• Church of St. John In Alaşehir (ancient Philadelphia) | Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Wolfymoza

The Book of Revelation – Write Number Eight

Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer - 9 March 2020

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My Word, and have not denied My Name.”
Revelation 3:7- 8

Philadelphia is a small town in an area where earthquakes occur regularly, and was therefore rebuilt many times. It was renowned for its viticulture and produced excellent wine, as a result of which the Greek god Bacchus (Dionysius) was worshipped there. The frequent earthquakes are the reason it had remained a small town. This dangerous place had not become a ruin, however—in contrast to most of the other towns in Asia referred to—and it is still inhabited today. And there is still a small Christian church in this Islamic town, which is called ‘Allasehir’, meaning The City of God.

Is that not a living illustration of this text? When He opens, no one shuts—including Islam, which has ‘closed’ very many Christian churches, assemblies and congregations in Turkey and North Africa and the Middle East. But the church of Philadelphia still exists.

Philadelphia means ‘brotherly love’. Living in an area without worldly security, where even the ground shakes regularly, they hold on to Christ and to each other. This is the second church to which Christ does not address a single word of criticism. Its most important characteristic is that this Church has continued to expect Him to come in Heavenly Glory.

Christ has the power: the key to open or to shut. He opens and no one shuts and He shuts and no one opens. This power is also applicable to death and the realm of the dead. Revelation 1:17- 18 “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”

“Christ has the power: the key to open or to shut. He opens and no one shuts and He shuts and no one opens.”

He also holds the key of David. He is David’s Son. He is from the line of King David and one day He will be the King of kings and the Lord of lords ruling and reigning on planet earth. Both Mary, His mother, and Joseph, His adoptive father are descendants of the house and the lineage of David. He is thus the Son of man, but also the Son of God, who fathered Him in the womb of His mother, Mary. We read in Matthew 1:18-25 “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfil what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:  “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a SON, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” [Isaiah 7:14.]  And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.”

In Luke 1:30-35 we read: “The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

When Eliakim (whose name means: ‘God will rise up’) has to replace the haughty chancellor Sebna, the Word of God says: “I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut …” Isaiah 22:15-23. This servant of the Lord in the past history of Israel has been given authority in those days in the house of David and he decides who is to have access to the king. He is a prophetic type of the great Son of the house of David, Jesus Christ, who decides who will have access to the great King. The government rests upon His shoulders, as Isaiah 9:5-6 NKJV explains: “For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle, and garments rolled in blood, will be used for burning and fuel of fire. For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Christ opens the access to all God’s treasures. Romans 8:32; Colossians 2:2–3. He Himself is God’s true treasure, the Holy One, the True One, the true Holy One. He is referred to as such more than sixty times in the book of Isaiah. For instance Isaiah 6:3, 43:15 (““I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.”), 65:16; Revelation 19:11. The Holy One is holy, and He makes holy. Holy means separated from the world, set apart for God’s service—and that applies to us too. To be a separated instrument in His hands. Israel is created by God and separated from the other nations. Separated and called to bless the nations and the world. Called to be holy is how Paul refers to believers in Romans 1:5-7—certainly no ‘saints’ in the sense of those who are declared by the Roman Catholic Church to be saints, but ordinary people who are set apart and made holy and complete in Christ, 1 Christians 1:30-31. He is the Holy One of God – John 6:69, Acts 3:14; 4:27 and 30 – and we are in Him. To bless the world and our fellow human beings.

“Christ opens the access to all God’s treasures. Romans 8:32; Colossians 2:2–3.”

The key to open or to shut, according the Roman Catholic Church, was given to the Apostle Peter. And after him to the popes through apostolic succession—and to bishops and priests according to the Council of Trent.

The Counter-Reformation (Latin: Contra-Reformatio), also called the Catholic Reformation (Latin: Reformatio Catholica) or the Catholic Revival, was the period of Catholic resurgence that was initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation. It began with the Council of Trent (1545–1563) and largely ended with the 1781 Patent of Toleration, although smaller expulsions of Protestants continued into the 19th century. The Council was initiated to preserve the power, influence and material wealth enjoyed by the Catholic Church and to present a theological and material challenge to Reformation. The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort composed of apologetic and polemical documents, ecclesiastical reconfiguration as decreed by the Council of Trent. It led to a series of wars, political manoeuvring by the Holy Roman Empire, exiling of Protestant populations, confiscation of Protestant children for Catholic institutionalized upbringing, heresy trials and the Inquisition, notorious for its torturing and killing of protestant Christians. And in the southern part of Europe thousands of Jews were burned at the stake as well, with the crucifix of Jesus right before their eyes.

