The Open Door of Philadelphia
October 8th, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
THE OPEN DOOR OF PHILADELPHIA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-8-61 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled The Open Door of Philadelphia. In our preaching through the Bible, we have come to the last book, the Revelation. And preaching through the Revelation, we have come to chapter 3, verse 7. And this is the letter of our Lord to the sixth of the seven churches of the Roman province of Asia. Revelation 3:7:
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith He that is holy, that is true, that hath the key of David, 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: 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 trial, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
Behold, I come quickly: hold thou fast what 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… New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven… And I will write upon him My new name.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
In the great circle, in the great arch of the seven churches, we have come to the sixth one. Ephesus [Revelation 2:1-7], and north to Smyrna [Revelation 2:8-11], and north to Pergamos [Revelation 2:12-17], then turning south and east in the circle to Thyatira [Revelation 2:18-29], and further south and east to Sardis [Revelation 3:1-5]; and now, to Philadelphia [Revelation 3:7-13]. As cities go, Philadelphia was not ancient. It was founded by Attalus II, who was the king of the Attalid kingdom whose capital city was Pergamos. His name was Attalus Philadelphus, and he founded the city in 140 BC, and it was called after his name, Philadelphia.
There are several things in this letter that reflect the topography and the history and the situation of the city. For example, the Lord says: “Behold, I have set before thee an open door” [Revelation 3:8]. Philadelphia was established for a great missionary enterprise. It was located at the border of three countries: Mysia, and Lydia, and Phrygia. Because of that location, Attallus built the city there that it might be a missionary city offering Greek culture, and Greek language, and Greek art, and Greek literature, and Greek civilization to the wild, barbaric tribes in the interior beyond. So, Philadelphia is a missionary city, established as such to achieve a purpose for the Hellenistic evangelization of the wild tribes of Phrygia.
Another thing in the letter: He promises to the overcomer, “I will make thee a pillar in the temple of My God” [Revelation 3:12]. In Philadelphia, if a magistrate, or a philanthropist, or a benefactor had done something unusually fine and good for the city, they commemorated him, they memorialized him by erecting a pillar in one of the temples upon which they inscribed his name.
“And he shall go no more out” [Revelation 3:12]. Philadelphia was a city located before a vast volcanic field and was subject to constantly recurring earthquakes. When those tremors were felt, the people fled for their lives, and then returned, and then flee again at the next indication. But in Christ, we have a great illimitable and eternal security. “And he shall go no more out”: and I will write upon him . . . the name of the new city, New Jerusalem” [Revelation 3:12]. One of those earthquakes in 17 AD, destroyed the city; the same one that destroyed Sardis. And Tiberius, the Caesar of the Roman Empire at that time, rebuilt Sardis and rebuilt Philadelphia. And out of deference to the generosity of the emperor, they renamed it. They gave it a new name Neo Caesarea, “The New City of Caesar.” In time, it reverted to its own name, but the circumstance has a repercussion in this letter in the new city with its new name.
As you look at the letter as a whole, it is almost, almost all of it commendatory. One letter has nothing but commendation and encouragement. That’s the letter to the church at Smyrna [Revelation 2:8-11]. This letter, the missionary church of Philadelphia [Revelation 3:7-13], has in it also almost everything of a laudatory, encouraging and commendable nature. When the Islamic faith overran Asia Minor, Philadelphia was the last bastion of Christianity.
Edward Gibbon, the infidel and unbelieving author of one of the world’s greatest works of history, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, has a passage concerning the overwhelming of these seven churches in which he makes unconscious admission of the fulfillment of the Word of God. I quote from one of the word’s greatest historians, Edward Gibbon:
In the loss of Ephesus, the Christians deplored the fall of the first angel, the extinction of the first candlestick of the Revelation. The desolation is complete and the temple of Diana, or the church of Mary, will equally elude the search of the curious traveler. The circus and the three stately theaters of Laodicea are now peopled with wolves and foxes. Sardis is reduced to a miserable village. The god of Mohammed, without a rival or a son, is invoked in the mosques of Thyatira and Pergamos. And the populousness of Smyrna is supported by the foreign trade of the Franks and Armenians. Philadelphia alone has been saved by prophecy or courage (he didn’t know which). Among the Greek colonies and churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect, a column in the scene of ruin.
