We move onto the third chapter of Revelation, which focuses on the question, “who sits on the throne?”, in other words, “who should we direct our faith towards.” The Book of Revelation mentions thrones numerous times. The theme of strength and power is central to this passage. A picture of heaven starts to form, not as a place in the clouds but as a time when wrong things get set right. God, the proper authority, has the throne. Evil is vanquished. And the trials of this world are no more.
We’re going to finish up the first segment of Revelation. Remember, we started in chapter 1, John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come.
We’ve been doing the who-is-and-was part of the book with these seven churches, churches that actually existed at the time, but also are being instructed out of what they have done so that they can be set up to do in the future what God wants them to do, what Jesus wants them to do.
And from the seven Spirits before His throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. (Revelation 1:5)
We started this whole thing with thrones and rulers. Today we’re going to end with thrones and rulers; and then when we start the what-is-to-come part, we’re going to open the scene in the throne room of Jesus.
It’s quite fascinating. There are over 40 mentions of just the word throne in Revelation.
It inspired me to do some research on a thing I’ve been hearing a lot about. There’s a TV show called Game of Thrones that’s become very popular. I haven’t watched it. Based on what I’ve read about it, it apparently is inspired by the War of Roses, which was an English civil war that took place for about 30 years.
I have seen King Richard III, which is the fourth of Shakespeare’s tetrarchy about English history, it starts with one of the Henrys and ends with King Richard and is during the period of the War of Roses. It includes the two princes in the tower that were killed, the two young princes.
We’ve been to Warick, the castle of Earl of Warick, who was the king maker and switched sides and was the master of intrigue during the War of Roses.
I’ve read The Black Arrow which is set during the time of the War of Roses.
And I still can’t keep straight all the things going on during that period. Every time I read, I’m like, yeah, I remember something about that. It’s so complex. So much intrigue. And apparently this Game of Thrones series has over 250 characters. One of the reasons people like it is that it’s so complex and so intriguing.
And from what I understand and from what I’ve read it’s set in kind of a middle earth sort of place. It’s a very familiar but different world.
Who’s going to get the throne?
Why are we so fascinated with this? Why have there been four Shakespeare plays and all these novels and all these film series inspired by a civil war with intrigue the question of “Who’s going to get the throne?”
Well, it’s because it’s a little glimpse of what’s really going on. What’s really going on is there’s a grand drama happening. And the question is who’s going to get the throne?
Remember in Pergamos, the place where Satan’s throne is? Remember that? Satan is still on the throne even though he’s been deposed. He’s a lame duck. He’s still sitting on the throne.
And even though Jesus is the king of all the kings of the earth, he hasn’t imposed his will yet.
But it’s coming. And the intrigue is happening. And guess who’s part of the plot? Us. We’re all part of the plot.
We can watch these fantasy things. We can read about them. They’re interesting. But what Revelation is inviting us to do is play our role, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. The last two churches of what was, and what is.
We’ll start in Revelation 3:7. Now I’m going to go ahead and read both churches and then go through and comment on them.
And to the angel—or the messenger—of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no on shuts, and shuts and no one opens”. “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
And to the angel—or messenger—of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’”
The Philadelphia church
It’s very interesting, these two letters side by side. These would represent the last two eras in the historical model. The Philadelphia church the period of the great mission endeavor that spread over the whole earth. I proposed it from 1727 to 1919.
And in this letter, there’s no but-I-have-this-against-you. And in the Laodicean letter that’s the modern era, the era of materialism, dialectical materialism, Marxism, it’s the spirit of our age. In that letter, there’s no commendation.
So, you have one church with no chastisement and one with no commendation.
Philadelphia means brotherly love, phila is from philos, love; adelphos is brother.
He says, These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no on shuts, and shuts and no one opens” This is actually a quote of a verse from Isaiah. If you’re interested, it is Isaiah 22:22. He quotes this verse and says this is speaking about me. I’m the one—Jesus—who has the key of David. And if I open something, nobody is going to shut it, and if I shut something, nobody is going to open it.
And, do you know what I’ve done in verse 8? I know your works. I opened a door. And when I open a door, what happens? No one shuts it. I opened a door.
A little strength
For you have a little strength.
Now this is very interesting to me. You have a little strength. This word strength is the Greek word dynamis. We get our word dynamic from it. Or dynamo, dynamite. It’s the idea of power.
In Mark 5, a lady touches Jesus and it says he felt some power flow out from him. That’s dynamis.
In Acts 1, the Holy Spirit came to give us power. Jesus says all authority is given to me. That’s a different word. Jesus also says, I want you to go to Jerusalem and wait for power. The infilling of the Spirit gives us power.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul says my strength is perfected in weakness. Strength is the same root word. My power to do things, my power to impact others is perfected in weakness.
Why does he say a little strength? It seems to me it can’t be a little Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our power. That doesn’t make sense to me.
He says I’ve opened a door. If he’s opened a door, nobody can shut it. That’s not a little power. So why does he say a little power?
Perhaps it’s because of the way it’s used here in Matthew 26:64. If you want to turn there, you can. Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
So all authority is given to me. Authority is different, but it seems there’s an overlap here.
Power can also mean the position, the role, the capabilities, the opportunity that you have to do something. And I think that’s what he’s talking about here. You have a little opportunity. You have a role that I’ve assigned you. See, I’ve opened this door.
He’s opened a door
It doesn’t say he opened every door. It says I’ve opened a door for you; nobody’s going to shut that door. But do you know what? A door is just an opening, isn’t it? We have to walk through it. And he gave us a little opportunity.
So the question is, are we going to walk through it?
This reminds me of the Moravians, this group that I used to illustrate this era in the historical model.
