Open Doors

Revelation 3:7-13

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
October 2022

We are studying the letters of Jesus to the seven churches.  Today, we come to letter number six.  The sixth letter was written to the Church of Philadelphia.  This church was not in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

It was in Philadelphia, Asia Minor.  It is in Philadelphia, Turkey today, although it is no longer called Philadelphia.  It is a Turkish city today called Alaşehir (alah-shah-hear), which means “city of God” in Arabic.

This was a letter to a good church. Jesus wrote many letters to bad churches in Revelation.  We have bad churches today and there were bad churches in John’s day.

This letter was written to a good church.  It was written to a great church.  The Church of Philly was a model church.  Jesus is the Son of God.  He had eyes of fire and yet, when He evaluated this church, He had nothing bad to say about it.

He had no criticism.  He had no rebuke.  He did not tell them to repent.  He did not warn them of judgment, like He did to other churches.

The only thing that Jesus told this church to do was to keep doing what it was doing, to hold fast and to not let anyone take their crown.

Wouldn’t it be great if the Lord Jesus evaluated us and had nothing bad to say to us?  Wouldn’t it be great if we just heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”

We learn something about Jesus in this letter that is new.  This letter contains a unique description of Jesus.

This letter also talks about open doors.  Have you ever seen God open a door for you?  Have you ever seen God change something in your life, almost overnight?

The Sunday School class is an open door.  I did not have that opportunity a year ago or even six months ago, but God opened the door.  The Bible has a lot to say about open doors.

This letter is important practically.  This letter is also important theologically.  This is the one letter that mentions the future Tribulation Period.  It contains a controversial verse.

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. (Revelation 3:10 NIV)

It deals with a topic we do not all agree on.  It is a minor doctrine.  There are major doctrines that all Christians should agree on, like the Trinity, and there are minor doctrines.  This verse deals with a minor doctrine.  We may not all agree on what it says.  You may not agree with what I have to say.

I ask everyone to do several things.  If you have an hear, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  Have an open mind.  Compare everything I say to Scripture and feel free to ask questions.

Signs of a Philadelphian Christian

1) A Philadelphian Christian is BIBLICAL

If your church is not biblical, it is not a Philadelphian Church.  Jesus says, “you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8 NIV).

In many churches, there is a far greater emphasis on being contemporary, hip and relevant, rather than biblical.  Many churches are more interested in tradition or political correctness than in what the Word says.

What does it mean to be a biblical church?  It means you believe the Bible.  You accept the Bible as the Word of God.  Some churches do not believe it.  In fact, some churches mock the Bible.

The world is basically divided into people who believe that the Bible is a book inspired by God and other people who believe it is just a book written by man about God.

A biblical church believes in inerrancy, but a biblical church does NOT just believe the Bible.  It teaches and preaches the Bible.  You can go to some churches for twenty years and not learn what the Bible teaches.  It is never expounded.

Many Christians have never been taught what the Word says, or they have been taught only some of what it says.  One of the biggest problems in the church today is that many Christians only know partof the Bible.

A biblical church does NOT just believe and teach the Bible, it lives the Bible.  It obeys the Bible. The Christians in this church did not deny Jesus’ name.  Are you a biblical Christian?

2) A Philadelphian Christian is BALANCED

The way we know that this church was balanced is that Jesus had nothing bad to say about it.  He had nothing but praise for this church.

The big problem with many churches today is that they are not balanced.  They are good in some areas but weak in other areas.  The big problem with many Christians today is that they are not balanced.

Many in John’s day were not.  Some had a lot of love but no discernment or truth.  They had love for every heretic and false teacher and let them teach in the church (Thyatira).  Others had plenty of discernment but no love (Ephesus).

Many Christians are saved but don’t use their spiritual gifts.  Some Christians are on fire.  They have enough faith to raise the dead or walk on water, but they are weak in other areas.

We need to learn from one another.  We also need to be balanced.  Charles Ryrie many years ago wrote a book called Balancing the Christian Life.  Are you balanced?

2) a Philadelphian Christian is BLESSED

Are you blessed by God?  What does that mean?  If you listen to the TV preachers, it means that you are filthy rich. It means you are rolling in the dough.  This church was blessed, even though it was small and poor.

The Church of Philadelphia was not a mega church.  There is nothing wrong with mega churches, but this church was not one.  Jesus said that this church had little strength (Revelation 3:8).  It was not a big and powerful church.

This was a church of little power.  It was a small church.  This was the smallest church of all of the seven churches of Revelation, but it was also one with one of the greatest blessings given by Jesus.