The church at Philadelphia is the church of the open door.
To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith He that is… true, that hath the key of David, that openeth, and shutteth… behold, I have set before thee an open door…
These seven churches represent seven great eras and epochs in the development of the Christian church. The Ephesian period is the church of the apostles [Revelation 2:1-7]. The Smyrnian period is the church of martyrdom, the church of the catacombs; ground under the iron heel of the Roman Empire [Revelation 2:8-11]. The church of Pergamos is the church of the establishment when it was married to the world [Revelation 2:12-17]. The church of Thyatira is the church of the infallible oracular church, dressed in scarlet and in purple with gold chains around her neck, speaking infallibly as the very oracle of God [Revelation 2:18-29]. The church of Sardis is the church of the Dark Ages and the Reformation, where God’s stars shine announcing the dawning of a new day and a new era [Revelation 3:1-6]. And the church of Philadelphia is the church of the open door. It is the church where God has given to His people their finest, their broadest, and their greatest opportunity [Revelation 3:7-13].
The church of the open door is ours today. We live in the Philadelphian age. The church of the open door is ours to enjoy personally. The Lord said, “I am the door: by Me if any man shall enter in… he shall go in and out, and fine pasture” [John 10:9]; water of life, manna from heaven, forgiveness of sin, strength and victory for this life and for the ultimate life that is to come.
These things saith He that is… true, that hath the key of David, that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth… I have set before thee this open door.
That is a quotation from Isaiah 22:22. The prophet there is describing Eliakim, the great, noble, trusted steward of King Hezekiah [2 Kings 18:18, 26, 37, 19:1-5]. The kingdom and the palace were in the hands of Eliakim, and all who appeared before the king went through that noble servant. It is a type and a picture of what Christ hath done for us in opening the door of a free, bold access to the very presence of the Lord God Almighty Himself [Hebrews 4:14-16].
“And no man can shut it” [Revelation 3:8]. That door is open to any soul, anywhere, any time, any day, any hour, any place. Come boldly for yourself [Hebrews 4:16]; it is ours in the love and grace and mercy of God our Savior. And that open door is given to us in the service and ministry of Christ. Any man can be a disciple of, a follower of, a servant of our great Lord and King: any man can invite to Jesus; any man can be a missionary; any man can be a soulwinner, can be a testifier, can be an inviter, can be a minister of Christ—any man! The door is open before us.
A man who was moved by the Spirit went to Spurgeon the great London Baptist preacher one time and said: “Sir, I have it in my heart to win souls for Jesus. What shall I do?”
And Spurgeon said: “What’s your job?”
And the man replied: “I drive an engine on the railroad.”
And Spurgeon said: “Is your fireman a Christian?”
And the engineer replied: “Sir, I don’t know.”
And Spurgeon said: “Go back and find him.”
That door is open to all of God’s children: not just a few; not just the minister, but anyone, anytime, anywhere can win people to Christ, inviting to the Lord; accept a place of responsibility with our nursery, with our children, with our young people, with all of the many-faceted ministries of this great church that belongs to Jesus. An open door of service for us all; we all can have a part and a share. This is the Philadelphian church of our day and of our time.
That church of Philadelphia represents the great epoch and the great era of the missionary endeavor of Christ’s churches in the earth [Revelation 3:7-13]. It began in the latter part of the eighteenth century. In 1792, William Carey was sent out as a missionary and founded the great modern missionary movement of the churches of our Lord, “See, behold, I have set before thee an open door [Revelation 3:8]. And I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee” [Revelation 3:9].
