Church 6: Philadelphia

 Many Christians look at this church as being the most successful of the seven.

 Reading through the letter to them, we identify with the difficulties they endured and the benefits of that endurance.

Rev 3: 7-13

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.

Christ opens the letter as 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;

Now, holiness and truth are two things most religions state are founding principles of their doctrine. If theirs is the ‘truth’, then we would have one religion, not hundreds. Therefore someone’s truth is not truth after all.

In a progressive society, such as the one we must currently endure, truth is not definitive.  We have groups telling us that if something is truth to a person, then it is the truth; so despite two people not agreeing on an issue, both sides are ‘truth’. We understand that there can be two sides to a story in perhaps a vehicle accident, but here the subject is holiness and truth, where we must have each tightly defined, as both are so necessary to an ongoing society.

This interpretation of everyone possessing the truth is not new and pushed by those who cannot abide one truth, just as they cannot abide one God. When Cain slew Abel, there were two truths created. There was Cain’s side of the story, the one he would have told his descendants around the campfires and then to their descendants, and Abel’s had he lived.  These are not two truths, but merely two perspectives. In this particular case, Abel could not speak for himself, being dead, so God did the speaking on his behalf.

This issue of perspectives is how we get so many religions in a world meant for only one. When we market a well-thought out perspective for long enough and to the right people, it becomes truth. Hitler, for instance, marketed his perspective of Germany, life, other people, and the future. To many, it then became truth, and they fought to the death for it. However, as we now know, it was not truth.

Numerous religions have people fighting to the death. Wouldn’t it be sheer anguish to fight for a cause for many years, only to find it was a lie?

For that reason, we cannot cling to a religion simply because it helped us when we were going through a hard time, or it feels like it would be good, or the followers seem happy, or someone knocked on our door at a time we were vulnerable. It may not be the truth. Like anything else in society that demands accuracy, we need to look at who we follow and put them under the microscope. Yes, even the Christian god we think we support.

I use the term ‘who’ as every religion is about following a deity, and yet there is only one God. So how does that work? On the surface, it may look like all religious disciples follow the same God, and it is simply a change of name. However, the one true God of the Bible has already told us what his various names are, and none of them are the gods of other religions.

The top religions of the world put the necessity for truth into context, as we see in this ensemble:

Christianity (General) — 2.04 Billion Followers. …

Islam (General) — 1.226 Billion Followers. …

Catholicism — 1.142 Billion Followers. …

Hinduism (General) — 828 Million Followers. …

Agnosticism — 639 Million Followers. …

Buddhism (General) — 367 Million Followers. …

Atheism — 150 Million Followers. …

Anglicanism — 85.4 Million Followers.

Here we identify humankind’s built-in desire to follow something. It is one of the purposes in our design.  We need it. We yearn for it; even if we are an atheist! When the conversation comes around to the topic of ‘God’ you will not find the atheists silent as people having no belief, but they will pipe up and tell you they are proud atheists as if atheism is their football team.

When it’s all boiled down, this inherent compulsion to follow is about truth and how important truth really is to us. Regardless of whether we seek the truth about who we follow or try to hide from it, there are not a multitude of truths, just one, and it is as existent today as we are.

So many people will die and go to hell because they did not seek the truth when they had the chance. They will turn a blind eye to the falseness of their deity and not question it or will be too scared to look for it, as they might find it.

Cultural and family ties have much to do with this predicament, as people tend to blindly follow the god of their parents or community or nation. Out of those billions of followers, some will earnestly seek the truth and the one true God and be saved.

There is one God and one Truth, and, despite followers calling their leaders “your holiness”, there is one manner of Holiness, and it is not with them.

The letter also states, “he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth

This strange phrase is particularly interesting for believers and those seeking the Kingdom of God, as it seems to hold at least four messages within.   Also, it isn’t the first time mention of the Key of David in Scripture, and it provides the holder with supreme authority.

Firstly, it appears to refer to Jerusalem and possibly the nation of Israel. Not the broken up geographical mess we see at the moment, but the original land the Lord God gave them, with all their borders of inheritance in place.

In its current state, it has been politically carved up into regions and granted to people that have no portion, nor right, nor memorial in Israel, let alone Jerusalem. However, they still covet it because that is what disobedient people do; covet what they cannot have and take it by any means.

