#15 Philadelphia Part IV The Blessed Hope
What is it that we as believers hope for the most? Isn’t it to be with Jesus? Isn’t it to be like Jesus while here on earth while we await His return? Isn’t it our hearts desire to glorify Him whether in life or in death? Jesus is our Blessed Hope. I think the Hymn writer said it perfectly when he said, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Blood and Righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus Name. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.”
Here is our sure foundation: Jesus Christ the solid Rock. He is our life. Believers gather together all over the world on this, the Lords Day to worship the One true God who has revealed Himself to us in such a holy and wonderful way that we have been literally transformed by that gracious revelation. Paul said in (2Co 5:17) “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
God Himself has made us fit for His Heavenly Kingdom. He has granted us life from the dead and faith in Jesus Christ His Only Begotten Son. He has called us to walk in newness of life, to live for Him, to live in obedience to His commands. And because of the new heart that we have received our desire is to do just that. Now we have been looking at the Church of Philadelphia and what a great blessing it is to see a church that is faithful to Jesus. In this letter I see challenges, inspiration, and the blessed hope that we all long for, and that is to be with Jesus. It is the hearts desire of the believer, the child of God to be with Him whom our soul loves.
This church challenges us to stir up the gifts that God has given us. It inspires us with a picture of true faith and it causes us to look up for our redemption draweth nigh. I am drawn back once again to the Book of Romans and to the direction that the Apostle Paul gives to us. We will be looking in a moment at the 13th chapter of the book of Romans because I see here direction for our lives.
And I see the Church of Philadelphia performing the deeds of faithfulness that Paul spoke of. They lived their lives for the glory of God. They knew the will of God which is not some ethereal mystery that we can never know. The word of God was written for us so that we might hear the voice of God declaring to us His will, and upon hearing, that we may obey. As I read this letter to the church of Philadelphia, as I read all of the Holy Scriptures, I am inspired to press harder toward obedience to the God whom I love. I am inspired to fight the old man harder, to put down the deeds of the flesh and to get closer to Jesus. This is the reason God wrote it!
I am reminded of the words of Jesus who told us to obey Him and so prove to be His disciples. And then He told us how to obey Him. He said, “Do the things that I said!” Now that is really quite plain is it not! We are to do the things that He said. And remember what John said in (1Jo 5:3) “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” Another way of putting it is that they are not burdensome. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” and “you will find rest for your souls.”
In the scriptures we find direction for living a life that is pleasing to our Heavenly Father. All this glorious truth was written for our good, for our growth in grace. It was written to lead us to know the will of God, to daily conform us to the image of Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our Faith. We are stewards of this book and “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” (1Co 4:2) The idea here is that we are to be trustworthy, that we must actually do what we are told. Remember the two sons in one of Jesus’ parables. The dad came to one and said, “Go out and work in the field and the kid says, I’m not going to do it.” Now he later repents and goes out and does exactly what his father asked of him. The father also goes to his other kid and says, “Go out and work in the field.” And this kid says, “I’m on my way dad.”
But he never gets there. And Jesus asked, “Which one of these sons did the will of his father? The obvious answer is that the first kid obeyed. He did what he was told. He goofed around a bit but then he obeyed. And I say, go thou and do likewise. Not the goofing around part but the obedience part. Isn’t it interesting though, how hard we work just to try to get around being faithful! We are always ready with an excuse as to why we “Just can’t do it.” We are quick to point out that “Nobody’s perfect.” “I didn’t feel led.” “I’m not gifted in that area.” I ask you, these excuses that you are so quick to offer each other; would you dare voice them in the presence of God? What would you say to God? “Aw gee Lord, I just didn’t feel led.” “I wasn’t gifted in that area Lord.” “You really weren’t serious about obeying all of these commandments were you God?” “Nobody’s perfect Lord.” Could you really say these things to Jesus? Somehow I just don’t think so!
I just don’t think that you would even dare to offer excuses. We must be a faithful people, faithful to be about our Father’s business. We must fight the good fight of faith which means living a life that is pleasing to the Lord. And this is not a glamorous affair. This is a ‘I’m gonna get down and I’m gonna get funky’ fight, struggle, sweat slinging effort. The good fight of faith includes fighting against the desires of the flesh. It involves actual serious prayer time, communion with God for the strength that only He can give. We claim to be people of the book. Let it not be said of us, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Lu 6:46) But instead prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. (Jas 1:22) What is the Christian life but one of absolute, daily surrender of our lives to God as living sacrifices.
Those who think otherwise are deluding themselves…having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: and we are warned concerning such people: from such turn away. (2Ti 3:5) We must not join with them or let them join with us while they are in such a sinful state. John the Baptist had some hard words for people who just wanted to play games. In (Mt 3:7-10) we read…“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? You see, the Religious leaders thought that this act, like all of their other acts, would make them acceptable to God.
They showed what kind of mindset they had when they came to Jesus one day and asked, “What must we do to do the work of God.” in other words, what thing, what deed can we perform to please Him? They were stuck with the mindset that said, “By my deeds, by the works of the Law, I can be justified. Because of who I am, I am acceptable to God.