When William Carey stood up before that Baptist association, and as a young minister proposed the evangelization of the world, the learned and able and elder moderator of the association said to him: “Sit down! Sit down, young man. When God wants to convert the heathen, He will do it without your help or mine. Sit down!” But the Spirit of God moved in the soul of William Carey, and they organized that first Baptist Missionary Society—the first one in this modern world. They made up a little sum of money and sent William Carey to India to preach the gospel of the Son of God.
“I will make them come before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee” [Revelation 3:9]. A thing like that is impossible to think of today, that a man would stand up and discourage a young minister who had it in his heart to evangelize the nations of the earth. “I will make them know that I have loved thee”; the favor and blessing of God upon this Philadelphian church. And when William Carey landed in India, the East India Company—the great commercial enterprise of the British Empire—the East India Company interdicted his stay in India. So William Carey went eighteen miles up the Ganges River in a little part of India that was administered by the Danish government, and there, in Serampore, he built his schools and his colleges and sent out his Baptist preachers to evangelize the lost of that great subcontinent.
Today, it would be unthinkable that a commercial enterprise in any enlightened nation would interdict the presence of a missionary, because where the missionary has gone, there has modern English civilization and modern English and American commerce followed fast behind. “I will make them know that I have loved thee [Revelation 3:9] . . . I have set before thee,” in this Philadelphian church, “an open door” [Revelation 3:8].
That same thing is repeated and true in the life of Adoniram Judson, our great American Baptist missionary who began the enterprise in our native country. When he went to India, interdicted by the East India Company, so our missionary Adoniram Judson went to Rangoon, Burma. And there in Rangoon, after six years, he had his first convert. Went there in 1813. In the terrible war between the English and the Burmese, in 1824 to 1826, all those years, Adoniram Judson languished in a filthy dungeon. There were five pairs of fetters binding him down; racked with a burning fever, tormented by his keepers, in excruciating pain and heat of the jungle, ministered to by his faithful wife, Ann Hasseltine. To the thousands of Christians in Burma today, such a thing is unthinkable that it ever could have been!
And to the great commercial enterprises of the world, such an interdiction is impossible, that it could ever have characterized the commercial policies. “See, I have set before thee an open door [Revelation 2:8]. I will make them to come before thy feet, ,and to know that I have loved thee” [Revelation 2:9]. The greatest age of modern civilization; the greatest age of the nations of the world; the greatest sowing abroad of the Word of God and of modern civilization and culture is in this Philadelphian church [Revelation 3:7-13].
Look what the Lord says, the hour of trial, coming upon the world: “Behold, I come quickly” [Revelation 3:11]. When we arrive in the age of this Philadelphian church, we are moving toward the end and the door is shutting. It is closed in Russia and all of the peoples under the aegis and the iron hand of the Soviet Republics. It is closed in China; for the first time in history, no man is allowed to go and to preach the gospel to the five hundred million, the one-half billion Chinese. And the door is closing in country after country after country. The door is beginning to close in many of the hyper-nationalistic groups in Africa. There and yonder and yonder the doors of the Philadelphian age and the Philadelphian church are beginning to close. And when it comes, the Lord makes the announcement; “Behold, I come quickly: hold thou fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” [Revelation 3:11].
If anyone asks me: “Where are we in the program of God for His people and His world?” This is my own private persuasion: I think we stand at the close of the Philadelphian age [Revelation 3:7-13]. I think we stand at the beginning of the beginning of the Laodicean age. And maybe, in His will in our time, we shall see the great denouement of history [Revelation 3:14-22].