Remember, Israel was intended to be a model of faith and belief to the rest of the world so they could then see and follow. Therefore, if all nations in the world followed at that time, Jerusalem would have been the world centre of spiritual knowledge and judgement.

Secondly, David created praises in Israel like never before. He organised singers, musicians and songs to lift up the name of the Almighty. At times of worship, Glory to God was on people’s lips as prayers of thanksgiving rose like a billowing fragrance to the senses of the living God. David as king wanted to please God and worship him and ensure his nation did the same. So this could be a key to proper worship.

Thirdly, David’s knowledge and understanding of God at the time was exemplary. If he were alive today, we would marvel at his unique perception. We would be in awe, even today.  The key could refer to deeper knowledge than is currently presented for general distribution.

Fourthly, Luke 11:52 talks about the wrong people having the key of knowledge and not using nor sharing it. These are individuals who have been trained in scripture, and either never had faith to go with the knowledge, or have lost their faith and belief and seek to ensure others lose theirs. Their aim is to divert seekers from the truth, and they are still in some churches today. “Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.”

The Key of David would open that vault of knowledge and share it as God desired. No double-tongued biblical scoundrels would have any further authority.

Also with all this, there is a healing that takes place in a nation, similar to when Hezekiah transformed Judah. Everyone was thankful.

This key opened much!

As with the previous churches, the Lord states that he knows their works. The Lord, although not saying it, seems pleased with Philadelphia’s works, because he simply proceeds with the next part of the sentence. He states, “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.”

What is an open door that no man can shut? Does it mean that the church can’t close it either once opened?

Could it be the door by which the angels ascended and descended on Jacob’s ladder (Gen 28:10-17)?

Could it be the Strait Gate? (Matt 7:13-14)?

Could it be Paul’s great and effectual door (1 Cor 16:9)?

We all know what it is like when we read scripture and a secret leaps out at us? Something we have not seen before, but now it is crystal clear? We are elated. A door has been opened!

The Lord opened the door in this passage of scripture and invited them to go through, and no person could close it either way.

What an incredible offer!

Perseverance is priceless, and the Philadelphians were paid handsomely. This offer is perhaps recognition of their fight for purity and righteousness.

Despite being barely able to stand, they stood, and it is an encouragement to us all.

Eph 6:13 “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand”

When we make a ‘stand’ what does that mean? It is paramount for our walk, as so many Christians live out their lives being spiritually lame.

We need to look at being Born Again, as this is the beginning of our walk and the start of our need for the spiritual armour and resistance again evil.

I mentioned this in the Sardis saga, and it is worthy of mention here.

When we come to the Lord to be Born Again, it is necessary to see what that means. There are multitudes of Christians saying they are Born Again but still not able to overcome sin, which we are called to do!

‘Standing’ is a role expected by God of all Christians. There are things internal and external against which we are to ‘stand’. However, God’s other expectation is for us to grow into the role, getting a better understanding of what we are to stand against, and learning to balance that with other character qualities before we lose every friend or acquaintance we have made to date.

From the womb, God created within us several characteristics which make us who we are. There are other character qualities that we learn about and take on. Being brave enough to face the odds is one of those things we either have or need to learn.

But before that, we obviously must have a cause worthy of standing for, as only then do we muster the courage to represent it genuinely. This cause is the Lord, his Kingdom, his righteousness, and his people.

Also, we can often have trouble finding the guts to stand for the Lord in certain circumstances. Depending on the situation, I don’t think there has been a Christian, going all the way back to Peter the Apostle, who hasn’t been caught out just like Peter was in omitting to represent Jesus in some situation at some time.  It is just like being a dumb sheep, with plenty to say but too much to lose at that point if we say it.

The Philadelphians did not have that trouble at the time of the writing of the letter, but I would guess that at some point they would keep quiet, as it states in Proverbs 28:28 “When the wicked rise, men hide themselves: but when they perish, the righteous increase.

The letter stated, “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.

A real Jew would have been awaiting the Christ of old testament prophecy. It is scripturally clear that Andrew and Peter were searching, as they went from serving the Jewish manner of worship to following John the Baptist, to following Christ. These steps were the pathway for real Jews who was seeking at that time, and many followed it, to the point that the authorities killed John the Baptist and then Christ, and then some followers.