John just threw that out the window. He said, “You want to be baptized? You want to perform an outward act that illustrates an inward change? First prove that there has truly been an inward change of heart and life. Prove by your lives that you have repented of your evil self serving deeds. He said in verse 8 “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’ You’d best be putting out of your mind any supposed favor because your heritage. That kind of stuff doesn’t hold water with the Almighty. In fact I’ll show you just how easy it is to be a human son of Abraham: for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Remember, it’s not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
You want to know where being physical ‘descendants of Abraham” will get you? Nowhere! Unless you have the faith of Abraham, you’re sunk. Unless you repent of your sins and turn and follow after God and believe God like Abraham and live for Him and Him only you haven’t got a ghost of a chance.
Here is where you stand right now. 10 “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit everyone who tries to justify themselves, those who call themselves “Christians” but don’t do what He says, these prove that they are phonies and such a person is destined to be cut down and thrown into the fire. Why? Because he has proven himself to be a faithless, self serving son of Adam.
John hammers home his truth to us. Prove your faithfulness; prove that you love Jesus by obeying Him: by your deeds, not self serving but God serving. Bring forth fruit in keeping with your claim of repentance and faithfulness to God. Prove by your lives that you believe God, that you love Him. Let your lives be living sacrifices to Him. Let each day be an offering to Jesus. Make every day a devotion to Him.
Paul gives us wonderful direction as to how to live a life that is pleasing to God. He says in verse 7 of Romans 13 saying “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. 8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. 11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
The person who does the things that Paul said and does them from a heart of love for God this person proves by his deeds that he is born again. It is what comes out of the heart of a man that is the barometer which tells us who and what he really is. When you are squeezed, what comes out of you? There was a story about a boy who, whenever he spoke, snakes and frogs came out of his mouth. Then something happened to change his life and after this life changing experience, jewels and gold came out of his mouth every time he spoke.
This is a good illustration to use to check yourselves out. When you speak, what comes out of your mouth, hurtful words, boastings, prideful postulations, snakes and frogs? Or do you speak words of edification, words that build up and strengthen the body, diamonds and rubies and pearls? The first type of person is merely deluding himself or herself. They call themselves Christians but their lives deny their claim. This person possesses a form of godliness but denies the power thereof.
The second person, the one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, that is actually applies the word of God to his life, whose life is characterized by godliness; not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. Jas 1:25 How blessed? John tells us in Revelation 3 and verse, 9‘Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. Remember that the Jews believed themselves to be a privileged people. They believed that by their merely being descendants of Abraham, that they had arrived. You see the pride of such people.
It is the same with any cult. “We are the chosen race, people, country, church, or whatever.” “If you belong to our group… you are partakers of the special blessing and you will go right to heaven when you die. God will see that you are part of our ‘church’ and will smile on you and grant you special blessings. And our practices are not sin; they are a special dispensation from God who said it was alright for us to live in carnal, fleshly pleasure.” Judaism is of the same type of mindset. They believe that they are children of Abraham and therefore righteous by virtue of their family tree. When John the Baptist said, do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’ they just let that one pass over their self righteous heads.
When Jesus, by His mighty words and deeds proved that He was indeed the Messiah, they became like Casey at the bat. They looked at Him and said, “You ain’t my style of Messiah. You ain’t what I want my Messiah to be. And they killed the Lord of Glory by the hands of the Roman Government. To this day they oppose all that Jesus Christ stands for.
Ever since the day the soldiers came to the Priests and said, “He’s gone and we saw angels and stuff” the Jews have been trying to cover it up. Jesus calls them the “synagogue of Satan.” And this is in keeping with what He said in (Joh 8:44) when he told the Pharisees “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
He says that they call themselves Jews but are not. Again this is in keeping with the word of God in (Ro 9:6) “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; Just because you are a descendant of Israel doesn’t mean you are beloved of God. What did Abraham do that these people have refused to do? He believed God. These people don’t. They say that they are Moses’ disciples and yet they play stretch the scriptures to suit their own personal doctrine which denies God and exalts man. But God will make them to see the truth. He will open their eyes, either in this life as He visits the elect of Israel in salvation. Or He will allow them to remain in their sins until the final day when He visits them in judgment. Either way they will be brought to bow down before Him and proclaim Him Lord.
He continues saying “I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. They will be made to see that they don’t have exclusive rights to God: that He has shed his love abroad on all of His elect. They will see that they were wicked to deny those passages of scripture which speak of God visiting the Gentiles. Those who have been born again will worship the one true God with us. Those who die in their sins will bow before the Throne of God and say, “Jesus Is Lord!” John Gill says: “The sense is, that the convinced and converted Jews shall come to the church, and in the most lowly and contrite manner acknowledge their former blindness, furious zeal, and violent hatred of the Christians, and shall profess their faith in Christ; shall join themselves to the church, and partake of the ordinances of the Gospel with them; and shall worship God and Jesus Christ, their Lord and King, in their presence, and at their feet”
Now the next verse speaks of God’s divine protection and preservation of His people. It says this: 10‘Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Now there is much controversy concerning this passage. There are people who say, “This means that nothing bad will ever happen to you!” The health and wealth people say, “God wants you rich and famous and healthy. If you are faithful to Him, nothing bad will ever happen to you. And if something bad does happen, that means you are in sin and you need to get saved again so that God will love you again.”
