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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15


Promises to the Church of Philadelphia

M. L. Moser,

From The Baptist Challenge, February 2014

[This message on “Promises To the Church of Philadelphia” was preached on June 25, 1979 and is printed “as preached.” It is one of a series of 113 messages on the Book of Revelation preached at the Central Baptist Church, Little Rock, Arkansas over a period of two years, 1979-1981.]


We are going to complete our study this morning on the church of Philadelphia. We intended to finish it last Sunday but we didn’t, but we will finish it this morning. The Lord willing tonight we will resume our studies with the Church of Laodicea. In chapter three of this Book of Revelation, we want to begin with verse seven.


“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 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.


“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” (Rev. 3:7-13).


I want us to notice this morning some of the commendations that the Lord mentioned concerning this church. We’re just going to mention them and that’s about all because we did discuss them in more detail last Sunday morning, but in verse eight you will notice that it says “Thou hast a little strength.”


We should understand that rewards will not be given because of the greatness of the opportunities, but according to our faithfulness in responding to the opportunities we have. Every one of us can have a great reward even though we may not have many opportunities, or great opportunities. Your reward is going to be determined by your faithfulness in responding to your opportunities. It is how you respond to the opportunity that determines your reward so you can have a great reward even though you have few opportunities if you respond in the way God wants you to.


Here we see that this church, though their measure of strength may have been small, she was faithful in responding to their open door even with their little strength. Though you may consider that you have a little strength, if you will use that little strength for the Lord, then God will reward you based upon your giving to Him that little that you have. Sometimes the little that you have may amount to more than someone else who gives much, simply because they did not give proportionate to the way that you did.

 

I think that I mentioned this last month in an illustration. When the Lord was standing by the temple, He saw the Pharisee come by and the Pharisee put in a very substantial offering. Then He saw a widow as she came by and she put in what we commonly refer to as the “widow’s mite.” That, of course, would not be very much, but the Lord said that the widow actually gave more than the Pharisee, though she gave the equivalent of about two pennies.


The Pharisee may have put in a hundred dollar bill, (putting it in our terms), and yet the Lord said that the widow gave more than the Pharisee because she gave all she had. This is exactly the way that rewards are to be disbursed. The rewards will not be disbursed in proportion to the quantity of what you do, but it will be in proportion to the response that you give to the opportunities that you have. Just as the widow would have a greater reward because she gave all she had, so if you have few opportunities and maybe what you might think of as small opportunities, the rewards that God gives will be great if you respond with all you have to those opportunities.


The second thing we find that He commended this church for was that He said they did keep My word, verses eight and ten.


We mentioned that one does not keep the word of God simply by merely defending it, but you keep the word by submitting yourself to the word and by obeying the word. This is what it means to “keep the word.” It means to submit yourself to it, to obey it. Not simply to keep it in the sense that you hoard it in a corner, or that you store it where it can be protected from those who might ruin or distort it, but to keep the word means that you fully obey the word, and this is something that you and I need to do. The third thing He said in verse eight is that they did not deny His name.


I want to comment just here about five promises that the Lord makes to this church. Beginning in verse ten we read through verse twelve these words:

 

“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.


“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 God: and I will write upon him my new name” (Rev. 3:10-12),


The first promise that the Lord made to the church was in verse nine when He said that the enemies of that church are going to be humiliated.


He says, “I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee” (Rev. 3:9).


Secondly, in verse ten He promises this church a deliverance from the period of tribulation that is to come. He says, “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” (Rev. 3:10).


Now this deliverance is a deliverance from the great Tribulation Period that is to come upon this earth immediately after the rapture when Jesus Christ returns to this earth to catch up all of His saints from this earth. This Tribulation Period is described for us in chapters 6 through 19. These are the things that He tells us in verse nineteen of chapter one “the things which shall be hereafter.”


This does not refer simply to ordinary persecution, because all churches have had to go through persecution at one time or another. This is a specific persecution. He says “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation.”


Not just an hour, but this is the hour, showing that He is referring to a specific period of time. Notice also that this hour of temptation is talking about the judgment that is to come, and that it is to come upon all the world. It is to come upon all the inhabitants of the earth, and its purpose is “to try them that dwell upon the earth.”