The Heidelberg Catechism is a Protestant confessional document taking the form of a series of questions and answers – 52 in total, one for each Sunday – for use in teaching Reformed Christian doctrine. It was written in 1563 in Heidelberg. In Q&A Sunday 31 it explains the power, the key (Matthew 16:17-19) to open and to close, as the proclamation of the Gospel and the Christian ban or exclusion from the Christian church. The rock is the confession of faith (not Peter himself as a person) that Peter had just spoken, being given by God this revelation about Jesus.

Basically, this key is the preaching of the Gospel. This key opens the door to salvation. By rejecting the Good News this key closes the door. Matthew 16:13-19 and 18:18. The Apostle Peter makes use of this key at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), in Samaria (Acts 8:14) and in Caesarea (Acts 10). Every believer can use this key by bringing the Good News to other people! By the preaching of the Gospel Jesus will open by the power of the Holy Spirit the hearts of people. The key of true faith to everlasting glory and life!

The Holy Spirit was firstly given to the Jews and for proselytes—non-Jews who have converted to Judaism, and thus had become Jewish as well. Next the Holy Spirit was given to the Samaritans (half-Jews, in Acts 8) and finally the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles (non-Jews, in Acts 10) at the house of Cornelius from Italy, the Roman centurion and his household.

I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

The key of David opens the door to the Messianic Kingdom. The Jewish rabbis said that they were therefore able to open or close the access to the Kingdom, that they were able to ‘bind’ or to ‘loose’, i.e. make doctrinal statements as to what is permitted and what not, and to apply or annul a ban. However, Jesus says to the Jewish leaders of His time: You shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces, Matthew 23:13: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the Kingdom of Heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”

In Matthew 16:19 Jesus says to Peter: “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The risen Lord Jesus gives this authority to make such strong statements to the disciples by the Holy Spirit, not only to Peter, but to all the disciples present there.

John 20:19-23 “So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

Disciples become apostles—those who are ‘sent out’. This authority is not only given to them, but also to all the members of the church—and thus to us as well. We read in Matthew 18:15-18: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. This is delegated authority. It is authority to make strong declarations. You are able to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven in Christ, in His Name.’”

For He is the only One who is able to bind and loose. We are able to proclaim Him, and to say, in His Name, following confession of sin: ‘Rest assured, He bore your sins as well; you are free, on the basis of God’s Word.’

Peter uses the keys for the first time when he preaches on the Day of Pentecost. He has the privilege of being the first person to proclaim the good news of God’s joyous message, Acts 2:14-40.

Paul uses the keys when he delivers Hymeneus and Alexander to Satan, to teach them not to blaspheme, 1 Timothy 1:20.

Philip the deacon uses the keys when proclaiming the Gospel to the eunuch, Acts 8:26-40.

Peter when preaching to Cornelius, Acts 10. Paul and Silas in prison, Acts 16:19-34.

And in the same way an open door is also given to the church in Philadelphia—a rich and blessed proclamation of the Gospel, powerful evangelism, an open door to God’s throne of grace and an open door to men’s hearts, a mighty door that no one can shut. And then comes the reason why: for you have little strength, but…you have kept My Word, and have not denied My Name.”

This church’s secret is that it has no strength of its own, that it depends completely upon the Holy and True One Who holds the keys. For when I am weak, then I am strong, says Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7–10.  Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom, Luke 12:32.

This Church has no other strength than that of the Word. That Word of God is alive and active and it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, Hebrews 4:12. That Word is like a hammer that can crush even the hardest hearts; like a fire that can thaw out and melt even the iciest hearts, Jeremiah 23:29.

This church has not denied ‘The Name’ by following Jesus. The Jews have perhaps thrown this accusation at their feet—just as Jesus was accused of blasphemy – Matthew 26:63-66: “But Jesus kept silent. And the High Priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.”  Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of Heaven.” Then the High Priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!” Accused of blasphemy against ‘The Name’ by claiming to be God’s Son. But He is the only One Who can claim to be so, however!

The key to the authority to exclude people from the church is to be used by the church according to the rules given in Matthew 18:15–17. These are intended to keep a brother or sister in the church rather than to exclude them!


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