The Open Door Policy for Aliens & Strangers — the Letter to Philadelphia

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by Reverend Anthony R. Locke
Sermon Series in Revelation # 08

Revelation 3:7-13
English Standard Version

7    “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

8    “ ‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

9    Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you.

10  Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.

11  I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.

12  The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

13  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ [1]



Have you ever felt like you weren’t wanted? Like a fifth wheel? Has a religious crowd ever made you feel like a stranger? Like everyone else was extended brotherly love, but you?

This morning we are receiving a letter from the Head of the Church. Jesus writes that He will not withhold His friendliness, favor, brotherly love or praise for His faithful?

Jesus opens wide Heaven’s door for His people. We will never feel like a fifth wheel. With Jesus we will never feel like a stranger. We might feel like an alien in this world, but when we approach Heaven, we will find our true home.

Jesus begins every letter with a reference out of chapter one about Himself. Jesus is the person whose opinion should matter the most. He is after all, the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 49:7 This is what the LORD says–the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel–to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: “Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.

The Christians in Philadelphia were despised and abhorred by the people in their own church (called a synagogue at the time). They were made to feel unwelcome and they were told to leave. They were cast out of church.

Christians and Jews had worshipped side by side for decades. Apostles and even Jesus worshipped with the Jews in local Synagogues. Not anymore.

Today there’s a split because of what happened at the Jewish Council of Jamnia in AD 90. Those who followed the Nazarene, followers of Jesus, were labeled heretics and cast out of the Synagogues.

This marked a major milestone in the split between Jews and Christians that exists to this day. Christianity grew up inside of Judaism for half a century until the Jews threw them out. The door to God was closed and locked. Only by recanting their faith in the name of Jesus could they get back into their place of worship.

But the Holy One of Israel has the authority to reverse what the Jews did. The God of the Davidic Covenant can engraft Christians into the Tree of God’s People. Like a Kinsman Redeemer Jesus can buy us back. Jesus can reinstate our family privileges and label us His chosen people.

The word JEW means the People of Praise. When Christians professed the name of Jesus as the promised Messiah, they were told by the Jews that God didn’t have any words of praise for them. They Jews said that Christians were accursed.

But, Jesus has the power to open the city doors of the new Jerusalem. City Mayors and Governors held a key of power and authority. Jesus has all power in Heaven and Earth (Matthew 28:18). He can open doors that others close.

Jesus writes this letter to extend brotherly love to His people who were cut off for their faith. God loves His people and titles them His Chosen Jewish People of Praise.

So, Who is the real family of God. Who does God praise? If the label JEW means the People of Praise, then who are by God’s definition the real Jews?

Answer? God’s people are known for keeping His word and not denying His name.

Believers put themselves in harms way by professing that Jesus is Lord. Caesar alone claimed that title. Christians were rejected by the world for not denying the name of Jesus. They felt the anger of the Jews for saying that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah. The Christians in Philadelphia chose to side with Jesus against the world and their religious friends.

God’s people hold forth the name of Jesus despite the hostility it creates. Second, God’s people do not adopt the error Balaam or Jezebel.

The error of Balaam was to go along to get along. The Devil knew that if religious people saw the world as their source for blessing, then they would stop calling the world to repentance. They would re-label various sins as a lifestyle choice. Christians keep God’s word when they say what Jesus said. The world becomes hostile to the light and makes Christians feel like strangers.

Jezebel on the other hand taught Christians to participate with the world in sinful activities without fear of eternal consequences. She was constantly trying to give reasons for why sin wasn’t so bad. She could argue the benefits of every vice and make it sound like a virtue. (smoking pot is good for your mood, alcohol is good for your heart, pornography is good for your marriage, white lies are good for relationships, junk food is good for stress relief, etc.)

Engaging in the sins of the world without guilt or fear of God is to sin with a high hand (Numbers 15:30). Jesus reminded that we are rewarded according to our actions.

The Christians in Philadelphia were faithful to Jesus. The Roman government and the Jews cut them off and treated them with contempt.

Jesus wrote the letter to inform the Christians that their feelings of rejection would be reversed at His Second Coming.

Jesus makes a series of promises.

Jesus promised that He would reveal to the world that Christians are the only ones who receive praise from the Holy One of Israel. Christians were the Real Jews.

At the same time, Jesus has the authority to turn His favor away from anyone that rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Those people were living without God’s praise. They were non-Jews.

Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you.

Jesus doesn’t see the world in shades of gray. There is Righteousness and Holiness with God and Evil and Unrighteousness with Satan. Some churches today are run by the Spirit of Anti-Christ. Other Churches are guided by Jesus.

The Holy One of Israel has the authority to say which are which.

If you are part of a church that affirms the homosexual lifestyle, that affirms going alone with the world to get along with the world, if you are part of a religious group that stays silent when God told us to shine His light, then Jesus has no fear informing you that your religious group is not being led by His Holy Spirit. The spirit of Balaam is leading your church.