Big churches have a tendency to look down on small churches and to think that they are superior to them.

Many people like big churches.  I like big churches.  I have been in some good big churches and I have been in some small churches with small-minded people with crazy controlling pastors who acted like dictators.

One preacher pointed out, “Every church is not supposed to be a big church. Every church is not supposed to have multiple campuses. Every church is not supposed to have ten thousand people in the church. Some churches are small.”  All churches should grow but all churches are not mega churches.

Jesus did not commend a great mega church, but a small weak church made up of ordinary people. The issue isn’t big or small but healthy or unhealthy, faithful or unfaithful.

Even though this church was small and poor, it was blessed by God.  How was it blessed?  What does it mean to be blessed?

Signs You are Blessed

1) If you are blessed by God, it will affect your relationships with people.

It will affect your relationship with your husband or wife.  It will affect your relationship with your kids.  It will affect your relationship with your co-workers.  It will affect your relationship with your enemies.

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. (Revelation 3:8 NIV)

This church had enemies.  It experienced opposition in the community.  Some Jews in Philadelphia were highly antagonistic.  They did not like them.  They persecuted this little church.  Their enemies will honor them.

How is that possible?  Some of their Jewish persecutors are going to come to faith.  They have been persecuting a Gentile church and many will fall down at the feet of these Christians and acknowledge who they are, God’s people.

This is very interesting because the OT says that one day the Gentiles will come and bow down at the feet of the Jews and acknowledge that they are the Chosen People (Isaiah 60:12-14).

When you are blessed by God, you can influence your enemies.  When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him (Proverbs 16:7 NKJV).

2) If you are blessed by God, you will be given special opportunities

This church was given a special opportunity.  “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. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. (Revelation 3:7-8 NIV)

This letter tells us something very important about Jesus.  It is something that you probably have never thought about.  Jesus is the one who has the keys.

Keys are important.  You don’t have a key, you can’t get in.  We use a keys to open doors.  We use a keys to lock doors.

“Jesus has the keys that will open, or lock, any and every door.”[1]  He has the keys to eternal life.  He has the keys of salvation.  He has the keys of the kingdom.

He has the keys of death and hades.  We think that Satan has the keys, but Jesus does.  He is sovereign over death and hades. He has the keys to people’s hearts.  He is the one who can open hearts and change minds.

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. (Acts 16:14 ESV)

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. (Proverbs 21:1 NKJV)

In this letter, we learn that He has another key, the Key of David.  The Son of David has the Key of David.  Keys are symbols of authority in the Bible.  The Key of David is a symbol of kingly authority.  It is mentioned once in the OT (Isaiah 22:22) and once in the NT (Revelation 3:7).

Every believer needs this key.  This key has to do with service.  Jesus not only has the keys of salvation for unbelievers.  He has the keys of service for believers.  He can open doors or opportunity and ministry for us.

Truths about Doors

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. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. (Revelation 3:7-8 NIV)

1) God is the one who opens doors

We worship a God who opens doors.  He is the door opener.  He opens doors that have been closed.  He opens doors that have been closed for a long time.  He opens doors that are not only closed but locked and deadbolted shut.  He opens doors you think will never be opened or can never be opened.

God does not always open doors right away.  He does not always open doors when we want him to. Sometimes we have to wait. He does not operate on our timetable.  God told King David that he would be king, but he had to wait until King Saul died.  He had to wait about twenty years for that door to be opened.

We think we open doors.  We think if we do the right thing, know the right people, or have the right connections, we can open our own door.  We don’t open doors.  God does.

2) God is the one who closes doors

This is one of the things we don’t like to hear.  You don’t hear too many sermons about God closing doors, just positive, uplifting sermons about God opening the doors of your life.  Sometimes God closes some doors.

Closed doors can be a blessing.  Doors close for a reason. We should thank God for the closed doors in our life.  When He closes one door, He opens another, perhaps a door we never ever thought about.

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. (Acts 16:6-7 NIV)

Paul had some plans.  He wanted to visit some churches, but God closed the door.  The door was closed on their Jewish noses. Paul did not know why the door was closed and then he received a vision.

Instead of visiting believers, God wanted him to go to Europe and preach the gospel and start a church there. If that door was not closed, we probably would not be saved today.  The gospel went to Europe and from Europe it came to America.

3) We need to look for open doors

We should not bang on a closed door.  We do not have to break doors down or force them open.  We should look for an open door that God opens.  God opens doors but He does not force us to walk through them.

