How unutterably wonderful it would be if we had a letter put into our own hands written by the Lord Jesus Christ Since He has gone into Heaven, and directly addressed to ourselves.  But this is exactly what we have.  Our Lord, by the words with which He sums up every Letter He writes to the Seven Churches, charges these Letters home on every believer, everywhere, for all time:- “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches”: what the Spirit saith, not to the Angels, but to the Churches, even long after the Angels are dead; not merely Letters posted through John to the seven cities, but sent to ‘the churches’ everywhere, so long as there are churches; Letters spoken by the Spirit silently, convincingly, with enormous enrichment, to every believer throughout the world who has an ear that can hear.  So these Letters, dictated to John by our Lord personally in Patmos, have, by the careful providence of God, been directly delivered into our hands, and are addressed personally to you and me.






In every Letter our Lord purposely fills the whole background, presenting Himself as the fountain, the dynamo, the hinge of all service; and to Philadelphia He shows Himself as the One who locks and unlocks with the omnipotence of God, and with the finality of fate.  “He that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David; he that openeth, and none shall shut; and that shutteth, and none openeth” (Rev. 3: 7).  He holds the key of all lands, for the door of service; the key of hearts, for the door of hearing; the key of all Scripture, the door of holiness: He holds the keys of Death and Hades, for the opening of the tomb; the key of Heaven’s door – “I saw a door opened in Heaven” (Rev. 4: 1) - for rapture; the keys of the Kingdom of God, given subordinately to the Apostles and the Church (Matt. 16: 19), but retained in the Master-Hands for ever.  Wherever there is a door, Christ holds the key.






Philadelphia is peculiarly and for all time the church of the open door; and the opening begins with the golden, present opportunity.  “Behold, I have set before thee a DOOR OPENED, which none can shut”; a door of wide service, unhindered liberty, abundant blessings and privileges.  How marvellous is the door that has been opened before us all these years!  Will the Hand still rest on that opened door?  At Easter of last year - [i.e., in 1936] - the churches in Moscow numbered 36; and they now number 25: just twenty years ago there were more than 1300 churches in Moscow: a closing door!  A depth of pregnant comfort, of calm repose and invincible joy, lies in our Lord’s control of all doors.






In dealing with the state at the moment of the Philadelphian Church the Lord opens, as He always does, by finding what He can praise.  “I know that thou hast a little power” - how humbling for us all that this is the highest praise the Lord gives to any of the Churches! – “and [using that little well: Alford] didst keep [obey, watchfully observe: M. Stuart], my word” - my body of doctrine, my entire teaching, including (for us) the Seven Letters – “and didst not deny my name” - tested, in given moments in the past, you stood forth as a ‘Christian’, whatever the cost.  A church may be poor in its temporal resources, but rich in its fidelity: if my strength is small, God does not demand from me what only greater gifts could produce: wherever I am, it is enough if I live His Word, and, whatever my resources, if I devote them to the glory of His name.  Brainerd saw souls crowding to Christ: William Carey, on the other hand, worked for seven years without a single conversion; and Henry Martyn saw scarcely one throughout his ministry, yet he cried, “Let me burn out for Godand he did: God measures by the purity and intensity of the flame rather than by the immensity of the forests which it ignites.






Our Lord next unfolds the important lesson that our honour, our ultimate vindication, is in His hands alone, and that nothing really matters but the Judgment-Seat; and so He touches on the invariable accompaniment of the open door.  Paul said:- “A great door and effectual is opened unto me, and [not ‘but’; an opened door arouses an enraged enemy] there are many adversaries” (1 Cor. 16: 9).  So here.  “Behold, I give of the synagogue of Satan” - in the first century the Jews were among the fiercest persecutors of the Church “[some] of them which say they are Jews, and they are not” - for all are not ‘Israel’ who are merely Israel by blood (Rom. 9: 6) - “behold I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and” - for the Angel’s enemies shall also know that he has won his Lord’s special love – “know that I have loved thee  So our Saviour had promised when on earth.  “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; AND I WILL LOVE HIM” (John 14: 21).