Now notice that little word “from.” He says “I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation.” In other words, the promise is not to be preserved in the temptation, or even through the temptation, but it is to be preserved from the temptation. In other words, this New Testament church is given a promise that they will not have to enter the Tribulation Period, because the rapture is going to take place before the Tribulation Period begins upon this earth.


Then He tells us in verse 11 that the coming of the Lord is imminent. “Behold, I come quickly, hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” We see that the doctrine of the imminent return of the Lord is a doctrine taught right here in the New Testament and has continued even to our very day. The Lord intended it to be that way. The Lord intended that every generation should live as though Jesus Christ could come at any moment.


Now it’s easy for you and me in the 20th century to look back and say “Well, how could these men back in those days, 100 or 500 years ago, maybe a thousand years ago, how could those people have lived and expected Jesus Christ to come at any moment? We have a Bible that talks about signs and things that are to take place in the last days, and they didn’t see all of these things, how could they have expected it?”


The Lord has told every generation that they’re to believe in the imminent return of the Lord, and they did not have as much knowledge as we have; they did not have as much information as we have (I’m talking about in the secular world). They knew that Jesus said they were to be ready at any moment, for He said “in the hour that ye think not, the Son of Man cometh,” and they believed that He could come at any moment.


Well, you and I live a long time after that. We now are able to understand and interpret some of the prophecies of Scripture that they simply did not know the answer to. They could not understand what the Lord meant by them, but now we know. We have seen events take place in our day and time that they could not even know would take place, if so, they didn’t know when they would take place.


Like the beginning of the nation Israel. That’s already occurred. That Jerusalem is now controlled by the Jews has already occurred. One of the last great events that has taken place that is a mark of the Second Coming of the Lord and His nearness is the forming of the Common Market in the nations of Europe. Until recently, there were only nine members of that Common Market. Greece has now made application, and all the nine are unanimous in the fact that they are willing to accept Greece as a part of this Common Market. That will make up ten nations.


When you read in the Books of Daniel and Revelation that in the last days there is to be this 10-nation kingdom and that the Antichrist is to arise out of this 10-nation kingdom, this is a prophecy that has been fulfilled within our generation. It is not complete yet, but it is in the process of being fulfilled right now. So there’s no way that you and I can avoid realizing that the return of the Lord Jesus Christ ... every week that rolls by is getting closer and closer and closer.


Let us turn to First Thessalonians chapter 4 and we’re going to read a couple of verses that we read to you last week, but notice how the Lord intends for us to live in expectancy as though the Lord could even come this very hour.


“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.


“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.


“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.


“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:


“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.


“Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:13-18).


Here we see that the Lord intended for us to live as though Jesus could come at any moment. If that was true then, just think of how much more it is true today, for we are that much closer to the return of the Lord.


Now then there’s another promise made here in verse 12. “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” (Rev. 3:12). This promise is going to be honored.


The first thing we see is a pillar mentioned here, and a pillar is an emblem of strength contrasted with weakness. Our weakness is going to be replaced by strength. In all of this that He speaks of right here, it involves stability, security, fellowship and intimacy with the Lord Himself. The Lord intends to make us such.


Now these saints at Philadelphia, He says, are going to have God’s name. What He says of them is true of all those who are saved, for He promises to write on the saints His own name, by doing such, He shows identification. Also, He’s going to write the name of His city and His new name. This is to identify us as a possession of the Lord. Now this expression “new Jerusalem” refers to this future eternal city we find described in chapters 21 and 22 of the Book of Revelation.


So we find three names here, and this triple-name, or these three names, must have been very precious to that church that was plagued by their enemy both on the inside and on the outside. That they knew God had labeled them with their name that they belonged to Him, therefore they knew He would protect them and preserve them. When the time came, they were going to belong to Him in that new Jerusalem, that new city.


Now then, He gives them some exhortations or some instructions and some admonitions, and some counsel or advice. They’re directed here to the Lord’s Second Coming, for He says to them in verse 11 “Behold I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast that no man take thy crown.”


The first thing He says to them is that their hope is not in this world, but their hope is to be in the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and He says, “Behold, I come quickly.”


The second thing that He exhorts them to do is to “hold that fast which thou hast.” Rewards are going to be connected with the “holding fast of that which thou hast.” Service to the Lord is going to be rewarded. Turn with me to the book of First Corinthians chapter three. God promises that if we live faithful to Him, if we submit ourselves to His Word, if we obey His Word, then He is going to reward us. Let us read beginning with verse 10:


“According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.


