The Seven Churches of Asia

Exposition VI.

"And to the angel of the Church in Philadelphia write; These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou has kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from My God; and I will write upon him My new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches." ó Rev. 3:7-13.

We now come to Philadelphia, which passes without a reproof falling from the lips of Christ. Smyrna was the other Church in which Christ saw no fault. He looked upon them in His own righteousness; and even the eyes of Him, whose eyes are like unto flaming fire, saw nothing to blame; and it is exceedingly remarkable that these two are yet standing. Ephesus left her first love, and the corn is now growing upon its ruins; and there is but one Christian in the village, at one of the extremities where Ephesus was; but Smyrna and Philadelphia yet stand. It is very remarkable to see from these two, that whosoever keeps the word of Christ, He will keep them.

Both the Churches were suffering, and were yet to suffer persecutions. Smyrna was the place where there were those who said they were Jews, and were not, but were of the synagogue of Satan; and Christ said unto them, "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer." And in Philadelphia there were those who said they were Jews, and were not, but did lie.

In Philadelphia there are 2,000 inhabitants, and 800 professed Christians; there are the remains of twenty old churches, and there are five in which divine service is conducted. Whoso keepeth the word of Christ, He will keep them. You have heard of the infidel Gibbon: he says, "Philadelphia is still erect ó a column in a scene of ruins." Even the infidel gives testimony to the word of Christ.

Let us see, first, the character Christ takes to Himself here. "These things said He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth, and no man openeth." This seems to be taken from the vision in the first chapter, when John was in the Spirit on the Lordís day, and heard behind him a great voice, as of a trumpet. He says, " And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And, being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks. And in the midst of the seven candlesticks, one like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle," that is, "He that is true," and then, at the fourteenth verse, "His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire." It is to show the purity of Christ, that is, "He that is holy." And in the eighteenth verse, "I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." That is, "He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth." Ours is a holy Saviour. I have known people who cannot come to God, but who think they can come to Christ; they think that He is an indulgent Saviour, and that He will pass over some little things. Oh no! Christ is holy, He cannot bear any sin; if He could have borne with it, He would not have come and died; and if He could have borne with it, we might have been taken to His bosom, without Him offering Himself. But He cannot bear sin, He is a holy Saviour. It is true, Christ is anxious that you should be saved, but God is anxious too. Come to Jesus, and come to the Father. The Father so loved the world as to give up Christ to die for sinners. Jesus Christ is a true Saviour; "if it were not so, I would have told you." He would have told you. Christ could have no end in saying what was not true; come freely, boldly, to Him ó He is true.

Are there any anxious, awakened souls here, who would fain take Christ as their Saviour? Now you may take Him; you may rest upon Him; it is He who giveth rest; you may build upon this foundation, for He is complete, He is infinite, He is a rock.

And He "hath the key of David." The meaning of this you will find explained in Isaiah, 22nd chapter, from the 15th verse to the end. "Thus saith the Lord God of Hosts, Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house, and say," etc. This was a message sent to Shebna, the treasurer of the kingís palace, to tell him that that office was to be taken from him, that he was to be carried into captivity, that it was to be given over to Eliakim, who was to have the key upon his shoulder. It is meant, that the Levitical priesthood was to be taken into captivity; and Eliakim is typical of Him who was indeed to be a nail in a sure place, and on whom everything was to hang, and on whose shoulder was to be put the key of David, even Jesus, of whom it is written, "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."

The key used in those days, and what is still used in Egypt, was not like the key we use. It was the shape of a reaping-hook, the shape of the constellation of stars in the heavens that is like a reaping-hook; it was a large key, made of wood; it was carried on the shoulder, and all the bolts and bars were within, and the key was put into the inside, and opened them there.

It is said in the Song of Solomon, "My Beloved put in His hand by the hole of the door." The chief man of a household carried on his shoulder a silver or ivory key; Christ has the key on His shoulder; He has the key of grace, He has the key of providence, He has the key of glory, He has the keys of hell and of death; He is Head over all things to the Church.

He has the key of Grace; for He comes, and stands at the door of the heart, and opens the bars. Now, how often, how long, has He stood at your hearts! ó even until His head was filled with dew, and His locks with the drops of the night. There are some of you whose heart is all bolts and bars; and you are determined not to let Christ in. There is the bar of the love of sin; the bar of pride, of vanity; the bar of the love of the world; the bar of the fear of man, the fear of your companions; but if Christ were only to use the key of grace, all the bolts and bars would fly open. Now, may He reveal Himself unto you, all full, all free, all gracious ó a Divine Saviour!

Christ has another key, the key of Providence. Sometimes you feel your afflictions to be many; that the door is shut, that you cannot get out. But Jesus has got the key; He can make even the wrath of man to praise Him, and the remainder of wrath can He restrain. Oh, trust Him! "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." For example, we are building in this town new churches; and we want ministers, and we are apt to fear that we may not succeed; but let us trust Christ, let us go forward in strength; let us go forward in power; let us go forward in simple faith, looking unto Jesus.

And Christ has the key of Glory. When a devoted servant of Christ dies, some people say, "How mysterious are the ways of God!" They cry out, "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!" But Christ does not use the key to open until the very time.