So now the Lord opens the door of rapture into heaven.  “Because thou didst keep the word of my patience” - the doctrine of the Lord’s prolonged patience until His enemies are made His footstool – “I also” - I correspondingly – “will keep thee” - thee, emphatic and prominent (Alford); for rapture is an individual reward, not a church privilege – “from the hour of trial, that hour which is to come upon the whole world, to try them that dwell upon the earth”.  Second Advent truth, on which our Lord bases the Angel’s escape, is far from being ‘kept’ by all the children of God.  “No religious leader,” is the pathetic cry of Miss Christabel Pankhurst, “ever told me that not by the Labour Movement, nor by the Woman Movement, but by the way He has Himself provided will God bring peace on earth The Angel is not to be preserved through the Great Tribulation, for he is to be preserved from its season – “I will keep thee from THE HOUR”; and moreover as he is dead it is impossible that he should be kept ‘through’ it; he is to be kept from it, either by removal, or death; and the Lord thus bases rapture four-square on fidelity, not on conversion.  “Observe the benigna talio of the kingdom of God”, as Archbishop Trench observes: “because thou hast kept, therefore I also will keep: because thou hast kept my word, therefore in return I will keep thee*  Satan masses all his legions to block this door (Rev. 12: 7); but he only has the door of heaven in consequence locked for ever on him:- “WHO SHUTTETH, AND NONE OPENETH”.


* To believe that all believers are assured of rapture because the Philadelphian Angel kept the word of Christ’s patience is identical with believing that all believers are “miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3: 17) because the Laodicean Angel is so addressed.






Once again comes the inevitable warning, even to the Church on which falls no blame: its crown, even its crown, is in peril.  “Hold fast that which thou hast, THAT NO ONE TAKE THY CROWN”: hold fast your patience, your stedfast faith, your labour of love; hold fast sound doctrine and your lowly life and unworldly conversation.  It is no small thing to hold even what we have – “having done all, to stand”; and many of us need to realize that what we are doing is far more valuable than we know.  A small jewel can be a priceless jewel.  So, the Saviour says, “hold fast”; for our crown - not our life - is in jeopardy: “thy crown” - a crown may be already banked to our credit; but, “that no one take” it - be indifferent, be slothful, be unfaithful, and our crown passes to other brows.  The parallel truth, of the transference of opportunity, is openly pronounced at the Judgment-Seat:- “Take away from him the pound, and give it unto him that hath the ten pounds” (Luke 19: 24).  “LET NO MAN,” as Paul sums it up (Col. 2: 18), “ROB YOU OF YOUR PRIZE






So now the last door opens, that door into the Kingdom through which only the overcomer passes.  “He that overcometh, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and I will write upon him the name of my God, and mine own new name Steadfastness in duty culminates in steadfastness in glory.  Satan’s wisdom always lies in imitating God; and the tattooing of the name of the Antichrist – ‘Nero Caesar’ - in the flesh of every votary is doubtless a conscious imitation of what Satan knows will be done by God - foreheads stamped with the name because permeated with the character of the Most High.  So we find the 144,000, a body of rapt firstfruits, “having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads with such a distinction impressed on him, the conqueror would be recognized and acknowledged by all as entitled to his place in the New Jerusalem” (Moses Stuart).  So the three golden distinctions - rapture, coronation, enthronement - our Lord makes dependent on works, because the whole Letter is governed by its opening statement – “I know thy works”: that is, the whole Letter is no statement of fundamental salvation, but an analysis of our conduct with its consequences; and therefore watchfulness, unfaintingness, overcoming He explicitly states to be the conditions which alone create the rewards.  A field-marshal’s baton (it used to be said) slumbers in every common soldier’s knapsack; and when one of Napoleon’s generals asked him to make him a marshal, Napoleon replied:- “It is not I who make marshals, it is victory*


* “This passage is but one of many which set forth the pre-eminence of the victorious saints of this dispensation, in the future aeon of blessedness and glory.  They are the firstfruits (Rev. 14: 4); kings in the Kingdom then to be established (Rev. 2: 26); pillars in the heavenly Temple” (E. R. Craven, D.D., editor of Lange).






Finally, the Lord clenches all home on the individual heart: “He that hath an ear, let Him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches The fact that the Holy Spirit transmits the words lifts them out of all limits of time and place, and makes them binding so long as the Spirit, together with the Churches, are on earth.  But our Lord inserts a characteristic and pregnant warning by the use of a phrase which He always employs (Matt. 11: 15; 13: 9, 43; Mark 4: 9; Rev. 13: 9) for truths of singular importance, disconcerting character, and rare acceptance:- “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear”.  “It is not hard,” as a Professor said recently at Harvard, “to find the truth: what is hard is not to run away from it when you have found it The Saviour’s implication is that His words will be accepted and lived by only the few in the churches.  Be such, He says: an overcomer’s church may perish, but he himself can arrive on the summit of Mont Blanc.