November 25, 2011

Saturday after the Sunday next before Advent

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 146, 149, Joel 3:9-17, 2 Pet. 3:11
Evening - Ps. 148, 150, Rev. 3:7-13

Commentary
Revelation 3:7-13
The "city of brotherly love," is not living up to its name. Like the rest of Asia Minor, the people have adopted a general attitude of open opposition to Christ and His people. The Church of Philadelphia is apparently very small and composed of people with little or no power or influence in the city. Yet they have kept the word of God faithfully in the face of persecution, and Our Lord commends them, as He does Smyrna, without any word of condemnation.

As with each of the other Churches, the Lord opens with a description of Himself intended to strengthen and comfort His people. He holds the key of David, and He alone opens and shuts the door to the Kingdom of Heaven. The key of Davis is especially significant because the "synagogue of Satan" (3:9) is especially troubling to the Church. Such people may be a mixture of Gentiles and Jews who insist that faith in Christ must be combined with a conversion to Judaism and the complete ceremonial law and sacrificial system. Or they may simply be Jews who persecute the Christians as some persecuted Paul in other places. Either way, the Lord shows that He holds the key of David. This means the Old Testament was about Him, and He is the fulfillment of all that the law and prophets taught. He is the key to the Old Testament. It also means His intentions and promises given in the Old Testament, are fulfilled in the Church of the New Testament. Those who believed Gentile Christians needed to become Jews were absolutely correct if the Church is not the fulfillment of the Old Testament, for the point of the Gospel and the work of Christ would have been to continue the Old Testament Israel and bring the Gentiles into it. But the point of the work of Christ was to bring to fulfillment all that was symbolised by the old Israel, and to create a new people living in the faith of the New Covenant in Christ. For this reason, it is not necessary that Gentiles become Jews or adopt Jewish ceremonies or customs. Instead, both Jews and Gentiles are to join together into one new people, in which there are neither Jews nor Gentiles, only Christians saved by grace through faith. Christ, not Judaism, opens and closes the door to this new people of God.

The truth of the Gospel to which the Philadelphians hold will become evident to all when their persecutors are forced to publicly acknowledge them. In that day they will know God loves the Church (2:9).

Verse 10 is a favourite verse of those who believe in a "rapture" of the Church prior to 7 years of tribulation, but this idea is nullified by verses 11 and 12. The protection promised is spiritual rather than physical, and the spiritual protection will be with them as the trials of persecution increase. It is because they have trusted in Christ and not given up the faith, that He will be faithful to them and keep them in His faith, no matter what trials the future may bring to them. He will not let the persecution tempt, or, "test," them to the point where they give up their faith in Christ. This is good news to all who truly believe in Christ as Lord and Saviour. He holds us in His hand and will not allow anything to pluck us out. We have trusted His promise to deliver us safely to Heaven and He will keep His promise (Jn. 10:28 & 29).

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