his brother returned, he gave up his crown. The second time is when the Romans offered to help Attalus over throw his brother, but he refused.
Over time, Philadelphia became a strong ally to the Roman Empire. It had many of the things that we’ve heard about before. There were temples built to pagan gods as well as to the emperors. There was also a large Jewish settlement in Philadelphia.
One other significant issue that Philadelphia was known for were two large earthquakes that caused significant damage to the city. One earthquake happened in 17 AD and was so large that the city was exempted from taxes for five years as they rebuilt. Along with that, they were also given more help—so much help that out of gratitude they renamed their city Neocaesaria for a time, in honor of the emperor, Tiberius. Fifty years later, there was another earthquake during the reign of Vespasian. Because of his help, they renamed the city Philadelphia Flavia, because Vespasian’s family name was Flavia.
As far as persecution is mentioned, there are historical accounts of Christians being persecuted by both the Greek/Roman citizens as well as the Jewish people, many of whom came to Philadelphia after Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD.
So lets look at the letter like we’ve been doing in past weeks.
Christ Title
Commendation
Complaint
Correction
Consequence
How does Jesus identify himself? He is the one who hold the key.
Revelation 3:7 NIV
“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
Revelation 3:
Compare this to
Isaiah 22:22 NIV
I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
Isaiah 22:22
Or
Matthew 16:19 NIV
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Who has the authority in the eternal city? Not the Greeks. Not the Romans. Not the Jews. They can’t decide who belongs, only God does. He holds the keys. That’s what makes these verses so powerful. The Greeks and Romans could control what was in their city. The Jews could decide who would and wouldn’t be allowed in the synagogue, but only Jesus Christ holds the door to eternal life.
The Christians in Philadelphia are commended for their deeds, for their faithfulness in keeping God’s Word, and for not denying their Lord and Savior.
Jesus’ criticism is especially pointed:
Revelation 3:9 NIV
I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.
The final commendation carries over into the second point.
In this passage there is no complaint against Philadelphia, just like Smyrna.

We are held by God through every trial.

Revelation 3:10 NIV
Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
We are held by God. It says that the Lord will keep you from the hour of trouble. Some would say that this is evidence of the rapture prior to the end times. Yet, we know that the Christians in Philadelphia were persecuted and some were even martyred. As we read ahead in Revelation we know that believers were martyred.
The more appropriate interpretation is that when trials and persecutions happen, the Lord will keep us, and in that hour of trial he will help us to be faithful. It is spiritual protection from trials and the temptations of Satan.
The simple understanding is this-all of us will face trials and hardships. We will all have plenty of opportunity to doubt and deny our faith. When those times happen, God will protect us and bring us back to him.
Commending the Philadelphian Christians for their faithfulness, there is no complaint, just an encouragement.
Revelation 3:11 NIV
I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
Remember that...

In Jesus, we are pillars of God’s temple.

Jesus promises those who face trials that God will not abandon them. They will be pillars in God’s temple. In pagan temples, the names of priests were often written on the pillars. The names of believers will be written there.
1 Peter 2:4–5 NIV
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2
We will be a part of the new Jerusalem. Jesus puts his name on us. We belong.
As we think of this, pray for the persecuted church, wherever they gather. Pray for their safety. Pray for their faithfulness. Pray for their witness.
Give thanks that we have not yet had to experience what they do daily.
That doesn’t mean it can’t happen some day. Some would say that Christianity is simply being put on an equal playing field with all the other religions that people follow, and that Christianity should not have a privileged position. It’s not uncommon for believers to be put down as being uptight, out of touch, or narrow minded.
Let’s not kid ourselves, we are blessed in so many ways. Let’s not consider our inconveniences to be held on an equal level with the legitimate suffering that fellow believers have experienced. Yet, if that day does happen, my prayers is that we are found to be faithful and it is our names also, written on the pillars of the New Jerusalem.
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