“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.


“Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;


“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is,


“If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.


“If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Cor. 3:10-15).


So we find here that the Lord is talking about rewards, and the rewards are for those who have built out of the right kind of material upon the foundation. You’ll note that he is writing to believers. These are Christians. Both built upon the right foundation which is the Lord Jesus Christ. You don’t build the foundation. This Jesus Christ did. He is the foundation. But in your life, as you live your life, you’re constructing a building upon that foundation. Your life is compared to a building.


Then he uses classifications of building materials. He has these that will endure: gold, silver, and precious stones. These are the kinds that when the fire of judgment comes, or when the fire of trials come, they will be purified. Fire simply will purify gold. It will purify silver. It will purify these precious jewels. It does not harm them, but it purifies them.


So let me remind you of this. If you’re a believer, if you are a Christian, if you are saved and you know you are saved, and if there are some things that occur to you and you do not understand why God would allow this to happen to you, this may be God’s means of allowing a trial to come upon you whereby it might purify your life so that your life might become something that might be a trophy that God could use for His honor and His glory.


If you are building your life as a Christian out of gold, silver, and precious stones, then these may be God’s methods of simply burning out all the dross, and it should cause you to flee unto the Lord and to draw you closer to the Lord. This is what occurs when you’re building your life out of the right kind of materials upon this foundation.


But on the other hand, if you are building your life out of wood, hay, and stubble what will occur is that those things will just simply be burned up in the fire of God’s trial, and you won’t have anything left but the foundation, and be glad that you’re saved by grace and that you are being kept by God upon that foundation, otherwise, if your salvation depended upon you, you’d lose your salvation just as you have lost all your works, if you built out of wood, hay and stubble. But the foundation will stand sure. So our service for the Lord is going to be rewarded.


In Second Corinthians chapter five and verse ten the Lord says that every one of us are going to have to stand before the Lord, and be tried. Our works are going to be tried. “For we” (now the Apostle Paul is including himself), “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).


So, every one of us who are saved are one day going to have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Not the great White Judgment Throne for that is for the unsaved, for lost people. But we are going to have to stand before God and give an account to Him for how we have lived our life since we have been saved. God’s going to try our life. Now this is where rewards are to be given out, and the rewards are to be given out according to our service. How many rewards will you have? What kind of rewards will you have?


I now want to show you that though you can earn rewards, and you can accumulate rewards, it is possible later on in life for you to so sin that you can lose all the rewards that you have accumulated. It’s just like money in a bank. You can store money in a bank and then you can lose it all, and this is exactly what the Lord tells us.


I want to show you this and we’re going to look at some crowns for just a minute. These are crowns that are being talked about here. You’ll notice that He says in verse 11, “Behold I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev. 3:11). The crowns mentioned in the Bible are used as symbols of the rewards for service and not for salvation. This is not talking about salvation. This is talking about rewards.


Now let’s notice some crowns that are mentioned in the Bible. “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer; Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev . 2:10).

 

Now turn with me to the Book of James. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (Jas. 1:12).


In the Book of Second Timothy we read: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).


Now turn with me to First Thessalonians: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” (1 Thess. 2:19).


Now turn with me to First Peter. “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Pet. 5:4).


You see that these crowns are all mentioned as rewards; they are given for service. It is not speaking about salvation at all.


Now let’s turn to the book of Second John verse eight, and let me show you that you can lose all the rewards you have if you leave serving the Lord and begin to live contrary to the will of God. You could have lived ten years in service to the Lord whereby you might have accumulated rewards, and yet you can lose all of those rewards. “Look to yourselves, so that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (2 John 8). In other words, you can lose those things that you have wrought.


Sometimes we get the idea that we can live any way we want to. We’re saved and therefore, since we’re saved by grace, we can live any way we want to, and it won’t cost us anything, because we’re already saved. It certainly will cost you. It certainly will. You as a believer are not free or at liberty to sin. You do not have a license to live in sin. The freedom that you as a believer have is that you have been freed from the dominion of sin, and you have been freed from the dominion of sin in order that you might serve the Lord Jesus Christ.


