The Philadelphian Church II
Acknowledgement of Faithfulness
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.”
“I know thy works.” ∼ The One who is coming to reward all according to their works (2:23; 22:12; Job 3:11; Ps 62:12; Prov 24:12; Jer 17:10; 32:19; Matt 16:27; Rom 2:6; 1 Cor 3:8; 2 Cor 5:10; 1 Pet 1:17) assures each and every church that He is fully aware of their deeds whither righteous or unrighteous. Philadelphia’s works are mentioned here and in verse 10 as:
- Care for His word,
- Loyalty to His name,
- Care for the word of His patience.
It is interesting that the glorified Christ presents Himself with the triplet epithet and commends the church for a set of triplet works.
Triplet Epithet Triplet Works
Epithet: 1. He that is Holy; 2.He that is True; 3.He that has the Key of David;
Works: 1. Care for His word; 2. Not Denied His Name; 3. Patient Endurance
“… behold, I have set before thee an open door, …” ～ Having informed the Saints that their works were in His sight. He commands them to also “see.” The word “behold” is to be understood with an exclamation mark. It is an imperative… Look! “I have set before thee an open door.” The Philadelphians were apt to relate to this statement, in that they would be aware that the purpose for the city’s founding by Attalus II at its precise location was so it would be the gateway (door) to the high central plateau of the province of Asia in Asia Minor. It would be like saying to the U.S. city of St. Louis (which is recognized as the Gateway to the west, with its famous Archway dominating the city skyline) “I have set before you an open door.” The message would be identified as personal and tailored exclusively for them. We may assume that Philadelphia would have received it much the same way. Therefore, Christ uses this play on words.
While some have suppose this to mean simply a door of opportunity, as the clause “open door” does indeed have in some instances, i.e. 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; and Collosians 4:3. Certainly Paul seems to use it that way. But the context of our statement concerning an “open door” would demand our understanding of an “open door” to the kingdom of God. We say this because in the previous verse the Lord introduces Himself as having the key of David. This, as we have seen, is the Kingship of the throne of David. With this key (authority) He has opened the door of said kingdom to Philadelphia. Now, a “door” is a portal, and, therefore, two directional. That is: to the church of Philadelphia the door has been opened to the kingdom of God, but also, a door has been opened to preach the kingdom of God. To the first sense Acts 14:27 speaks:
“And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.” (Acts 14:27)
And is surely the product of the keys of the kingdom being entrusted to Peter (Mt 16:19). But to the second sense the manner in which Paul uses the clause is applicable; such as 1 Cor16:9,
“For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” (1Cor 16:6; see 2 Cor 2:12)
The church of the Lord at Philadelphia, or anywhere else, and in any time, must not take the “open-door” for granted. For just as it was opened, it will be closed. We visited the 10 virgins of Matthew 25 in the commentary on the Sardis letter, but one other item may well be considered here: the wise virgins had oil, the foolish had none. The five wise went into the marriage; but, while the foolish went to buy oil the Bible reads: “and the door was shut” (Matt 25:10). The door leading into the kingdom will not always remain open. Just as it has been divinely opened it will be divinely closed. The ark Noah built was a type of the Lord’s church. The door remained open and Noah preached every day until God himself shut the door. The Bible says it this way,
“And the LORD shut him in” (Gen 7:16).
In fact the window of opportunity to enter the open door into the kingdom (or, to reach through the open door to a lost world), has a determined measurement that only the Father knows (Matt 24: 36). It is now as it was in the days of Noah (Matt 24:37). A predetermine date for the closing of the portal was clearly set. To Noah’s generation the LORD said it this way,
“And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” (Gen 6:3)
And so it was. God, in His long-suffering waited 120 years from the calling of Noah to the judgment of the flood, i.e. the closing of the door upon the wicked. In like manner, Paul writes of the ingathering of Gentiles into the Israel of God having an end; he writes of it this way,
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Rom 11:25)
The open door to the Gentile races remains open for only a predetermined amount of time. God has a quota in view. When the total number of elect Gentiles have “come in” the door will be divinely shut “and no man (one) openeth.”
Dear reader, let us be up and about our Father’s business while the door remains open. The words of Christ seem to be appropriate at this point, where he said,
“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9:4)
“Thou hast a little strength.” ～ The work before them would require what little strength they possessed. The word “dunamis” (St’s #G1411) translated here as strength references the Saints’ corporate means as a body. The miraculous power of God is not in view, for that could not be termed “little.” Thayer says concerning the word dunamis: “strength, ability, power; a. inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth.” Many, such as Alford, Trench and Düslerdieck, see this statement as saying, “thou art poor in number and worldly resources.” In this case, this is in no means a rebuke, but rather a praise and though the weak in number and resources they were able to maintain their witness; for the Lord proceeds to say, “thou ... hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.”
“ …and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” ～ The statement in Grk looks like this, “kai etērēsas mou ton logon, kai suk ēruēsō to onoma mou.” Both Vincent and Robertson see both verbs (etērēsas and ērnēsō) as aorist: such as: didst keep and didst not deny; the idea is: in some crises or trial. From the context we may assume that a trial of their faith had been forced by the Jews of Philadelphia and the saints had remained faithful to both the Lord’s word and name. John 17:6, 8 uses the phrase “Kept thy word.” See the text here:
“I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. ... 8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.” (John 17:6, 8)
We understand from its use that the revelation of Christ’s mission and oneness with the Father is in view. It would have surely been this very point upon which persecution from the synagogue of Satan (the Jews) would come. They took up stones to stone Him at a certain point. Jesus asked them for which of His works did they set themselves about to kill him. They answered, “for no good work, but because you being a man have made yourself God.” Jesus had, indeed, said that he and the Father were one and the same (see John 10:30-33).
The idea of complete association of one’s name with the very essence of one is replete throughout the Holy Scripture. So here the concept of denying the name of Jesus would be one and the same as denying the person of Jesus, which sin the Philadelphian disciples had not committed. Jesus had prophesied coming persecution upon His disciples because of His name (Matt 10:22; 24:9; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:12, 17; John 15: 21; Acts 9:16). Philadelphia’s crises seems to have come from the Jewish quarter, but Christ’s warning of persecution is further reaching then the natural children of Jacob alone. We read Him saying “all nations.” At the appropriate time we will visit this issue in a deserving manner.
☩ Jerry Hayes