“But is not that something of terror and of horror? Is that not something before which a man so ought to recoil?” It depends. If I am lost; if I am an unbeliever; if I am a rejector; if I spurn the overtures of mercy and the love of God; if I say nay and no, to the invitation of the Spirit—then nothing awaits me but the horror and the terror of the night of judgment and death and the great trial that God says shall come upon this earth! [Matthew 24:21]. But, if I belong to these, “him that overcometh” [Revelation 3:12], then nothing awaits but victory, and glory, and triumph, and the everlasting sharing and inheritance of the throne of Jesus Christ. For He says, “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of,” and the King James Version translates it, “from the hour of temptation” [Revelation 3:10], pĕirasmŏs, pĕirasmŏs, pĕirasmŏs, temptation. If the word connoted that in [AD] 1611, I’m not aware of it; pĕirasmŏs, “The hour of calamity!” The hour of judgment! The hour of trial! “I will keep thee from the hour of pĕirasmŏs, which shall come… to try them that dwell upon (the face of) the earth” [Revelation 3:10]. That’s the reason I had us read Luke 21; there our Savior said, “Pray, pray, that ye may be… delivered from the hour of trial,” of tribulation, of judgment that inevitably and certainly shall come upon this earth! [Luke 21:36].
Don’t look at these little crackpot Napoleons that stew around, boast around and say things around; keep your eye upon the Almighty God. For God says, “I shall judge this earth” [Acts 17:31].
There are three great ages, if I could summarize it just briefly: the present age; the age that is yet to come; and, in between, what the Bible calls the Day of the Lord, the Day of the Lord—the day of the visitation and the judgment of God. And that is delineated in the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 4-19].
After one more sermon, the sermon next Sunday on Laodicea [Revelation 3:14-22], we begin in the fourth chapter of the Revelation, which is a delineation of the great denouement of all time, of the end of all history, of the consummation of human story. And in His coming, it hastens its way: “Behold, I come quickly!” [Revelation 3:11]. And in that hour of judgment, these that spurn God’s grace and say “no!” to the invitation of the Spirit [Revelation 22:17], these shall see that inevitable hour and that awful day of the judgment, and the fury, and the fire, and the wrath of God upon the earth [Zephaniah 1:15].
How it shall take in the form—many of these things in the Revelation, I cannot enter into. There are things I never heard of; things I’ve never seen; things that have never yet appeared on the face of the earth or in human history. Ah, the judgment of God, when the Lord takes this earth and the very heavens above are shaken! The sun turns to sackcloth, and the moon turns to blood and the stars from the heavens fall, and the waves roar, and the tides rise, all of which are figurative of the moving of God in judgment in the earth [Revelation 6:12-14].
But to those who trust in Jesus, “him that overcometh . . . ” [Revelation 3:12]. And then we have the marvelous, marvelous, promises of the Lord. In the little time that remains, let me speak of them—what God promises to those who place their trust in Him. First He says: “I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God” [Revelation 3:12]. Hard to enter into the spiritual meaning of some of these so wonderful connotations—John says in the New Jerusalem, in the city of God, in our heavenly home [Revelation 3:12], John says: “And I saw therein no temple: for the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple of it” [Revelation 21:22]. In heaven, in the New Jerusalem, there is no movable temple, such as Moses built in the wilderness [Exodus 39:32]. And there is no stone and perishable temple such as Solomon erected on Mount Moriah [1 Kings 6:9]. But the temple in the New Jerusalem is the eternity of the Lord God Himself [Revelation 21:22].
And when it speaks of our being a pillar in the temple, in the eternity, in the glory of God, a temple that is God Himself, and we a pillar in it [Revelation 3:12]. Well, a pillar is for adornment; it’s for strength; it’s for ornamentation; it’s for commemoration. The book says that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. That is, the church is for the conspicuity and perspicuity of the truth of God in the earth; that men might see it, and hear it, and know it, and look upon it.
James, Peter, and John were called “pillars” in the church at Jerusalem [Galatians 2:9]. Now, don’t ever forget that the man was created to be the expression of and the image of God [Genesis 1:27]. So when we are “pillars” in the eternity of heaven, we are the ornamentation; we are the commemoration of the grace, and love, and glory, and mercy, and forgiveness, and salvation, and redemption of God. There it is to look upon, you—the expression, the adornment, the embellishment, the commemoration of what God has done with the lost humanity—you, the pillar in the temple in the eternity, in the glory of God.
