Notes on the Seven Churches (37)

“Searching the Seven Churches”

The way, the truth and the life!

The Church in Philadelphia  – (Revelation Chapter 3 Verses 7-13)

The church in Ephesus had left her first love and was in danger of becoming extinct. Smyrna was in the midst of wars as a result of persecution and received words of assurance and comfort from the sovereign Lord. Pergamos had been turned by the cost of persecution and was gradually becoming more worldly. Thyatira was riddled with worldliness and judgment loomed. Sardis had the name Ichabod written over it the glory had departed. There was no assurance of a future for Sardis, the only glimmer of hope left was if a remnant amongst them heeded the warnings and repented. If this is the word of the Spirit to the Christian church then, and now, whatever you think of the Christian life and service it is no game. Gibbon in his classic work “The Rise and Decline of the Roman Empire” testifies to the church in Philadelphia. He said it still stood at the time when the ruins of that Empire were crumbling. It is a wonderful testimony. As a heathen and debauched Empire was falling around them Philadelphia stood firm. An Empire that was known for its brutal violence, slavery, sexual immorality and sodomy. We live in the midst of similar lawlessness and debauchery in the United Kingdom today. But we don’t have to join them, we don’t have to crumble and fall with this decadent society. We can stand out, we can stand up, we can, like Philadelphia, stand firm to the end. The church in Philadelphia history tells us finally succumbed in 14 A.D., as a result of dissension and division amongst Christian authorities. That is a lesson in itself is it not, “if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:25). It gave way to the Turks, the heathenism of Islam, and remains in that darkness to this day. As Europe lies in awful darkness at this time, one can but prayerfully ponder, is this our destiny too? We sincerely and prayerfully hope not. But unless both church and nation stir themselves and turn back to the Lord, no, unless the Lord turns and smiles upon us again? The fear remains, what will become of out nation? For the sake of our children yet unborn, we must with a renewed repentance and faith seek the Lord while he may be found (Isaiah 55:6).

The depiction of the Lord Jesus given here is “the true one”(v7). The genuine, trustworthy one, as opposed to the liars (v9; Romans 2:28). That is the remaining Judaisers who declare he, Jesus, to be a pretender and that his followers, disciples, were false Jews. A pastor in New York city, a converted Jew himself and who ministered to fellow Jews as a Rabbi on one occasion. He asked if he would be willing to just think, contemplate for a moment, the possibility that the holocaust was an expression of divine anger against us, the Jews, for our rejection of Messiah? The Rabbi answered him, he said I am not willing to even contemplate that. The Judaisers, like this Rabbi, had their minds closed, tighter than water-tight doors to the truth of God in Christ. Jesus is the holy and true one (v7). That is a reference to his deity, you find the same depiction repeated, “They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 6:10). The prophet Isaiah repeats this phrase something like twenty times in his prophecy, “the holy one of Israel.” This is he, Jesus, he is the true and holy one. He is Isaiah’s Messiah. He is the sovereign Lord and God who stands in the midst of the church in Philadelphia declaring himself to be the true and holy one. And urges them to be as he is, holy and true. Again, Isaiah prophesied of him, “and I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open” (Isaiah 22:22). This is Jesus, Jehovah Jesus. He is the holy one of Israel, and his followers his disciples are the true Israel of God. Not the persecuting Juadaisers, they are liars (v9).

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)

Sermon Audio

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