The Moravians were just a handful of people. Started with two guys that were being persecuted in Bohemia that came down to Count Zinzendorf, who was in the court of the Holy Roman Empire, the successor to Rome.
Rome was the one of whom he says the Throne of Satan is there, in Pergamos.
These two guys came down and said, can we stay on your land? We’re being persecuted.
And Count Zinzendorf had committed his life to helping the poor, to following the edicts of Jesus. His seminal moment was this picture of Jesus with a caption that said, “I’ve done this for you; what have you done for me?” And he said, I’m going to commit myself to do things for Jesus who died for me.
So he said yes. And it ended up with a total of 300 people. And they became his flock. And he discipled these people.
These people had already exhibited many of the things we’ve seen in these letters. They had stood for truth.
Their founder, John Huss, was burned at the stake for wanting to translate the Bible from Latin into the common language. His crime was wanting to open the scriptures to people, to open the truth to people, and not have it held by a power group who could tell people, “I know the language; you don’t. So I’ll tell you what the Bible says.” Which, of course, gave them immense power. John Huss wanted that power to be in the hands of the people. So they killed him for it.
They had followed him—that was back in the 1300s, and here we are in the 1700s—so they had kept the truth.
But, even though they had kept the truth like the Smyrna church, when they came down to Count Zinzendorf, and they no longer had persecution, they started having factions.
And the big revival started when they learned to love one another.
Remember the Ephesian church? They had truth. They had stood on truth, but they had forgotten love.
Well, in 1727 they learned to love one another. And that year a prayer revival, a 24-hour prayer revival—only 300 people—a 24-hour prayer revival that lasted a hundred years began that year, because they learned to love one another.
So out of their persecution where they learned to embrace death, and then adding love, came their willingness to go on missions. Seventy of the three hundred went on missions, which was something that wasn’t done in that era. They started with the Caribbean slaves. Some of them actually lived the life of a slave in order to create that opportunity.
And that little window, just a handful of people going, earning their own living as they went, created this massive movement.
The Wesleys became the Wesleys because they ran into some Moravians on the ship that were unafraid to die. And they said, you’ve got something we don’t have. That’s what founded Methodism, which swept America.
A little window. So faithful in little things, a little opportunity becomes really big things. Little things become big things.
I opened a door
I opened this door. If you will walk through this little opportunity, I will bless it.
You’ve kept my word, not denied my name. Just do what I ask you to do, and the opportunity that I have given you. It will seem little in the eyes of people, whatever it is I’ve given you to do, the people you connect with, the interactions you have, the responsibilities you have, whatever those are, they’re small in the eyes of the world. They’re not small in the eyes of Jesus.
The religious leaders
Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they’re Jews and they’re not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet. (Revelation 3:9)
Something’s going on here with the religious leaders. And the religious leaders are also doing Satan’s will. Not that unusual. The religious leaders are the ones who killed Jesus. It seems that having power is a corrupting thing.
We saw Balaam who had the power of the truth but he also wanted the world—ended up dead.
We saw Jezebel who wanted to be called a prophetess, who wanted the religious authority, but didn’t want anything to do with God—ended up being eaten by dogs.
What happens to these religious leaders is they end up licking the feet of the Philadelphians in heaven. Get that picture? Did it ever occur to you that in heaven there will be people who have to publicly admit that they were wrong?
Heaven is where things are resolved
It’s not a floaty place. It’s the place where everything’s resolved.
Let’s just take a look at Revelation 6:9. When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar—this is in heaven, in the throne room—the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice—in heaven—saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
We are tired of waiting for justice! We are aware of time! And it has been a long time! And we want these people to come lick our feet! Because they killed us. Why aren’t you bringing justice?
And Jesus says, “Oh no! We don’t do that in heaven! We have forgiven everybody! It will all—” No. He doesn’t say that.
In verse 11, Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little longer—that day will come. Justice will prevail.
The Bible doesn’t say there is no vengeance. The Bible says vengeance is mine saith the Lord. All God is telling us is we’re not God. He’s not telling us that the design he gave us to retaliate is the wrong impulse. He’s telling us that the desire to retaliate is the impulse to do the wrong role at the wrong time. Because justice is built into us. It’s built into the universe. And he will execute it.
And part of what people are going to have to do is apologize to the people that they’ve abused. In heaven. I’m just telling you, that’s going to be a good day, if you happen to be on the foot-licking side, on the recipient side.
Will I do any footlicking? It’s very possible. It’s very conceivable that that will be the case. Because there’s this fire-thing that we’ll all have to go through. There are principles there for all of us.
And to know that I have loved you. See. I want you to know and understand that I was on your side all along. I want you to know and understand that you are mine. And when this vengeance happens, I was for you. I want you to see it first hand.
Revelation 3:10. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
Trials now preempt trials later
What this says is, because you have embraced trials, I will save you trials. This is just a principle in the Bible. If we will embrace the trials that God gives us here, it prevents us from having trials later. And the trials now are much, much less severe with incredibly greater upside-potential than trials later.
You kind of see this in your own life. You know, it’s never too late to start being healthy. It’s never too late. But, if you wait until you have Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure, and your feet are gone numb, and you’re crooked, and your muscle tone is gone, and you can’t hear, etc. If you wait until then, there’s only so much recovery you can get, right?
It’s never too late. You can get significant recovery. But if you start at the beginning that way and say, I’m going to eat right and I’m going to exercise and things like that, that compounds.
That doesn’t mean you won’t still get old. It does mean that the trials later will be far less than they would otherwise be.
Eating right, exercising, all those things, it’s a pain in the neck. It’s a pain a lot of places, not just in the neck. It’s not that fun of a thing to do. It’s a trial.
But this is just kind of the way life works.
If you invest over time, if you invest early, it pays huge dividends. Well, we’re going to see that in spades in these two letters