We see in the news, after the election of Donald Trump,  how the truth came out that many of the anarchists destroying Berkeley University in California and placarding in cities all across America were hired and paid to look like genuine resistors.

Similarly, upon Pilate’s judgment of Christ, we see the evil priests ensuring the crowd would turn against him.

Through the dark and middle ages, history shows us many similar occurrences. As Protestantism gained ground, the catholic church hired or forced people to resist the true God.

Some present day news writers are similar, appearing to be moderates, but in fact are Christ haters.

The Philadelphians endured ‘hell’ during their life, simply for following Christ, such is Satan’s hatred for him.

Here the Lord says, “I will make them of the synagogue of Satan; which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie”.

Scripture states that a wise man will count the cost before building his house. We see these people who did not count the cost, were given the synagogue they did not expect, and the god they deserved.

God does not suffer liars.

Pharoah was a liar when time and time again he went back on his word. He too was given many chances to repent and worship the living God, but eventually earned the god he did not expect and his synagogue.

To endure what the Philadelphians endured, we would need the peace of the Lord that passes all understanding; otherwise, we would run like scared rabbits. That order gives us a “what will be, will be” state of mind, as we hand over all fears to God; very similar to Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego when threatened with being burnt to death under Nebuchadnezzar.

In every situation we are to give up our fears to God, and let him have control of the situation, so, whether we live or die, we are his.

Further, having real peace with God does not stop at fear. We cannot have perpetual peace of mind if we are in sin or conflict with God.

This type of peace takes us to a new level of mind-rest, and walks us through Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

A mind conformed to this world can easily and naturally be put into a state of fear. 2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

When we are properly Born Again, we will be able to remove that spirit of fear.

Moreover, the natural mind cannot prove any will of God, let alone understand it. God’s will includes the bazaar and incredulous and is dispensed as he sees fit, not according to this world, and the natural mind cannot compute much of what it cannot see.

How we transform our minds is similar to how we “keep our hearts with all diligence“, as it takes us to the same places for security — Solomons bed and the Tabernacle.

Song of Solomon 3:7-8 “Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s; threescore (60) valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel. They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.”

This scripture is talking about Christ’s bed where there is rest for our hearts and minds in this fortress-like situation. It is, of course, a spiritual place. If we put our minds and hearts inside and keep both with all diligence, they will be surrounded by an impenetrable wall of God’s chosen.

There were also 60 posts holding up the Tabernacle’s white wall of righteousness.

That bed, where we can rest from the depravities and fears of life, demands that we are also faithful when we put our minds and hearts in there. This is the bed of the faithful, those to whom Jesus wants to marry; and when we are properly Born Again, we should not desire to wander from it.

Heb 13.4 “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge

1 John 3:9 “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

This Born of God scripture is the vision we need to have when we come to Christ. We need to get there, then remain there.

This place we arrive at is purity of the mind. This is the real Born Again experience, far beyond the sinner’s prayer. It is only here that we see sin for what it is. It is here that we see others in their right perspective. Not whether they a friends or enemies, successful or unsuccessful, whether you like them or not; but only whether they are saved or unsaved.

It is here you forget yourself and begin weeping for the lost and broken.

It is here where we only see other people through a wall of righteousness and deep sacrifice, and not through our common human prejudices.

As Rom 13:9-10 states, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

This scripture originating from the law is a call to save the lost, not to judge them, which, in this sense, is sin. It begins and ends in the mind.

Purity of the mind rejects all sin; which is how we should view Solomon’s bed. Those diligent soldiers surrounding it is our determination not to commit sin or even think it. By thinking it, we are poking our heads out in curiosity between those 60 warriors and exposing ourselves to Satan, who is on the other side.

God give us the initial opportunity through Christ to become clean in spirit, word, thought, action. We then choose to stay in there with him or venture out past the valiant men (or the wall of righteousness) back to the territory that is ruled by Satan, from which we came.

Those 60 valiant men are the 60 posts of judgement of the Tabernacle. When we make judgements against sin, they need to be valiant, as everything in this world is against us making those decisions

Aaron, the High Priest of Israel and his sons were told by God to keep the charge of the Tabernacle for all the service of the Tabernacle, that a stranger doesn’t come near. They were also to keep the charge of the Sanctuary and Altar. In like manner, we also bear the charge of our Tabernacle, Sanctuary and Altar, to ensure no stranger (strange god or lust) comes near our hearts and minds and worship.