God holds you accountable, and responsible, so that when you live for Him, serve the Lord, and you work for the Lord, if then later on, something changes and you become one who does not serve the Lord, and you begin to live your life in sin, or you simply begin to neglect the things of God, don’t think that you can do it and get by with it. You can actually lose all the rewards that you have accumulated in the past. You’ll be saved because salvation does not come by what you do. Even keeping yourself saved does not come by what you do. You’re kept saved by the power of God through faith according to First Peter 1:5. But you can lose everything and be saved “though as by fire.”


Let me point out to you one thing in this verse. He says “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev. 3:11). The warning is not “let no man take thy salvation.” Salvation is eternally secure in Christ, but if one is not a faithful servant, they can lose their crown. They can lose all of their rewards.


What about you today? I heard somebody say this one time, “I don’t care whether I have rewards or not. I’m saved and I’ll be satisfied just so I get to heaven.” Oh what a terrible sad statement to make, that they do not love the Lord enough to serve Him. That all they want is just to get what God has, but never give Him anything at all. Jesus Christ died for them; He loved them so much that He came down to this earth and suffered all of the abuse that men could heap upon Him, went to the cross and suffered all of the physical agonies that were involved in His trial, the beatings, the scourgings, the mockeries, the spitting, the crown of thorns, finally to be nailed to that cross. He did all of that because He loved sinners.


And now, you have trusted Him, and you have been saved by Him, but you don’t even care enough about Him that you want to serve Him. What an ungrateful attitude that is! No wonder you’re not going to have any rewards — if you’re really saved. I sometimes wonder if a person who is really saved could have this kind of an attitude toward the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

You,that are saved here today, what is your attitude toward the Lord? Do you care whether you serve Him or not? Do you care whether you have any crowns or not? Remember, these crowns, as we’ll find out later on in this book, are not going to be for you to put on your head and wear around and brag to everybody in heaven how many crowns you’ve got. These crowns are going to be crowns that when you come before the throne of God, and you see the Lord Jesus Christ, and you see the nail prints in His hands, and you see the thorn-crushed brow, and you look upon that


One who loved you so much that He died for you, you’re going to take those crowns and present them to Him, and you’re going to say “Here, Lord, I give them to You out of love and appreciation and gratitude for all that You have done for me. I have served You. I have earned these crowns for You. Not out of a selfish motive because I wanted them, but I have served You and earned these crowns because I love you. Because I love you for what You are and all that You’ve done for me, and I want to give them to You.”


Christian friend, you talk about sadness. Don’t ever tell anybody there will be no tears in heaven. The song says “No Tears in Heaven” but that’s not scriptural. You’re going to stand before Jesus Christ and if you have nothing to offer Him at all, they’re going to be tears of sadness as you regret the fact that you wasted your life and you have nothing to give Jesus at all.


The Bible doesn’t say there’ll be no tears in heaven, but it says Jesus will wipe away all tears (Rev. 21:4). But how much better it would be if you were able to give Him something, present Him something. It would be nothing more than a token in comparison with what He did. Don’t you love love Him at least a little to where you are willing to serve Him? This is how you prove your love. You don’t prove your love by simply coming to church and sitting in the services like this.


Some people get the idea that this is proving their love to the Lord, but if you’re honest, you usually come to church services to “get” something, and if a preacher never preaches anything at all, you won’t come back because you’ll say “I just didn’t get anything out of it.” This is what you’re looking for. This is what you want. But what we’re talking about is what you can give to the Lord — service. Is it worth it? It will be in that day.


For you that are unsaved, what a sad thing to realize that when Jesus died on the cross, that He died for sinners. There was salvation provided right there. The invitation has been extended. He extends the invitation to whosoever will. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Ingratitude would make you simply ignore what God has provided for lost sinners. You’re not going to have any rewards, and you’re not even going to have salvation in that day, unless you trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and your Savior.


I want us to sing a hymn. I suppose it’s mostly to Christians, but I want it to be for the unsaved as well, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” This is the only way that you’re going to have any service for the Lord, the only way that you’re going to have any crowns.


Wednesday night recently I preached a message upon what is commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer” where it says “Thy will be done on earth at it is in heaven.” If you really want God’s will to be done on earth, then you must say “Have Thine Own Way With Me.” Will you do so? Make it a matter of prayer to the Lord. If there needs to be a time of repentance, repent unto the Lord. If there’s sin, confess that sin unto the Lord.