"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." Rev. 3:8.
For sometime we have been urged by a brother in Louisiana to write on the third chapter of Revelation, and especially the eighth verse. We deeply regret the delay in complying with his request, along With a number of others, but it has seemingly been impossible to meet all the demands made upon us. We plan to enlist the aid of our Associate Editors in writing on some of the many requests, for views which we have on hand and hope in this way to catch up. Of late it has been more difficult for us to write than for sometime, but if our brethren will bear with us, we promise to do the best we can to at least get a member of the staff to give consideration to their requests. We will also welcome the views of others than our staff on subjects which may from time to time be requested by our readers. We consider such requests as an indication of an awakened and lively interest among our family circle, and 1ve would like to do all we can to encourage them in this respect.
To cover fully the entire chapter is a task for which we are unequal, but we will endeavor to make some observations in general as well as to concentrate particularly upon the text in question. John was commanded by the One who said he was the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, to write "what thou seest" and send it to the seven churches in Asia, and he was evidently shown things for the record says that he was "in the Spirit on the Lord's day." In order to be helpful to the household of faith, we need to be in the Spirit, or to have the Spirit working in us, and if we should then confine our writing and preaching to those things "which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of life," there would be less confusion than there is and our beloved Zion would be built up and comforted in her most holy faith. There were seven churches in Asia, and some have thought they represented the fullness of the conditions and experiences of the churches in the gospel age or dispensation. In the previous, or second chapter, John had addressed his message unto the angels (pastors or undershepherds) of four of the seven churches: namely, Ephesus, Symrna, Pergamos and Thyatira, and in this third chapter which we now have under consideration he addresses the three remaining churches: namely, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. To the church at Sardis he says, "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." It is a sad state of affairs indeed to find a church of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is at least supposed to be alive, dead. John exhorted this church to watchfulness and diligence, to remember how she had heard and received the gospel and to hold it fast and repent of her sins else the Lord would come as a thief in the night and deal with her.-He takes occasion to encourage the few in the Sardis church who had not defiled their garments by saying "they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy!" What a blessed thing it is to receive the approval and commendation of our Lord. It is like apples of gold in pictures of silver to behold his smiling face.
His next message is to the angel of the church at Philadelphia, and he prefaces his remarks to this church by saying, "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." Then the verse which has been cited particularly for consideration, follows: "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." Of all the churches in Asia, not a single one could compare in degree of perfection with that of this church. Philadelphia signifies brothe1y love, and this was exemplified more, by far, in this church than any of the rest. Blessed, indeed, is the church where brotherly love abounds. There can be no question as to who if was that said these things, nor as to what they signified. In the fifth chapter John says: "And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals; And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof."
It is quite evident that a true knowledge and understanding of the spirituality of God's blessed word is what was under consideration. God has been pleased to hide these things from the wise and prudent of this world and reveal them unto babes in Christ, and the only reason given is because it seemed good in his sight. How true it was that God knew the works of this church, as well as all the rest, whether good or bad, for he searcheth the heart and trieth the reins of all. God had greatly blessed the Philadelphia church with his love, against which there can be no law, and he declared he had set before her an open door, "and no man can shut it." The things of the gospel were, perhaps, more fully known and practiced by this church than any of the rest, and since the gospel is declared to be "the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth," when his servants are endowed with power from on high and are given liberty to proclaim it in demonstration of the Spirit, every heart to whom it is directed by the Holy Ghost is bound to hear it, and all the world combined cannot prevent that still small voice from penetrating and entering wheresoever God is pleased to send it. We often think of the great wonder of the radio, and how messages can be tossed about, to and fro, almost momentarily, from the four corners of the earth, but, marvelous as this is, it cannot begin to compare with God's system of communicating with his people; And there is no such thing as static or interference of any kind when the God of heaven speaks, for he "openeth, and no man shutteth." We frankly confess that we do not fully understand the significance of the phrase in our text "for thou hast a little strength", unless it is to show that even the Philadelphia church was not perfect in every sense of the word. In answer to Paul's petition to remove the "thorn, in the flesh" that was given him, God said "my strength is made perfect in weakness." We therefore, conclude that as long as the Philadelphia church had a litt1e strength of her own that she was not absolutely perfect. How could she be if, indeed, she was to typify the experiences of other churches in the gospel age. Nevertheless it was declared concerning her she "hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name." What a marvelous example for the churches in this age to try to follow! The inspired writer then went on to say, "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 1 have loved thee." What a great contrast is shown here between the true and the false. To the true 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. 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, … and I will write upon him my new name." Then follows that refrain which is found in all of the messages, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."
Having put the Philadelphia church upon the pinacle of beauty, grandeur and glory, so to speak, John in his message which follows to the Laodicean church, gives an example of just the opposite, for the charges which were brought against this church were the worst and most serious of all. As a weighty admonition to all to whom they may apply we quote the divine record in full for them to ponder over, as follows: "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would than wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see." How infinite and sublime must be the love which God bears toward his people, for notwithstanding the terrible condition the Laodicean church was in, we hear him saying, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." By way of emphasizing again the importance of realizing to whom these things are addressed and apply, we once more quote the refrain which follows all of the messages: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."
We offer the foregoing thoughts, to our readers for their consideration in the hope that our heavenly Father may be pleased to bless them to their comfort and edification, and may his blessed and holy name have everlasting praise.
Signs of the Times
Volume 114, No. 2