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Called to Mission

Revelation 3:7-13

“‘Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open:

‘I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me. Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.

‘Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.

‘Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”

mission

Ancient Philadelphia

Twenty-five miles southeast of Sardis, along the Hermus River valley, lays the high plateau city of Philadelphia. The city was established by the Pergamenian king Attalus II, described as “Philadelphus” because of a deep-seeded love for his brother. Along with textile and leather industries, a vine-growing district to the northeast contributed greatly to the city’s prosperity. Strategically located at the trade routes leading to Mysia, Lydia, and Phrygia, the place earned the title “gateway to the East.” Philadelphia disseminated Greek culture and language into far distant regions.

Philadelphia was also a center for pagan worship, having so many gods and temples the city was referred to as “little Athens.”

A faithful church

The letter to Philadelphia does not contain disapproval or reproach; it addresses a church keeping the faith. Churches can have a strong testimony and a vibrant witness; not every church experiences trouble. Although local believers were possibly kicked out of the local synagogue, Jesus is described as “the one who has the key of David” and is the door into divine fellowship.

Long after the surrounding country succumbed to Muslim control under Turkey, Philadelphia was a Christian community until 1392. Philadelphia was a faithful church.

An open door

The church had an open door of mission for the kingdom. They had the geographical ability to widely spread the message of Jesus everywhere.

When addressing mission, Paul mentioned open doors on several occasions. Writing to the Corinthian church of his plans to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, he declares, “There is a wide-open door for a great work here.” (1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col 4:3)

The church is called to mission.

A doorway to divine fellowship

The church had obeyed God, did not deny Jesus, and gained an open door to divine fellowship.

A humbling message

“I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue … to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.”

When believers are verbally attacked and denounced by others, those people will eventually have to humble themselves and acknowledge Jesus as the true Messiah. (Romans 14:11)

The promise

In a city known for various games and festivals, a promised crown was especially appropriate. Perseverance would lead to a victorious crown.

The city often experienced devastating earthquakes, causing people to flee and set-up temporary housing in rural areas. The promise of permanence within the New Jerusalem held a special meaning.

William Barclay wrote about Philadelphia, “When a man served the state well … the memorial which the city gave him was to erect a pillar in one of the temples with his name inscribed upon it.” (Letters to the Seven Churches, p. 70) Jesus promises overcomers, “All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it.” His followers are forever honored in the house of God.

Jesus promises that the faithful belong to God, are citizens of the New Jerusalem, and maintain a special relationship with Him.

The message today

What motivates you? Are you pursuing opportunities to serve in the kingdom?

Expect His help but also expect to be criticized by others. Not everyone is happy when you successfully represent Jesus.

An urgent need

John Stott accurately prescribes the church as urgently needing believers of profound zeal, willing to count all things loss for God’s glory and willing to hazard life, comfort, career, and reputation for Him. Open doors are many, but there are few going through them.

“He sets before us the open doors of salvation and of service. He bids us go in through the one to receive salvation and out through the other to give service.” (What Christ Thinks of the Church, pp. 103-104).

The challenge

Pursue open doors provided by God. Seek opportunities to make disciples and advance His kingdom.

What doors have God opened for you?  Share your comments below.

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