This illustration means that we too need to be both valiant and diligent in our offence and defence of those precious things the Lord has given us.

What might some of the more unclear judgements be that we fail to notice?

They are simply the day-to-day decisions we all make which either grow or deplete the nine Fruit of the Spirit. The fruit are Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, and Temperance. Within each fruit are the answers to many of life’s issues and callings, and God’s secrets.

We obtain a small amount of each fruit when we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives. From that very point, we have an obligation to help Him grow within us all nine individual fruit to maturity — to ‘perfection’ ready to be picked. It also means we will get resistance from Satan all the way.

When we make the wrong decision on one of these matters, Satan’s resistance sometimes gets us thinking things like, “I can’t do anything right” and “why am I such a failure”. All this is is Satan working out ways to stop that growth within us — tempting us at the time we need to make a decision, and our lust for the wrong choice overpowers our ‘stand’ for the right one.

For instance, when we choose to be unnecessarily angry instead of gentle, we are following our lust to get mad and yell when the Lord tells us that a ‘soft’ answer turns away wrath; and we explain it away by saying anger was needed this time. Hmmm.  We are either building or shrinking one or more of these characteristics.

Or when we decide to tell a story that builds us up in someone’s eyes instead of remaining meek and telling the truth?

Or when we choose to drive past someone in need instead of assisting? Same expensive choice.

Or when we decide to watch a movie that Christ couldn’t watch instead of leaving it on the shelf and getting something more Christ-appropriate;  or when we choose to booze instead of living for Christ or our ‘weaker’ brethren who might not have our strength?

These exact junctures are where the rubber hits the road; yet, they are the choices we tell others off for not making correctly when often we are just as guilty.

These fruit are at the core of most arguments in the home or work or play.  These are the decisions affecting our future. Every time we come across one of these decisions, we are either depositing into or withdrawing from that small amount we freely received. If we are continually withdrawing, we end up with nothing. Now we can clearly see how we remain children on milk instead of growing into maturity. Just like a long-term bank deposit which grows to maturity.

How do we explain to people the wonders of God, when our lives don’t add up to what we are preaching? It’s like a financially poor man telling us how to get rich. It just doesn’t make sense, and nobody believes him.

Are you a spender or a depositor? Do you have habits that defy the growth of the fruit? It is Satan knowing your weakness and tempting you with it at the right time. If you have developed a small weakness into a habit, you will fall every time, purely because it is habit!  Sometimes friends ‘bait’ us, knowing how we will react. That’s habit. Our job is in self-development until we do not have those weaknesses, and it is possible!

When we understand Satan’s hatred for us, we can march on and ‘stand’ as directed, and not beat ourselves up so much for being failures.  We can fight more strategically, understanding the raging battle going on for our growth; it being so critical to the needs of the Kingdom. i.e. “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Eph 4:13)

It is, therefore, a battle all the way. Hence we monitor our diligence.

The stage of Job’s development in this scripture is within reach of us all.

He was sure of his path and, as we should do, monitored it daily. “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.” (Job 23:10-11)

We see the confidence he had of where his feet were pointing, and that he had held his steps from walking outside the boundaries of the valiant men, even when all was against him; that he had kept the way of the Lord in both good times and terrible, and honoured his name.

He was confident that, at his final assessment, God would reveal that he had ‘stood’ firm to the point that he would come forth as Gold. That is, Gold TRIED in the fire of day-to-day decisions.

“Jesus said, …”My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.”

This spiritual state is a higher or deeper level than that of Job, and a place we can reach if we continue making choices favouring the growth of the Fruit.  We can become so spiritually sustained coming under the will of the Father and desiring to finish our work in him, that, at times, we won’t notice our natural body is in need.

When we consider ‘overcoming’ as a life work, and the rewards the Lord has for those who continue in it, we see how little value our financial income on this earth is, and the pointlessness of spending our lives chasing it and the trappings that accompany it.

John 6:27 “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

When we get that small amount of each of these Fruit, it is all we can handle. We are new in Christ, and small. Hence, we are given little. As we grow in knowledge and understanding, the Fruit is also meant to increase.

Can you imagine yourself as a small acorn growing fully complete as a large tree? Where many people get shade from the elements of life? Where your words and comfort is enough to get them through that day?

Wow, what honour?

Finale…Philadelphia

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