It is possible to have an open door and not walk through it.  We could walk right past it.  Sometimes God opens a door of ministry or evangelism or even salvation and we do not walk through it.

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 19:9 ESV)

Many people walk right past that door and enter another door, one that leads to destruction.

3) If you are blessed by God, you will be given special rewards

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. (Revelation 3:10 NIV)

The word “keep” is found two times in that verse.  The Philadelphian Christians kept Christ’s Word and now He promises to keep them from something.  What are they kept from?  The hour of trial that was going to come on the whole world.  What trial was it?  It was the Tribulation Period.

Now, all of the seven churches were kept from this trial, so what kind of promise was this?  There was probably a trial in the first century that was a precursor to the future Tribulation.  This verse tells us four important things about the Tribulation.

What is the Tribulation Period

Based on Revelation 3:10, what do we know about the Tribulation?

1) The Tribulation is a Future Event

It had not happened yet when Jesus wrote this letter but we are moving closer and closer to it.

2) The Tribulation is a Worldwide Event

It will not be just a local event.  It is going to come on all who dwell on the earth.

3) The Tribulation is a Period of Testing

It will not just be a period of tribulation.  It will be a period of tribulation.

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. (Matthew 24:21 ESV)

“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. (Daniel 12:1 ESV)

What we learn from Revelation 3:10 is that this period will not just a time of trouble and tribulation, it will be a time of testing.  Some will turn to God during the test, and some will curse God.

4) The Tribulation is a Period of Protection

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. (Revelation 3:10 NIV)

What does that mean?  Many believe that this means that the church will not go through the Tribulation.  It will be raptured before the Tribulation.  Does this verse proves the Pre-Tribulational rapture of the church?  Is this verse a proof text for this position?

The truth is that there will be a rapture.  The Bible teaches it, but this verse does not mention it.  Revelation 3:10 does NOT mention the rapture at all.

The Church of Philadelphia was not raptured.  Everyone in that church died.  None of them were taken out of the world supernaturally. The Book of Revelation does not promise escape from suffering.

It has already mentioned martyrdom (Antipas) and persecution.  The message of the book is to hold fast and endure to the end.  Jesus is not promising that the church will escape the coming trial but protected in it.

How is that possible?  Jesus said, “I will also keep you FROM the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world” (not in but from).  He promises to keep them, not just from the Tribulation but the hour of it.  It sounds like we will not even be here during that time.

Is that correct?  There is only one other time the word “keep” (τηρέω) and the word “from” (ἐκ) are found in the NT.  The other time those words are used are by Jesus.  He uses these words twice (once in Revelation and once in John).

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. (John 17:15 ESV)

The only other time that these two words are used, Jesus prays that we would be kept from Satan but NOT taken out of the world but protected from something or someone bad. There are other promises that Jesus gives this church

The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. (Revelation 3:12 NIV)

To this church that was weak, Jesus says that He can turn them into pillars.  Jesus is going to put three tattoos on Christians in heaven: the name of God, the name of the New Jerusalem and His new name.

Many people love tattoos.  They love this verse.  What is Jesus’ new name?  Is He going to change His name?  Will we all get tattoos in heaven? John Piper calls these “eschatological tattoos.”[2]

These are probably not literal tattoos.  Christians are not going to be literal pillars in a temple.  This is symbolic.

God says that he will write His law on our hearts and that is not literal.  This is a picture of identity.  It is a picture of ownership.  It is a picture of citizenship.  The New Jerusalem is where we will live for all eternity.

Exhortation on Crowns

The letter also has an exhortation.  Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown (Revelation 3:11 NIV).  What does this say to us today?

1) Believers will receive rewards

Crowns represent rewards. We know this from Revelation 4:10.  We will receive rewards in heaven for how we live on earth.  Some will receive more rewards than others.  Every believer who has been martyred will receive a special reward.  Everything we do for Him will be rewarded.

2) Rewards can be lost

Salvation cannot be lost but rewards can be lost. Salvation is a free gift. Rewards are earned. Salvation is not based on works. Rewards are based on works.

Jesus said, “Don’t let anyone take your crown.”  That doesn’t mean that there are thieves in heaven who might take our crown if we don’t put it up.  It means that we can forfeit and become disqualified for certain rewards.

3) We need to hold onto them

They did not need to do anything new.  They just to keep doing what they were doing to hold onto them.  Most of us live our life and do not think about eternal rewards but we should.  Will we have a crown in heaven waiting for us?

[1] Tom Wright, Revelation for Everyone, For Everyone Bible Study Guides (London; Louisville, KY: SPCK; Westminster John Knox, 2011), 34.


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