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05.16.10 The Security of Salvation, Rev. 3:7-13 Sermon Summary

by on May 17, 2010

In this passage, the exalted Christ urges the church in Philadelphia to make wise use of the “open door” he has provided them. It says that he holds the “key of David,” which is a reference to the key controlled by a certain Eliakim, the palace administrator to King David. If you wanted to see the King, you had to go through Eliakim. This reference is meant to assure the Philadelphians of two things. First, that the door Jesus has opened for them will remain open; and second that this open door represents the will of God.

What is the open door? In Paul’s letters, the “open door” is a metaphor for strategic opportunities for effective ministry. Read the following passages, written either by Paul or in his name: 1 Corinthians 16:5-9, 2 Corinthians 2:12-13, and Colossians 4:3. We make a number of observations:

  • Paul’s language is conspicuously conditional. He makes plans, but he follows “open doors.” He subordinates his plans to the opportunities available to him.
  • At the same time, when he finds an open door, he also considers his own needs and desires. Though there was an open door in Troas, Paul was restless and decided to keep moving.
  • Finally, even “in prison,” the author of Colossians is looking for open doors. In other words, no matter how confined our lives may feel to us, God is able to create opportunities. Faithful people look for open doors regardless of their circumstances.

God has provided an open door for Philadelphia because this city resides at a crossroads. Philadelphia was located along a major East/West trade route. Through faith and faithfulness, the church in Philadelphia could survive and even be effective because the exalted Christ, who holds the key of David, has opened a door.

Here we find two lessons. First, we can trust God in the crossroads of our lives. We all experience crossroads, and while they can make us uncomfortable, God has led us to them, even created them for us—if only with faith we hear Christ calling us to recognize the open door a crossroad represents.

Second, though we might be limited in the crossroads, we have all we need to overcome. Christ repeats here what he said to the church in Thyatira: hold on to what you have. And he repeats the motivation he offered to Smyrna: so that no one can take the victor’s crown from you. Everything we have when we find ourselves at the crossroads is everything we need—if only we will hold on to it and walk through the open door.

In reality, our lives until we enter our rest consist of one crossroad after another. And it is the assurance of God’s presence with us on this journey, and especially at the crossroads, that we find the security of our salvation. Salvation is knowing that God is with us in the crossroads.

This letter makes the first reference to a world-wide trial in the book of Revelation (3:10). The people of God will experience trials along with the world (we won’t be “raptured out,” contrary to popular misunderstanding). But we will be delivered through them spiritually. (Jesus says he will keep us “from” such trials, but we more accurately understand him to mean “through” the trials.)

In Revelation, these trials are presented through the opening of seven seals, the blowing of seven trumpets, and the pouring of seven bowls (6.1ff, 8.2ff, 15.1ff, respectively). The symbolic “marking of the 144,000” at 7:3, followed by the plague of locusts not being allowed to harm those so marked (9:4), depicts the faithfulness of God to preserve his people through trials.

Christ offers another assurance with the vision of the church as a pillar in the temple of God. A temple pillar is a permanent fixture. Those who go through the open door will be found permanently in God’s presence. There is probably a deliberate contrast here with the “synagogue of Satan,” which is NOT all Jews (either at the time of the writing or now), but something else.

A third assurance comes with bequeathing of a new name, that is, the New Jerusalem, upon Philadelphia. Philadelphia was originally renamed in the 2nd century BC as a result of the love and loyalty Attalus II showed to his brother Eumenes. More recently, it had been nick-named Neocaesarea (New City of Caesar) as a result of Caesar Tiberias’ earthquake assistance about 80 years prior to the visions of John in Revelation. Now Jesus says in effect, “You are not the city of Caesar, but the city belonging to God.”

Salvation belongs to our God” is the lyric in one of the hymns of Revelation. We are assured of salvation because it belongs to God, not to us. We are secure in our deliverance through the crossroads, just as Paul was. And we can be confident of the salvation of others as well, just as Paul was when he left behind the open door at Troas. We are secure because it belongs to God to open doors. It belongs to us to believe and behave accordingly.

Questions for further reflection

  • What crossroads are you at in your life? How do you see God’s hand in leading you here, in remaining with you here, in opening a door for you here?
  • You church is located at a physical intersection. What open doors exist for your church at this crossroads?
  • Don’t allow the limitations in your own life or at your church to keep you from finding the open door of ministry and walking through it. Remember, what you have at the crossroads is all you need.

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