If you are part of a church that does not condemn worldly sins, and even suggests enjoying the world’s delicacies without fear of God’s judgment, then you are living in a church run by the spirit of Jezebel and not the Spirit of Christ.

The Father does not give those churches His favor. They are not People of Praise. Jesus gives them the label that they have earned. Jesus calls them a Synagogue of Satan.

Is that harsh? Not really. How do you know to stop your destructive habits if the family that loves you never confronts you? People with destructive habits need an intervention. They need words spoken in love to wake them up and help them change direction.

Jesus is the most loving person who ever lived and He calls these churches to repentance by calling them a Synagogue of Satan. Jesus intentionally uses incendiary speech.

Jesus is trying to wake these people up to their self deception. These people are lying to themselves.

The world loves to find religious leaders who accept the error of Balaam or the error of Jezebel. The world loves to put these religious leaders on television or the radio. The world then asks them questions about God’s opinion regarding abortion, same sex marriage or some other hot topic.

These religious leaders never fail to tell their audience that “God loves them too much to judge them for their indiscretions. There is no such thing as sin. God will accept them despite any life choices they make. Repentance is unnecessary. God loves you just the way you are.”

Jesus says that these people are lying to themselves. Romans 1:25 they exchanged the truth about God for a lie. Their inner conscience is accusing them of lying, but they sear their conscience so that they can keep saying the lie.

This error of Balaam and Jezebel formulates a culture of group think, the spirit of this age, that puts pressure on the true church to deny Jesus’ name and not keep His word. The whole culture embraces a lie and then persecutes Christians who will not accept at least part of that lie.

And Jesus makes a promise to downtrodden Christians that He will so order the universe that in His Divine providence those members of the Synagogue of Satan will one day bow down and honor the real Jews for being faithful to Jesus.

Jesus claims to be the only open door to God’s love, favor and praise. Jesus says, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you.

Jesus Himself is the door into God’s love. Jesus is offering Himself.

The religious leaders, and the secular leaders in Philadelphia (the city of brotherly love) made Christians feel unloved and unwanted. Jesus greatly desires to prove the opposite. God loves His faithful followers!

How does that sound to your ears this morning? God will set things straight. They made you feel like aliens, pilgrims and strangers. Jesus will make you Kings and Priests.

God is going to reverse the lie. People who profess the name of Jesus will be the people that God praises forever. Christians will be the go to people in God’s new universe.

Why? Because God feels your love for Him when you suffer for His Kingdom. You enter into the fellowship of His sufferings. God will reward you when He rewards His Son.

10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.

Jesus promises to protect your soul and give you peace and rest in the midst of the persecution that comes upon the faithful.

God’s declaration of love should calm your heart in the midst of this life’s trials. Be encouraged! Don’t grow weary in well doing. Don’t give up the fight. Persevere. Run with endurance the race that God calls us to run.

Jesus is coming back suddenly. At the moment of His Father’s choosing Jesus will burst into this world to reward His people. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.

Jesus takes from His own personal glory and fashions a crown for His faithful. The world uses false praise and promises of brotherly love to lead Christians to compromise. Jesus will reward His faithful with true praise and Divine love. Jesus will give them a crown that no one will ever be able to take away.

Jesus also promises to set up His faithful as the central structures of Heaven. Pillars are necessary, but they are also ornate. I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God.

Jesus plans to make His people the necessary beauty and glory of Heaven. One commentator said it this way, “From Jesus’ perspective, Heaven will not be Heaven without you there.” (Reverend Dr. Stewart Custer of Trinity Bible Church)

We feel that way when someone we love is missing from a family gathering. Our joy is diminished. We feel like the event is not as wonderful as it could have been. Jesus feels that way about those who confess His name and keep His word. Heaven won’t be the same to God if you are not front and center. WOW!

Jesus keeps the doors of Heaven open for you. He will never shut you out. Jesus will never cast you out of His family. Jesus has the Key of David to bring you into His eternal covenant and blessings.

God is going to write His new name upon you as an eternal testimony that you are a treasured child of God. God has revealed many names for Himself throughout the redemptive story. God’s names summarize some aspect of His person and work.

God is El Shaddai, meaning the Lord God Almighty. God is El Elyon, meaning the Most High God. He is Adonai, meaning Lord and Master. He is Yahweh, meaning Lord Jehovah.

Moses and Joshua found God to be Jehovah Nissi, meaning the Lord is My Banner. King David knew God as Jehovah-Raah, meaning the Lord is My Shepherd.

And one day the Father will reveal a new name for Jesus that will summarize the glory of His new Heaven and new Earth.

Once His people are collected together, once their redemption is complete, once they are crowned with glory and established as the center structure of His new Jerusalem, at that time, we will learn His new name which will represent the completion of all that God has accomplished for His people.

Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

We will wear this new name of God to forever identify us as the people that God praises.

13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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