“And he shall go no more out” [Revelation 3:12]. That is an expression for the perpetuity, the everlastingness of our service and devotion with God. In the high priesthood, the priest died, and in the courses of the ministry in the temple, they were removed by death. Even our first parents were driven out of the garden of Eden to moisten and to water the ground with their tears and their sweat; and to be buried beneath its sod [Genesis 3:22-24]. But here, we shall “go no more out” [Revelation 3:12]; a figure of the perpetual-ness, the perpetuity, the everlastingness, the eternity of our identification with our great God.
“And I will write upon him the name of My God” [Revelation 3:12]. The high priest had a golden plate, and he always was to wear it on his forehead. And on that plate was written the name of Jehovah, Holiness unto the Lord [Exodus 28:36-37]. And the high priest, in his dignity and in his election, had access to God. And the Book says, the Revelation says, “And His name shall be in our foreheads” [Revelation 22:4]. And we shall look upon His face, and live. “And I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God… New Jerusalem” [Revelation 3:12].
In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, Abraham is described as one who saw “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” [Hebrews 11:10]. And the same chapter says: “Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them that city” [Hebrews 11:16]. And by their names being inscribed—that means the city belongs to them. It is created for them. John saw it: the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven [Revelation 21:2]. It had jewels for foundations; and it had pearls for gates [Revelation 21:19-24]; and it had angels for watchmen [Revelation 21:12]; and it had God for its temple [Revelation 21:22]. And the saved of the earth walk in it [Revelation 21:24]. And you and I shall be there.
“And I shall write upon him My new name” [Revelation 3:12]. I know the old names of the Lord Jesus—“And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” [Isaiah 9:6]. “They shall call His name Immanuel” [Matthew 1:23]. “And thou shall call His name Jesus: and He shall save His people from their sins” [Matthew 1:21]. I know those old names. And in the great and forever beyond, the Lord will not lay aside His old and illustrious names, by which we have known Him. In the second chapter of the Philippian letter, Paul says:
Wherefore God hath also highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name:
That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow… and every tongue confess…
He doesn’t lay aside His old names. At the name of Jesus all tribes of the earth someday shall bow. “But I will write upon him My new name” [Revelation 3:12]. There are fullnesses and victories and triumphs; there are things in the eternities of the future by which Christ shall exalt us and glorify the Father beyond what we have ever known and beyond what thus far has ever been revealed.
In the nineteenth chapter of this Revelation, in that incomparable passage of the glorious appearing, the triumphant, victorious marching of the Son of God, when He comes again, he calls Him several names: and His name is “True”; and His name is “Faithful”; and His name is “the Word of God.” And He hath an inscription: “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” [Revelation 19:11, 13, 16].
And then it also says: “And there was given unto Him a name, which no man knows, but He Himself” [Revelation 19:12]. My new name; there are glories, there are majesties, there are revelations, there are triumphs and victories that are yet to be given to Christ and to us that have not even begun to be revealed. As Paul said when he found himself unable to describe the glories of God and the gifts of mercy to us, he said, “Eye hath not seen, and ear hath not heard, neither hath entered the heart of a man,” the incomparable things, the glorious things, the inevitable things, “that God hath prepared for those who love Him” [1 Corinthians 2:9]. As Christ is hid in God, so we are hid in Christ [Colossians 3:3], and all of the riches of glory that belong to Him, belong to us. “And to him that overcometh will I write My new name” [Revelation 3:12].
While we sing this hymn of appeal, somebody you to give his heart in faith, and in trust to the Lord this day, would you come and stand by me? A family you to put your life with us in the fellowship of the church, would you come and stand by me? There’s a stairway at the back, on either side, and at the front; for this host in the balcony, you come. There’s time and to spare. And this throng on the lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front: “Preacher, here I am. I give you my hand. I give my heart to God.” Or, “Pastor, this is my wife, these are our children, all of us are coming this day.” While we prayerfully, earnestly wait for you, make it this morning, make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, “Here I come, preacher, here I am.” While we stand and while we sing.
