Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 February 21, 2021
“I Set before You an Open Door”
We continue along the route, with the Apostle John (and, ultimately, with the Lord), connecting the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3. We reach Philadelphia, the sixth of the seven churches addressed. We have benefitted greatly from what the Spirit says to the preceding five churches. We have heard, in Jesus’ words to them, “Recover your first love,” “Fear not. Be faithful,” “Don’t tolerate that,” and, “Wake up.” May we be similarly blessed in this message from Him to us today.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Once again, the Speaker is the risen, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus calls Himself, with unassailable correctness, the Holy One and the true One. He, therefore, is the spotless, unerring, faithful Lord of the ages. He, moreover, holds the key of David. This key, the key to the Kingdom of God, in Christ, is the key entrusted to Peter (in Matthew 16:19)—to shut the Kingdom’s door against the impenitent and to fling it open wide to the penitent. It is Jesus, ultimately, who opens, and none will close—and He is the One closing, and none will open.
Now let’s meet the addressee: the church at Philadelphia (literally, from Greek, brotherly love). The city, lying inland from the coast, southeast of Sardis and northwest of Laodicea, was strategically located for communication and commerce. It served as a center of agriculture, leather production, and textile industry. Apparently civic relations were good in the city—or were at its founding—else why does the city wear the name? Yet we may infer reasonably, from the text, that the Philadelphian church faces some opposition and difficulty. Let’s proceed to Jesus’ message to the church.
Jesus knows, with perfect knowledge, the works of the church at Philadelphia. They keep His Word and they deny not His Name, presumably under pressure to do that very thing—and they do these despite having little strength. Hence, Jesus—who has all authority everywhere entrusted to Him (Matthew 28:18)—sets before the church an open door, which no one can shut. This is an open door, to judge from the context, to Him—to abundant, eternal relation with Him through faith in Him. Secondarily, we may surmise this doorway to be an open door for Him—for faithful, fruitful ministry. Hence, none can shut us out of Heaven, nor can anyone frustrate our ministries unto Him.
Jesus issues two additional promises to this beloved church of His. First, Jesus will vindicate His own—His faithful people, albeit of little power—before false professors. These false professors will come to Jesus’ true believers, likely grudgingly, and will bow down before them—having learned that Jesus loves them. Second, Jesus will spare this church from the coming, worldwide hour of testing. Whether this means that the Church will be bodily removed from the scene of this testing, or whether the Church will be delivered safe and harmless through the midst of this testing, is a matter of some debate. In any case, the Philadelphian church, and faithful Christians, are spared this time of testing.
Jesus concludes this message, as usual, with a series of exhortations. The church, and we, are to hold fast what we have until He comes—and He comes quickly. Furthermore, the one conquering will be a pillar (or leader) in God’s temple. Granted, the Lord Himself is the ultimate support of His temple, but we shall share in this—delegated the privilege by Christ Himself. The one conquering will wear the Name of God as a seal of God’s ownership and approval—and he will wear also the name of His city, the New Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven (Revelation 21:2). The one conquering in Christ also will wear Jesus’ new Name (cf. Revelation 19:12, where Jesus has a name written that no one knows but Himself). Now, with all concluded in this message, Jesus issues one final exhortation: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
What a great word we hear today to Christ’s Church in this day. In particular, what a great word of encouragement this is to our church—and to other churches that perceive themselves small or (perhaps and) of little power. Again, hear what Jesus says to the Church today—even to our church. We have an open door to eternal, abundant life with Him—a door that never shall be closed. We also have an open door to faithful, fruitful ministry in Jesus’ Name—a door that shall not be closed. Hence, we may rest assured of success, as God’s defines success, accompanying our ministerial work in Jesus’ Name.
Moreover, that which applies to Christ’s Church generally, and also to our church, applies in particular to you, O believer, who trusts in Jesus as Lord and Savior. You, personally, yet not apart from the others of Christ’s triumphant Church, have an open door to eternal, abundant life with Him—and you have an open door to faithful, fruitful ministry consistent with your spiritual gifts and appropriate for your ministerial context. Never forget the message from Jesus to us, through the Philadelphian church: “I set before you an open door.” Let us walk, with humble confidence, through it—straight to Him.
 We also read of the key of David placed upon the shoulder of Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, who would succeed Shebna as steward/secretary to King Hezekiah of Judah (r. 715-687 B. C.). What Eliakim discharged in the use of David’s key—in small measure with imperfection attached—Jesus discharges to perfection, and that to infinite degree.
 Paul J. Achtemeier, gen. ed., Harper’s Bible Dictionary (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, a division of HarperCollins, 1985), 784.