Let us now see the care of the Church; and, first, let us look at the character of it. "I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou has a little strength, and hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name." When travelers used to come from foreign lands to Scotland, they called it Philadelphia, which means love to the brethren. That was the time in Scotland when there was a minister for every thousand people; when every child could read the Bible; and when there was no need of Sabbath schools, for every family was a Sabbath school. We are not a Philadelphia now, we are rather a Laodicea. Travelers used to say, when they looked upon Scotland, "It is like a field of wheat in the midst of lilies" ó like a palace of silver ó a Philadelphia.

But what does Christ say of the Church? "Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it." In the Epistle to the Colossians, Paul says, "Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance." It is Christ that opens the door to ministers, and no man can shut it. And in II Corinthians, Paul says, that a door was opened unto him of the Lord. And there is another meaning of this; in the Acts of the Apostles, in the fourteenth chapter at the twenty-seventh verse, it is written that God opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And Christ has set before you an open door. It was Christ that laid the foundation stone of this church, and it is Christ that will put on the top stone. If any have been awakened here, it is Christ that hath done it; if any have been taught within these walls, it is the Lord; if any have been made to have fuller joy, it is Christ. Let us give Him the glory. He hath set before you an open door, and though many would be anxious to shut it, yet no man can shut it.

"For thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name." But a little strength! We saw last Sabbath, that a little faith saves the soul. A grain of mustard seed is very small; and so faith, like a grain of mustard seed, is very small, but it is very precious; a drop of grace is very small, but it is very precious; this little strength is very precious, for it saves the soul. Would that you had this little strength ó that ye had this grain of faith! Despise not the day of small things; and, when you see anyone who has got little faith, you should not because of this avoid their company; thatís not what Christ would do. "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations." "Take care that ye offend not one of these little ones. For whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in Me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea." "And hast kept My word." If you are united to Jesus, you will love His saying, "If a man love Me, he will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him."

There are two reasons that you should have patience. You need patience if you would keep your souls unto the end. In your patience possess ye your souls. "For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise." He that endureth to the end shall be saved, and none else. With full purpose of heart cleave unto the Lord. You need patience, second, to keep the word concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus. "Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe . . . in that day." Let us wait for His appearing. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." "And hast not denied My name." Luke wrote to Theophilus that he might know the certainty of those things wherein he had been instructed. The deeper the roots of a tree take hold of the ground, the more it spreads its branches; the deeper you are grounded into Christ, the bolder you will become. Hold fast by the word of Christ, and then you will not deny His name. Does this character belong to us? The Lord make this spot like a little Philadelphia, in the midst of a wide Sardis.

Notice now the promises. "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." What a glorious promise of Jesus Christís, that He will keep all them that keep His word! Notice that these searching times will try all those that dwell on the earth. I do not know when these times will be, but I think they must be near. The Lord stands at the door. Christ said 1800 years ago, Behold, I come quickly; and if He said that then, surely He may say now, Behold, I come instantly. James Renwickís words just before his death were ominous ó something like Christís. He said, "There is a time coming when they shall say, Those were happy who died on the scaffold." Let us hold fast the word of Christ just now; let us have strong faith; and then we shall be kept in those times. See, it will be but a short time; it is but a night; it is but an hour; it is but a moment. "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast." "His anger endureth but a moment; in His favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." The Father who gave us to Christ is greater than all; and none shall be able to pluck us out of His hand.

Let us look now at the reward Christ offers. "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from My God: and I will write upon him My new name." I would rather sit at the threshold ó I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. There were two pillars in Solomonís temple: the one was called Jachin, that is, "He shall establish"; the other was called Boaz, that is, "in it is strength." There are some of you that would be glad to be stones in the temple; but Christ says of some, that He will make them a pillar: there are some of you who would be glad if you just got in; but Christ says, you shall go no more out. "And I will write upon him the name of My God." Even here, one says, I am the Lordís; and another calls himself by the name of Jacob; and another subscribes with his hand unto the Lord, and surnames himself by the name of Israel. But then how surely it shall be done, when Christ will write upon us the name of His God! Here we are possessed with the world ó with money ó possessed with those we love too much, with our friends; but we belong to that city, that city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. It shall be said of us, we are born here: and observe, we shall be nearer to God than we are to the saints; for it is written, that we "are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God"; we shall be in the same city with the saints, but in the same house with God, of the household of God. Is there any other name Christ could write upon us! Is there anything else in heaven or in the earth He could give us! Yes "I will write upon him My new name." Ah! if the Saviourís name were not written upon us, the name of His God would not be written upon us. We must have Christís name written upon us here; He must write it upon us with His own hand; and then we shall have Godís name written upon us there. Let us have Christís old name here, which is Emmanuel, the seed of the woman: and then He will write upon us His new name, which is "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS." We shall share in His kingdom, we shall share in His crown, we shall share in His glory. "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world." Let us overcome; ó is it not worth fighting for? and then Christ shall make us a pillar, and we shall go no more out; and Christ will write upon us the name of His God, and the name of the city of His God, which is New Jerusalem, and He will write upon us His new name.

 

Laodicea

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