***Audience is singing invitation hymn***
Our people have a wonderful willingness to pray in this invitation hymn. These who are coming by letter, and others of you who ought to come, as you come, and as our people pray, may God give us somebody this hour who will trust Jesus as his Savior. “Here I come, pastor, I give my heart to the Lord and I give you my hand in token of that commitment.” While we prayerfully, earnestly sing this appeal, if you ought to put your life with us, do it now. Coming by letter or if the Lord shall lead. And if the Lord bids you take Him as Savior, come now, while earnestly we wait and prayerfully we sing. Make it now.
THE OPEN DOOR OF PHILADELPHIA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Philadelphia located 28 miles southeast of Sardis
1. Not an ancient city
2. Founded by Attalus II (Philadelphus); named after himself
B. Several things in the letter reflect the history and situation of the city
1. “Set before thee an open door”(Revelation 3:8)
a. Established for a missionary enterprise – Hellenistic evangelization of the wild tribes of Phrygia
b. Located at the border of three countries
2. “A pillar in the temple”(Revelation 3:12)
a. If someone had done something unusually fine for the city, they were commemorated by erecting a pillar inscribed with their name
3. “No more out” (Revelation 3:12)
a. Located on the edge of volcanic plain, subject to frequent earthquakes, sending people fleeing for their lives in fear
4. “The name of the cityâ€¦New Jerusalem”(Revelation 3:12)
a. In 17AD earthquake destroyed the city and Sardis – Tiberius rebuilt them, and out of deference they renamed it
C.Letter to Smyrna has nothing but commendation and encouragement; this letter to Philadelphia has almost everything encouraging also
1. When Islamic faith overran Asia Minor, Philadelphia was the last bastion of Christianity
2. Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman EmpireII. The church of the open door(Revelation 3:7-8)
A. The seven churches represent seven great eras in development of the Christian church
1. Church of Philadelphia is the church where God has given to His people their finest, broadest and greatest opportunity
2. We live in the Philadelphian age
B. Ours to enjoy personally
1. Jesus is “the door” to God, heaven(John 10:7, 9, Isaiah 22:22)
a. Door is open to any soul(Revelation 3:8, Hebrews 4:16)
a. Railroad engineer went to Spurgeon asking about winning souls
3. Door of service, ministry
C. Represents era of the missionary endeavor of Christ’s churches
1. William Carey(Revelation 3:9)
2. Adonirum Judson
D. We stand at the close of the Philadelphian age (Revelation 3:11)III. The promises to the overcomers
A. “I will keep thee from the hour of trialâ€¦”(Revelation 3:10, 12, Luke 21:34-36, Acts 17:31)
1. A way of delineation – this present age, the age that is yet to come, and in between the “Day of the Lord”
B. “A pillar in the templeâ€¦”(Revelation 3:12)
1. In the New Jerusalem(Revelation 22:22)
2. Pillars are for support, strength, adornment(Galatians 2:9, Genesis 1:27)
3. The commemoration of what God has done with lost humanity
C. “He shall go no more outâ€¦” – expression for the perpetuity of our service and devotion with God (Revelation 3:12, Genesis 3:22-24)
D. “Write upon him the nameâ€¦” (Revelation 3:12)
1. The name of my God(Exodus 28:36-37, Revelation 22:4)
2. The name of the cityâ€¦New Jerusalem (Hebrews 11:10, 16, Revelation 21)
3. “My new name”(Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 1:21, 2:23, Philippians 2:9-11)
a. He doesn’t lay aside His old names, but in final achievement will yet take other names by He is not now known(Revelation 19:12)
b. Full riches of Christ have not been fully revealed(1 Corinthians 2:9, Colossians 3:3)