“Searching the Seven Churches”
The Synagogue of Satan – (Revelation Chapter 3 Verses 7-13)
The church in Philadelphia is presented with an open door (v8). By the one who opens doors and none can shut, who closes doors and none can open (v7). This is a door of opportunity. The apostle Paul speaks of such a door of opportunity (1Corinthians 16:9). An opportunity to bring the gospel to others is what is meant. It is the sovereign Christ who gives such opportunities, may he give us many in our day. But sometimes Jesus closes, shuts the door, we do always assume that it is right to go, “when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” (Acts 16:7). Later on, we find that Bithynia did receive the gospel (1Peter 1:1). In the Lord’s timing, not Paul’s. We are not permitted to go with the gospel where we please. There are countries today that are closed to the gospel, Saudia Arabia, the United Arab Emirates to mention but two. Now I suggest to you that if a missionary or missionaries decided that they would take it upon themselves to go there and preach the gospel? It would not end well. The door is shut, and Jesus Christ has shut it. He can open as when he chooses so to do, we do not go until then. But in the meantime, we pray for open doors, “at the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ” (Colossian 4:3). The promise to the church here in Philadelphia is of faithful and fruitful service and the strength to fulfil such (v8). But that strength is not their own, for they “have little power” (v8). But in Christ (Philippians 4:13; 2Corinthians 3:5). From and outward perspective they have very little going for them. In terms of the world with its gifts and resources and numbers and finances, the church is a joke, a nonentity, an insignificance. That is always true of the church (1Corinthians 1:26). Not only that she is faced as the church here in Philadelphia with diabolic pressure (v9f). The church is always God’s tiny flock, she is a miracle, a living testimony to God’s grace. How does such an entity survive from generation to generation? The strength and power of Jesus Christ.
In comparison to the other churches we’ve looked at thus far, Philadelphia would have been the smallest. But what an encouragement that is for small churches today. So often discounted, passed by to get the bigger churches. The attitude today is that small is of no use, only big is significant. Of course, the opposition that the church here is faced with is not that of paganism. It’s the Jews, blind orthodox Jews. There is nothing worse and so blasphemously disastrous to the true cause of the gospel, than truth that stops short of total surrender to Christ. It’s the worst kind of opposition. But Philadelphia is assured that this opposition will be brought to submission (v9). Often Satan uses those who are nearest the work to come the hardest against it. Also, it is sometimes the case that there is a reckoning on earth before the final showdown at the end of the age. And those who are virulently opposed to Christ are made to acknowledge that they have been and are on the wrong side. Not for us Christians to gloat over or satisfy a carnal desire for revenge. But that those who have been on the wrong side see it at last. Think of Saul of Tarsus. The safety of the church is also assured here (v10). The power of Christ that saves also keeps to the end (Philippians 1:6). He will be faithful to them as they are and have been to him. The trial here (v10), I believe is the awful persecution that will unleased at the end of the age. “And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them” (Revelation 11:7; 20:8ff). Satan’s “little while” (Revelation 20:3). We have been told, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The church has little power but he Christ has all power (Matthew 28:18). And he is the churches sovereign Protector in every day and generation, right to the end.
(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)