Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Revelation 3:9-13

In his message to the sixth church of Asia Minor, the glorified Jesus lovingly commends the church of Philadelphia for their faithfulness and endurance in the face of opposition. Like the church of Smyrna, the church at Philadelphia was a small church, but they were unwavering in their commitment to Christ. Now, while the other churches were receiving reproof and warnings this church was praised as a devoted and persevering church. Like Smyrna, this church was also facing persecution from the pagan culture and from the Jewish leaders in the city, but this did not keep them from faithfully obeying the commands of Christ.
As a reward, Christ promised them a number of things in this message. The first promise they received was that those who stood in opposition to them would one day bow in subjection to the message of the gospel. This was not a call for revenge, it was just a promise that one day justice would be set right. For now, they endured mocking and abuse, but because they had faithfully endured it, Jesus said that the mockers and abusers were destined to be changed into worshippers. In this one promise, Christ addresses the heart of human sinfulness that often derails gospel proclamation. Hurt feelings become bitterness, and bitterness grows into hatred, and hatred blossoms into vengeance of word or action. Enemies are evil, and often we desire their destruction. But here we see what happens if instead of seeking revenge, we sought to endure. Just as God is long-suffering, we too should be.
Through endurance and patience grace finds its most marvelous work. Now, having endured patiently, the church at Philadelphia was promised as the reward of their patience the conversion of their enemies. What a wonderful thing to be able to see those who normally would have caused pain, bitterness, and hatred, to instead receive God’s transforming grace that causes them to become those who cause joy, peace, and spiritual strength. Perhaps we too often short-circuit the work of God because unlike the Philadelphians we desire to get even or to constantly voice our problems with those around us. May God help us to patiently endure wrongdoing so that we too can rejoice in the day of conversion.
Finishing his message to the church at Philadelphia, Jesus promises so much more than seeing their enemies brought to faith. From verse 10 through 12, Christ tells the church that their faithful endurance has brought them the riches of heaven that cannot be taken away. Their eternal reward is secure, and they can rejoice because the day is coming when they will receive that reward. No trials or tribulation or troubles will be able to keep them from receiving what Christ promised them. Rather, they were destined to enjoy God forever. All that was left for them was to hold fast and continue doing what they had been doing.
What an encouraging letter this must have been. They were not perfect, and they knew that, but Christ sent a message through the Apostle John to tell them that they were doing well. The persecution must have been daunting, but they continued to be faithful, trusting that God would reward them in due time. Like Paul they could echo Romans 8:18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” May God help us to patiently endure testing and frustration in the same grace and hope with which these dear saints persevered.
Reflect: What promises did Christ make to the church of Philadelphia? How do we sometimes undermine the promises of Christ?