Others use this passage as their key verse to teach the doctrine of the Rapture. They say that the Rapture is coming and you will be lifted off this planet before anything bad happens on the earth. They call it “The Great Snatch.” This is their blessed hope: freedom from suffering. And they site the fact that the church isn’t mentioned after chapter 3 of the book of Revelation. They say, “It is conspicuous by its absence.” Those who hold to this teaching have made videos for their unsaved family members to watch after the rapture.
So what is being said here? It is a difficult question and there seems to be no clear answer unless you identify with a theological camp. These camps dogmatically declare that their interpretation is the right one. But what is the truth? We can definitely say that the church has had periods of trial and tribulation and we have already cited those passages a number of times which refer to the tribulations that accompany godly living.
The Emperor Domitian was even then persecuting the Church. Trajan who would shortly take the reigns of the Roman Empire would persecute the Church to new levels of severity. The godless people of our land are persecuting the church in subtle ways, no frontal assault but a steady whittling away at our religious freedoms. Both feminism and homosexuality are opposed to Christianity. In other places it is against the law to be a Christian and the penalty is death. And so the Church is suffering various levels of tribulation.
Jesus speaks here of an hour of testing that is to come upon the whole civilized world. The Roman Emperors and the Popes of the “Holy Roman Empire” persecuted Christians in the known, civilized world. We know from the book of Daniel that the people who know their God will be strong and do exploits. They will stand fast and firm in the face of the hurricane of persecution. They will do so knowing that this earthly tent is only temporary. When the haters of God kill the body, they have nothing more they can do! Believers throughout history have stood firm to the end, enduring torture and hideous deaths rather than deny Jesus Christ.
They were not kept from but through their fiery trials. Consider this statement from Matthew Henry: “Christ promises preserving grace in the most trying times, as the reward of past faithfulness; to him that hath shall be given. Those who keep the gospel in a time of peace shall be kept by Christ in an hour of temptation; and the same Divine grace that has made them fruitful in times of peace, will make them faithful in times of persecution.”
Now Jesus says to the church of Philadelphia that He will keep them from “from the hour of testing” Because these Philadelphian Christians had kept, literally held fast to the truth unwaveringly, Jesus said that He would keep them from the trial that was coming. Does this mean rapture? It definitely seems to mean Divine intervention of some kind. Is there a mystery here? Yes! Did the Philadelphian Christians flee to the hills like the Christians in Jerusalem at the approach of Titus and the Legions? There doesn’t seem to be any historical evidence to support this. But He did preserve this Church. A.T. Roberson wrote that there was still a Christian Church in Philadelphia in his day.
But there is no mystery about what He says next. 11‘I am coming quickly; again the idea is of a sudden appearing. This could mean that the trial of their faith was at the door. He calls the Philadelphians to hold fast that is, cling to Him unwaveringly: picture a drowning man clinging to a life preserver. Hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Prove yourselves to be true believers by holding fast to your confession of faith. If you turn away you will be turned away. He never knew you. Be on the alert for the return of the Son. Be like those who were preparing for the Exodus. They were dressed and ready and to go. They were prepared! The Church at Philadelphia was prepared. We must be prepared. Stand firm in your faith. Be strong for the Lord.
To the true disciples of Jesus He says, 12‘He who overcomes, he who perseveres to the end, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, This speaks of permanence. Think Eternity! …and Jesus says, he His faithful ones will not go out from it anymore; again we see the true blessed hope, being with Jesus forever. We will be with Him for all eternity and He says, 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 out of heaven from My God, and My new name.
Here is a special blessing of identification. We are given these marks of ownership as some have called them, to identify us as His sons and daughters, as residents of the New Jerusalem and as the particular possession of our beloved Lord Jesus. Jesus is coming. What does this knowledge do to you? Does it fill your heart with joy? With fear? Sinners fear judgment. They have good reason to do so. But God’s children need not fear. Jesus is coming to receive us to Himself that where He is, there we will be also. When is Jesus coming? Quickly! He said so Himself. How is He coming? The prophet Malachi spoke of the Lord coming suddenly to His temple. Jesus compared His return to lightning which flashes from the east to the west. His return will be sudden, abrupt. And the whole world will see Him.
The Rapture people say that He will come secretly to pick up all believers. Later He will return to end the world. But Jesus said that when He returns everyone will see! There will be no secret coming. He told us to watch, to be on the alert. For a secret? No, for Him, our blessed Hope! And what a day that will be! Are you ready? Are you faithful? Are you on the alert, looking for His return? Are you prepared to stand firm in your faith to the end, even if it means trial, torture and death? Jesus said “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. (Mt 10:22) Let us be those who are ready to meet Him, redeeming the time because the days are evil. Let us be children of the day. Let us be about our Father’s business. Let us be found faithful at His coming.